University Students, Faculty and Staff See World Through Green-Colored Glasses

January 13, 2015

An academic year packed with sustainability initiatives began with the University’s participation the People’s Climate March. The banner the group carried was “gigantic - 16 by 10 feet,” said Sister Mary Anne Foley, an associate professor of theology and religious studies at the University and a participant in the march.

The People’s Climate March kicked off an academic year packed with sustainability initiatives at Scranton.

Carrying cause-advertising posters or placards, waving banners or wearing sandwich boards, the more than 400,000 vocal, strong-willed and strong-legged people descended upon New York City to take part in the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21. That the University was able to fill a bus with two-dozen staff members and students to attend the march was significant, especially considering the worldwide event took place during Family Weekend.

“Ecology is something very important to us,” said Sister Mary Anne Foley, a member of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame and an associate professor in the University’s Theology and Religious Studies Department.

Recalling the vast representation of people – grandparents, college students and young couples carrying children, for example  – as well as locations – busloads from Vermont to California and everywhere in between – she said the march “really had the feel of a festival.”

“It was part of something so much bigger than us,” said Sister Foley. “It really felt like being part of history.”

Indeed, the march was world-history-making, the largest one yet across the globe. It took place in conjunction with 2,000-plus other rallies in 162 countries involving millions of people.

The University’s contingent was sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, the Committee on Justice and the Sustainability Club, which work together to educate the University population as well as the public on all things green.

In addition to the march, fall semester initiatives included two kayaking trips on the Susquehanna River. The trips put 48 University representatives on the river “to raise awareness of the environmental assets that are around us and to encourage responsibility in protecting those assets,” said Mark Murphy, the University’s director of sustainability.

The student Sustainability Club, now in its second year, also participated in the Street Sweep project, which broke students off into rubber-glove-wearing, trash-bag-toting teams who scoured Scranton’s historic Hill Section on cleanup duty. The club also participated in the University’s Safe Trick-or-Treat event – but instead of just handing out traditional candy, club members helped the trick-or-treaters turn used water bottles into planters.

The University also participated in the Pennsylvania American Water Company’s UTap Challenge, competing with seven other schools in six counties and coming in second in a contest designed to rally Facebook votes as schools raised awareness about reusable water bottles.

For its efforts and as runner-up, the University was awarded an Elkay water-fountain bottle filler, bringing the number of such high-tech devices installed on campus to 10. The devices, which are designed to cut down on plastic waste and include digital counters to tally how many times bottles are refilled, have been installed in strategic spots, such as the cafeteria and gym.

The Fall Sustainability Symposium, co-sponsored by the University’s Office of Career Services, focused on sustainable-energy businesses as well as internships and careers.

The University was also featured on WVIA-TV’s Greenlife Pennsylvania in the fall, which “touched on a lot of neat things going on at the school,” Murphy said.

One of the final efforts of the fall semester was a shoe recycling drive, Murphy said, who noted initiatives will continue throughout the spring semester.

According to Murphy, Earth Day activities will take place in April and other planned events include a Spring Sustainability Symposium, kayaking the Lackawanna and a biking activity making use of the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail and local parks.

Another highlight of spring sustainability events will be an evening of environmental science. Local families will be invited to tour the Loyola Science Center, which was awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold standard. Tours and hands-on educational science displays will be presented in conjunction with a display of submissions to an environmental art and essay contest for area students from grades 4 through 12.

All of these initiatives fall under the umbrella of one of the University’s most beloved mantras, which is “Caring for Creation.”

“Our sustainability efforts are an important part of our Jesuit and Catholic mission for justice,” Murphy said, echoing his oft-stated belief that we are all responsible for the planet.

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