LEWISBURG — Bucknell University’s efforts to create a more sustainable and abundant future were recognized by the Princeton Review.
The Lewisburg-based university ranked 40 out of Princeton’s Review’s Top 50 list of green colleges based on a combination of school-reported data and student opinion, via the Review’s institutional and student surveys. Bucknell, which has researchers developing novel methods of generating power and facilities planners finding smart solutions to cut back Bucknell’s own consumption, is attempting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
“We’ve done a lot as a university,” said Victor Udo, Director of Campus Sustainability. “We didn’t go out seeing what we could do in order to be No. 40 in the Princeton Review. We’re just doing the right thing. Sustainability is something we’re doing naturally. We’re very proud of that.”
The schools that made the Top 50 Green Colleges list “share superb sustainability practices, a strong foundation in sustainability education, and a healthy quality of life for students on campus,” according to the Princeton Review. On Jan. 18, President John Bravman announced the release of the 10-year Sustainability Plan for Bucknell University.
The Bucknell Center for Sustainability & The Environment was founded in 2005. The University in 2009 committed to carbon neutrality by 2030.
Jim Knight, Bucknell’s energy and utilities specialist who played a key role in the solar project, said having independent verification from the Princeton Review is appreciated but not their objective.
“We’re trying to make the campus more efficient because it’s the right thing to do,” said Knight. “We built the solar array because it was the right thing to do and it saves us money. Our motivation isn’t to get some gold star. Those things are nice, and it tells us we’re doing the right thing, but we are going to do the right thing anyway.”
The university will reduce as much carbon as possible. If by 2030, they still have more to go, Udo said they will pay a company to offset. A carbon offset is a reduction or removal of emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere, said Udo.
The 10-year Sustainability Plan has four strategic priorities focusing on environmental sustainability, social sustainability, technological sustainability and governance/assets management. Each of the strategic priorities has five Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for a total of 20. The KPIs are consistent with environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts, said Udo.
In addition to carbon neutrality, Bucknell’s goals are: economical conservation and restoration; a pathway to zero waste; and environmental, social and governance (ESG), which focuses on helping the university community better understand the endowment and ESG impact investment processes.
Bucknell’s 2022-23 University Report highlighted five recent key efforts in the school’s efforts toward sustainability: solar array, new natural pathway, living laboratory, hyper-local dining and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold for Holmes Hall.
“A newly installed 1.76-peak-megawatt, on-campus solar array—built in partnership with Encore Renewable Energy under the leadership of Encore CEO Chad Farrell ’92—will supply the equivalent of approximately 7 percent of campus electrical usage, moving Bucknell closer to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. It also offers abundant opportunities for teaching and research,” according to the Report.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the solar array was held in October and it went online on Dec. 21. The array is located between the Bucknell Golf Club and Art Barn Complex off Smoketown Road in Lewisburg.
The site has also been replanted with pollinator-friendly vegetation between the panels to attract bees, butterflies and other species critical to future food security.
Udo said the university is looking for other opportunities for solar.
Other parts of the plan
The President’s Sustainability Council debuted 1.5 miles of the proposed four-mile Bucknell Greenway in fall 2022. The multi-use path, which opens a new avenue for fitness, transportation, safety and connection with nature, will be completed by the end of 2023, according to the report.
“Last year, in addition to its own programs, the Bucknell Farm partnered with more than 50 courses from all three colleges as well as three Residential Colleges, resulting in nearly 25 percent of Bucknell students having an on-site, hands-on experience at the farm,” according to the report.
Employing indoor Babylon Micro-Farms that use 96 percent less water and 55 percent less plastic than traditional farming, Bucknell Dining Services served up leaf lettuce, romaine, fresh mint and more—all grown right in the kitchen, according to the report.
Bucknell’s newest academic building, Holmes Hall, achieved LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Like all recently constructed buildings at Bucknell, Holmes was built to meet stringent environmental guidelines and to remain sustainable for decades to come, according to the report.
“Historically, we’ve always been conscientious about energy efficiency,” said Jim Knight, energy & utilities specialist (who played a key role in the Bison Solar Project. “We make sure all our new buildings and any major renovations we got LEED certification. Our target has been LEED Silver, most of our buildings are LEED Gold.”
Academic West, which opened in August 2013, is the only building on campus that is certified as LEED Platinum, the highest certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Buildings are 80 percent of the university’s carbon footprint. Over the last 15 years, the university has upgraded heating and cooling infrastructure as well as indoor lighting, said Knight.