Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium

 Higher Education connecting, collaborating and taking action



This page features sustainability-related news from PERC Member Campuses.

  • 05 May 2016 8:28 PM | Deleted user

    Penn State holds weeklong Earth Day events

    Earth Day was Friday, April 22, and Penn State University held a number of Earth Day themed events throughout the week of April 18 – 25.  Earlier in the week, some of the events included presentations, a food waste demo, an alternative vehicle display, and the showing of movies including discussions.

    Two of the main events occurred near the end of the week. On Saturday, April 23, Penn State held a day long Watershed Cleanup Day that occurred throughout Centre County. The Campus and Community Sustainability Expo was another significant event at Penn State that occurred a few days after the watershed cleanup on Monday April 25 at 5 p.m. The sustainability expo included groups of students that worked on sustainability projects with community partners presenting the projects they completed over the year.  Michele Halsell, the Director of Sustainable Communities Collaborative at Penn State’s Sustainability Institute talked about the importance of the expo for students and the community.    

    Halsell said that the expo allows students that participated in projects to share their work with the community and other students. The expo also allows community partners to show their commitment to sustainability and shop around for ideas, Halsell explained. She also talked about students having a better understanding of sustainability.

    “Students get a chance to see (their) project in a broader way,” Halsell said.

    Halsell talked about what students can get out of the expo. She explained that the expo can give students an understanding and better perspective of sustainability, and a connection with the community partner. The expo also helps give students analytical, team building, and communications skills, Halsell said.  She went on, talking about how the sustainability of the university having electric vehicles on campus and trying to lower the university’s carbon footprint affects their relationship with the community.

    “When the community sees they can work with the university (when it comes to) sustainability, it strengthens the bond between the university and the community,” Halsell said. 

    Halsell also talked about the diversity of students presenting at the expo, explaining that eight of the twelve colleges at Penn State were represented at the expo. This expo shows that sustainability is not just part of one discipline, Halsell said. Halsell also said that she felt it was interesting to see the different types of learning going on at the expo.

  • 27 Apr 2016 8:50 PM | Deleted user

    Buckell holds Sustainability Symposium

    PERC member school Bucknell University held its annual Sustainability Symposium for the fourth year over the week of April 4-8, 2016.  The event discussed the path of the global phenomenon that is sustainability according to Bucknell’s website

    Dina El-Mogazi is the director of Bucknell Center for Sustainability and the Environment’s Sustainable Design Program. She is also an adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at Bucknell.  El-Mogazi talked about the importance of the symposium.

    “It gives students across the state a chance to meet, network, and discuss challenges they have found in sustainability efforts,” El-Mogazi said.

    El-Mogazi said that she hoped the students had a chance to learn from each other at the sustainability symposium. She also talked about wanting to give the students more confidence in their work and to help them get new ideas. Finally, El-Mogazi talked about her hope that the students were able to learn about projects.  El-Mogazi discussed the kind of effect the event had on Bucknell and the surrounding community.

    “Very positive,” El-Mogazi said. “Not a lot of Bucknell students could have traveled to the symposium. It gave them a chance to be active in the event and see what other schools are doing.”

    El-Mogazi talked about the event changes from year to year. She explained that every year the types of projects that are discussed in the panels are a little bit different than the year before. In addition, El-Mogazi also said that there is a different group of students at the event each year and they all bring different ideas.

    The first two days of the event, April 5 and 6, included screening a  pair of screenings of the 2014 film Flowers of Freedom and having discussions regarding the films. The heart of the conference began on April 7 with a series of discussion panels. These panels included topics like food waste, and producing fuel for the world.  April 7 also included a student poster display session which was held from 2-4 p.m., according to Bucknell’s website.

    That evening there was a keynote speaker, Timmons Roberts, who spoke from 7-8:30 p.m. in Trout Auditorium, which is part of the Vaughan Literature Building. Roberts spoke about new global politics and how they relate to climate action according to Bucknell’s website.

    There was a pair of events on April 8. The first was a presentation on fighting climate change on campus from 10 – 11:30 a.m.  The second event that day was a discussion panel on sustainability perspectives from abroad, according to Bucknell’s website.

