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York College of Pennsylvania Hosts Sustainability Awareness Campaign

Campus in Spring

Students participated in two weeks of events that explored the theme in April.

York College of Pennsylvania hosted its second annual Sustainability Awareness Campaign during a period that encompassed Earth Day on April 22 and Arbor Day on April 29, 2022. Students from an array of disciplines took part in events across campus and in the community that included a guest lecture by Professor Richard Russo from Frostburg State University of Maryland, planting trees at Horn Farm, picking up trash, and other hands-on activities.

One of the most meaningful projects, says Dr. Jennifer Pomeroy, Associate Professor of Geography who chairs the President’s Task Force for Campus Sustainability (PTFCS), was the submission by students of 13 posters that focused on sustainability at the 2022 Student Research Showcase.

In the poster contest, Breah Kaliszak ’22, (York, PA) a Biology major, won first place for "Effect of Land Use on Microplastic Concentration and Characteristics in Freshwater Ecosystems of York County, PA."

Second place went to Caleb Keller ’22, (Glenville, PA) a Biology major, for "The Detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in Wastewater to Estimate COVID-19 Occurrence at York College of Pennsylvania."

Ian Miller ’22, (Littlestown, PA) a dual Chemistry and History major, won third place for "Forgotten Losses: Nature and Agriculture at the Battle of Gettysburg."

“Compared to last year, I feel a lot more students expressed interest and there was a lot more excitement about what can be done at a local level to make not only campus more sustainable but also make broader connections to pressing environmental issues like climate change, extreme weather events, and marine health,” she says.

As part of the Campaign, more than 30 students presented research at the York College Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Showcase, including Environmental Science major Jennifer Campbell ‘24, (Somers, NY). Her project, “Assessing Water Quality Across Pennsylvania,” explored patterns of where water quality is poor.

“What stood out to me the most,” she says, “was the amount of effort York College put into raising awareness about what sustainability is and how YCP can achieve it! It was great to see how much students, faculty, and YCP as a whole care about sustainability.”

A cleanup campaign along Tyler Run, a stream that cuts through campus, and at the Codorus Creek, as well as a trash pickup on nearby Jackson Street offered an opportunity for students to see how major environmental problems can start at the local level.

“Students are able to draw that connection between where we are in a regional context and global issues,” Dr. Pomeroy says.

Students also powered a human hamster wheel shaved-ice maker, made wildflower seed bombs, and bee hotel installations, and planted a community garden.

“It is so important for YCP to offer educational activities about sustainability because decreasing our negative impact on the local, regional, and even global environment is a necessity at this point,” Jennifer says. “Inspiring students to be more green can greatly improve the quality of campus life while also supporting the environment in things like biodiversity and habitat conditions.”

An interdisciplinary approach

The idea for a campus-wide Sustainability Awareness Campaign arose in 2019, when President Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith formed the PTFCS. The task force has 22 members who represent campus stakeholders including faculty, staff, administrators, and students, as well as community residents. The campaign aims to provide sustainability education and inspire involvement on campus and in the community.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put the inaugural campaign on hold until 2021. The offerings grew in 2022 to include more on- and off-campus events, which were more interdisciplinary in nature.

Dr. Pomeroy, who is a geographer, sees the priority of incorporating sustainability into every field of study, where Psychology might provide a unique window through which to study the issues, Geography, Civil Engineering, Political Science, and the Humanities also can help to provide various perspective and therefore to reach solutions.

Beyond the campaign

“Each discipline has a different conceptual lens and methods,” Dr. Pomeroy says, “but they all have a part to play to collectively reach a comprehensive understanding of the challenges we are facing. Sustainability means interdisciplinary because figuring out solutions is the ultimate goal and to do so we need collaboration from a diverse array of academic disciplines.”

Beyond the two-week campaign, Dr. Pomeroy envisions the York College campus becoming a living laboratory where students from many disciplines can come together to study sustainability issues and find solutions.

“This kind of action on the ground I feel is a true manifestation of thinking globally, acting locally, and helping the whole campus move toward sustainability,” she says.