"Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it." -Pope Francis, Laudato Si, #139

Sustainability and the Mercy Mission

With a history of environmental stewardship and a mission-driven approach, Mercyhurst University strives to care for the Earth and all of its creatures with due passion and respect. In following the goals outlined in Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato Si’,” Mercyhurst seeks to curb its environmental footprint while engaging students and community members in meaningful and interactive projects. Lead by the Office of Sustainability, the Student Sustainability Club, and the University Laudato Si’ Committee, sustainability is engrained within our campus both physically and spiritually, becoming an integral part of the Mercyhurst experience for employees and students alike.

Student Sustainability Fund

The Student Sustainability Fund was established in 2007 by members of the student Green Team and continues to help keep campus green. This fund collects $10 per semester from each undergraduate student to provide funds for new sustainability projects around campus, allowing Mercyhurst to serve as a living laboratory for passionate environmentalists. This fund is open for project proposals from all members of the campus community and has enabled the purchase of an electric ATV for recycling collection, the installation of rain gardens throughout campus, the purchase of water refilling stations in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center, and reusable cups for all incoming freshmen.

Past and Present Projects 

The Tiny Forest

Mercyhurst’s Tiny Forest is the first of its kind in northwest Pennsylvania and one of only a handful in the world. Designed and installed by Biology Professor Dr. Chris Dolanc, this planting technique uses the closeness of the trees to increase forest density and increase growing speeds up to three times faster than a typical forest. By attracting native insects and birds, providing a condensed natural space, and offering such environmental benefits as carbon sequestration and air purification, the Tiny Forest is a unique canvas for research projects and community inspiration.

The Mercyhurst Garden Beds

Installed in May 2023 by the University Laudato Si’ Committee, these four raised beds grow a variety of vegetables throughout the summer and fall. Contributing produce to the Mercy Market and the dining halls, the gardens help provide the campus with organic and locally grown foods while allowing students the chance to get their hands dirty and experience the art of growing. The garden beds have also provided inspiration for such projects as an indigenous planting of the Three Sisters (squash, beans, and corn) and a microbiology study determining the advantages of unique compost bacteria on the growth of tomatoes

Tower Garden Lending Program

​​​​​​​The Tower Garden Lending Program expands access to freshly grown produce year-round throughout the City of Erie, using aeroponic grow towers to turn any indoor space into a functional garden. Lent to community members such as the Downtown YMCA, Diehl Elementary School, and the Booker T. Washington Center, Tower Gardens help to alleviate food deserts and increase children’s exposure to the process of growing. Common vegetables grown in these towers include lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, cilantro, and chives.

Additional Sustainability Projects include: 

  • The Green Roof over Zurn Hall ceramics lab

  • Geothermal heat exchange systems in two campus buildings.

  • On-site composting with two compost digesters.

  • The Sister Maura Smith Peace Garden, a pollinator garden filled with native plants.

  • LED lighting upgrades to the majority of campus.

  • Water refill stations distributed throughout campus.

  • Electric lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and weedwackers for our ground crews.

To learn more about Mercyhurst’s sustainability practices or find out how you can get involved, contact Molly Tarvin at

Students planting pollinator-friendly plants in Sr. Maura Garden 

Earth Tub Composting Systems

Green Roof on Zurn Ceramics Lab

Indoor Recycling Bin Upgrades

Trash Pickup around Erie County

Beach Cleanup at Presque Isle