  • 20 Apr 2016 9:58 PM | Deleted user

    Harrisburg holds PA Power Dialog

    On April 4, 2016 the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium hosted the PA Power Dialog from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Power Dialog was held at the State Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

    The Dialog included three student panels that discussed various elements of the Clean Power Plant that included questions from the audience. In addition there was a keynote address from John Quigley, the secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection.  There was a fourth panel that consisted of professionals that discussed the implementation of the Clean Power Plan in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Power Dialog ended with the audience members dividing up into small groups for discussions.

    Michelle Barakat, a senior earth and environmental sciences major at Susquehanna University, led one of the small groups at the Power Dialog. Barakat explained why she chose to lead a small group discussion as part of the Power Dialog.  

    “I have been to a few PERC conferences before and I figured I would give them a hand and get the experience of leading a group,” Barakat said. 

    Barakat said that she thought it was interesting to lead a small group discussion and that it was cool to get people talking about environmental issues.

    “At first I had to answer questions myself, but after a while everyone started building off each other,” Barakat said. 

    Barakat said that one of the biggest things she got out of the Power Dialog is that not only people involved in the environmental science field are impacted by the climate and the legislation around it.

    Barakat said that the PA Power Dialog is important because it helps get everybody’s ideas together. She argues that a conference like this is especially important in Pennsylvania because it is a leader in power production. Barakat said that it is important for us to see where we stand individually and as a state when it comes to power production.

    One thing that Barakat’s group discussed was opportunities for young people to have a role in climate change, such as writing letters to legislators, advocacy and education through acts, and being a model through personal lifestyle choices. They also talked about some challenges young people face when trying to send a meaningful message to the community including that they need to establish a sense of patience, the stereotype that young people will grow out of their passions and are inexperienced and undereducated, and that some voices are heard louder than others. Finally the group talked about what steps could be taken to overcome the challenges.  The group agreed that there was strength in groups and collaboration and came up with some ideas such as attending municipality meetings, finding organizations, such as churches and nonprofits, that are taking action, looking for resources in creative places and continuing to question and critique ideas.  

    “I was expecting it to be a little bit more professional based,” Barakat said. “It was nice to see that there were other students our age that researched in this field and care about.”

    Gladys Brown, the Chairman of Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission, talked about the importance of the power dialog.

    It is always beneficial to hear what other state agencies are doing and to share information regarding the PUC’s work with other government agencies, industry, and academic institutions,” Brown said.

  • 08 Apr 2016 10:10 PM | Deleted user

    Franklin and Marshal a Shining Example of PERC Food Recovery Challenge

    The Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium, more commonly referred to as PERC, has teamed up with EPA and the food services company Sodexo in a project called the Food Recovery Challenge. The program includes 22 schools and over 100,000 students have been impacted by the program, according to PERC’s website

    One of PERC’s leading schools in the Food Recovery Challenge is Franklin and Marshall College.  The Sustainability Coordinator at Franklin and Marshall College, Tom Simpson, talked about the school’s food recovery challenge strategy.  Simpson explained that the school focuses on composting both pre and post consumption waste. He also talked about how the school uses disposable plates and utensils. Simpson said that the school has a contract with a trucking company who collects the waste from dumpsters on campus and takes the waste to a compost farm.

    Franklin and Marshall began their involvement in the Food Recovery Challenge almost six years ago, Simpson explained. He continued by saying that since there was an issue with finding a trucking company  Franklin and Marshall no longer worked with the company they originally found. Simpson said that Franklin and Marshall began their second attempt with the Food Recovery Challenge about two and half years ago.

    In 2015 Franklin and Marshall composted 94 tons of waste compared to the 73 tons of waste they composted in 2014. Simpson said that he hopes to top the 2015 mark this year.   Simpson also said that he plans to extend the Food Recovery Challenge to different areas on campus.

    “We hope to extend where we compost to more events where we weren’t before,” Simpson said.

    Simpson believes that the Food Recovery Challenge benefits the school and local community because people will not be throwing away the trash, which in this case is incinerated. In addition, Simpson explains that the program does not cost much more money than throwing trash away. Simpson said that composting food waste creates a useful product that is being used in fields and gardens on campus.

    Luke Wolfgang, who works for the EPA and is in charge of the Food Recovery Challenge in the Mid-Atlantic region, talked about how he gets more people involved in the Pennsylvania Food Recovery Challenge.

    “We reach out to schools, businesses, and organizations through networking, endorsements, and working with composting organizations,” Wolfgang said.

