PSU Logo

SDG Snapshots

SDG Snapshots

March 2020

Christine Tamburri, Penn State Senior, Geosciences, and President of Nittany Divers SCUBA Club

Leading the Way Q & A with Christine Tamburri:

Is there anything specific that inspired you to get involved with sustainability issues?
I have always had a love for the ocean, but after getting certified to SCUBA dive in 2016, I became obsessed with implementing sustainable practices to protect it at all costs.

What projects/efforts are you involved with now that are making Penn State and/or our world more sustainable and how is the work being accomplished?
As President of the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club, I have had the opportunity to coordinate presentations by distinguished speakers in events that are free and open to the public. Last spring, we hosted Autumn Blum, founder of Stream2Sea, as she spoke about contaminants found in personal care products and how they can impact the environment. This event gained interest from Campus Recreation - Outdoor Adventures as they committed to providing eco-friendly sunscreen to all participants on their adventure trips. This March, the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club [hosted] Dr. Sylvia Earle, world-renowned oceanographer and current Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic, as she [spoke] about the immediate call to action for ocean conservation. This event [fostered] a collaboration between multiple organizations at Penn State and [featured] a VIP reception that will allow researchers, students, and community members to interact with Dr. Earle in a more intimate setting.

What do you hope the impact of this work will be in the future (5, 10 or 25 years from now)?
I hope that people walk away from our events realizing that with a slight change in lifestyle, they can make a positive impact on the environment. The Nittany Divers SCUBA Club is driven by an unmatched love for the underwater world, and we strive to educate others on not only its beauty, but its importance to the planet as a whole. I also hope that various organizations at Penn State see our events and commit to utilizing more sustainable practices in their own operations.

Do you have any partnerships with other individuals or organizations making this work possible?
We are currently an affiliate partner with Stream2Sea, a relationship that enables us to spread the word about their conservation efforts more effectively. In addition, we are partnered with several organizations for Dr. Sylvia Earle's presentation, including the Sustainability Institute, the Council of Sustainable Leaders, Stream2Sea, Fin Pin Shop, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and the Biology Department.

What’s one new thing you’ve learned about sustainability over the past year?
I have learned that with a small amount of dedication from a small group of individuals, major changes can be implemented. In addition, I have learned that a sustainable practice only takes the enthusiasm of one individual to influence others to take part in something that is bigger than themselves.

If you could ask people to make one change, either on an individual or collective level, to advance sustainability at Penn State, what would it be?
I love football just as much as the next Penn State fan, but I truly believe that there is an alternative to the pom poms used in the student section. Not only are these items made of plastic, but they are single-use. Thousands of pom poms enter our landfills each year, so finding an alternative medium to show our spirit, such as towels or scarves, will promote people to reuse the items and to produce less waste.

October 2019

Veronica H. Villena, Assistant Professor, Supply Chain & Information Systems, Smeal College of Business
Recipient, 2019 Jack Meredith Best Paper Award for the Journal of Operations Management for On the riskiness of lower-tier suppliers: Managing sustainability in supply networks

Veronica, congratulations on the 2019 Jack Meredith Best Paper Award for On the riskiness of lower-tier suppliers: Managing sustainability in supply networks. What did this recognition mean to you?

As an assistant professor, winning the Best Paper Award in my field’s top research journal is awesome. This recognition not only speaks to the relevance and rigor of my research but also highlights that some of the pressing sustainability issues in supply chains are worth studying (even if it takes years to fully understand what is going on!). 

What are some key takeaways from your paper?

This paper’s main goal is to highlight the vulnerability that multinational companies face due to the inactions of lower-tier suppliers (suppliers’ suppliers). We tend to think about firms’ actions dichotomously—as either proactive or reactive. This categorization, however, does not account for what I have observed for most lower-tier suppliers in Mexico, China, Taiwan, and the USA. They are notably passive in addressing their labor and environmental issues. In fact, many tend not to address these issues of their own volition, mainly because they do not perceive consequences for not doing so.

What are some best practices you have studied that make the greatest positive impact in regard to sustainability?

The companies that I work with have made substantial changes to address their supplier networks’ labor and environmental issues. For instance, they do not work alone. They recognize that a single company cannot fight alone against unfair labor practices or environmental contaminations that occur in global suppliers. They engage with direct competitors (yes, competitors!), major suppliers, industry associations, NGOs, and global stakeholder platforms to devise assessment and trainings tools that facilitate supplier compliance and develop supplier capabilities. Furthermore, beyond setting sustainable supply chain goals, they incentivize both their procurement personnel and suppliers to work toward achieving such goals and to diligently monitor progress. For instance, they have a sustainability scorecard for suppliers in which not only targets related to health, safety, labor and environmental practices within supplier operations are monitored, but also goals and policies regarding sustainable procurement are being met. Finally, they engage their major suppliers to map their supply networks (i.e., mapping the connections and interdependences among MNC, tier-one suppliers and tier-two suppliers), which allows them to identify potentially risky lower-tier suppliers (where they are located, what dependencies exist, etc.) and to work with major suppliers to deploy customized risk-mitigation programs for them.

