Sustainability conference brings ideas outside the classroom: Lafayette and surrounding schools participate

This Saturday marks Lafayette’s next local, public forum for environmental sustainability.

Every two years, the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC), a consortium of all of the colleges in the Lehigh Valley, hosts a sustainability conference, according to Professor of Engineering Studies Ben Cohen. This year, Lafayette will be giving five presentations at the conference.

According to Cohen, the conference is about the implementation of ideas that are typically reserved for academia.

“The biggest takeaway is you see real life examples: plausible projects and ways that [we’re] making the community an environmentally more healthy place,” Cohen said. “It’s not abstract, it’s not just classroom discussion.”

Cohen, who has overseen many of the projects being presented, worked specifically on a “Greening Lafayette” initiative. This project is set to improve the environmental component of the Connected Communities program for first-year students, Cohen said.

“I supervised [this project] working on small farm, sustainable infrastructure,” he said. “We’re hoping that this module will be a really good example of what the Connected Communities program can do.”

While this project is focused specifically on the college, Cohen also plans to use the conference to spread awareness about improving existing sustainability modules, like greenhouses.

“Greenhouses use up an enormous amount of energy,” he said. “You have to really manage the temperature inside a greenhouse; they’re very energy-intensive. We’ve been working for ways to have either a zero carbon or low carbon footprint.”

Joseph Ingrao ‘16, who has attended the conference in the past, said that collaboration was a strong point of the event.

“It’s about the actual interaction you can have, it’s a different level of intimacy in an informal setting,” Ingrao said.

This year, Ingrao will be presenting on “school-to-farm” approaches to agricultural sustainability.

According to Ingrao, “school-to-farm” approaches focus on giving back to the agricultural community that provides food for Lafayette. While other approaches to sustainability focus on bringing food from farms to schools, Ingrao’s approach focuses on educating and providing labor to continue the agricultural cycle.

Ingrao credited his participation in the conference with his research opportunities at Lafayette, particularly his involvement in LaFarm, a farm near campus that grows vegetables for dining halls and composts leftover food.

As far as the continuity of the program, Ingrao said student involvement will make the conference more successful in the future.

“Creating more opportunities for students to get involved when they’re still freshmen and sophomores, just as auxiliary parts of projects [in progress], is a good way to get them invested in starting their own projects,” Ingrao said.

There will be a transportation to the conference from the Williams Center for the Arts High & Hamilton Streets, at 8 a.m. Additionally, a bus will depart back to Lafayette around 4:15 p.m., according to an e-mail from Kristine Todaro, Director of Special Projects & Media Relations.

Leave a Reply

*