                Wolfgang explained that all the EPA managers are part of a work group that meets biweekly. He continued by saying that the group coordinates strategies that other offices have.

                Wolfgang said that he wants to improve the data collection for the Food Recovery Challenge and make it more streamlined. He explained that the date collection system needs to improve to include more universities, businesses, grocery stores, and institutions.

  • 28 Mar 2016 10:40 PM | Deleted user

    Penn State to host 2016 Energypath Conference

    The 2016 Energypath event will be held from July 25-29 on Penn State’s main campus. There will be pre conference energy camps from July 25-27 and the Energypath conference will take place from July 28-29 according to Energypath’s website

                The Energypath event includes pre-conference camps that hands on experiences on energy topics such as Solar PV, Wind, and Micro Hydro. The event also includes a banquet dinner with nationally recognized experts on renewable energy technologies.  The main attraction of the event will be the Energypath conference and exhibition that would include professionals, academics and policy makers according to Energypath’s website.

                Last year the Energypath event had 373 attendees.  The event also had 31exibitors and 23 sponsors, according to Energypath’s website.

                Katie Fischer, a sophomore Earth and Environmental Studies major at Susquehanna University, was one of the attendees at the 2015 Energypath event. Fischer decided to go to the event because it was free and the event was held really close to her home.

                “I thought it would be a fun educational thing to do over the summer,” Fischer said.

                Fischer explained that the thing she enjoyed the most about going to the conference was all the people she met there.

    “Everyone was easy to get along with because we had a lot in common. I met a lot of neat and eccentric people,” Fischer said.

    Fischer also said that she felt the conference was what she expected and that it was really hands on. She had a piece of advice for students going to the Energypath event this year.

    “Try to be very open and friendly and don’t be afraid to talk about things you’re knowledgeable about,” Fischer said.

    Fischer also talked about how going to the conference benefited her.

    “Going to the conference helped me to become independent,” Fisher said. “It was a really good way to spend my summer vacation.”

    Jeremy Motsko, a junior Earth and Environmental Science major at Susquehanna University, is one of the students that will be attending the Energypath event in 2016.  Motsko heard about the conference through an email from his department head and his interest in the event came from his earth and environmental science major.

    Motsko said that he is looking forward to getting a diversified view of the different renewable energy options. Motsko also talked about how he could use the conference to further his career.

    “It would allow me to understand different renewable energies more and how they can be used in different sectors,” Motsko said.

    Motsko feels that the Energypath conference is very well reputed and he expects that there will be a high level of academia there. He also expects to network with the other companies there and to gain exposure to different viewpoints.

  • 16 Mar 2016 1:35 PM | Deleted user

    PERC Green Power Boot Camp Held at Villanova University

    Villanova University held a Green Power Boot Camp event that was sponsored by Pennsylvania Green Colleges and the Green Gigawatt Partnership on Friday, Feb. 19 from 12:30 – 4:30 p.m.  Villanova held the event in association with the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium (PERC).

    Liesel Schwarz, the Sustainability Manager at Villanova University talked about the importance of having an event like this at Villanova.

    “The biggest benefit is getting all the key players from different universities to learn and network together,” Schwarz said.

    The Green Power Boot Camp event helped the participants create a renewable energy strategy that included off-site and on-site approaches according to The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) website

    AASHE’s website also talked about some of the events the workshop included. Some of these are an overview of renewable energy trends, short informative pieces on power purchase agreements, and case studies that came from colleges.

    Schwarz explained that there are a lot more opportunities to purchase renewable energy now then there were in the past.  She talked about how people used to have the option of purchasing renewable energy credits, which were never very desirable, or on site projects such as solar panels on buildings and parking garages.  Schwarz argued that although on site projects could work well in areas of the country that get a lot of sunshine, they left something to be desired in other areas.

    One of the things that the Green Power Boot Camp featured was information about long term power purchase agreements. Schwarz explained that the agreements allow people to purchase energy from solar producers without added costs.

     “A large portion of campus greenhouse gas emissions come from energy,” Schwarz said. “Pursuing renewable energy goes a long way towards reducing [the university’s] carbon footprint.”

    Schwarz talked about how education and policy insurance are two of the biggest things that could be done to make renewable energy available to the everyday homeowner. She also said that the government has to have a standard in policy insurance where policies won’t change in order for renewable resources to be available to the masses.   

