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Green Teams' Sustainability Successes



Penn State's Green Teams initiative officially began in the summer of 2009, and since then these volunteer groups have engaged their peers and worked to expand their understanding of sustainability. Their activities have covered topics from reduction of waste to recycling, health and energy, to biodiversity, spanning most of the SDG goals. Continue reading to learn more about the positive changes Green Teams have made to save resources, both financial and natural, and to improve the health and happiness of our community.


Members of the Library, Nursing and DUS Green Teams working with
student Eco Reps to help students learn to sort their stuff.













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See what Green Teams across the Commonwealth have been up to lately to make waves in sustainability!

Media, PA is the First Fair Trade Town in the US

Penn State's Brandywine Green Team works with the local community in supporting their fair trade designation through educational events. Last fall, they sponsored a fair trade pancake breakfast and de-stress library fest and in spring, the Martin Luther King and Valentines event use fair trade products.








SDGs Integrated into Student Orientation at Hazleton

With a goal to surround students upon arrival to the Penn State Hazleton campus with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Green Team wove the goals into arrival packets, bulletin board displays, interactive programs and social media. Knowing that conversations are the best behavior change tool, they created a "Can We Talk" series covering topics such as social justice, gender inequities, hunger and poverty.


Stand Up for Movement in Sedentary Careers

The Smeal College of Business Green Team set out to promote health, as individual goals for their Performance Management Goals.

The result - a lunchtime program by Penn State fitness instructors and personal trainers titled "Stand Up for Movement in Sedentary Careers." 

The program, created with the help of Kinesiology students, was well attended by staff and faculty. The trainers explained about the detrimental effects sitting at work can have on your health. They also demonstrated some movements the attendees could incorporate in their daily routine, providing an Activity Checklist with suggestions for movements throughout the day."

"We received a lot of positive feedback from folks in our college who were inspired by the personal trainers to incorporate more movement into their day" said Jan Dunlap, Assistant to Financial Officer at Smeal. "I talked to several people who had no idea about the ramifications of sitting for hours at a time and are making the effort to get up and move more."

It seems that people have been taking these suggestions seriously. One attendee had a timer installed on her computer to remind her, and others, to do some of the movements on the checklist each time it goes off. Others have been getting up to retrieve an item in their office, instead of reaching, or walking over to deliver a message to someone in person, instead of using email. There is already talk of having the trainers in again to present a "Medicine is Exercise" program.

So how did they do it?

Jan Dunlap reached out to her supervisor about the idea, and after getting the go-ahead, contacted faculty members in the Kinesiology Department inquiring about having some students come to Smeal to present the program.

These connections resulted in two Penn State Fitness Instructors, and four other personal trainers, presenting for the college.

Finding that remote work is limiting your exercise? Organize a virtual lunch and learn with faculty in kinesiology to learn ways to integrate movement into your work schedule.

Penn State Berks Fall Fest

On November 11th, the Gaige lobby at Penn State Berks was filled with college-aged and young students celebrating their Fall Sustainability Fest. This year’s event was organized by the campus’ Sustainability Committee and featured learning stations created by education students that focused on raising awareness around overconsumption and waste. "We even had a station run by eight young kids who are already thinking sustainability and social and environmental justice, and taking action to engage others," reported Mahsa Kazempour, chair of Berk's Sustainability Committee.

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Celebrating America Recycles Day at the University Park and Abington Campuses

At both Penn State Abington and the University Park campus, students and staff joined together to celebrate America Recycles Day (ARD). At UP, the EcoRep students organized the event with tabling at several high flow buildings across campus. Over the two hour period, Green Team members and EcoReps talked to over 1000 students and staff, quizzing them with recycling trivia questions, soliciting testimonials about recycling's importance, and handing out Saxby's hot chocolate, warmth for the chilly day.

This was the first year that EcoReps organized this event and Amanda Liebhardt, EcoRep's Associate Program Coordinator for Event Planning, led the effort. "EcoReps decided to organize America Recycles Day to remind Penn State students how recycling connects us all as a community. Our impact as a university is very large so we have the potential to make profound change even by changing our habits slightly," she noted. With such success, it will probably become an annual tradition for the student group. For the Green Team volunteers, the event offered a way to engage with students,

At Penn State Abington, their ARD event was organized by their first ever new student Green Team, ECO (Environmental Conservation Objective), led by Karley Feather and sponsored by Waste Management and the Sustainability Institute. The team organized sustainability demonstrations, activities and prizes for a 90 minute window in the Sutherland Solarium last Friday.

