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Colleges in the Lehigh Valley team up to create a more sustainable future



Lauren Brinker ‘09G submitted a poster to the conference’s student poster contest.

Sustainability, once a topic relegated to environmental studies, has become one of the foremost issues on college campuses across the country. The practice has also gained traction at the universities that comprise the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC).

To encourage a greater dialogue on sustainability issues among the LVAIC schools, the organization hosted its inaugural Sustainable Campuses Conference on February 20 at DeSales University. The conference drew over 175 people from across the six participating schools, including a large contingency from Lehigh.

Jason Slipp, senior instructional technologist for the College of Business and Economics, serves on the LVAIC sustainability committee that planned the event. Slipp, who is also pursuing a master’s degree in environmental policy, believes the conference is one way in which LVAIC schools can collaborate.

“The more we move toward sustainability at the LVAIC schools, the better chance we have of becoming more environmentally, socially and economically stable,” said Slipp. “It can help save money, reduce waste, promote efficiency, as well as engage students and the community, and make living at a campus a better experience.”

Lehigh faculty, staff and students from across the university attended the conference in hopes that they might glean some information on how to better incorporate sustainable practices into their respective fields.

“We’re hoping to promote the greening of dining services and make a conscious effort to reduce consumption,” said Jennifer Mack, sustainability manager for Lehigh Dining Services, after attending sessions on water bottle use and sustainable dining options. She cited recent efforts by Dining Services to create a more environmentally friendly service through trayless dining, biodegradable cups and reusable coffee mugs, corn-based greenware, eco-takeout containers and single stream recycling.

Dork Sahagian, director of the Environmental Initiative and professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented a session on “Integrating Sustainability into the Curriculum,” which outlined the Environment Across the Curriculum initiative. Sahagian explained the creation of an online database of resources and references that allow Lehigh faculty to incorporate the environment into their curriculum, regardless of discipline.

“A green campus is commendable, but we make students,” said Sahagian. “We leverage our impact by sending sustainability minded professionals into the world of industry, government, academics and parenthood. A green campus is one where the students carry away sustainable ideas.”

One such student, Lauren Brinker, will be one of the first students to complete the new master’s program in environmental policy design this spring. Brinker worked closely with Sahagian to develop the materials and concepts for the Environment Across the Curriculum project.

“It’s great that all the universities in the area are getting together to talk about this,” Brinker said. “We need to break down the barriers between colleges and learn from one another.”

Brinker, along with Lehigh’s Engineers Without Borders and the Environmental Coalition, submitted posters to a student poster contest organized by Slipp. The Environmental Coalition placed third behind Cedar Crest and Lafayette Colleges.

--Tricia Long


Posted on Friday, February 27, 2009

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