Hornig ’23 Explores University Sustainability Efforts as Honors Project

By Caitlin Burns | April 16, 2020

Aerial view of Easton Pond with trees surrounding.

Psychology major Jessica Hornig ’23, a self-professed tree-hugger, wondered: How is Arcadia contributing to a sustainable future? So, for her honors program passion project, she embarked on a journey to learn about the University’s hidden environmental features. 

In consulting with Tom Macchi, associate vice president of Facilities and Capital Planning, Hornig found daily environmental efforts around campus that might go unnoticed by the community, such as recycling efforts, landscaping design, and energy-saving opportunities. One thing in particular that she discovered is that Facilities evaluates how each change made on campus will ensure sustainability.  

“I was impressed to see so many projects around campus are more thought out than I originally believed, and the University is making strides for a more sustainable future,” Hornig said. 

One major environmental feature includes choices in landscaping on campus: Knockout roses, planted alongside the Easton/Brubaker buildings, require little sunlight, care, or water and provide beautiful blooms in the springtime. Additionally, liriope plants, with long, thin leaves and lavender flowers when in bloom, require little care and water as well. 

Finally, willow trees are planted around campus. Willows are notorious for not only their drooping branches and leaves, but the large water capacity in their roots, which aids in reducing flooding and purifying the underground water supply. In the past decade, Facilities has planted more than 1,000 trees on campus, which aids in reducing air pollution. Secret nurseries around campus, such as one behind Taylor Hall along Church Road, help fledgling trees grow before they can be planted somewhere for the community to enjoy.

Macchi noted the University’s goal to recycle or repurpose as much as possible, including some items that typically aren’t recyclable, such as leftover clay portions from art projects that are collected, reprocessed, and reused. This helps keep costs down and reduce the University’s carbon footprint. 

“We should all take an active role in properly recycling on campus,” said Hornig. “Many of the recycling bins on campus get contaminated with trash, and it’s up to us to change that. If Facilities is doing their part to make the campus more sustainable, the community needs to as well.”

Facilities has also made great strides in energy conservation. Whenever a light bulb goes out on campus, it is replaced with an energy-saving LED bulb, which helps to save electricity. To date, over 10,000 LED bulbs have been installed throughout campus. Additionally, the green roofs on Spruance, Thomas, and Murphy halls, which are small patches of grass where short-root plants can grow, help lower energy consumption costs. Many of the other roofs across campus, such as Boyer Hall, are painted white in order to reflect heat in the warm months, decreasing the amount of air conditioning needed. 

“I now have a better understanding of exactly how much thought goes into sustainability on campus, and I hope the student body can be just as proud as I am,” said Hornig. “Facilities has truly done a fantastic job to ensure that Arcadia is on the path to a sustainable future.”

During this semester, she will present her findings to her classmates and mentors for her Honors Program Passion Project, a research-based assignment where students explore a topic outside of their major that piques their interest. 

For more information, visit the ArcadiaCares page.