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Green Teams' Sustainability Successes


New Kensington's Green Team partners with ALCOA.

Penn State's Green Teams initiative officially began in the summer of 2009, and since then participants have had many sustainability successes. Continue reading to learn more about the positive changes Green Teams have made to save resources, both financial and natural, and to improve the health and happiness of our community.


In just one meeting, the Smeal Green Team prevented 20 pounds of trash from going to the landfill by providing compost receptacles. See more examples of composting initiatives.

Saving Energy

In order to save energy and reduce light pollution, which makes it more difficult to observe the nighttime sky, the Astromony Green Team replaced their parking lot lighting and reduced the amount of 24-hour lighting outside of the HUB-Robeson Center around their building. See more examples of energy saving efforts.

Reducing Waste

The HUB-Robeson Center Green Team created a going green "cheat sheet" for its members, describing what types of items can be recycled or composted. See more examples of waste reducing efforts.

The Dubois Green Team helped organize a lecture featuring the Boston area Food Project, shown below.  See the "Other Successes" page to learn about this and other Green Teams' accomplishments.











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See what Green Teams across the Commonwealth have been up to lately to make waves in sustainability!

Stand Up for Movement in Sedentary Careers

Stemming from the "Sustainability Lives Here" Green Bag Lunch in January, the Smeal College of Business Green Team set out to promote health, as individual goals for You@PSU.  

The result - a lunchtime program by Penn State fitness instructors and personal trainers titled "Stand Up for Movement in Sedentary Careers." 

The program, created with the help of Kinesiology students, was well attended by staff and faculty. The trainers explained about the detrimental effects sitting at work can have on your health. They also demonstrated some movements the attendees could incorporate in their daily routine, providing an Activity Checklist with suggestions for movements throughout the day."

"We received a lot of positive feedback from folks in our college who were inspired by the personal trainers to incorporate more movement into their day" said Jan Dunlap, Assistant to Financial Officer at Smeal. "I talked to several people who had no idea about the ramifications of sitting for hours at a time and are making the effort to get up and move more."

It seems that people have been taking these suggestions seriously. One attendee had a timer installed on her computer to remind her, and others, to do some of the movements on the checklist each time it goes off. Others have been getting up to retrieve an item in their office, instead of reaching, or walking over to deliver a message to someone in person, instead of using email. There is already talk of having the trainers in again to present a "Medicine is Exercise" program.

So how did they do it?

Jan Dunlap reached out to her supervisor about the idea, and after getting the go-ahead, contacted faculty members in the Kinesiology Department inquiring about having some students come to Smeal to present the program.

These connections resulted in two Penn State Fitness Instructors, and four other personal trainers, presenting for the college.

Teams are sounding their horns

From the May 2014 Green Teams survey, we found that several teams are announcing their successes through a variety of venues, from websites to newsletters to blogs. Check out several examples. If you have some to add, let us know.

Student Affairs Green Team

The Student Affairs Green Team sponsored four showings of the documentary Trashed during Spring Break.  Approximately 75-80 people attended and it would be safe to say that most were moved by the message of the film and also a bit overwhelmed and shocked by the graphic images it portrays.

TRASHED follows Academy-Award-winner Jeremy Irons on a world tour as he discovers the extent and effects of the global waste problem. It's about how trash is poisoning our oceans, our air, our land, our cities, and, of course, us. This is a meticulous, brave investigative journey that takes Irons (and us) from skepticism to sorrow and from horror to hope as we struggle to make progress towards a sustainable future.

Trashed documentary by Jeremy Irons

Some suggestions from the attendees included a request for a panel discussion with university experts to talk about what we are doing at Penn State concerning recycling efforts and what research the academic units might be involved with.  Another attendee commented that he had heard that the recycled bottles that we send overseas are just ending up in landfills over there and are not being remade into other materials.   Another suggestion was to see if there was another documentary that focused on all the good things that San Francisco is doing (this is featured toward the end of the film).

With a current library account, Penn State faculty, staff and students can reserve a copy of the documentary.

Larson Institute makes major strides

Larson Institute employee enjoys new standing desk

After they reached Level 4 of the Green Paws Program, the Gregarious Green Lions at the Larson Institute have kept going with new initiatives. The team recently launched a self-sustainability program in the central office. As one aspect of this, they developed a sign-up sheet for staff to bring in a healthy snack each week to share. This has proven very popular. While everyone enjoys celebrating birthdays in the traditional way, they also appreciate the availability of nutritious and health-conscious snacks. A second effort that has caught on is converting personal workspaces to standing desks. Several staff and faculty now use these work systems, which serve to reduce physical fatigue, improve posture, and increase personal satisfaction and productivity.

