Dear President's Club member:
Penn State faculty have long been in the forefront of teaching and research aimed at protecting and improving our natural environment. But the University itself must apply what it teaches if it is to become a better institutional steward of our natural resources. I want to share some information with members of The President's Club about what the University is doing, often behind the scenes, to encourage a sustainable environment and make wise energy choices.
Penn State has set aggressive energy and environmental goals for all its new structures. The recently opened Stuckeman Family Building for the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, for example, has earned a Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, thanks to its use of recycled materials, energy-efficient heating and cooling, and generous use of natural light. The University's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, recognized this past summer as the first baseball stadium in the nation to be honored for its environmental initiatives, also is LEED certified.
Actually, Penn State has been sensitive to the environment a lot longer than most people realize. Nearly fifty years ago, when the University was given Mary Behrend's 400-acre Glenhill estate to create a presence in Erie, it chose to retain the gentleman's-farm feel of the Behrend family's former weekend retreat. Rather than bulldoze and start fresh, existing buildings were used for classroom and office space, right down to the sheep barn and car garages. Penn State Erie has since greatly accelerated the pace of these pioneer sustainability efforts.
That pace is quickening all across the University and includes energy utilization. Penn State is firmly committed to reducing the environmental impact of fossil fuels. We recently awarded contracts to meet more than 20 percent of our electrical energy needs through renewable energy sources over the next five years. In fact, Penn State now ranks second among universities nationwide in using energy from renewable sources. We have already been purchasing electricity from wind farms for nearly six years. Our physical plant officers say the environmental benefits of the new contracts are equivalent to more than 14,000 cars not being driven for one year, or 22,000 tons of waste recycled instead of being placed in a landfill.
The hydrogen re-fueling station at the University Park is the first of its kind on the East Coast and the only one in Pennsylvania, producing enough hydrogen to power 20 vehicles a day. The station is part of our effort to develop a fleet of cars, buses, and vans that demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly fuel.
Penn State Berks has converted all of its off-road diesel equipment to biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel is a blend of 80 percent regular diesel and 20 percent soybean oil, making it an attractive alternative to traditional fuel.
One initiative in which I take special pride is the University's leadership in "green-roof" design-planting the tops of buildings with vegetation that acts as insulation, lowering heating and cooling costs. Green roofs also last significantly longer than roofs made from certain conventional materials. Our largest green roof, at 4,700 square feet, sits atop the new Forest Resources Building at the corner of Park Avenue and Bigler Road. It was a key factor in the U.S. Green Building Council's awarding the structure a LEED Silver certification.
A green roof also covers a horticultural facility known as the Root Cellar, near Eisenhower Parking Deck. Over the next couple of years, we will install green roofs on three buildings under construction: the Katz Building housing the Dickinson School of Law at University Park, the Dickinson Law School building in Carlisle, and the University Park health center.
Meanwhile, we continue to look for ways to reduce energy consumption. We have minimized our solid waste production by 45 percent through composting and recycling, and we have cut water use by 400,000 gallons a day. Students, too, are participating. Friday Night Lights Out is helping reduce University Park's million-dollar-a-month electric bill. As many as 45 student volunteers gather on Friday nights at the HUB-Robeson Center and then are assigned to targeted buildings, where they turn out lights that were left on in public areas such as classrooms, study rooms, restrooms, and lounges. Students turn off approximately 1,500 to 2,500 light bulbs every Friday night!
Student clubs and organizations, working through the University Park Undergraduate Association, can now sponsor the planting of campus trees. An initial group of commemorative trees was planted in April in an area south of the Bryce Jordan Center.
In addition to planting new trees, we're also saving existing ones through our newspaper recycling programs. Ten years ago, we inaugurated the Student Newspaper Readership program to encourage more widespread readership of daily papers. Tens of thousands of students at 22 Penn State campuses now read local or national papers daily, but the program's success created a disposal problem. We solved it by selling the newspapers for use as animal bedding and as a component of recycled paper mulch. The proceeds have been returned to the University in the form of student scholarship funds totaling more than $84,000. By recycling, we've saved 32,000 trees, kept 5,400 cubic yards of material out of landfills, and negated $99,000 in landfill fees.
These and similar initiatives pay important dividends for a better environment and are simply good dollars-and-cents business for Penn State. To learn more about our environmental and energy programs, visit http://www.psu.edu/ur/psugreen/ online.
Thank you for all that you do for the University, and I look forward to your continuing membership in The President's Club.
Graham B. Spanier, President
The Pennsylvania State University