Meet the 2013-2014 Office of Environmental Sustainability at Plymouth State University!

September 16th, 2013 by Brian

Sustainability and environmental awareness and activism have a long history at Plymouth State University, and we are excited to work hard to become even more sustainable in the 2013-2014 academic year!

Sustainability at PSU is a part of everyone’s work, and the Office of Environmental Sustainability exists to focus on sustainability issues, help others lessen their environmental impacts, coordinate our University wide efforts, and report on what we accomplish to our campus community and beyond. We work with faculty, staff, and students alike on many different projects, and hope to have a chance to talk to you about sustainability at PSU this year.

Aside from concerns about the environment and a desire to ensure future generations have the resources needed for social and economic security, why should a university care about sustainability? One critical reason is that it matters to the most important constituency we serve, our students. An institution of higher learning’s commitment to sustainability is an increasingly important factor in students’ choice of where to attend college, and Plymouth State University continues to make efforts to make its campus and operations more sustainable.  “College-bound students are increasingly interested in sustainability issues,” said Robert Franek, Senior VP/Publisher, The Princeton Review. “Among 7,445 college applicants who participated in our 2012 ‘College Hopes & Worries Survey,’ nearly 7 out of 10 (68 percent) told us that having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school,” (Green Guide Press Release. 2012. The Princeton Review. 20 Nov. 2012. http://www.princetonreview.com/green-guide-press-release.aspx). At PSU our commitment to sustainability is strong, and our efforts involve students, staff, and faculty from all parts of the campus community.

In The Office of Environmental Sustainability at Plymouth State University we work closely with these diverse members of the campus community to meet our University goal to make Plymouth State University carbon neutral by the year 2050, and to improve our relationship with the environment as a whole. Our efforts are conducted in collaboration with faculty, staff, and students, and our project partners include the Office of Residential Life and Physical Plant, both of whom are strong supporters of sustainability. The work we do is grounded efforts to raise awareness and promote more sustainable practices on campus both in and outside of the workplace through behavior change and infrastructure improvement. Our goal is not only to make the campus more sustainable, but also to educate our faculty, staff, and students in ways to live more sustainably that will last a lifetime and extend far beyond campus.

Currently, we are working on many projects and events to achieve these goals. For example on October first our annual “Do it in the Dark” energy saving competition between residence halls begins. The contest started in 2007, and is one of the older campus energy use reduction competitions in the nation. The residence hall that saves the most electricity receives half-price laundry for the month of February, and students’ electricity conservation in the past has been impressive. Last year’s winner was Belknap Hall, and residents reduced electricity consumption by almost 20% during the competition! Here’s looking forward to another good year.

We are hard at work on many projects, including offering a campus Green Office Program that helps interested departments and offices identify ways to voluntarily improve their sustainability through a facilitated examination of everyday practices. We are also working throughout the year on reducing the use of bottles water on campus, and encouraging various forms of conversation through education and programming. In the spring we will participate again in Recyclemania, a national recycling competition, and we are also working to increase the number of classes about sustainability being taught on campus.  These are just examples of a few of the activities we are engaged in, and we hope you have a chance to see you at one of our events this year!

The Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) is located in EcoHouse, and the work is conducted by the Director of OES and a number of student employees. Engaging students in experiential education through participation in campus sustainability efforts is one of the tenets used to guide the efforts of OES, and we are fortunate to work with many talented students. In 2013-2014 the graduate assistant working in OES is Melissa Leszek, a graduate student in the Environmental Science and Policy Program, and student employees include Caitlyn Kearny as the Competitions Coordinator, and Justin Hurd, Patricia Manning, and Brandon Lehman and program coordinators who conducting outreach on sustainability issues in residence halls and across campus in collaboration with other departments and offices on campus. Steve Whitman and Brian Eisenhauer are co-directors of the EcoHouse project, and Brian Eisenhauer has the pleasure of serving as the Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability.

We will continue to provide resources to help the campus community be more sustainable, and if you have questions about our sustainability efforts at Plymouth State University please contact OES and we’ll do our best to respond quickly.

We look forward to working with you to achieve a sustainable Plymouth State University!

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