While Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22, the Lehigh University community has been recognizing the spirit of the occasion by promoting sustainability and other green initiatives throughout the month of April as well as all year round.
The school’s Office of Sustainability and many campus organizations have held events for “Earth Month” to educate students, faculty and others about how to protect the environment and plan for the planet’s future.
Among the events were a Sustainable Sushi Lunch hosted by the Eco-Rep Leadership Program April 14 and the Community Service Office’s South Side Clean Up on April 16.
The Eco-Rep program is made up of “like-minded student leaders who are committed to promoting sustainable behavior change in residential halls and Greek houses” at Lehigh.
As part of Earth Week, the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market reopened April 21 for its 15th season. The market is held in Lehigh’s Farrington Square (located at S. New and Morton streets in Bethlehem) each Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Nov. 10, 2022.
Menglin Jiang ‘22, a Lehigh student and UN Youth Representative, was there on opening day to distribute plants to Lehigh students and faculty and help promote a greener world.
She said the group she was with is supporting a nongovernmental organization (NGO) which has a mission to promote biodiversity and protect the environment.
Throughout the year, they support it by hosting small events where they give out plants.
Jiang said Lehigh as a whole is doing more throughout the year to be eco-friendly. For example, she said the school has added electric buses and other vehicles to its fleet.
In the past, she said the Office of Sustainability hosted Earth Day fairs, but hadn’t for the last few years because of a staffing shortage. She said the office still holds yearly events.
John Blake, Lehigh ‘23, who is also a UN Youth Representative, said they run the Farmers’ Market, run the Eco-Rep program and work at the UN Office for admissions.
According to Lehigh’s Office of Sustainability, an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence suggests that the impacts of climate change will be dire if left unaddressed.
Consequently, the office has created a Sustainability Strategic Plan 2030.
Throughout the next decade, the goal of the plan is to make the Lehigh campus more environmentally friendly and commit the school to addressing global issues through programs and policies that “integrate sustainability into work, research and learning.”
The office said some of those steps will include signing a virtual power purchasing agreement to buy renewable energy, establishing a LEED silver or equivalent standard for new buildings, reducing total waste generated, integrating sustainability into the curriculum and research opportunities, and purchasing a larger percentage of local and community-based, fair trade, ecologically sound and humanely-sourced food.
The office is the public face of the university’s commitment to social, environmental and economic sustainability.
“Universities must play a key role in building a better global future and Lehigh is uniquely positioned to make significant contributions to address this enormous challenge,” the office’s website states.