Last fall, the Larson Institute’s Gregarious Green Lions held a workshop on how to make one’s own natural, non-toxic cleaning solutions (such as soft scrub and a disinfectant spray as well as a foaming hand soap, all of which included essential oils). Such self-prepared products save money and help remove toxic chemicals from our work and home living spaces.

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Composting and Recycling

Trash is expensive to manage.  At University Park, non-recycled waste is transported 73 miles to a landfill, using 40 gallons of gas for the round trip, and costing the University $67/ton to dump the waste. Fortunately, Penn State, through its möbius waste management system, provides alternative avenues in which most of our waste can be turned into soil nutients, new carpets, countertops and more. This process depends on educating and motivating our students, staff and faculty to sort their waste correctly. Reade below about how Green Teams are taking a lead in this effort.

Jeopardy, with a recycling twist

Not sure about which bin to deposit your waste? The Educational Equity Green Team created a Recycling Jeopardy game to help the Penn State community learn how to sort their trash in a fun and engaging way. This PowerPoint presentation is based on the popular Jeopardy television show with questions pertaining to Penn State’s unique recycling and composting system, along with a few general sustainability questions. As with the television game, contestants are presented with clues to which they must phrase their answers in the form of questions. To infuse some light-hearted competition into the event, the Sustainability Institute purchased a set of buzzers that teams can use. During the spring semester, the Penn State University Libraries and College of Liberal Arts Green Teams hosted events using this toolkit, with about forty student and full-time staff participating. “I learned more about sustainability through this game than when I was a student here,” said Maria Canales, one of the College of Liberal Arts Recycling Jeopardy game participants.

Teams can download a customizable invitation and flyer, the Powerpoint presentation, which includes the Jeopardy soundtrack for added ambiance, and a set of directions from Box. The competitive nature of the game engages players, especially with the use a buzzer set, available from the Sustainability Institute. “It was a very helpful and informative way to stay current with our sustainability policies,” said Vanessa Eyer, member of the Libraries Green Team and it has the added advantage of team building.

Liberal Arts Green Teams introduces new recycling game


The College of the Liberal Arts Green Teams unveiled a new recycling video game for a computer or a smart phone at a recent College meeting. The game allows players to sort items into correct recycling bins and helps learning by providing information about what items belong in particular bins. Play the game now.

Approximately 50 staff and faculty met with academic and administrative leaders and members of the Green Teams to learn more about changes planned for the University’s recycling and sustainability programs. 


Al Matyasovsky, Program Manager of Solid Waste Operations at Penn State, said a new collection of miscellaneous plastics will start soon at recycling stations around Penn State. He also showed types of products made from recycled plastics, such as composite decking and carpeting used on campus. Lydia Vandenbergh, from the Penn State Sustainability Institute, highlighted some of the changes coming to sustainability programs like Green Paws.


Liberal Arts Green TeamDean Susan Welch emphasized the importance of finding ways to encourage faculty, staff and students to improve sustainability. For example, the Moore Building renovation project used regionally-sourced and recycled materials. Other sustainable design features included the use of chilled beams to improve heating and cooling efficiency, which resulted in the building receiving a LEED certification.


The event was organized by the members of the College of the Liberal Arts Green Steering Committee. More information about sustainability efforts in the College of the Liberal Arts can be found at:


Office of University Development Green Team addresses holiday party waste

In December, the Office of University Development held their holiday potluck, a chance to gather for a winter celebration and feast on delicious dishes whipped up by the staff. In addition to providing a festive holiday occasion, the potluck also revealed an opportunity for improvement in University-wide sustainability efforts.

“There was a lot of beautiful holiday decorating that surrounded the luncheon and along with that, people contributed decorative holiday paper and plastic products,” explained Courtney Van Sky, co-leader of the OUD Green Team. “Unbeknownst to most of us, though, those themed products are not recyclable. Since it is difficult to realize that just by glancing at them, many of the items did not make their way into the proper bin,” says Van Sky.

The Green Team sees an opportunity to improve the situation for next year’s party. “Next year, it would be helpful to coordinate the paper product purchasing, so we all get the same type of products that are either recyclable or compostable. In addition, we feel that we need to do a better job explaining exactly where each product should be disposed of so there is less confusion,” she explained.

If your team has suggestions of ways to keep the festive look while keeping waste out of the landfill, send your ideas to and we will create a holiday celebrations guide.