What major change would you like to see in supply chain management in the near and distant future?

I would like to see changes in both academia and business. If we take a long-term perspective in everything we do, we will do a favor to OUR planet. For instance, researchers could engage in long-term sustainability projects that unpack important lessons for companies. Thoroughly understanding environmental and labor issues in global supply networks and effectively addressing them may take years, but the investment would be worthwhile. Managers also face this dilemma; the pressure for quarterly results often pushes them to compromise their companies’ sustainability goals. Our short-termism has led us to pursue projects with quicker results. If we want to see companies and their supply chains operating with more respect for OUR planet, there is no place for a short-term view. 

Leading the Way Q&A: 
Over the summer, the Sustainability Institute asked leaders across the University how sustainable practices play a role in their personal and professional lives. Their insight and ideas are below.

September 2019

David Gray, Senior Vice President for Finance & Business/Treasurer

Leading the Way Q&A

What is one action you take daily that contributes to a sustainable lifestyle?

There are several I could cite, but I compost on a daily basis and have been doing this for several years. Removing food waste, in particular, from the waste stream is something I think more households should investigate.

What is one surprising fact/idea/concept you learned about sustainability in the last year?

I learned that large-scale solar arrays could actually make financial sense from a return on investment (ROI) perspective for large organizations like Penn State. Prior to that revelation, I labored under the assumption that solar projects, while environmentally sensible, could not be justified on an ROI basis. I was happy to be proven wrong and Penn State is now embarking with a partner to build the largest solar array in Pennsylvania.  

What is one sustainable practice you hope to adopt in the near future?

While I have moved away from many unsustainable habits, our household, and our workplace for that matter, is still too reliant on bottled water. While we recycle all these materials, I would like to see us divest ourselves of these altogether.

August 2019

Rick Raush, Dean, College of Agricultural Sciences

Leading the way Q & A:

What is one action you take daily that contributes to a sustainable lifestyle?

I avoid non-reusable plastics; e.g., water bottles, and keep home power use for heating and cooling to a minimum by adding clothing layers in winter, and by using passive cooling and heating as much as possible.

What is one sustainable practice you hope to adopt in the near future?

I hope to reduce air travel to a minimum; currently no more than two international and four domestic trips over any 12 month period, and rely more on videoconferencing when possible.

Barbara Korner, Dean, College of Arts and Architecture

Leading the way Q & A:

What is one action you take daily that contributes to a sustainable lifestyle?

I drive a hybrid vehicle, and have for 9 years. I also rinse out all cans for recycling, a requirement for recycling in Seattle where my family lived for the decade of the 1990’s. Also, we purchase milk in glass containers at a local dairy.  

What is one surprising fact/idea/concept you learned about sustainability in the last year? 

I learned about the myriad problems caused by plastic in our environment due to the Plastic Entanglements exhibit at Palmer Museum of Art on campus. Though aware earlier of some of the problems of entangling fish and birds in some of the packaging, the exhibit, lectures and other readings made me more aware of how plastic never goes away and is more dangerous than imagined.  The growing island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, wildlife consuming plastic and the reality that it NEVER disintegrates has caught my attention more than ever.

What is one sustainable practice you hope to adopt in the near future? 

Carrying reusable utensils and stainless steel straws to avoid using plastics for takeout or in restaurants. Also, eliminating as much plastic from my purchases as I can.


Tracey DeBlase Huston, Vice President, Penn State Outreach

Leading the way Q & A:

What is one action you take daily that contributes to a sustainable lifestyle?


I really love the Sustainable Development Goals articulated by the UN. Using those concepts as a set of guiding principles for my life and our work is a good place to start each day. For example, I try to "donate what I don't use; Avoid throwing away food and wasting water; Use energy efficient appliances and light bulbs; and Recycle paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum…"

What is one surprising fact/idea/concept you learned about sustainability in the last year?


There is a really interesting initiative underway in the Tampa Bay area, which I heard about earlier this Spring. Tampa's recycling trucks are now displaying public service announcements/art work developed by Blake High School student Casey Sterling. He won an art contest sponsored by the Tampa Bay Solid Waste Authority. The city, partnering with creative students and teachers, has tried to increase the awareness of recycling by designing and applying compelling art and messaging to the bins of the recycling trucks to educate and inspire the community. The trucks are eye-catching and serve as "traveling billboards for why recycling is important.” 

What is one sustainable practice you hope to adopt in the near future?


I need to remember to take re-useable grocery bags to the store so that I can avoid using plastic ones.


July 2019

Lee Kump, John Leone Dean, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

Leading the way Q & A:

What is one action you've taken recently that contributes to a sustainable lifestyle?

