PSNK’s Green Team Plans Environmentally Friendly Campus

By Jenna Herstek

UPPER BURRELL, Pa. – A newly established Green Team at Penn State New Kensington is working to help the campus operate in a more efficient, innovative and healthy manner.

Green Teams are forming rapidly throughout the entire Penn State community in order to help the university become more environmentally friendly. There are currently 51 Green Teams at University Park and 11 at various commonwealth campuses such as Harrisburg, Beaver and, of course, New Kensington, according to Penn State’s Campus Sustainability Office.

Green Teams originated from Penn State’s Campus Sustainability Office who sponsors the Green Team’s efforts and provides the members with information and training, says Penn State’s Green Team website. The members are trained to work with co-workers to make a positive change at their campus.

The leader of the newly established Green Team at Penn State New Kensington is Ruth Herstek. Herstek began the creation of this Green Team by simply sending out an email to her co-workers asking if any of them would like to participate, she says. So far this team has 16 members.

“Although I started the Green Team here at New Ken, I still rely on the expertise of other faculty members on campus,” Herstek explained, adding that there were in fact some efforts to recycle on campus which were implemented by Jason Bush before the creation of the Green Team.

Herstek recycles at home so she wanted to help with the campus’s sustainability and she, as well as other faculty members, wanted to join to be a little more “green.” They also hope to raise awareness on campus and to work on a few projects the team has in mind for the future of the campus, she says.

The Green Team keeps in contact with each other through internet groups which every member belongs to where they share ideas and keep each other updated about new programs. The newest “green” program the team was introduced to involves Barnes & Noble, which collects old textbooks to send to third world countries as a way of recycling them. Herstek says, “This is a great way to save the environment for future students and for their future children.”

Philosophy Professor Donald Bruckner, who is also a member of the Green Team, said the program is “pretty new and in an organizational phase.” Right now, Bruckner says the team is “focused on identifying priorities.”

The Green Team’s website provides two lists the team has come up with so far, one for short-term goals and one for long-term goals. The short term goals consist of ideas such as a carpooling board, notifying all employees of which bins are for recycling and which are not and reducing unnecessary printing. Other short term goals are simple adjustments such as turning out lights, shutting windows and turning off overhead projectors when leaving the classroom for the day.

The Green Team’s long-term goals are more complicated than the short term goals, says Herstek. These goals include establishing an official recycling area with larger, eye-catching bins, composting, creating a network of bike routes in New Kensington, Arnold and Lower Burrell and an organic community garden, as well as many other ideas.

“I think composting on campus would be pretty neat,” says Bruckner, who also has a compost pile at his own house. “Plenty of other colleges and universities do this with their food services. [They] have collection bins for things that can be composted and recycled into garden mulch and fertilizer.”

He also thinks that instead of buying everything we serve in the cafeteria from some centralized supplier, such as food from California, that we are able to get comparable stuff right here for many months out of the year. Bruckner explained that buying locally wouldn’t use and waste petroleum materials to get the food across the country.

The Green Team has been focusing on ideas for the campus but they plan to include the surrounding townships in their future plans.

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