Penn State New Kensington Green Team hosts composting conference

In an attempt to spread more sustainable ideas throughout the Commonwealth, New Kensington's Green Team hosted a composting conference this past April, open to all Penn Staters. They discussed how to get composting started on sites within the University, what can and cannot be composted and more! This helped many Green Teams, who were in the dark, to learn all that was needed to start composting.

Boucke Green Team

The Boucke Green Team estimates composting between 300-450 liters of kitchen waste and approximately 160 liters of restroom paper towels per week.

Smeal Green Team

The Smeal Team's "green event," a chili cookoff with 62 attendees, included recycling and compost bins.

In their first green event, the Smeal Green Team prevented 20 pounds of trash from going to the landfill by providing compost receptacles.

Crop and Soil Sciences Green Team

The Crop and Soil Sciences Green Team now provides compost receptacles at all special events. Internal special events for the Green Team are estimated at six per year, with between 100-150 attendees at each event.

Methodology Center Green Team

The Methodology Center Green Team has seen composting efforts double within a period of four months.

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Saving Energy

Admissions Goes Green

Every aspect of Penn State has a part to play in sustainability, as soon as we walk in the door! Check out a day in the life of the Energy Avenger, working in Admissions.

HUB Green Team

The HUB Green Team has implemented an Appliance Policy for all Union and Student Activities Staff. This ensures that all newly-purchased appliances are energy efficient and used thoughtfully, thus decreasing the HUB's energy usage as a whole.

In early 2010, the HUB-Robeson Center installed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified Xlerator hand dryers on the ground and first floor levels of the HUB. The dryers use 80% less energy than regular dryers. The energy-efficient Xlerator dryers also reduce paper towel use for hand drying.

Shaver's Creek

In their endless quest to become Zero Waste, Shaver's Creek continuously implements new and more efficient appliances to their site. Most recently, they have added two ductless mini-splits, which allow them to heat and cool their water using the same machine. 

Take the stairs

Methodology Center

The Methodology Center Green Team encourages employees to take the stairs by providing signs as reminders (pictured to the right).

Astronomy Green Team

The Astromony Green Team was successful in having the light fixtures in their parking lot replaced with models that produce less light and use less energy. They also reduced the amount of 24-hour lighting outside the HUB-Robeson Center. This was done in an effort to reduce energy consumption and the amount of "light pollution" emitted by nearby sources, which interferes with observations of the nighttime sky.

The Astronomy Team also replaced three printers, two fax machines and two copiers with two, all-in-one units. Before, all seven machines consumed roughly 750 watts of electricity in standby mode, a "low power" state in which the components of a computer that consume the most power, such as monitors and hard disks, are turned off. The new machines use less than 200 watts of electricity when in standby mode.

Student Affairs Green Team

In an effort to consolidate appliances and save energy, five members of the Student Affairs Green Team gave up their individual office refrigerator, and now use their suite's kitchenette refrigerator. This action has reduced the unit's electricity consumption by almost 2,000 kilowatt-hours per year. This amount of electricity is equal to the amount used by the average American household over a period of two months.

Smeal Green Team

The Smeal College of Business Green Team turned off 15 display monitors over an 11-day holiday break, avoiding the use of 814 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
Green Team Energy Saving Focus Areas

University Libraries Green Team

The University Libraries Green Team arranged for Energy Engineers from the Office of Physical Plant to come and discuss ways to reduce energy usage in the libraries.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the average American home uses 920 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month (1). The energy saving efforts of the Smeal, Methodology Center and Student Affairs Green Teams alone create yearly energy savings equal to the electricity used by a home for a period of almost five months!

(1) Frequently Asked Questions About Electricity.

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Reducing Waste

Psychology: Green Meeting Guide

The Psychology Green Team has created a guide to making all your office events, from staff meetings to full weekend events, more sustainable through simple purchasing and behavior changes. There is an overarching idea of reducing all things and making a smaller impact, which is the core of sustianability. Download the Green Meeting Guide to use for your next office event. Gift Bags made from reusable fabric

Stitching Green into Christmas

This past holiday season, Building 329 and Outreach Green Teams made an effort to eliminate some of the paper from their waste. They held a "Gift Bag Workshop," turning their own fabric into reusable gift bags.

Outreach Green Minute

The Outreach Green Team has created a “Green Minute” for their staff meetings during which one of the members of the team discusses a topic related to reducing waste or energy usage for a short time, so as to keep everyone focused and share some valuable knowledge. The topics change month to month, and focus on an area of particular interest, depending on the time of year. For example, August focused on buying reused school supplies, December focused on reusable wrapping paper, etc. Adding a Green Minute to your staff meeting can help to inform the rest of your staff and increase your office’s ecological potential.

