In conjunction with Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology and climate change, the Benedictine tradition of environmental stewardship is at the forefront of Saint Vincent College’s commitment to reverence for the creation that God has made.
This is reflected in a number of long-standing campus initiatives:
- More than 20 years of success in restoring the water quality of Monastery Run through a collaborative abandoned mine drainage project featuring the construction of artificial wetlands and other passive treatments to reduce the problem of contamination of local waterways
- New campus construction awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification at the Fred M. Rogers Center and the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion which incorporate sustainable design. The goal for both projects was to achieve certification through improvements to the quality of the site, reductions in water and energy consumption, use of materials that reduced the impact on the environment and providing a healthy and safe place for faculty members and students to work. The Pavilion features a custom-designed geothermal heating and cooling system.
- Major programs of study in the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing focused on the environment -- Environmental Science and Environmental Chemistry as well as an interdisciplinary minor in Environmental Studies. Numerous environmental courses in the other three schools include Environmental Law and Policy, Environmental Sociology, Green Writing: Literature and the Environment, Science and the Environment for Early and Special Learners, Society and the Environment: The American Experience and Environmental Ethics. The College also has a program of study to award Pennsylvania Department of Education teaching certification for Environmental Science grades K-12.
- Construction and operation of the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve, a collaborative project between Saint Vincent College and charitable corporation WPNR Inc. WPNR is a 50-acre reserve that provides a beautiful natural recreation area with two miles of trails, native plantings, an environmental learning barn and programs, and multimodal transportation including foot and bike trails
As well as newer projects:
- Due to the cost-competitiveness of natural gas versus coal, Saint Vincent has converted its boiler, which has the capacity to run on three different fuels, from coal to natural gas, which will be used for a second season this coming winter.
- Dark-sky compatible lighting, which significantly reduces light pollution, a factor that makes our campus HD telescope all the more enjoyable to use in order to study the night sky, and our place in the universe
- Use of energy-saving computer technology that reduces electric use by 80 percent, including virtualization and low-energy-use monitors
- Recyclemania, an initiative begun in 2012 to increase student awareness of recycling, minimize waste and coordinate ongoing collection of paper, cans and glass throughout campus buildings and grounds
- A water bottle refilling station, an initiative of the Student Government Association to help reduce waste
- Reduction of energy usage, maintenance and cooling costs through the installation of energy-efficient LED lighting in parts of the Latimer Family Library and the Robert S. Carey Student Center with financial assistance from the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund (WPPSEF)
- Solar panels on the roof of the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion, funded with assistance from WPPSEF, help to demonstrate the feasibility of using renewable energy sources in a building with high energy demands and provide an educational demonstration online for anyone interested in the photovoltaic system’s productivity and environmental impact.
- A forthcoming project this year is to study the effects that current agricultural and food production systems have on the environment, their impact on water supply and community health concerns.
Pope Francis has taken the title of his encyclical on the environment from a recurring exclamation in a poem which was composed by his patron Saint Francis of Assisi in the early 13th century, wherein everything in our created world is consecrated in praise to God: “Canticle of the Sun,” Laudato Si (“Praised be you my Lord . . . ”).