Sustainability Committee Helps Create A Greener SJU

Friday, October 4, 2013

by Nicole Katze ’11 (M.A.)

Walking through campus this fall, you may notice a few subtle changes to the landscape: fewer dumpsters near the dining halls, fewer trashcans in the classrooms, and four newly-installed educational signs posted near each of SJU’s green walls and vegetative roofs. In April, the University welcomed the opening of the SJU Community Garden, a greenspace between Connelly and Paris Halls dedicated to teaching the SJU community about horticulture and the environment through actively maintained garden plots.

Headed by, supported by or involving members of the Sustainability Committee, a group of 40 faculty, staff, administrators and students, these examples comprise a snapshot of the varied “green” projects initiated each year and geared toward making SJU an environmentally-aware and responsible institution.

“The committee works, independently and together with student groups, Facilities Management, faculty and staff across all areas of the University to employ good, sustainable business practices that are also educational opportunities for students,” says Michael McCann, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of biology. McCann, who was a founding chair of the Sustainability Committee in 2009, returned to the position this academic year in the place of Howard Heim, M.S., QEP, director of environmental health and safety.

Over the course of its five-year tenure, members of the committee and its working groups have initiated or been influential in the undertaking of several sustainability projects of note. Some, like the green walls and roofs located on the Science Center and the Post Learning Commons, are more visibly obvious, especially with the addition of the educational signs that detail how green roofs and walls work, and why they are important; others are more discreet.

One such initiative is the introduction of the BiobiN to dining services. An organic waste collection system, BiobiN allows campus food services to dispose of food waste — the leftover edibles and certain paper products — into a receptacle designed to lock in odor while encouraging the decomposition process. The recycled waste is then hauled away by BiobiN services where it is used to create additives for compost or soil amendments. For SJU, this program results in fewer waste pick-ups, fewer dumpsters on campus, and the knowledge that less waste is being added to local landfills.

Students are also taking steps to make waste management more sustainable, most recently through the SJU Green Fund, whose mission it is to raise money to initiate and maintain student-led projects that have a positive impact on the natural environment. With support from the Sustainability Committee, this group expanded the campus recycling program by purchasing over 80 recycle bins to be placed in classrooms in all academic buildings; they then moved all regular trash cans into the building hallways, hoping that the new placements would encourage students and faculty to recycle products rather than throw them in the garbage.

“So far, the recycling bins have been filling far more frequently than the trash cans in the halls,” says McCann. “We don’t have concrete numbers yet, but an assessment is in process to see whether the recycling bins are being contaminated with non-recyclables, as well as how the change impacts labor costs.”

McCann also noted that SJU was recently acknowledged with a Platinum Award from the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association for meeting a high level of sustainable transportation practices.

Events about sustainability this fall include talks by Justin Rosenberg, founder of the local Honeygrow eateries on Monday, Oct. 7; award-winning journalist Tom Wilber, on fracking and the Marcellus Shale on Wednesday, Oct 16; and Public Radio's Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, on the secrets of composting on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Full details on these and other events can be found at

To get involved with the Sustainability Committee, visit

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Director of Communications/CAS, 610-660-3240,

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