SRU to showcase sustainable initiatives in April


macoskey center studnet volunteer working in the garden

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Climate change. Pollution. The mining of fossil fuels. Climbing CO2 levels.

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For Paul Scanlon, Slippery Rock University's director of sustainability, these are just a few of the issues at the tip of the environmental concern iceberg. As if that weren't enough to worry about, even that faintly observable ice cap is scheduled to melt out of sight by 2040.

And while issues like these seem daunting, Scanlon believes that every individual - whether they are a renowned chemist or a college freshman - can contribute to the effort of making positive change. With that in mind, the SRU President's Commission on Sustainability, of which Scanlon is a co-chair, will provide a plethora of activities to enlighten and inspire throughout the month of April.

The activities, under the umbrella of "SRU Earth Days," include speakers, workshops, cleanups and a "No Impact Week," will help to fulfill the Commission's mission to "advance sustainability through education, operations and community engagement" and to "promote individual and community responsibility for effective resource management."

The Commission's cornerstone event, an April 18 Earth Day Carnival, will offer educational games and prizes at the annual celebration which marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. The carnival will pitch its tent in the Quad during.

A 7 p.m. address by Robert Musil, president and CEO of the Rachel Carson Council, will follow the festivities. Rachel Carson, a Chatham University alumna, brought the world "Silent Spring," an environmental science book was published in 1962 that documented the detrimental effects on the environment via the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting industry claims unquestioningly.

Other environmental activists and guest speakers will include Chad Pregracke, a 2013 CNN "Hero of the Year."

"(Pregracke) was just a student who noticed all of the garbage floating down the Mississippi River and began a one-man campaign to clean it up," said Scanlon. "He is a perfect example of how just one person can make an astronomical difference."

Pregracke grew up with the river as his backyard near East Moline, Illinois. The son of educators and river enthusiasts, KeeKee and Gary Pregracke, Chad and his older brother, Brent, spent the majority of their time on, in and around the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

During his summer breaks, Chad Pregracke worked on the river-primarily as a commercial shell diver for the cultured pearl industry, but also as a commercial fisherman and barge hand. Typically working miles away from home, he camped on the islands and shorelines to save money and fuel. It was during this time that he began to realize how neglected the rivers were, with the unsightly and toxic accumulation of trash along their banks.

At 17, he started making calls to government agencies to notify them of the problem, assuming someone would take care of it. But year after year the problem only worsened. In 1998 at the age of 23, Chad founded Living Lands & Waters an organization that has grown to include a full staff and fleet of equipment. The crew visits an average of nine states per year along the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers, as well as many of their tributaries.

Since the project's inception, Pregracke, his crew and more than 87,000 volunteers have collected 8.4 million pounds of debris from those waters.

Like Pregracke, SRU's Commission has always focused on awareness and change, beginning with the individual and ending with the University.

"One way that we can make a difference as a Commission is through our annual e-waste collection program," Scanlon said. "We see this as a vehicle to reach out to the community and really benefit them."

Last year's "Community Electronic Waste Recycling Days" event collected nearly 2,500 items, including old computers and televisions, ensuring that the items were disposed of legally and recycled when possible. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from noon to 4 p.m., April 21 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., April 22. Items can be dropped off both days at SRU's Recycling Center at the Stores II facility on Kiester Road.

The list of acceptable electronic waste includes any type of cell phone, computers, printers, MP3 players, VCRs, keyboards, power chords, copiers, scanners, consoles and stereo equipment. Only batteries from laptops or UPS's will be accepted. Unacceptable items include paint, oil, cleaning supplies, medications, light bulbs, dishwashers, refrigerators and air conditioning units.

"Our goal, first and foremost, is to raise the level of awareness amongst students and faculty," said Scanlon. "There are so many resources and opportunities, like this annual collection, that we have on campus, that people are completely unaware of."

One such resource includes the Robert A. Macoskey Center. The center, situated on 83 acres, is dedicated to "education about sustainability, physical demonstration of sustainable technologies and systems and supporting sustainability-focused academic initiatives and research."

Complete with a farmhouse, passive solar energy, geothermal heating and cooling and a non-catalytic woodstove, the center stands as an example of sustainable living and embodies SRU's goal of a low carbon footprint.

Scanlon said the University, which has been recognized as one of the country's foremost "Green Colleges" by The Princeton Review and a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee, is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2037.

"This has really been a response to the leap in fossil fuels and atmospheric CO2, which has been invoking climate change since the Industrial Revolution," said Scanlon. "What scientists have been predicting every year since then, we are now observing. If we do not begin change soon, it may become too late."

A complete list of events is available by clicking on the accompanying graphic.

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