Penn State Shenango

New Student Orientation at Shenango gives students a paperless flashdrive that has all their information on it — reducing waste and the use of paper through the process!

Smeal Green Team

Within their own coffee room, the Smeal Green Team has gone styrofoam-free! By urging their coworkers to bring their own cups through the sign below, Smeal was able to massively reduce their waste throughout the office.

HUB Green Team

During New Student Orientation, at University Park, the HUB Green Team has begun labelling their trash cans with signs reading, "Landfill — Are you sure?" helping to remind new students of their impact!

The HUB-Robeson Center Green Team created a going green "cheat sheet" for its members, describing what types of items can be recycled or composted.

Numerous Green Teams, including Astronomy and the HUB-Robeson Center, have expanded their recycling efforts by sending certain types of waste that are considered non-recyclable to Terracycle, a company that repurposes these materials by making them into useful products.

Terracycle turns different waste products into useful products. The bag pictured above, is made from old rolls of film.

Reduce paper waste by using recycled paper, and printing on both sides.

Registrar's Office Green Team

The Registrar’s Office Green Team has reduced their waste through use of recycled-content paper, printing on both sides, and using more electronic files than printed paper ones. They saved $4,000 in one year!

Astronomy Green Team

The Astronomy Green Team removed 17 trash cans from its unit's space. Employees must bring waste that cannot be recycled or composted to communal waste receptacles located outside of the unit. In doing this, the team hopes to recycle a larger percentage of its waste stream. The Astronomy Team also replaced styrofoam cups in its lunchroom with reusable mugs. It is estimated that the average American office worker uses around 500 disposable cups per year (2).

Shaver's Creek Environmental Center

The Shaver's Creek Environmental Center hosted their Fall Harvest Festival with a goal of eliminating as much waste from the event as possible. Having already gotten rid of their dumpsters in favor of sorting all their commodities for recycling or composting, they were well equipped to handle such a task. With over 500 visitors that Saturday, they were able to limit their waste to a single bag. Visitors are astonded at the assortment of recycling bins.

Most of the recovered trash was juice boxes. This success was achieved partly due to the "Zero Waste Czars," wearing t-shirts donated by the Physical Plant Waste 

Volunteers at Shaver's Creek learn how to properly separate composting

Management Team, whom assisted visitors in proper recycling techniques and use of their "Zero Waste Zambonies" (recycling stations on wheels).

Communication’s “Freeshop”

The Communication Green Team’s freeshop was set up similarly to a yard sale around their building’s lobby. Office members donated their unwanted goods to the freeshop and the items were displayed for two days to find a new home. Almost all of the items were taken and the rest were able to be recycled. “I think the freeshop made faculty, staff and students more aware of the recycling efforts that are shaping the College’s sustainable culture,” said Johnson. “It also increased awareness of our GT’s presence in the College and allowed those participating to feel good about actually doing something instead of simply talking to raise awareness for sustainability.” Read more.

Communication’s Downsizing Day

The COMMunity Green Team has organized an event for the entire College of Communications to reduce built-up clutter in records, both paper and digital. The event, named "Toss it, Shred it, Trash it!", will occur Wednesday, July 22. Participating faculty and staff will be allowed a casual dress day and provided free pizza, and awards will be given to those who "toss, shred or trash" the most. Read this article for ideas on planning your own downsizing day.

"Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch" Movie Screening

Several Green Teams organized a screening of the film  Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch which prompted discussions about individual and collective actions to reduce plastics use and ways we can promote changes at Penn State. Already there is progress. Did you know that over 100% of Penn State's newly installed carpet will be recycled and never reach a landfill?  Changes like this depend on Penn State staff, faculty and students looking for improvement opportunities and working together to make change happen. Green Teams are leading the way.


(2) Tips for Recycling and Reducing Waste.

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Other Successes

Educational Equity GPP Award recipients






Student Affairs Creates Competitions for Sustainability: The Student Affairs Green Team has created a "Green Bowl" has been created as a traveling prize for their inter-office competitions. This Green Bowl will serve as the "trophy" for 3 various challenges throughout the year. The first competition, the "SNOWFLAKE CHALLENGE," began in December and encouraged units to turn off computers, turn off printers, unplug any unused items such as an adding machine, phone charger, radio, heater, etc., turnoff all lights, close blinds, empty all trash, recycle and compost bins in office, promote the SA GREEN TEAM challenge to other staff members, water plants or take them home for break, clean your desk/computer/office with non-toxic cleaning supplies, check all faucets to make sure they are turned off and not dripping, empty and clean the refrigerator, use compostable/recyclable materials for any end of semester parties and/or receptions, and identify one New Year’s resolution related to sustainability. The Career Services Team won the competition with a 48% participation rate.The New Kensington Green Team explains recycling and composting to people at the Alcoa Green Fair

Green Paws Level 4 Achieved: Four Educational Equity Green Team, shown above, and the Larson Institute- Gregarious Green Lions- have reached Level 4 in the Green Paws Program!