My wife and I are attracted by the convenience of prepared foods, and recently received a gift from our son of two weeks worth of meals shipped to us by mail order. Wonderful meals, but the packaging (ironically identified as “Earth friendly”) associated with these shipments filled two trash bags in the first week. Not to mention the cost to the environment of shipping these meals from distant places. So, while we appreciate our son’s sentiment, we’re canceling and doing what we can to “buy local."

In the below photo, Dr. Kump (right) passes along this lifestyle change to grandson Hayden during a trip to the local farmers' market and pays a visit to Michael Arthur, Professor Emeritus of Geosciences (left).


June 2019

Nick Jones, Executive Vice President and Provost of The Pennsylvania State University

Leading the Way Q & A:

What is one action you take daily that contributes to a sustainable lifestyle?
Professionally, we are always looking for ways to make our office a sustainable beacon for the University. Just recently we eliminated personal laser printers, and will be looking to move away from plastic water bottles in the near future. We continue to drive towards paperless processes and more frequent use of videoconferencing to minimize travel for meetings. Personally, we have a small vegetable garden at home. 

Image: Penn State

What is one surprising fact/idea/concept you learned about sustainability in the last year?
The degree to which so many young people take sustainability, and the principles of sustainability, as captured overall by the UN SDGs as seriously as they do. We need to be listening, we need to do more, and we need to help them do more.

What is one sustainable practice you hope to adopt in the near future?
I need to get a hybrid or electric vehicle. Never had one and I think it’s time!


Students and Staff Leading the Way: During Spring 2019, the Sustainability Institute spoke with students and staff about projects and goals that advance sustainability at their campus and throughout the state. Their insight and ideas are below.

Dave Slebodnik, Student Farm Educator, Penn State Beaver

Dave Slebodnik is helping to grow far more than food as a student farm educator at Penn State Beaver. He’s also growing leaders and a sense of community to lift up a region that lacks access to grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other healthy food providers.

Prior to joining Penn State, Slebodnik became familiar with community gardens and food systems through his work with Rivertown Food Alliance, an organization that focuses on food policy and advocacy to address food insecurity issues in and around Beaver County. Last summer, with help from a university seed grant, the Student Garden at Penn State Beaver was able to expand, and the need for someone to oversee the garden program arose.

One of Slebodnik’s first projects for the Student Garden was the installation of a high tunnel to increase food production. The tunnel, erected in August 2018, functions as an unheated greenhouse that relies on passive heating to extend the growing season. The tunnel also protects crops, like tomatoes and peppers, that are more vulnerable to disease and water issues.

Slebodnik also works to develop curriculum related to food systems and the garden. He explained that Penn State Beaver is looking into the possibility of a sustainability minor and a food systems minor.

“It’s important for students to see that for almost any major, there is a way to engage with agriculture and food systems and that there are a lot of opportunities in the agricultural industry,” Slebodnik said.

One student who took advantage of the garden’s interdisciplinary opportunities is Marisa Bufalini, a Penn State student majoring in Administration of Justice who interns in the Student Garden and has become involved with with the local nonprofit organization, Crop and Kettle. Crop and Kettle trains individuals who were previously incarcerated how to farm and teaches them other skills related to the food system, from planting crops to running a restaurant.

According to Slebodnik, there are endless possibilities for students involved with agriculture and agricultural land use, and the Student Garden is an ideal space to connect community members, students and faculty from a variety of backgrounds.

“As a land grant university, Penn State is a place of innovation with a strong focus on agriculture. That’s very important in a county such as Beaver, that is food insecure, and I think people are very thankful for that.”


May 2019

Marissa Bufalini, Marissa Bufalini, Administration of Justice Major, Class of 2020

On April 17, Marissa Bufalini, an upcoming senior at Penn State Beaver, was awarded one of four 2019 Student Sustainability Awards by the Penn State Council of Sustainable Leaders for her sincere commitment to transforming Penn State into a leader in, and living laboratory for, sustainability.

Marissa has been involved in Penn State Beaver’s campus garden as regular volunteer for three years and works as an intern on the student farm. She was also instrumental to starting the food pantry on campus, coordinated the 2018 and 2019 Earth Day Festivals at Penn State Beaver, and participates in the annual Model United Nations on campus. With help from a Student Engagement Network grant, Marissa partnered with the Salvation Army to coordinate and host monthly community tables, which provided 25-30 homeless adults and children with meals and activities per event.

“The award meant a lot to me, especially since it’s brand new to Penn State. It made my heart grow. It was indescribable,” said Bufalini.

Marissa, who is an administrative of justice major, also works with the Own Your Own Choices program that helps at risk juveniles understand the importance of making responsible decisions. Additionally, she established a memorial garden for a domestic abuse death and is helping to develop Crop and Kettle, a social enterprise that utilizes the food system to provide job training and social development to community members who are eager to overcome their current obstacles to employment.

Marissa’s contributions to her community advance many of the UN’s Sustainable Developent Goals, especially No Hunger (2), Good Health and Well Being (3), Climate Action (13), Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (16), and Partnerships for the Goals (17). Marissa, thank you for all you do for your local, state, and global community!