Sustainability efforts at Etown help save energy and the planet

Meghan Kenney December 7, 2017 0

Elizabethtown College is one of the leading colleges in Pennsylvania when it comes to sustainability. The College has many revolutionary efforts in this area, which has brought many new opportunities to campus.

The Sustainability Committee has existed on campus for the past four years, two of which were spent with the committee only meeting monthly, but as of the 2016-2017 academic year, it has become a standing committee on campus. There are 11 faculty members on the committee, including Vice President for Administration and Finance Robert Wallett, who has been the chair for the past two years. Wallett says he wants to make sure that students know that sustainability “is broader than just energy.”

Dining Services has been featured on News 8 WGAL to discuss their success with their new sustainability program. Brubaker Farms in Mount Joy comes and picks up the food waste from the Marketplace, which is transported and separated via a drain that reuses water, and brings it back to the farm to decompose the food into methane to generate electricity.

According to the Etown website’s Sustainability section, “this initiative reduced water consumption by 80% and cut waste hauling charges in half.” Dining Services also donates food to the local Food Bank at the end of every academic year.

Along with the food waste program, Dining Services also has an organic garden, which produces all kinds of fruits and vegetables. These are used to feed students in the Marketplace as well as the Jay’s Nest. This garden is located by the Bowers Writers House and, according to the Sustainability Committee’s website, it produces 400 to 600 pounds of produce every year. Students and full-time employees tend to the garden.

Etown also has the largest solar array out of any college in the state of Pennsylvania. The array is one of the Sustainability Committee’s proudest accomplishments. It was finished in 2016 and spans 10 acres.

Nov. 13, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf visited the array, along with many other politicians from the state, to sign a new bill that will act as an incentive for more companies in the state to switch to solar energy.

“This is a part of a whole redirection for Pennsylvania…it is great to see Elizabethtown making such strides,” Wolf said, and added that this new House Bill 118 is a “game changer [for Pennsylvania’s solar future].”

Twenty percent of the College’s energy comes from the half-million dollar solar field, which has saved the College not only the energy, but also money that can now be spent on new initiatives.

In order to save energy, the College has developed a Building Automation System (BAS), which has the lighting systems and the temperature systems (air conditioning and heating). The lights with sensors are motion-activated, which means that if they go a certain time period without being tripped, they will turn off until there is motion again. The temperature systems will use very limited heating and cooling during times when there is nobody in the buildings in order to save energy.

These are some of the sustainability efforts that the College has been working on over the past few years, but there is one plan that is in the beginning stages, which is exciting to the Sustainability Committee, and that is the Green Revolving Fund (GRF).

The concept behind the GRF is that there is money set aside that is geared towards conservation where there is a quick payback of three years or less moving forward. The Sustainability Committee would take money from utilities and put it into the green fund. Right now, the committee is in a holding period until they can get enough money to begin the GRF. The committee is trying to ensure that every project that is picked to go through the GRF will benefit the College in as many ways as possible to improve not only the energy usage around the College, but also to improve Etown in general. The GRF will provide more consistent funding for environmental efforts.

Many funds will be set aside for engagement activities to get students excited about sustainability. The committee does not have much student participation, according to Summer 2017 SCARP student senior Blair Hendricks. Hendricks has been trying to give idea “kindling” for possible future actions. Hendricks has been working to try to get students more involved in sustainability efforts. She has a job in the Office of Admissions and has been training Jaywalkers to incorporate the College’s sustainability efforts into their tours to get future students and parents excited about the future of Etown.

Both Hendricks and the Sustainability Committee have been trying to get sustainability featured in the academics of the College in different disciplines.
Hendricks is a Student Assistant for the International Business Program, and she has been working with professors to try to incorporate a way for the program to promote future business owners to use environmentally friendly energy methods.

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