  • 13 Mar 2016 11:02 PM | Deleted user

    The third panel discussed leadership on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, reduction planning and strategies from the United States and other communities around the world.  There were two speakers on the panel, Shaunna Barnhart from Becknell University, and Tom Simpson from Franklin and Marshal College. Barnhart spoke about national organizations that work with government and leaders. One of these organizations is the National Association of Counties which helps communities track how much energy they are using and help them switch to solar power. Simpson talked about some of the work that was done in Copenhagen Denmark where there is a goal of carbon neutrality by 2025 and 100% renewable energy in 2025. Copenhagen is using a “Smart Energy System” that is considering heating and cooling, electricity, smart grids and transport.

    There was a 5 minute presentation from PERC sponsor Chris O’Brien, who works for the company Altenex, preceding the fourth panel. The fourth panel focused on adaptation and resilience work at the local government level. There were two speakers at the panel, Richard Freeh, the City Energy Project Manager from the Office of Sustainability in Philadelphia, and Robert Graff, the manager at the Office of Energy and Climate Solutions for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

    Freeh talked about how the climate has changed in Philadelphia, and talked about an Adaptation Planning Process that he had been working on to prepare for Philadelphia’s warmer and wetter climate in the future.  Graff also discussed climate change adaptation including flooding in new areas and storm water infrastructure that is nearing capacity.  

    After an hour and 15 minute lunch, the fifth panel began on the topic of support for the PERC and state partnership on local government climate change programs from local government organizations in Pennsylvania. There were two speakers in the panel, Ed Knittel, from the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, and Jim Price, who works for Sustainable Pittsburgh. Knittel talked about how Boroughs are centers for jobs in government, education, and health jobs and about the boroughs’ change in the dynamic of energy and sustainability.  Price discussed how his company creates a rapid assessment for over 150 municipalities and how he wants to get the same amount of work done with fewer resources and less staff.

    The last panel regarded interest in the program from Pennsylvania state government and the EPA.  There were a total of six speakers in the sixth panel, some of them where Megan S. Goold, from the office of Air Partnership Programs with the United States EPA, and Keith Wells, who has the Deputy State Treasurer for Fiscal Operations and Senior Advisor for Policy position at the PA Treasury Department.   Goold talked about how colleges can be mediators and about the kinds of impacts expected from climate change.  Wells discussed the residential energy efficiency program. The program is a keystone help program, has been a model for other states, and would be able to reduce tax on energy consumption. The meeting finished with a PERC brainstorming and strategic planning session where the goals of the program and the role of higher education were discussed.  Donald Brown said that the most important thing for people to do is to reduce greenhouse gases.

    “It’s important to try to get everybody to massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not just people, but schools, and governments as well,” Brown said.


  • 13 Mar 2016 10:25 PM | Deleted user

    PERC Members Converge for Annual Conference

    The Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium held their annual event on Feb. 5 at the Rachel Carson building in Harrisburg.  According to a statement by PERC, the purpose of the meeting was to gather relevant information regarding a partnership between Pennsylvania colleges that are PERC members and Pennsylvania State government that will encourage other local and county governments to develop and implement climate change and greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies and programs that will enhance the resilience and adaptation to climate change impacts.

    PERC founder Donald Brown talked about the benefit of having a meeting where all the members come together.

    “It allows us to form partnerships between universities and state agencies,” Brown said.

                The meeting began with a short welcome followed by the first panel which covered the topic of current PERC school activities on climate change and community change. There were two speakers in the first panel, John Dernbach from Widener University Law School and Brandi Robinson from Penn State University.   Dernbach talked about how he had approached the city of Harrisburg about teaching a class on sustainability and about a program that would take the legal skills of his students and apply them to the real world of local governments.  Robinson focused her presentation on whether Penn State’s new Bachelor of Arts degree led to jobs in science policy and the Penn State Park Inventory program.

    The second panel had to do with local government leadership on climate change issues in Pennsylvania local governments. There were three people who spoke during the panel, Richard Freeh, the City Energy Project Manager from Philadelphia,  Alan Sam  from the State College Borough, and Dan Zimmerman from Warwick Township. Freeh spoke about what Philadelphia was doing regarding greenhouse gases and how colleges were helping out by conducting municipal and city wide greenhouse gas inventories and creating the Green Works Sustainability Plan. When Sam spoke he focused on some of the work State College Borough had done in the past and talked about two current programs, Sustainability Community Collaborative and Sustainable Pennsylvania, both of which created connections between Penn State and the surrounding community. Zimmermann discussed Warwick Township’s Climate Change Initiative that included two methods reducing energy use and planting trees.