Jeopardy, with a recycling twist

Not sure about which bin to deposit your waste? The Educational Equity Green Team created a Recycling Jeopardy game to help the Penn State community learn how to sort their trash in a fun and engaging way. This PowerPoint presentation is based on the popular Jeopardy television show with questions pertaining to Penn State’s unique recycling and composting system, along with a few general sustainability questions. As with the television game, contestants are presented with clues to which they must phrase their answers in the form of questions. To infuse some light-hearted competition into the event, the Sustainability Institute purchased a set of buzzers that teams can use. During the spring semester, the Penn State University Libraries and College of Liberal Arts Green Teams hosted events using this toolkit, with about forty student and full-time staff participating. “I learned more about sustainability through this game than when I was a student here,” said Maria Canales, one of the College of Liberal Arts Recycling Jeopardy game participants.

Teams can download a customizable invitation and flyer, the Powerpoint presentation, which includes the Jeopardy soundtrack for added ambiance, and a set of directions from Box. The competitive nature of the game engages players, especially with the use a buzzer set, available from the Sustainability Institute. “It was a very helpful and informative way to stay current with our sustainability policies,” said Vanessa Eyer, member of the Libraries Green Team and it has the added advantage of team building.





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"Cars of the Future" Introduced to Staff

The Outreach and Online Education Green Team braved the windy weather in mid-October to introduce their unit's employees to a variety of all-electric and electric-hybrid cars. During the hour long session, the cars' owners were on hand with their Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and Tesla Model 3 cars to talk about their experiences and answer questions. It was an easy, educational event for the Green Team to organize and helpful for hesitant auto consumers.








Student Affairs Green Team

In an effort to consolidate appliances and save energy, five members of the Student Affairs Green Team gave up their individual office refrigerator, and now use their suite's kitchenette refrigerator. This action has reduced the unit's electricity consumption by almost 2,000 kilowatt-hours per year. This amount of electricity is equal to the amount used by the average American household over a period of two months.

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Responsible Consumption

Liberal Arts Green Teams introduces new recycling game


In 2019, the College of the Liberal Arts IT staff updated their original recycling video game reflecting changes in the University Park recycling collection. The game allows players to sort items into correct recycling bins and helps learning by providing information about what items belong in particular bins. Play the game now.





Communication’s “Freeshop”

The Communication Green Team’s freeshop was set up similarly to a yard sale around their building’s lobby. Office members donated their unwanted goods to the freeshop and the items were displayed for two days to find a new home. Almost all of the items were taken and the rest were able to be recycled. “I think the freeshop made faculty, staff and students more aware of the recycling efforts that are shaping the College’s sustainable culture,” said Johnson. “It also increased awareness of our GT’s presence in the College and allowed those participating to feel good about actually doing something instead of simply talking to raise awareness for sustainability.”



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Other Successes


Penn State Fayette

Despite the pandemic, Penn State Fayette turned the original Garner family farm garden plot into a 40x40 foot garden in six months. With over 40 varieties of vegetables and herbs planted, the small crew, led by Engineering professor and Green Team leader Dave Meredith, used a variety of used materials to create bean poles and cargo nets to cradle cucumbers and peas. There are several plans for connecting the garden to courses, one of which will be for EDsgn 100 students to design a rain barrel and drip irrigation system next spring. In the meantime, math students are crunching some applied problems for the garden managers and many other faculty members are tapping the garden to enrich their students' academic experience. This summer's harvest has fed students on campus, as well as community members through the Salvation Army. Tapping a local talent, the campus cross-country/track and field coach is also a master chef and he will be offering a series of online trainings for students on "field to table" experiences covering healthy eating, kitchen sanitation, no cook meals, one pot meals and "two-fers," (two meals out of one dish). The garden sunflowers were harvested and given to the baseball players, hoping that they will nourish them through the spring games. Nothing will go to waste in the Fayette garden, despite the pandemic!












On October 29th, the Outreach and Online Education Green Team presented at Penn State's World Campus Leadership Conference, showcasing their sustainability efforts over the past decade. They highlighted one of their most recent initiatives, a World Campus Sustainability Club, which has been successful in engaging students to feel connected to the Penn State family. World Campus student and Club Secretary Justin Bowen joined the team in presenting, describing how club members share thoughts and ideas about sustainability through meetings and their Facebook page. Through the club, members are not only learning about environmental and social issues, but gaining team building, communications and other leadership skills. While short on time to dedicate to the club, the chairs take comfort in the adage, "Leadership is lots of small things done well over time." As the O&OE Green Team listed all the Earth Day festivals, speakers, and gatherings they've organized over the decade -- not to mention the nurturing of this new student club -- it's clear that this saying does exemplify this group's leadership.






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