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Student Sustainability Advisory Council Works To Promote Eco-Friendly Habits At Penn State

Within the past few years, Penn State has quickly become a leading university in implementing sustainability efforts on its campus. The school has made incredible progress in sustainability research and engagement, placing first among the Big Ten and ranking No. 14 among the top 30 colleges and universities using green energy.

These achievements are largely due to the work and research of student groups like the Student Sustainability Advisory Council (SSAC), an organization comprised of those who are passionate about promoting sustainability on campus. The SSAC is made up of a small group of students who develop and propose sustainability initiatives to university administration with the goal of advancing sustainability practices and programs on campus.

Students in SSAC work year-round to create proposals to present to President Eric Barron and his staff. They also work with Penn State organizations like UPUA, Student Affairs, and the Office of Physical Plant to bring their research to life.

The council is comprised of three branches that focus on different aspects of sustainability. Based on member interest, students can join teams focusing on achieving carbon neutrality, eliminating waste, or promoting sustainable education.

Co-Chairs Alysha Ulrich and Eliana Wagner say that the SSAC is Penn State’s way of giving students who are passionate about sustainability a podium to stand on. Ulrich and Wagner work tirelessly each semester to create project proposals from students’ points of view.

“We dedicate a lot of time into our proposals and meetings,” Ulrich said. “We spend about six to 10 hours a week in meetings, researching and developing our proposals to present to President Barron at the end of each semester.”

“We do experience a lot of stagnancy from the university in actually implementing our ideas,” Wagner added. “As students, we see what’s happening on campus in a different lens than the administration does. Pushback from the university is the main thing that prevents us from moving forward.”

Some of the notable programs SSAC has brought to campus include Spin e-bikes, an electric bike-share program, and the Student Farm, a sustainable food and agriculture program.

Ulrich and Wagner said that although it’s hard work, the most rewarding thing about SSAC is doing what they love and being surrounded by so many people who are passionate about the same thing.

“There are so many ways to get involved in practicing sustainability. From reducing your personal footprint to voting for people that prioritize sustainable programs, anyone can practice sustainability in their life,” the pair said.

Looking toward the future, SSAC hopes to expand its team, continue to propose ideas, and educate students about sustainability on campus.

If you are interested in learning more about the Student Sustainability Advisory Council, visit its website. Applications to join SSAC for the 2022-23 school year are now available online, too.

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About the Author

Ava Brendgord

Ava is a senior from Houston, TX majoring in broadcast journalism. She loves coffee and bagels, traveling, and keeping a healthy balance between watching the news and reality television. Follow her at @avabrendgord on Instagram or email her at abrendgord@gmail.com.

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