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“As Ƶ University fulfills its mission to educate students to think and act critically to become global citizens – and as the Sisters of Charity continue their work with the most vulnerable among us – it is important that we affirm our commitment to take action to care for our common home and to work toward a better future.” 

- Ƶ University President Mary Finger

Ƶ Sustainability Initiatives

Below is a list of current, planned and recently completed sustainability initiatives. Ƶ students participate in university sustainability initiatives at all levels. Sustainability at Ƶ

President’s Task Force for Sustainability - This leadership group oversees all sustainability efforts on campus and creates both short and long-term sustainability goals for the university. Core members include:

  • Maureen O’Brien, S.C., Vice President for Mission & Identity
  • Darren Achtzehn, Director of Sustainability & Outreach
  • Jessica Brzyski, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology & Coordinator of Environmental Studies Minor
  • Christine Cusick, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English & Director of Honors Program
  • Amanda DeWitt, Director of Service Experience
  • Susan Eichenberger, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology
  • Sarah Joiner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • Jen Jones, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Department Coordinator, Marketing & Communications
  • Renee Rosier, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology

The President's Task Force for Sustainability works closely with other Ƶ key initiatives, including:

  • Catholic Social Teaching (stewardship of creation and human dignity). 
  • Truth Finding (verification of facts about the environment and climate change). 
  • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (environmental justice). 

Laudato Si’ Action Plan - As part of the University’s extended Earth Day celebration in 2022, the Sisters of Charity joined with Ƶ leadership in presenting 7-year sustainability action plans in honor of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ second encyclical, subtitled “On Care of Our Common Home.”Students Moving Pallets on Earth Day of Service

Greenhouse Renovation - In 2022, Ƶ completed an extensive renovation of its on-campus greenhouse

Honors Program Research Projects - Ƶ Honors Program students complete a capstone experience that requires evidence of scholarly research and a public presentation. Honors students frequently devote their capstone to sustainability topics.

Environmental Studies (Minor) - The 18-credit environmental studies minor at Ƶ University offers students opportunities for an in-depth analysis of regional and global environmental problems, their causes, and their potential solutions.

Global Studies B.A. with specialization in Environment & Sustainability - The Global Studies B.A. degree has an international focus that connects students with the broader world and introduces them to a deep understanding of other languages, cultures, religions, and government systems. Its specialization in environment and sustainability devotes 18 credits (6 courses) to understanding sustainability issues and initiatives around the world.

Information Technology Management M.S. with sustainability focus - Ƶ’s new online graduate program in information technology management incorporates teaching on designing lasting technology solutions that minimize environmental impact.

Campus Gardens

Campus gardens grow food that is served in Ƶ’s Dining Hall and is also shared with the Sisters of Charity and the Westmoreland County Food Bank.  Gardens include:

  • A vegetable garden growing peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, beets, beans, and squash
  • An herb garden providing fresh clippings of nine different herbs 
  • A bat house, small butterfly garden & bee garden

Dining Hall Initiatives

  • Farm-to-table: crops harvested from the garden are served roughly 20 minutes after being brought into the dining hall.
  • Composting: food scrap waste is composted in flower gardens around campus.
  • Strawless & trayless initiatives reduce unnecessary plastic waste and conserve water.
  • Reusable to-go containers eliminate the need for plastic and styrofoam one-time-use containers.

Sustainability-Focused Service Projects

Students, faculty and staff at Ƶ create and participate in projects throughout the year, including:Ƶ Adopt a Highway 20 Years

  • Information tables
  • A nature scavenger hunt
  • Sustainable product prizes for campus competitions
  • Campus clean-ups
  • Labor of Love Service Projects
  • Take the Day On Service Projects
  • Earth Day of Service & Earth Week Activities
  • Panel Discussions
  • Movie nights
  • An on-campus interpretative nature trail
  • Chemistry Club’s Adopt-A-Highway clean up for 20+ years

Ƶ University (SHU) Sustainable Human Settlements and Resources - This student-led initiative received a Millennium Fellowship, sponsored by the United Nations Academic Impact and Millennium Campus Network. 

TerraCycle - Ƶ partners with TerraCycle to collect & recycle personal hygiene waste, such as toothbrushes and deodorant packaging.

Bench Made of Recycled MaterialsNexTrex - Ƶ & the Sisters of Charity partner with Trex - a manufacturer of outdoor furniture and decking - through their NexTrex recycling program. NexTrex turns plastic film and bags collected by the Ƶ community and Sisters of Charity and turns it into plastic benches for use on campus and the grounds of Caritas Christi.

SHU Environmental Association - The student voice for sustainability and environmentally-conscious choices and policies on campus.

Electric Car Charging Station - Ƶ currently has an electric car charging station on campus, with two dedicated parking spaces. Plans are in place for additional spots soon.