Phila U. students launch school’s first sustainability forum

Ever since Philadelphia University’s campus-wide energy awareness and reduction initiative launched in October, an estimated $400,000 has been trimmed in the school’s annual utility costs. But a group of students didn’t want to stop there. Instead, they organized an event to help keep the sustainability conversation going. 

The two-day sustainability forum was a first-time event organized entirely by students from the Student Organization for Sustainable Action and the campus chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

The event included presentations on sustainable design, and challenges and opportunities in sustainable business, along with a variety of student presentations and networking sessions.

Caroline Park, a graduate student in sustainable design, said the group’s hope was to help inspire sustainable thinking among all students—no matter what they study. 

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“A bunch of us have been thinking that there’s not enough going on at Phila U. regarding sustainability,” she said. “But there’s a bunch of individual efforts going on, and we wanted to consolidate that and bring people together.”

The most evident of that consolidation was a man underneath a pop-up tent riding a stationary bicycle, which powered a booming stereo for the event. 

Members of the Sigma Nu fraternity traditionally switch shifts on and off a stationary bicycle for 24 hours to raise money for Relay For Life. But this year, they coupled their tradition with sustainable music for the event.

Jesse Ferrino, Student Organization for Sustainable Action (SOSA) director of sustainable options, said the initiative was one example of advancing sustainable thinking.

“Instead of just biking on a stationary bike this year and wasting all the energy, we’re actually putting it to good use with our speakers out there,” Ferrino said.

In addition to a fair-like atmosphere, sustainable works created by students were on display and presented throughout the two days. Among the presentations were cork and moss wall coverings, concrete plans for installing small wind turbines and LEED certified TD bank blueprints.

Patricia Oliveira, an interior design junior, was one of the students who helped design the TD bank blueprint—which is part of a competition for the bank’s 50th branch. Although her project was related to a class, she was enthusiastic to present her work.

“I thought it was a really good idea, this forum,” said Oliveira. “I just wanted to be part of it.”

Thanks to other student presentations, she also walked away with some fresh ideas.

“It was really interesting seeing the girls that have the wall covering. Since I’m an interior designer, it was really good seeing their project,” she said. “There’s always something you get from it.”

Another group of students presented their capstone project, a collaboration with small wind turbine company Omniwind to create a better product.

Jordan Cammarata, an industrial design senior, said he considers himself very conscious of sustainability and wanted his work to transcend beyond a school project.

“We really wanted to work with engineers and business people to make this as real world as possible,” he said. “Sustainability is huge for us. For me, this is my second or third sustainability project.”

Phila U. President Stephen Spinelli applauded the students’ efforts in creating sustainable thinking in all fields, rather than just construction.

“It’s common to think that it’s the right thing to do that someone will do for me,” he said. “That has to change.”

“We have to do a bigger job in higher education,” he added. 

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