The Earth and Environmental Science Department hosted a Climate Action Open House on April 3 in STEPS. Different organizations manned tables with resources about new environmental projects. (Zijun Xia/B&W Staff)

Climate Action Open House brings sustainability updates


The Earth and Environmental Science Department hosted a Climate Action Open House April 3. Speakers included Bethlehem Mayor J. William Reynolds, Lehigh Sustainability Director Audrey McSain and Ben Felzer, professor of Earth and environmental sciences. 

During the meeting, Reynolds addressed Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan. The plan was established by the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council in 2020 to reduce Bethlehem’s carbon footprint and prepare the city for climate change impacts through policies, programs and projects.

Reynolds said with the plan, Bethlehem has been able to achieve more than what was initially deemed feasible, allowing the city to apply for funds after the Inflation Reduction Act was passed in 2022.

“It is the people of Bethlehem who enable changes like these to occur,” Reynolds said. “There are so many passionate people that are doing good things.”

Reynolds said Bethlehem also received $3 million for community project funding from the federal government. 

He said part of the funds will go toward improving walkability around the Banana Factory, an arts and education center on Third Street. 

Reynolds said sustainability goals are the greatest climate-related challenge for Bethlehem.

“Individual actions that lead to collective action is the most important thing we can do,” Reynolds said. 

Reynolds suggested Bethlehem residents can contribute to this effort by taking the Bethlehem Climate Challenge survey and pledge to take action

Within the Lehigh campus, the Office of Sustainability has its own Climate Action Strategy, which outlines a path to zero emissions and carbon neutrality by the year 2040. 

One of the goals set in the office’s Sustainability Strategic Plan was to offset 100% of the university’s electricity consumption with renewable energy sources by 2023. 

In partnership with EDF Renewables, an independent renewable power producer and service provider, the office installed solar panels on Goodman Campus that offset only 8% of the university’s electricity consumption in 2023. 

Lehigh also announced a plan to invest in a solar farm in Texas to help achieve the energy offset goal, but the university has not offered any official updates on progress. 

According to Auxiliary Services, Parking Services was granted a rebate from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Grants Center in 2020 to implement electric vehicle chargers. These chargers are currently available at the Alumni Building Parking Pavilion, the Farrington Square parking garage, the Zoellner parking garage and the Iacocca Hall parking lot.

Following speaker presentations, attendees were invited to explore various tables set up throughout the concourse. 

The tables included The Bethlehem Food Co-Op, the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, the Lehigh Institute for Cyber and Physical Infrastructure and Energy, Verde Bethlehem, the Lehigh University Art Gallery, the Nurture Nature Center, the Lehigh College of Health and the Department of Earth and Environmental Science. 

The event also featured several climate-oriented projects by Lehigh students. Amy Zimmerman, ‘25, Eric Shapiro, ‘26, and Caden DellaPenta, ‘27, presented their work on an ongoing project they started at Mountaintop Campus titled “Community Mapping for Environmental Justice.” 

DellaPenta said the highlight of the open house was meeting new people and networking with professionals in the environmental science field.

“I feel like we don’t really know what other people are doing on campus,” DellaPenta said. “Especially for students that aren’t as involved hands-on with projects, it’s good to know that there are things that they can get involved in.” 

Meanwhile, Shapiro said he enjoyed the keynote speaker’s presentation as he thought it was important to hear their perspectives on the issues and what Bethlehem and Lehigh are doing to address environmental and climate concerns.

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

1 Comment

  1. Roger Sterling on

    Greetings – Just curious….has there ever been a cost benefit analysis for any of these programs? Not to say that the care of the environment isn’t a worthwhile endeavor…BUT has anyone ever measure the associated benefits? The follow-up question is what will it cost to meet the assorted “green goals”? Pax, RS

Leave A Reply