Dr. Bradley Flamm, Director, Office of Sustainability
703 S. High Street
West Chester, PA 19382
Phone: (610) 436-2053
From the President’s Annual State of the University Address
Thursday, October 1 2015
“While we can’t stop change, we can intelligently respond to change and shape our future through planning and working together. Being proactive to the eventuality of change not only helps us better accommodate change, but reduces the anxiety that is so often a by-product of confronting our future.
Our university is a place that cares about protecting the environment for future generations. In October of 2010, I signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which commits WCU to make a good faith effort to achieve a carbon-neutral environment by 2025. The Sustainability Advisory Council, in conjunction with the Strategic Plan Sustainability Theme Team and others on campus, has developed one of the best strategic plans in the country to achieve the goal of a carbon-neutral environment. We have worked aggressively to transition to non-polluting energy sources. Last year, we formally decommissioned the University's 50-year-old, coal-fired power plant. Today, we heat and cool 50 percent of our buildings with geothermal energy and 50 percent by high-efficiency natural gas boilers. By transitioning to these new energy sources, the University is reducing its annual carbon footprint by 7,500 tons of CO2.”
West Chester University has a long and increasingly active commitment to integrating sustainability into curricular initiatives and faculty development.
A number of WCU faculty have attended the Sustainability Across the Curriculum Leadership workshop sponsored by AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education).
In January of 2008 WCU held its first Sustainability across the Curriculum Workshop, which was facilitated by Dr. Debra Rowe, a well-known expert in education for sustainability.
In February 2009, WCU hosted Dr. Mitch Thomashow, then President of Unity College, who capped off his visit to campus by leading a roundtable discussion on integrating sustainability into the curriculum with a group of WCU faculty.
In October of 2010 WCU became one of nearly 700 colleges and universities that are signatories to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, which includes a pledge to make "sustainability a part of the educational experience for all students".
In December of 2010 WCU selected its first cadre of five Faculty Sustainability Ambassadors, one from each college: Joy Fritschle (CBPA); Lynn Monahan (CHS); Daria Nikitina (CAS); Patricia Powell (CVPA); and, Carol Smith (COE). The ambassadors functioned as liaisons to their home college where they conducted outreach, recruited participants for sustainability workshops.
WCU's Faculty Sustainability Ambassadors developed and co-led lunchtime sustainability curricular and pedagogical workshops during the Spring 2011 semester. The workshops were targeted to all faculty with the aim of infusing sustainability content into existing courses, promoting pedagogies that foster active engagementin sustainability-related issues, and strategizing ways to ensure that all WCU graduates understand and are able to address the challenge of sustainability.
In February 2012 WCU organized and hosted a regional workshop for faculty titled "Engaging Students by Integrating Sustainability into the Curriculum". The event featured presentations by faculty and students from area colleges and universities, as well as a keynote presentation by Dr. Peter Bardaglio, author Boldly Sustainable: Hope and Opportunity for Higher Education in the Age of Climate Change (2009).
In November 2013 WCU hosted Dr. Neil Weissman, the Provost and Dean of Dickinson College, and Dr. Neil Leary, the Director of Dickinson’s Center for Sustainability Education. Their presentation/workshop was titled "Integrating Sustainability into WCU's General Education Program".
In Spring 2014 CAPC adopted a 'Conceptual Framework for General Education Reform at WCU' that included a commitment to "Experiences that focus on sustainable practices and encourage living and thinking sustainably." The document also proposed learning outcomes that included the following: "Make decisions that consider matters of sustainability."
In Fall 2014 WCU recruited its second cadre of Faculty Sustainability Ambassadors: Lisa Calvano (CBPA), Martin Dallago (CVPA), Ashlie Delshad (CBPA), Jackie Hodes (CHS), Melina McConatha (CAS), Lynn Monahan (CHS), Ana Sanchez (CAS), and Kate Stewart (CVPA). The ambassadors organized and led a Faculty Sustainability Resource Fair in October 2015, and helped to plan a two-day faculty curriculum workshop in January 2016 titled the Brandywine Project.
