January 22, 2009

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(Editor's note: The following story appeared in the winter 2009 edition of Bucknell Magazine.)

LEWISBURG, Pa. Over the past year, a team of more than 70 students, faculty, staff and community members has sifted through records, examined water fixtures and even gone wading to answer the question, “How green is Bucknell?”

The result of their inquiries, a comprehensive Environmental Assessment, will provide baseline information on the University’s current practices and enable the team to move forward intelligently.

“We like to make decisions based on good information,” says Dina El-Mogazi, director of the Campus Greening Initiative and leader of the assessment team. Beyond gathering information, the project also was designed to educate and raise awareness of sustainability issues on campus.

Engaging in conversations
“We could have had consultants come in and do all of this, probably quicker and maybe less expensively, but we felt there was so much value to the project just by having people engage in conversations about these issues,” El-Mogazi says.

The final report will be released in January.

Among the University’s environmental strengths is a power plant that has been fueled by natural gas since its conversion from coal 10 years ago. The efficient cogeneration plant provides approximately 95 percent of the University’s power, with the remainder purchased as wind power.

More efficient campus
As the campus has grown with new construction, it has become more efficient.

“Although we’ve built a lot of new buildings in the past 15 years or so, our energy use has stayed about constant, and that’s because we’ve been adopting a lot of energy-reduction strategies in renovations and new buildings,” El- Mogazi says. “The assessment revealed that our energy use per square foot is down 33 percent in the past 15 years.”

Other environmental strengths include a good infrastructure for recycling, an Integrated Pest Management approach to landscaping on the main campus and a dining services contractor, Parkhurst Dining Services Inc., dedicated to sustainability issues.

For instance, Parkhurst spends 25 percent of its budget on foods produced within 150 miles of campus.

Opportunities for improvement
The assessment also revealed a number of opportunities for improvement. Despite the strong infrastructure, only about 18 percent of the campus’ solid waste is recycled. One contributor to the landfills is the Bison Café, which has no dishwashing facilities and uses disposable dishes and serviceware. Even the management of the University’s endowment contributes to Bucknell’s environmental footprint.

“Moving toward socially and environmentally responsible investing is a big challenge for the future,” El-Mogazi says. “This challenge is not unique to us. It’s a challenge for many universities.”

The assessment has led to more than 20 student projects.

Water quality
Alison Schaffer ’08, for example, donned waders to monitor water quality in Miller Run, the creek that runs through campus. The Campus Master Plan calls for the restoration of Miller Run, as well as for the development of a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly campus.

The University’s role as an environmental steward will reach far beyond the campus borders.

“Bucknell’s biggest impact is probably not whether we recycle every piece of plastic or every piece of paper on campus, but what we send our students away with,” El-Mogazi says. “We are producing future leaders. If they can take that awareness with them because they’ve seen their University not only teach these principles, but also teach by example, then we really do have quite a potential to make an impact.”

Contact: Division of Communications