EMU Earth Day forum highlights millions in savings from sustainability

earth-newAs part of the Virginia Acts on Climate campaign, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light and Sierra Club partnered with Eastern Mennonite University today to host an earth day forum, showcasing the school’s energy efficiency and sustainability accomplishments.

The event brought together city and university leaders, who shared their perspectives on the progress of sustainability projects including energy efficient buildings, campus gardens, and a solar array, motivated by a sense of shared responsibility to protect God’s creation.

Eastern Mennonite University has a campus-wide culture of concern for the environment rooted in the values and faith of the community,” added Jonathan Lantz-Trissel, EMU’s Sustainability Coordinator. “Three decades in from our earliest efforts in energy savings, the university has saved millions of dollars – more than $2.5 million since 2000, and boasts a comparatively small carbon footprint born from an impressive number of can-do, hands-on sustainability projects.”

“It is our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s earth for the sake of the future generation,” said emu President, Dr. Loren Swartzendruber. “We did a lot early on, going back to the 1970s, but recognized that we could still do better. So, we have developed a Creation Care Council of faculty and staff involved in addressing the question of EMU’s efforts in sustainability and taking care of God’s earth as better stewards, and a Quality Enhancement Plan which focuses on Peace with Creation: Environmental Sustainability from an Anabaptist Perspective.”

These initiatives have earned emu the “Silver” STARS ranking from AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) for efforts in the areas of curriculum, engagement, and research, as well as operations and planning. However, the school has not undertaken these initiatives for the accolades. Panelists pointed to local and global benefits that make sustainability measures worth the effort and investment.

“EMU’s solar installation has played an important role in facilitating further solar development in Virginia,” said Tony Smith, PhD, President and CEO of Secure Futures, and associate professor of business & economics and mba at emu. “The first and largest commercial scale solar array in the state of Virginia was built at emu in 2010, setting an example for the use of solar power-purchase agreements in Dominion’s service territory.”

“Sustainable living is essential to peace and security,” said Lisa Schirch, PhD, Director of Human Security at the Alliance for Peacebuilding. “Military and security experts say the increasing number and strength of droughts, floods, rising sea waters and other impacts of climate change will cause cataclysmic human conflicts as millions of people migrate to feed their families.”

EMU’s pioneering work is leading the way for other secular as well as faith-based communities, showing that environmental stewardship is a moral imperative, a sound economic decision, and a force of good in many ways.


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