Penn State Wilkes-Barre hosts regional sustainability meeting for campuses

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DALLAS, Pa. — Penn State Wilkes-Barre recently hosted a regional sustainability meeting for Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses, which brought participants from throughout northeastern Pennsylvania together to share sustainability goals, best practices, ideas and successes.

The Sustainability Regional Working Session for the Northeast Campuses was attended by representatives from Penn State’s Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, Scranton, Schuylkill and Lehigh Valley campuses, including students, faculty and staff. Also in attendance were leaders from Penn State Sustainability, the University’s arm for supporting the sustainability movement at Penn State.

As part of its mission, Penn State Sustainability uses the integrated framework of the United Nations’ 2030 Global Sustainable Development Goals to advance the causes of people, planet, shared prosperity, peace and partnerships for current and future generations by working collaboratively with the entire Penn State community to ensure the institutionalization of sustainability across colleges, campuses, communities and the state.

“The regional meetings are held to build collaboration and connections in each region, covering the scope of all the Commonwealth Campuses,” said Erin Brennan, assistant teaching professor of business and faculty chair of Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Sustainability Council. “We are leveraging the collective strength of our campuses to collaborate on our shared goals. We are also building a network for each campus to have resources to be able to draw on in their region.”

The working session included an overview of Penn State Sustainability, its mission and the support it can provide; small group breakout discussions; an overview of campus successes and challenges; and identifying next steps for future meetings.

“It was valuable to hear what each campus is doing and what experiences they’ve had, knowing we can use those as learning moments and to prompt ideas for future activities on each campus,” Brennan said. “The working session allowed us to think through further ventures we might want to take on and also to share what we have done at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Perhaps we can offer something that spurs collective action and furthers sustainability.”

Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Sustainability Council is made up of faculty and staff interested in sustainability and furthering sustainability efforts at the campus. In addition to Brennan as the faculty chair, Susan Gross serves as staff chair of the group. The group meets monthly and also invites a representative from the campus’ student sustainability group to provide input at least once an academic year.

The Sustainability Council encourages a campuswide curriculum that includes sustainability and recognizes faculty who incorporate sustainability topics into their course content. The council maintains a list of campus courses that include sustainability to help students identify courses of interest. Sustainability is part of the first-year seminar curriculum as well as in "Issues in Sustainability," in which students worked with Molly Abdalla, student engagement and outreach librarian, to assemble a display promoting sustainability. The display offered books and resources tied to sustainability goals.

The council also communicates monthly with the campus community, providing information about sustainability goals and the role members of the campus can play in achieving those goals. The communication also provides a means for students, faculty and staff to inform the Sustainability Council of their actions toward sustainability so they can be highlighted to others on campus. 

Going forward, the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Sustainability Council is looking to explore composting options, particularly in maintaining and improving sustainable options in meal services. The group is also considering the potential of once again establishing an arboretum on campus.

To learn more about sustainability at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, read this story.