Lehigh students attended the 2018 LVAIC Campus Sustainability Conference at Lafayette College on Feb. 17.
The conference is a biennial event that gathers students and faculty from the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges to discuss sustainability and how they promote sustainable action on their campuses.
The day began with a keynote speaker. Students and faculty then broke into smaller groups to present their campus sustainability efforts in the areas of campus engagement, sustainable gardens and agriculture, energy, food and water, sustainable buildings, climate change and species loss.
Katharine Targett, the Office of Sustainability program manager, said the conference was a way for members of the LVAIC community to share learning objectives and encourage concrete action in sustainable practices.
Nicole McCallum, ’18, who works for the Office of Sustainability and the EcoReps program, presented on Lehigh’s Sustainable Living Program. The voluntary sustainability program awards various levels of certification to campus offices, residential halls, Greek housing and off-campus houses. The certification levels — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — are awarded based on responses to a questionnaire about daily living habits.
McCallum said by including off-campus students in the program, EcoReps aims to encourage sustainable living not only on campus, but also in the local community.
“We presented on this new program that we’ve developed in hopes to inspire other students, teachers and faculty to implement it in their schools,” McCallum said.
Julie Goldberg, ’21, said she appreciated how much more professional the conference was compared to others she has attended.
“It was really faculty and student conversation-based, so you were able to really have those big campus conversations to see how you can really make change,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg sat in on three presentations and a workshop run by a consultant for sustainable living in Reading, Pennsylvania, who discussed the meaning of sustainability.
“I think a lot of people don’t really know what sustainability means,” Goldberg said. “So having that conversation of explaining what it actually means to be sustainable and how that benefits is the first really important conversation to have to really create an impact.”
The conference itself incorporated sustainability efforts. Breakfast and lunch were provided by local community farmers.
Lehigh faculty and students who attended the conference traveled to Lafayette in an electric bus, which was introduced to Transportation Services last semester. Goldberg said the bus reduces emissions because it is not run solely on fossil fuels.
She said Lehigh is one of the only campuses in the area to have an electric bus as a transportation vehicle.
Nicholas Hoffman, ’18, who has been involved in the Office of Sustainability since his first year at Lehigh, also attended the conference.
“I think the biggest thing is getting other people involved as well and having collective ideas of living as sustainably as possible,” he said.
As a mechanical engineering student, Hoffman said he hopes people become more involved in sustainable living efforts, even if they don’t have academic backgrounds in the environmental or life sciences.
“I would definitely encourage students who might not always think about sustainability, but might have an interest in it, to check out these conferences,” McCallum said. “They’re really wonderful to not only network and learn, but also just a fun thing to do every once in a while.”