This past January brought cheerful news to the Penn State community, with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education extolling the university's efforts to create a more sustainable campus.
In fact, Penn State scored first out of all Big Ten universities in this ranking, receiving a score of 74.49 overall. While such an achievement should not be overlooked, it must also be placed into context.
And the context is that Penn State as a large institution could and should do better in fulfilling its commitments to the common good. Mediocrity has no home here and must be as swiftly expunged as hate.
While there's no great shame in a C, there's also very little honor. The university certainly does not encourage students to strive only for Cs, despite them being the bare minimum to earn degrees. Penn State expects higher of us than the bare minimum, and we should likewise expect higher of them.
On the 2017 version of the sustainability assessment, the university ended up with a score of 67.88. In other words, a timespan of three years brought with it an improved score of seven points. Such blooming is absolutely radiant in a world as gloomy and climate-stricken as ours.
Still, Penn State is privy to all the power and reputation typically afforded to high-end research universities. It is not and never has been a rinky-dink operation, and it should put away rinky-dink ambitions. Rather, its solid foundation on sustainability must be expanded and improved upon.
And the student body has an equally important role in sustaining this culture of improvement. Students and faculty, presidents and provosts, trustees and trust-fund babies alike all have a duty to build upon the foundation. Nobody enrolled or employed at Penn State has a calling toward apathy or inaction. Our collective calling is instead toward a brighter world de-smeared.
Concerning what the university proper should strive for, it is nothing less than serving as the gold standard for sustainable practices worldwide. Through rigorous research, the university could innovate and introduce ideas that trickle down to both smaller institutions and individuals.
Every Penn State campus should collaborate evermore closely with their surrounding community and aim to increase the appeal and ease of sustainable living. An environment that prioritizes sustainability ends up prioritizing humanity.
As for students, we should put in the extra effort to avoid waste on all fronts. Gone are the days of extragevent showers or throwing away that fifth slice of pizza whose final destination was never going to be your stomach. We should also take time and solve the puzzle of choosing the correct bin for your recycling/trash in the HUB.
Pope Paul VI once wrote: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation."
It's not too late to reverse this degradation. The Penn State community not only has an outsized role in leading such reversal, but also an outsized capacity to meet the challenge.
Daily Collegian Opinion Editor David Tilli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.