  • 29 Feb 2016 10:57 AM | Deleted user

    Graff fights greenhouse gas emissions in the city of brotherly love

    It was Feb. 5 when the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium held a conference in Harrisburg at the Rachel Carson Building. One of the speakers at the conference was Robert Graff, who is the manager in the Office of Energy and Climate Solutions at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

    Graff’s organization, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, was designated the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Greater Philadelphia Region. The Metropolitan Planning Organization is bi-state and includes nine counties surrounding and including Philadelphia.  One of the responsibilities the organization is responsible for are energy use and greenhouse gas emissions inventories.

    Graff talked about a number of local government issues during his presentation including climate change adaptation and Greenhouse Gas reduction. Some of the local government issues caused by climate change adaptation were new areas that were flooding and the fact that storm water infrastructure is over capacity.  This can also affect changes in summer and winter recreation and vegetation changes.

    “Ski areas are having less snow,” Graff said. “Snow is coming later in the year and leaving earlier.”

    Graff gave a specific example when it came to vegetation, talking about a type of local tree that was forced to leave the area due to a warming climate.

    “Agriculture has been affected as well: the Sugar Maple tree that was local to the area was forced to move north,” Graff said.

                Graff also talked about the work his organization did with regards to greenhouse gas reduction. Some of the things his organization works towards are alternative energy facilities such as solar power, alternative fuel vehicles such as electric vehicles and natural gas vehicles, and making it easier for people to walk and bike in the community. Graff made a number of specific points about the importance of biking and walking in a community.

                “From a greenhouse gas standpoint, cars put out a lot of start and stop emissions,” Graff said. “It releases less greenhouse gases and gets children comfortable getting places by walking or biking.”

                Graff explained that climate change is already occurring and can no longer be completely prevented. He continued that the majority of greenhouse gas emissions came from generating electricity and using vehicles to transport passengers and goods.

                Graff talked about how lighting and temperature controls have gotten better and less expensive over the years. Although he believes lighting and temperature controls can increase energy efficiency, he warned that the challenge is to set the lighting and temperature controls correctly.

  • 04 Feb 2016 8:03 PM | Josh Hooper (Administrator)

    Susquehanna offers rare research opportunities for students

    by Kevin Jones

    Susquehanna University first year ecology major David Huntzberry has a research opportunity that not many students have. He was given the chance to work as an assistant at the Freshwater Research Initiative.  Huntzberry explained he became involved in the Initiative because of his childhood interest in studying water and the chance to further his young career.

    “I always enjoyed being around water growing up, and felt it was a good opportunity to further my career,” Huntzberry said.

    Freshwater Research Initiative leader Jonathan Niles went into detail about the origins of the Initiative. He explained that the Fresh Water Research Initiative began in May of 2014 thanks to a grant of $2.25 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.  Niles joined the Initiative because it allowed him to do research he was interested in and allowed him to teach undergraduates, which is something he was particularly interested in.

    Niles explained that the Initiative is involved a variety of research projects and works in collaboration with state and federal agencies as well as other colleges. He continued that a lot of the research goes to organizations that are involved in water quality, fish management, and stream classifications as well as other environmental policies. Niles feels that there is not one specific threat to the Susquehanna River, but several threats that steam from human activities.

    “The Susquehanna and its tributaries do not suffer from one threat, but many invasive species, pollution issues, and climate change,” Niles said.

    Niles believes that the health of local streams and the surrounding wildlife is important because people get their drinking water from these local water systems and if the streams are not heathy the water will have to be treated and cleaned which takes a significant amount of resources and manpower. He also thinks that people like to live near heathy bodies of water that they can use for recreational activities like swimming, and boating.  Huntzberry explained that he learned a lot about insects that live in the area during his work for the Initiative.

    “I never knew there were so many bugs in the Susquehanna and how important they are,” Huntzberry said.

    Huntzberry said that what he liked most about his work at the Freshwater Research Initiative was learning how to identify the different kinds of bugs and their importance to river ecology.

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