In Fall 2015 WCU invited applicants for the Brandywine Project, a curricular initiative that will allow faculty to interact with others from across the university and share current practices and challenges related to sustainability. During Spring 2016 participants will take part in sessions designed to get them thinking about creative ways they can incorporate sustainability, either as foreground (investigating sustainability directly) or as background (i.e., "hidden curriculum") in their courses.
2017 - 2018
Faculty: Join us for Brandywine Project 2018!
This exciting and important two-day workshop on January 10 & 11, 2018 will train you in understanding sustainability across the curriculum and will ask you to revise a pre-existent course or develop a new course to meet sustainability curricular goals. Join faculty from across campus and earn a stipend for your work. Look for the call for participants early in Fall 2017!
The importance of integrating sustainability into the curriculum and experience of every student at West Chester University is summed up nicely by the Associationfor the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)'s report Sustainability Curriculum in Higher Education: A Call to Action :
"The fundamental problem faced in meeting the goal of education for a healthy and sustainable society for all students is that the existing curriculum in higher education has not been developed to examine how we shape a sustainable world. Much of the curriculum has been developed to provide students with an increasingly narrow understanding of disciplines, professions and jobs and is focused on specific knowledge and skills employed in the given area. What is needed is a curriculum that prepares learners for living sustainably, both professionally and personally, and that explicitly helps the learner deeply understand the interactions, inter-connections, and the consequences of actions and decisions. Regardless of the subject of the curriculum, students must learn and practice holistic systems thinking and be able to apply such thinking to real world situations. Furthermore, students must understand how the systems of which they are a part (social, economic, and ecological) function and are integrated. In order to accomplish this we need a significant segment of the learning opportunities for students to be structured to accomplish these outcomes. To do so will require significant changes in the curriculum and the pedagogy used to deliver that curriculum. These changes will only occur when large numbers of faculty have the knowledge, skills, resources, support, incentives, and disposition to change what and how they teach."
University food and dining services can have a significant impact on carbon emissions, the environment, human health, labor and animal welfare. Through the creation, promotion and implementation of sustainable and responsible food procurement, energy and water conservation, waste stream management, and education, West Chester University food service can actively support the university’s sustainability efforts through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with current food procurement practices.
WCU currently contracts with Aramark Higher Education for dining services. Aramark employs a full-time sustainability coordinator at WCU and, as a corporation, is committed to a number of general sustainable food service goals. Aramark Food Services provides the main dining services in Lawrence Hall. They have instituted some sustainable practices both in the purchasing, preparing, and operation of the dining services offered, including:
They provide selected foods that are locally sourced, fairly traded, and some organic products, for example; cage free eggs and fair trade coffee. In fact, $0.64 cents of every dollar spent on products and services last year were purchases from local companies. Some of the local vendors include:
With the partner, Waste Oil Recyclers, Inc., they have recycled over 3,000 gallons of waste oil, resulting in a CO2 savings equivalent to planting over 7,000 trees.
Aramark has implemented this technology to keep track of student consumption, allowing for accurately forecasting the amount of food to prepare and resulting in a reduction of the amount of food that gets wasted.
Using reusable plastic cups, plates, and flatware helps reduce waste, and removing trays reduced water usage as well as reducing wasted food.
