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Sustainability becomes a community effort at York College of Pennsylvania 

Sustainability becomes a community effort at York College of Pennsylvania 

  • In November 2022, the institution brought on Daniel Kreiman to coordinate its environmental, economic, and social equity and justice efforts.

York College of Pennsylvania President Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith had a straightforward charge for her newly formed President’s Task Force for Campus Sustainability (PTFCS): Move the College toward sustainability.  

The task force launched in December 2019, but the issue long had been brewing for Dr. Gunter-Smith.  

For her, sustainability wasn’t just a campus issue. She wanted to find a way to incorporate all the College stakeholders into the vision: faculty, staff, students, neighborhoods adjacent to the College, and the entire York community.  

‘Three pillars’ 

Led by Associate Professor of Geography Dr. Jennifer Pomeroy, the task force went to work.  

“There are three pillars,” Dr. Pomeroy says. “Environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, and social equity and justice.” 

For the economic stability and social equity and justice pillars of sustainability, Dr. Pomeroy hopes to ensure that the business operations of York College are done not only in an environmentally responsible manor, but in a circular economic fashion, ensuring that any profits made by the College are made in a sustainable way that supports people at all levels of the socio-economic spectrum. Investing in the planet means investing in supporting people and eco-conscious brands and businesses. 

The environmental sustainability pillar has been largely focused on gathering information about the College’s impact on the environment. Despite delays related to the coronavirus pandemic, the task force began collecting data to measure the College’s carbon footprint and emissions as it also started an energy audit.  

“Energy is the largest contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide,” Dr. Pomeroy says. “Only when we perform a baseline audit will we know which area can be improved upon.”  

The task force helped initiate Sustainability Week on campus and ultimately recommended that the College hire its first Sustainability Coordinator, someone who could make the effort a full-time focus.  

Paradise lost 

Daniel Kreiman, who holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Environmental Science and Sustainability, began filling that role for the College in November 2022. He had been on his own journey toward a career in sustainability. 

Kreiman recalls that during a high school environmental science class, his teacher passionately described his favorite place: Prince William Sound in Alaska. The teacher cried as he recounted returning to the sound after the Exxon Valdez oil spill of March 1989, when 11 million gallons of crude oil polluted the pristine waters. His favorite place had been ruined.  

“It really hit me,” Kreiman says. “This really matters.”  

During his senior year of high school, he traveled to Costa Rica for an environmental science summit where he heard ethologist and conservationist Jane Goodall speak. Since that time, he knew he wanted to spend his life helping to build a more sustainable planet. 

“The idea of sustainability,” says Kreiman, “is being able to continue on without harming the needs of those that come in the future.”  

Creating a climate action plan 

Kreiman saw in York College a place where he could make a difference, not only on campus but in the surrounding community. He plans to continue the celebration of Sustainability Week on campus in April 2023 as he works on the College carbon, emissions, and energy audits and to develop a climate action plan, a process that could take two to four years.  

Ultimately, he hopes to see the institution achieve carbon neutrality. 

In the short term, Kreiman wants to show that York College is committed to sustainability by making small changes, such as better labeling of trash and recycling receptacles and reusing materials. 

“Even though the climate crisis is so doom-and-gloomy and sounds hopeless, the little steps you do, from choosing different types of eggs to opening windows, is going to make a small impact,” he says. “Try your best to act in a way that your kids and grandkids can live and have fun.”