Millersville has had a great year in regards to sustainability and becoming more conservationist. The efforts to become a more eco-friendly campus have been nationally recognized by a non-profit organization, Second Nature, which awarded MU the Cross-Sector Collaboration award at the Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit. Not only was MU the only university in the state system to be recognized, but it was the only university in Pennsylvania as well.
Millersville’s sustainability director, Chris Steuer, speaks about Second Nature and the award: “They have what’s called the Climate Commitment, which is an agreement universities sign on to say they’ll address climate change. It can start with universities saying they’ll reduce greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change through helping their local cities and figure out ways to adapt to the impacts of climate change.” MU was one of the first universities to sign on to that commitment back in 2016.
Millersville received the award for a multitude of activities that have been implemented toward becoming as sustainable as possible. Steuer continues, “The Lombardo Welcome Center is a zero energy building, which was a flagship of that effort. There are less than 100 of these types of buildings across America. We’re using the building to show the community how this technology is totally viable”
While this is great for campus, Millersville has gone even farther to combat the effects of climate change. Back in June 2017, the Trump Administration made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which is an agreement with the United Nations that intensify the efforts to fight climate change. However, Lancaster defied this. “We committed as part of our climate commitment to work with the city of Lancaster on their climate change work. We both signed ‘We Are Still In,’ which is a national commitment that, after the Trump Administration indicated that they exited the Paris climate treaty, Millersville and Lancaster both said we’ll still try and meet those agreements.”
The award from Second Nature is honoring and celebrating all of these achievements Millersville has been working toward. Steuer clarifies, “We not only built this building [the Lombardo Welcome Center], but we’re using it to raise issues in the community and helping the city where we can on their climate work.”
This is extremely important for Pennsylvania specifically because the state is the third most emissive state in the country. “It has a lot to do with the amount of fossil fuel resources we have. We have a lot of coal and natural gas and we make a lot of electricity and export it to other states.”
However, the state government plans to reduce emissions with sustainability plans. “The state came out with its climate action plan in November. Governor Wolf announced that the state will reduce its emissions 23 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. We’re a very emissive state.”
One of the best parts about the Lombardo Welcome Center, other than the fact that it helped MU get recognized for its efforts in sustainability, is the fact that the university is essentially getting money back from the money saved by being completely energy efficient in the form of grants for students.
“Lombardo right now has generated twice as much energy as we’ve used. The official certification is called a zero energy building but I call it my positive energy building. It’s not zero, we’re making energy.”
“We applied for a rebate for making an energy efficient building. We can get thousands of dollars from them, so we took that money and we set it aside in a fund that students and faculty and staff can apply to get $2500 micro-grants to do work that helps the community be more sustainable. We’re calling it the Positive Energy Award.”
“Students are able to apply for funds to help them do whatever idea they want to do and it all relates to the savings with this building. We’re trying to invest that work in things the students want to be doing.” The deadline to apply for the Positive Energy Award is April 1.
Steuer continues, “It’s the first year we’re doing this so I want to see good applications coming through. It’s a unique opportunity for us to be able to give money to students to do more work within the community they might not otherwise have access to.”