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President Gast signs pledge to protect and improve the environment



Lehigh President Alice P. Gast, left, discusses the Climate Commitment, as Jason Slipp, Laura Deutsch '09 and Christina Bianco ‘09, look on.

Brown is definitely the new green. On Wednesday, Lehigh University moved forward in its commitment to the environment by pledging to make environmental sustainability and climate change an institutional priority.

At an Earth Day celebration held at Lamberton Hall, Lehigh President Alice P. Gast signed the Lehigh University Climate Commitment, which will create institutional policies and procedures to manage the development and implementation of a university-wide plan that affirms Lehigh’s commitment to protect and improve the environment through its teaching, research, faculty, student and staff service, and administrative operations.

Watch a video of WFMZ’s coverage of President Alice P. Gast signing the Lehigh University Climate Commitment.

In signing the Climate Commitment, Gast said that safeguarding the environment is an issue the Lehigh community is ready to aggressively embrace.

“At my inauguration, I identified specific areas in which Lehigh can change the world—areas where we already have that special blend of talents, creativity, and collaborative spirit to work toward a common purpose,” Gast said. “One such area is the world’s resources, climate, and environment.”

By signing the Climate Commitment, Lehigh pledges to make environmental issues part of its overall mission. A few of the actions put forth in the document include completing a comprehensive inventory of campus greenhouse gas emissions and updating the inventory every year thereafter; establishing a policy that all new campus construction will be built at least to the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver standard or be LEED certified; and making environmental sustainability and climate change part of the curriculum and overall educational experience for all students.

“The commitment includes things that will really help set the culture change for sustainability at Lehigh,” said Jason Slipp, senior instructional technologist for the College of Business and Economics, who served on a subcommittee of the Lehigh Environmental Advisory Group (LEAG) that drafted the Climate Commitment.

'A conscientious approach'

Gast officially endorsed the pledge in a crowded Lamberton Hall, where organizations and businesses from the university and the surrounding community came together to show their support for the cause. Illustrating her own commitment, Gast was set to moderate an energy summit panel discussion at Rutgers University later in the day entitled, “Energy Efficiency and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.”

Rain may have forced the events indoors, but it did not temper enthusiasm for the signing. The ceremony was one of the highlights of Earth Week—and a culmination of four years of environmental activism for students like Alice Kodama ’09, a student member of LEAG and a vocal green advocate during her college career.

“This is huge. I have to say that a lot of schools have signed a different climate commitment, and Lehigh University has decided to write its own because we want to ensure that we can meet these goals,” said Kodama, who was also awarded with a certificate of appreciation by LEAG for her efforts. “It just shows the conscientious approach Lehigh’s taken to the issue.”

“What’s changed in the past three years is the way the students have reacted to the administrators. When I got here, it was more of a rebellious attitude. People were rallying for change,” Kodama said. “Now, it’s working very closely with the administration and the administration has found the same level of respect for the students that we’ve found for the administration. We work together now. We’re a unit.”

Among the local community members on hand for the signing was Stephanie Faerber, owner of Lux: The Eco-Friendly Salon, located in North Bethlehem. In business for less than a year, Faerber believes her salon clearly demonstrates the region’s willingness to embrace green causes.

“I knew that if I was going to have my own shop, I would want to do it with the products that I believe in and do it in a way that I felt strongly about,” said Faerber, whose clients usually traveled to Philadelphia or New York for a similar salon experience.

Faerber was joined by other local area businesses that support green business practices, as well as by Lehigh organizations including the Microfinance Club, Cans for Habitat, Engineers Without Borders, LTS and Dining Services.

“We were really hoping to raise awareness of things in the Lehigh Valley that people are doing, but also right here on campus. Earth Day gives us a chance to bring everyone together in one place,” said Christina Bianco ‘09, one of the student organizers for Earth Week.

Earth Week events continue throughout the week and culminate with the Sundaze concert at Sayre Field by the Grammy Award-winning group The Roots on April 18. Visit Lehigh's Earth Day Events site for details.

--Tricia Long
and
--Tom Yencho

Photo by Jessica Mauro


Posted on Thursday, April 16, 2009

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