Muhlenberg named #5 in Water Conservation by Sustainable Campus Index

News Image The report also honors the College with a silver rating in its sustainability ranking.

 Friday, November 4, 2016 03:51 PM

Photo: Muhlenberg's Community Garden by Thomas Littrell '18

Muhlenberg was recognized as a top performer in the 2016 Sustainable Campus Index, ranking fifth in the nation for water conservation, recycling & reuse and achieving a silver sustainability index rating. The Sustainable Campus Index, a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), highlights top-performing colleges and universities in 17 areas and overall by institution type, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).

AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in operations, academics, engagement and planning and administration.

Muhlenberg continues to demonstrate that environmental sustainability is a campus-wide effort and ongoing initiative. Actions of cooperative groups like the Campus Greening Committee and student organizations like ENACT complement academic instruction in the sustainability studies program.

“At the center of Muhlenberg’s greening efforts is its unique academic program in sustainability studies,” said Richard Niesenbaum, director of sustainability studies and professor of biology. “The sustainability studies program seamlessly interfaces with the non-academic aspects of the College as students and faculty work directly with plant operations staff, the office of campus sustainability and dining services. Students are directly involved in day-to-day campus greening efforts.”

"With the recognition that colleges and universities will play a major role in the creation of a just and sustainable future in terms of the health of our planet and the well-being of all people, Muhlenberg College has embraced sustainability both as part of our educational mission and through our daily operations," says Niesenbaum. "The College's commitment has led to improvements in infrastructure and the development of programing that support sustainability objectives. Most recently, increased efforts in water conservation and campus engagement in sustainability; rising interest in faculty and student research related to sustainability; and our focus on diversity and equity have helped elevate our STARS status from Bronze to Silver."

Those collaborative relationships have led to installation of water filtration systems and a massive reduction in bottled water consumption through the Just Tap It Campaign; the conversion of trash into renewable energy sources; an addition of a green roof on Seegers Union to grow edible plants and reduce building heating and cooling needs; partnerships with campus dining services to introduce more organic and local food options; installation of solar panels to offset nearly 18,000 kilograms of CO2 pollution; the creation of a campus-bike share program; and campus engagement and collaboration through cultivation of a community garden and rainwater capture system managed by students residing in Muhlenberg’s “Tree House” residence building.

These efforts have been recognized at a national level by organizations including STARS and the Sierra Club, whose "Cool Schools" ranking has increasingly recognized Muhlenberg's sustainability initiatives. This year the College was ranked #79 in the nation, up from #105 in the 2015 report and #151 in the 2014 report.

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college located in Allentown, Pa., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences as well as selected pre-professional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.