Sometimes students may not have the opportunity to sit in Lawrence to eat, so Aramark's "to-go" program enables busy students to bring along their own mug or bag, reducing the amount of disposables produced and wasted. They even offer a discount at many locations as an incentive for bringing your own containers.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, the cost of wasted food is staggering. It accounts for $165 billion each year, 25% of all freshwater used in the U.S., 4% of U.S. oil consumption, $750 million in disposal costs, and 33 million tons of landfill waste. It decomposes in the landfill and releases methane, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Therefore, it's big news that one of the more recent sustainable initiatives is that WCU Dining Services has agreed to participate in a one-year long food waste diversion pilot program for Lawrence Dining Hall. This pilot is made possible through a grant funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and was secured by Dr. Denise Polk, faculty member in Communication Studies. The pilot extends and expands the work of an earlier food waste diversion program and is an important partnership between WCU and the Borough of West Chester. This current pilot will include 10 different food generators who will divert their waste for a 12-month period. WCU is one of the participants, so they will divert pre-consumer food waste for a 24-hour period each week during the pilot. The diverted food waste will be picked up by West Chester Borough's Public Works and will be delivered to a nearby permitted composting facility. That facility will then use the compost as a valuable soil amendment for its grounds, eliminating their reliance on chemical, petroleum-based fertilizers.
It is estimated that during the academic year, Aramark serves approximately 6000 meals each day. That means that at the conclusion of the pilot, WCU will have diverted food waste in the preparation of between 1,620,000 and 2,160,000 meals.
You can read more about Aramark's Sustainability Initiatives at WCU.
Regional and global sustainability is included and embraced within the procurement and business processes at West Chester University. The Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Program (EPPP) links the procurement process to other sustainability efforts on campus, and helps institutionalize more sustainable purchasing practices throughout the campus community. It is a way of adding environmental considerations to the price and performance criteria the university uses to make purchasing (transaction) decisions. More sustainable purchasing practices will help:
West Chester University has an on-going commitment to REDUCE first and foremost don’t use so much stuff!), REUSE (don’t buy new stuff!), and RECYCLE (when you can’t REDUCE or REUSE stuff).
Waste prevention, or "source reduction," means consuming and throwing away less. It includes:
Source reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, so it is the most preferred method of waste management and goes a long way toward protecting the environment. For more information, read more on EPA on waste.
There are a number of actions that you can implement whether in your office at home or at work to further sustainability goals:
Reusing items - by repairing them, donating them to charity and community groups, or selling them - also reduces waste. Reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again. Each year West Chester University sells hundreds of surplus items on an auction website that are reused by the buyers. Thus, these items get a second life rather than being discarded in a landfill.
Ways to Reuse
When you can't reduce or reuse something, then it's time to recycle it. While recycling is important, remember that not all materials can be recycled and the natural resources (e.g., land, water, clean air) that went into creating products are not recyclable. So reduce and reuse first! Then when you can't do that, recycle.
When we buy recycled products, we create an economic incentive for recyclable materials to be collected, manufactured, and marketed as new products. Buying recycled has both economic and environmental benefits. Purchasing products made from or packaged in recycled materials saves resources for future generations.
WCU has single-stream ("all-in-one") recycling, which means that all recycling bins on campus are suitable for clean paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, aluminum, and food cans. Non-recyclable items, such as food waste, should be disposed of in waste containers. If you're not sure something is ok for the recycling bin, check out the WCU Recycling FAQ below.
As of 2010, approximately 25% of WCUs greenhouse gas emissions were associated with student, faculty, and staff commuting. The following initiatives are our efforts so far to help curtail these emissions. They have the added benefit of reducing congestion and parking difficulties on campus.
WCU is now partnering with RideAmigos to offer faculty, staff, and students more options for their commute to and from campus. RideAmigos is an easy to use app accessible via smartphone or desktop computer that allows users to receive information on routes and traffic conditions, while also comparing alternative options such as carpooling, public transit, biking, and walking, side by side. There's even a RideBoard feaure for those who may want to share rides home for the weekend to Harrisburg, Pittsburg, New York, and elswhere. Registration is free for anyone with a wcupa.edu email address (and for campus employees who work for the WCU Foundation, Student Services Inc., and Aramark). Just log in and enter your starting and ending destinations to see what transit option you may be missing out on. RidgeAmigos is a fun way to connect with colleagues and peers, track your calories burned, money saved, and CO2 reduction achieved, all while ensuring you're choosing the most efficient, affordable, environmentally friendly and safe commuting options for yourself.
