SEA Club goes to Sustainability Conference
The Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC) Campus Sustainability Conference took place on February 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Muhlenberg College.
The conference, partially organized by John Cigliano, Ph.D., Cedar Crest College professor of conservation biology and chair of Cedar Crest’s sustainability committee, offered new ideas to promote sustainability on campus, such as a food recovery network utilized at Muhlenberg College and a 15-year climate action plan as proposed by Lafayette College.
Cedar Crest’s relatively young sustainability committee has implemented numerous changes since its founding, including the use of LED light bulbs in buildings and Parkhurst’s commitment to sourcing local food, reducing plastic use and switching to green cleaning products.
“We’re better than we were even last year, so that says something,” Cora Bankert, a student member of the sustainability committee, remarked.
The Sustainability and Environmental Awareness (SEA) Club also keeps Cedar Crest students informed about current issues and advancements in conservation.
Miranda Fetchen, a sustainability committee student member and student government representative for SEA Club, said, “We try to host events like the Hemp Day Hangout where we show the campus community products they can get that are good substitutes for what they’re already using.”
SEA Club and sustainability committee members also try to promote social change through their personal actions.
“I think that in a lot of ways, we try to lead by example when there are more sustainable options,” Autumn Wilhide, secretary of SEA club and a student member of the sustainability committee, added.
However, progress toward more sustainable practices has moved slowly on campus, due in part to the infancy of Cedar Crest’s sustainability committee.
“We’re a new committee, so we’re going through some growing pains,” Cigliano said.
One such “growing pain” is finding a meeting time that suits all members of the committee, since they have busy schedules. Another problem facing the sustainability committee is that there currently isn’t a system to assess their impact on campus. Yet the committee plans to resolve both issues by participating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) offered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
“The STARS program is a comprehensive assessment of the campus, from the physical plant to even curriculum,” Cigliano explained. “It looks at everything you’re doing related to sustainability, and it gives you a score. You’re able to see how you compare to other campuses, but more importantly, it allows you to determine the gaps.”
Once the STARS program is established at Cedar Crest, smaller groups of the sustainability committee will meet and perform each assessment of the campus according to their field or interests. Since other LVAIC colleges, like Lafayette, have participated in the STARS program for several years, the annual sustainability conference provides valuable information on how to improve Cedar Crest’s sustainability.
Prior to the conference, Wilhide remarked, “In the same way I hope we as students could lead by example for other students, I would like other LVAIC colleges to be the example for us.”