What better time than spring to recognize the wonder and beauty of the changing environment around us. Let us not forget the importance and threat of climate change that could take away beautiful spring days like these ahead. A time where global warming was debatable has ended, and now thought has shifted to what needs to be done to slow down the extreme affects of climate change that are barreling toward us.
West Chester University has already taken action to reduce its part in global warming. Dr. Paul Morgan, director of undergraduate and graduate certificate programs in education for sustainability at West Chester University, shared that while recycling has helped, “there is so much more included to sustainability.” Morgan explained what has been done and what will be done in the future for our university’s involvement in emission reduction and sustainability. Currently, the university follows the Good Samaritan Laws, which allows unused food to be given to those in need under good intention. Also, by the recreation center, Geothermal heating is beings installed which pulls energy from the earth for heating and cooling purposes. In the future, geothermal technology at the university hopes to shut down coal boiler fires during the summer, which will eliminate excessive gas emissions. To reduce vehicle use on campus (who wants to spend unnecessary gas money and find impossible parking anyway?), WCU now has a free shuttle bus that runs to and from the Exton train station and university. Morgan also shares that West Chester University is a member of the Pennsylvania Environmental Resources Consortium (PERC), which works to enable and encourage colleges and universities to share knowledge and take action towards building a sustainable future. In fact, Morgan hopes to see our university become a part of PERC’s PA Higher Ed Food Recovery Challenge, which you can read more about at www.pagreencolleges.org.
In the near future, Morgan hopes to see an increase in the use of the shuttle bus, which will lead to lesser vehicle use on campus. As for Morgan’s long-term goal, he hopes West Chester University will become a “zero policy waste campus where all waste produced is recycled, reused, or composted.” There is no doubt that students and the community will benefit from West Chester University’s role in minimizing climate change
If our university is taking extreme measures to minimize global change, then what is the town of West Chester doing? BLUER, an all-volunteer committee formed by West Chester’s Borough Council, plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10% over 2005 levels by the year 2015. David Mazzocco, Chair of BLUER Committee shares that the committee took initiative in sharing sustainability issues with residents, business owners, and WCU. BLUER also helped to educate them and provide incentives and tools that would help reduce their carbon footprint. Listing BLUER’s successes in our community thus far include, but are certainly not limited to, gaining approval of the purchase of wind energy for all the borough’s municipal power needs, the implementation of outreach programs for commercial and residential greenhouse gas contributors, and the continuation of advising the Borough, and local legislators, in making smart energy decisions on future projects.
Working side by side with BLUER, Mayor Carolyn Comitta works to encourage and implement sustainability in the town of West Chester. She shares that because of BLUER’s climate action plan for the borough, West Chester has been recognized “by the EPA for its ‘Energy Star Ordinance’ and this year will reach its goal of 100% renewable energy to power all borough government buildings.” Mayor Comitta is also an active member of the Board of Directors with the UN’s World Information Transfer, which is a non-profit organization concerned with promoting environmental health and literacy. Her participation in World Information Transfer has helped her understand that making environmentally unhealthy choices affects everyone in our interconnected world. As an example, Mayor Comitta states “ polluted air and water flows freely from place to place and in some cased circumnavigates the globe.” The public sees environmental issues at a national and global level frequently. However, it is often at the local level where action and policymaking is taking place to reduce carbon footprints and improve health. By encouraging community sustainability, we can begin to piece together an environmentally friendly world.
With our town and university thoroughly involved with sustainability, where should we as students, faculty, and community members start? As David Mazzocco explains, “Sustainability starts with you, so start with your own actions and be willing to change.” Beginning with habit-based behaviors is a great way to participate. For example, turn your TV and lights off when they are not in use, ride your bike during these spring months, open windows on cooler days, and turn off your air conditioner. Starting small can have a huge impact on sustainability in your own community, and is cheaper on your college budget. Mazzocco also encourages support of businesses who are encouraging environmental friendliness by writing them a letter of appreciation and spreading the word of what these businesses are doing. In addition, BLUER meetings are open to the public and welcome student and community input. BLUER is always looking for student volunteers on various sub-committees and will sometimes offer internship positions when appropriate. As Mayor Comitta states, “Students have a responsibility to shape the future,” and we should start by educating ourselves and others on issues of climate change and promote a sustainable a healthier environment in our own town. Promotional efforts can include spreading awareness, voting for elected officials who support legislation to reduce carbon emissions and sustainability, and getting involved with organizations and groups, such as BLUER, to support a healthy and sustainable environment.
Now that you know what the West Chester Borough and University are doing to become environmentally friendly, you have no excuse to not get involved in the action. Start small by turning off energy sources in your home that are not in use, go talk to individuals like Paul Morgan at the University, or attend a BLUER meeting! When you go outside and appreciate the spring weather, let it be a reason to remember your environment is worth fighting for.