One of the highlights of the work of the Sustainability Advisory Council's Transportation Subcommittee work, begun in 2012, is the Exton Train Station Bus. This bus, funded through the WCU President's Office via the External Affairs Division of WCU and operated by our Facilities Division the shuttle runs between campus and the Exton Train Station. It connects to the morning and the evening trains on the schedule at the right. Beginning in Fall 2016, the university is now partnering with Chester County and two stops have been added to the morning and afternoon commute to accommodate county riders: the West Chester Transit Center and the Chester County Government Services Building. Read more information on the Exton Shuttle and bus service information (including the Exton Shuttle) to and from campus and between WCU campuses.
There are two cars on campus, parked in K Lot behind Sykes Union. Register for a Zipcar.
Rideshare/carpool parking spots - display two valid WCU parking tags to park in these centrally located parking spaces. There are twelve spaces in all, four reserved for Commuter Students, four for Employees, and four that are available to Commuter Students and Employees.
There are three bike share racks on campus, two on north campus and one on south campus, at Allegheny Hall by D Lot, Swope Music Building by M Lot, and along S. New Street by S2 Lot. Annual subscriptions can be purchased through WCU Zagster.
Offered through the Department of Public Safety, sign up to use your bike rather than bringing a car to campus and receive discounts at local bike-related retailers
Fully equipped for repairs, air for tires - located at the South Campus Clubhouse (within the South Campus Apts. complex) and outside University Hall on North Campus.
Compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling center were installed at WCU in 1998. As of fall 2015, we have 28 fleet vehicles (33%) capable of running on CNG - producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline and also fewer air pollutants. WCU also has fleet vehicles that run on biodiesel (B20 = 20% non-fossil fuel based energy source)
Public Transit tickets and fares available for purchase on the ground floor of Sykes at the SSI Service Window.
West Chester University has taken significant steps towards energy efficiency. The university has instituted a range of measures that yield significant cost and emissions reductions through its Guaranteed Energy Savings Plan (GSEP) led by Honeywell Building Solutions. It has installed several green roofs and green walls that act to reduce cooling demands in the summer. There are currently three Green Buildings on campus that incorporate numerous features and meet or aspire to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, with a fourth under construction: 25 University Avenue, the Student Recreation Center,the Swope music building, and the new College of Business & Public Affairs building (BPAC). The Swope music building is Silver LEED certified and the new (BPAC) building will seek Gold LEED certification. Above all, WCU is most proud of its ongoing commitment to Geothermal Energy by building one of the largest district geoexchange systems in the world. Though largely hidden from view, the University's investment in geothermal wells is enabling it to significantly reduce carbon emissions while also reducing energy costs. Thanks to the geothermal initiative, 50% of campus buildings are now heated and cooled using geothermal energy and the university was able to decommission its coal-fired boiler plant in 2014.
For more info, see WCU's Facilities Energy & Sustainability website.
WCU's geothermal system offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about green energy.
The campus geothermal system was proposed in 2007 as a means of updating the coal-fired steam plant and electric chillers on-campus. The system currently involves 12 buildings:
The President's House, the Bull Center, and the Village Apartments use a system separate from the main geothermal connections. There are approximately 650 wells currently with an anticipated total of 1,400.
The geothermal system runs by removing excess heat from inside buildings, accumulated by body mass and solar energy, and storing it in below-ground water wells. Due to the high specific heat of water, this heat can be stored as energy so that when heating needs are required on cooler days the automatic, remote computer system will pump the stored heat back intothe building. See our Geothermal Poster for more details.
