In an effort to unite students committed to environmental preservation at Penn State, several student organizations on campus organized a “Sustainability Summit” that took place in Heritage Hall at the HUB-Robeson Center on Friday.
The Sustainability Institute, University Park Undergraduate Association, Union and Student Activities and the Student Sustainability Advisory Council hosted the event. Students from organizations such as the Interfraternity Council, Human Rights Brigades and Engineers without Borders attended as well.
About 75 students, both from sustainability organizations as well as independent attendees, registered for the event, which was intended to be a conversation about what campus should look like and how to get there, said Office of Physical Plant Student Programs leader Rob Andrejewski.
“We had discussion groups that came together to get to know what’s going on and what we want to do…we wanted to build collective meaning and discovery through conversation,” Andrejewski said.
Several discussion groups of about five people were spread out among tables in Heritage Hall and students discussed their ideas for realistic changes that could be implemented on campus to increase sustainability.
Ideas involving local food, a sustainability general education requirement and ways to make large Penn State events such as the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon and football games more environmentally-friendly, were brought up repeatedly.
“Everyone’s attitude needs to change,” Jon Blauvelt (junior-broadcast journalism and political science) said. “[Sustainability] is an initiative that our generation can be a part of… the ideas are all good, it’s just a change in mentality [that is needed].”
The need for awareness and action across the entire student body was continually mentioned. Marybeth McGinnis, one of the event’s organizers and an intern at the Sustainability Institute, said that a culture of environmental apathy is the problem on campus.
“Penn State is never going to be a small liberal arts school [where sustainability initiatives are easier to achieve], so the question is, ‘how do we attach ourselves to the already-existing culture?’ ” McGinnis (junior-geography) said.
The two primary discussion points presented by Andrejewski to the rotating discussion groups were “If Penn State were recognized as a world leader in sustainability, what would our campus look like?” and “What do you [students, student organizations] need to make that vision a reality?”
Students took down notes, ideas, sketches and questions they had on colorful post-it notes and put them on the wall in Heritage Hall; some notes were “outdoor recycling,” “educational public displays about how much waste we produce” and “local food dining hall.”
Andrejewski said he thought the event was a great start to building a community of students committed to sustainability on campus, and that he hoped similar meetings would continue to occur, so students could keep sharing their ideas and could take action together.