Methodology Uses Visual Reminders: The Methodology Center Green Team has acheived Levels One and Two certification of Penn State's Green Paws Program. The Green Team has created visual reminders to its members about ways to continue doing their part, and resources available through the Green Paws/Green Teams Programs.

New Kensignton Sustainability Tabeling: Penn State New Kensington had their own table at Alcoa's Green Fair to teach others about Penn State sustainability, how to get involved, and the benefits of living sustainably!

Harrisburg's Herb and Vegetable Garden: The Penn State Harrisburg Conservation Committee developed and planted a herb and vegetable garden on campus, which students, professors and staff can also use. The campus food court dries and freezes the herbs for use in dishes they serve and campus community members are welcome to take herbs and veggies in exchange for volunteering to help tend to the garden. The Harrisburg Patriot News reported on their efforts.

Reusable Water Bottle Sale: The Undergraduate Admissions Green Team had a reusable water bottle sale benefitting the United Way. Sixteen employees purchased the bottles.

Using Reclaimed Furniture: The Campus Sustainability Office saved $31,000 by using reclaimed furniture in its new office. In the picture to the right, Milea Perry, Program Coordinator for the Campus Sustainability Office poses with the office's reclaimed furniture.

Sustainability Strategic Plans: Following the steps of the Penn State Sustainability Strategic Plan, WPSU, Student Affairs, Smeal College of Business, and Finance & Buiness have all began (or finished) creating a Sustainability Strategic Plan specific for their units. 

Astronomy Takes Composting Tour: The Astronomy Green Team arranged a tour of the Penn State compost facility (OMPEC) and energy talk luncheon. Between 15-20 people from the Astronomy and Physics departments, and the Science Library attended.

Outreach Earth Day celebration 2013

Outreach Earth Day Event: The Outreach Building Green Team held an Earth Day event allowing other Green Teams to come play games, mingle, and learn more from their Green Team colleagues!

Shenango's Earth Fest: To bring many Campuses together, Shenango hosted an Earth Fest, inviting the Beaver, Greater Allegheny, DuBois, Behrend and Fayette campuses!

Development Green Team's Sustainable Centerpieces: During their Spring Awards Ceremony, the Development Green Team added fun and sustainability to the event by using live plant centerpieces. Whoever found a sticker under their seat was able to bring the centerpiece home. As seen above, about 400 participants were excited to find out if they were the lucky winner. The plants, provided by Daniel Vaughn Designs, were inspired by the natural hues of fresh basil with specially designed recycle paper containers. Using live plants instead of traditional cut flowers offers continued enjoyment to the guests.

Outreach Holds Pollinator Education Event: An event hosted by the Penn State Outreach Green Team and planned by WPSU Donor Services Coordinator, Michele Chernega, focused on the importance of native pollinators, and how to attract them to one's garden or home. They had a successful turnout of about 40 people and very high engagement. "Since the event, people have been contacting me for more information which makes me so excited and pleased," said Chernega in an email. At the event, speakers suggested planting specific plants or building a bee house to support native pollinators. Participants were surprised to find out how inexpensive and easy it is to support a bee colony.

Outreach Creates Pollinator Workshop: In April, Penn Staters from across the Commonwealth engaged others in learning about environmental issues through movies, presentations, art and symposiums. Building on their previous presentation on pollinators, the Outreach Green Team organized a workshop to build bee houses. Following the workshop, professor Richard Alley spoke about energy productions influence on climate change.

Global Programs Connects with Colleagues in Burkina Faso: The Global Programs Green Team was able to connect and have a Skype session with a colleague working in the West African country of Burkina Faso as part of Penn State’s Global Engagement Network. During the call, the Global Programs Green Team learned about sustainability processes and issues in Burkina Faso, especially in the village their colleague resides in. They were also able to share the university’s current sustainability efforts and some of their own with the colleague in Burkina Faso. Read more.

Want to know what all the Green Teams accomplished in the 2012-2013 school year? Here is the PowerPoint for the June 2013 Celebration lunch, highlighting some of our greatest accomplishments! Download the PowerPoint.

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