The geothermal system was so efficient that the campus shut down its coal-fired boiler plant in 2014. Fifty percent of the campus is covered by the geothermal system presently, and the other half is heated by high efficiency natural gas boilers. Some more facts:
In the summer of 2006, WCU launched a program to replace the eight north campus residence halls (~700,000 ft2) built in the 1960's with new, updated designs that would include geothermal HVAC systems. Since the old residence halls represented more than 35% of the load on the university's more than 50-year-old coal/oil-fired steam heating plant, a study was commissioned to consider cost effective alternatives for the other buildings using this system. In parallel with this initiative, the university had already launched a major energy savings program through a Guaranteed Energy Savings Agreement (GESA) which aimed at overall campus wide energy savings of more than 20%. Therefore, any alternatives to the steam heating system would have to generate savings in addition to those expected from the GESA.
The initial study indicated that it was both feasible and, based on anticipated operational savings exceeding $1M per year, cost effective to convert the other university buildings from steam heating with electric chillers for air conditioning to a geothermal-based HVAC system. Because many of the buildings being considered have HVAC systems that are 25 or more years old, this approach would also provide a path for upgrading obsolete heating systems. A more detailed study was commissioned to develop a conceptual plan addressing each building, as well as to define the size and examine possible locations for the required geothermal well fields to support this approach. By the spring of 2007 a conceptual plan had been produced that answered these questions and showed a very clear beneficial return on the investment required, with expected savings of ~40% for heating and ~20% for cooling. A program to convert more than 25 North Campus buildings over a period of 10-13 years was launched. Among the long term benefits of this program was the expectation that the university could shutdown its central heating plant, eliminating all coal (7000 tons per year) and most fuel oil (200,000 gallons per year) burned on campus, and reducing its emissions by 85 tons of SOx, 54 tons of NOx, and 44 tons of particulate matter that were being emitted from the heating plant every year.
In the spring of 2007, the planned renovation of a 53,000 ft2 academic building at 25 University Avenue (formerly Swope Hall) was altered to include converting its HVAC to geothermal and, with this energy initiative as its basis, a $242K Pennsylvania Energy Harvest Grant was obtained and applied to offset most of the cost to install the 35 geothermal wells needed to support this system. The ongoing GESA was modified to apply the funds planned for HVAC improvements to the 140,000 square foot Francis Harvey Green Library to converting its HVAC system to geothermal (water source heat pumps) which would be supplied from a well field to be installed later (temporary provisions are included to compensate for the lack of the geothermal wells until they are available). Planned GESA HVAC improvements in Ruby Jones Hall (21,000 ft2) were also changed to convert the building to geothermal HVAC.
To become involved or learn more about research initiatives involving our geothermal exchange system, please contact Dr. Martin Helmke in the Earth & Space Sciences Department, the chair of the Geothermal Working Group on campus.
West Chester University is proud to present many sustainable landscaping alternatives on its campus. These initiatives assist the university with its efforts to reduce its use of traditional landscaping practices such as monoculture lawns, non-native plantings, and the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides. Sustainable landscaping also improves water quality and helps to reduce stormwater runoff.
Rain gardens on campus help to effectively reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality. They can be found at the Poetry Center, Outdoor Classroom & Demonstration Garden by Schmucker Science Center, and Human Resources on Carter Drive.
Dedicated on April 21st, 2009 the learning garden was designed to engage students, faculty and guests in appreciating the native plant and wildlife of Chester County. Plantings such as red chokeberry, joe pye weed, hyssop, berry bushes, and many others draw in songbirds (and squirrels) to the feeder watch site. Art classes use the area for inspiration and environmental studies students are often there as well.
The outdoor classroom was expanded to include a vegetable and herb garden managed by faculty, staff, student interns, and volunteers. Read about How to Create Your Own Native Garden in an essay written by Erika Szonntag, Biology Student at WCU.
Established in February 2015 by the South Campus Apartments, the community garden is an effort to encourage students to learn where food comes from and how it is grown to better understand the importance of nutrition and health, as well as exploring composting, bee-keeping and cultivation techniques. The garden was built on an under-utilized lawn area and is open to faculty, staff, students, and the community.
This is an on-going project led by several student groups and sponsored by the Provost’s Year of Water Grant. Students are creating a rain garden and beginning the naturalization process of the lawn area to reduce water runoff into the community water system.
These two buildings are host to two green roofs that act to reduce water runoff, beautify campus, and reduce cooling costs.
This nature preserve encompasses 73 acres of land belonging to the campus. The mission is to preserve a natural ecosystem and to minimize human disturbance so as to allow the habitat to serve as a laboratory for environmental studies. The legacy of the Gordon Area began with two students, Bradley Gottfried and Dave Fluri, convincing the Board of Trustees to establish a natural area. The preserve was set aside in 1971 and commemorated to a science professor of 25 years, Robert Gordon. In 2012, President Weinstein set aside 12 more acres in 2013.
The area is managed by a Stewardship Manager. It was designated a Wild Plant Sanctuary by PA DCNR and received a research grant from USDA Forest Service. Research on natural succession, Emerald Ash Borer, carbon storage and sequestration, and invasive plant management are some of the many ongoing studies. The natural area includes foot trails for tours and community exploration.
Read more about the outstanding accomplishments of the Gordon Natural Area.
The trees on campus provide numerous environmental and aesthetic benefits. In recognition of the diversity of trees on campus and the university’s efforts to maintain and enhance this resource, the WCU campus is a Level II ArbNet certified Arboretum and has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA for four years running. Faculty and students in Geography & Planning and Biology work cooperatively with Grounds to maintain a geodatabase of all trees on north and south campus. This geodatabase is used to help Grounds manage this invaluable resource and provides teaching and research opportunities for faculty and students.
Student built and managed rain barrels have been installedon campus. Rain barrels help reduce rooftop run off and conserve rain to water campus gardens during dry periods. Learn more by visiting the rain barrels in the Outdoor Classroom and Demonstration Garden next to the Merion-Schmucker Link on north campus.
Green roofs have been installed above the Francis Harvey Green Library link and on Merion Hall. Green roofs conserve water and reduce run offby using otherwise unused roof top space to cultivate drought tolerantspecies of plants. Plans are underway to bring additional green roofs to WCU in the future. Green walls serve a similar function to green roofs.Currently, the most developed green wall on campus is in the Outdoor Classroom & Demonstration Garden on north campus next to Schmucker Hall,however a number of green wall trellises have been installed and are in various stages of development. Look for them at the Student Recreation Center and other new buildings especially.
The WCU Microbiology Club has organized with various faculty and student volunteers to revitalize the rain water basin outside of the Swope Music Building. This has included the construction of swales to divert parking lot run off to decrease water pollution. Fall cover crops have also been planted to encourage soil health in advance of a native rain garden that will be planted in 2016. Corresponding studies into the microbial breakdown of pollutants in the basin have been initiated.
Plum Run is a small tributary of Brandywine Creek that meanders for approximately three miles towards the southwest from its underground sources on the campus of West Chester University to its confluence with Brandywine Creek just downstream from the Brandywine Picnic Park. Its east branch flows through South Campus and the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies. From 2009-2014, Plum Run underwent restoration along several impaired portions of the stream as part of a Watershed Renaissance Initiative awarded by the PA Department of Environmental Protection to the Chester County Conservation District and the Brandywine Valley Association Red Streams Blue program. Plum Run is the focus of many research and service opportunities for West Chester University faculty andstudents, including in the Departments of Environmental Health, Biology, Geology & Astronomy, and Geography & Planning. For example, water researchers in Environmental Health have been actively monitoring the health of local stream waters within the Gordon Natural Area, including Plum Run. For more info on Plum Run, see The Flow of History along Plum Run.
Additional water-related research activities include research projects in the Biology Department on developing bio-electrochemical technologies to convert organic material in wastewater into useful bioenergy, and the ecological impact of artificial ponds.
University Student Housing (USH) has installed water bottle filling stations around campus to help reduce litter and plastic waste while further conserving water.