"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."Jane Goodall

Student Sustainability Fund

The Mercyhurst Sustainability Fund began as an initiative from the 2006-07 student Green Team. Members of the Green Team successfully campaigned for the fee through petitions (with over 1,000 students signing) and a 2-1 student referendum vote. Initially, the fee was called the "Student Green Energy Fee." 

The fund was eventually renamed the "Mercyhurst Sustainability Fund" so that it could have boarder impacts on Mercyhurst's efforts toward sustainability. Each student on the Erie Campus currently pays $5.00 per semester. The fund is administered by a review board consisting of students, staff, administrators, and faculty. The review board meets periodically to review proposals, which may be submitted by any Erie Campus community member. 

Select Funded Projects 

Yearly Project Funding – 40% of the Carbon REC and Carbon Offset Purchases; other 60% from university

Past Funded Projects 

  • Sustainable landscaping and rain garden behind Warde 
  • Sister Maura Smith Peace Garden 
  • Electric hand dryers 
  • Hydration station upgrades for Erie campus water fountains 
  • RiverBlue screening on campus with Fashion Council and Student Sustainability Club 
  • Bee Hotel – habitat for native bees and information board 
  • National Water Dance 
  • Sustainability Club Earth Week Activities


Sustainable Energy


Geothermal heating and cooling systems rely on the fact that the earth’s temperature just below the surface remains relatively constant independent of the air temperature above the surface. This means that during the winter the earth’s temperature is warmer than the air temperature and during the summer it is cooler. This is a type of renewable energy and so is more sustainable than burning fossil fuels for heating or cooling. However, a geothermal system requires electricity to run, so, although more energy efficient, the system itself is not completely sustainable.

The Geothermal system uses a fluid, like water, to help with heat exchange. The water flows from the building through pipes into the ground, where the heat exchange occurs and then flows back into the building. When the building needs cooled, the water is already warm from the building’s temperature; it flows into the ground where the heat from the water is lost to the cooler surrounding surfaces. The water flows back into the building where the mechanical part of the system uses the temperature from the cooler water and using an air circulating system cools the building. During cooler months, the water is cooler and pulls heat from the surrounding warmer surfaces as it is pumped through the ground and back into the building. The warmer water is then used to heat the building with the air circulation system.

Since the mid-1990s, for example, Mercyhurst has been a regional pioneer in demonstrating the environmental and financial benefits of geothermal heating and cooling, which uses the constant temperature of the earth as a renewable energy source and then uses electricity to distribute the temperature by air throughout a building to either heat or cool. This form of geothermal heat exchange produces an average of 50-70% fewer carbon emissions.


Starting in 2003, the university began purchasing 10% of the electricity consumption as wind energy through Community Energy, Inc. which is verified by a third party, Green-e.

In 2008, with help from the Green Team and funding from the Green Energy Fund, the percentage of our wind purchase was increased from 10% to 30%.

In July 2010, Mercyhurst University finally increased this purchase to cover 100% of our electricity consumption. This purchase yields a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions due to electricity used on campus. With electricity being the highest cause of greenhouse gas emissions on campus. With electricity being the highest cause of greenhouse gas emissions on campus, this is a very important step to reaching carbon neutrality. The university offsets about 7000 Metric Tons of carbon emissions due to our electricity consumption on the Erie Campus through a wind power purchase. This offset purchase supports national wind projects.As a purchaser of green power, Mercyhurst University has joined other colleges, universities and other businesses as an EPA Green Power Partner.


Recycling saves energy, resources, and waste, and it reduces pollution. Mercyhurst participates in single-stream recycling so all recyclable materials can be mixed into a single container. Items should be free of food debris. The following are guidelines for recycling on campus: (insert recycling image). Students are required to collect their recyclable materials in the single blue bin provided to them and deposit them in nearby recycling dumpsters marked “RECYCLING ONLY.”

Students: See your RA/HD/AD if you need a recycling bin.

Employees: Call the recycling coordinator at x3611 if you need a recycling bin.

Other Recycling Initiatives

Inkjet Cartridges

  • Return Ricoh toner to the Docucenter
  • Other cartridges can be placed in designated places on campus to be recycled to earn money for the Student Green Team


  • New in 2017, recycling polystyrene! Contact the sustainability coordinator to arrange a pick up or drop off of your polystyrene waste. This will be taken to a local foam company to be recycled.

The following materials are recyclable:

Glass Bottles and Jars: clear, brown, and green, rinsed and unbroken (DO NOT include window glass, drinking glasses or light bulbs)
Metal Food or Beverage Cans: all types, rinsed, crushed or uncrushed
Plastics: numbers 1 through 7 (look on the bottom), including lids. Rinse thoroughly, crushed or uncrushed (NO styrofoam)
Newspapers and Magazines
Paperboard: cereal and food boxes, beverage cartons, egg cartons and paper bags (NO wax coated boxes or pizza boxes)
Paper: all grades and colors, such as junk mail, envelopes, writing, typing, wrapping and computer paper (NO paper towels or napkins)
Ink Jet Cartridges: separate boxes are located in the following areas: Preston Mailroom, Hermann Student Union, Hammermill Library, Zurn 1st Floor, Hirt second floor. The Green Team earns up to $4 for each ink jet cartridge that is recycled!
Phone Books: November-January. Separate bins provided. Feel free to bring your phone books from home. This is a great project, as it earns money for the Second Harvest Food Bank. In addition, Erie Energy Products converts the phone books into home insulating material.

Employees: Whenever possible, use Blackboard, email and Library Electronic Reserve as a means of reducing paper use.

Students: Contact us if you would like to volunteer or if you have ideas on how we can strengthen the recycling program at Mercyhurst.

Sustainability Tips

Carbon Footprint Calculator 

Calculate your impact using the Footprint Network’s carbon footprint calculator.

Tips to Reduce your Footprint 

  • Walk, bike, or take public transit whenever possible. 
  • Share a ride with at least one other person.
  • Keep your thermostat relatively low in winter and ease up on the air conditioning in the summer.
  • Add energy-saving features to your home.
  • Unplug your electronics when not in use.
  • Eat more local, organic, and in-season foods.
  • Reduce the amount of animal products you currently eat by one less meal per week.
  • Choose foods with less packaging to reduce waste.
  • Use biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products.
  • Buy less! Replace items only when you need to.
  • Use washable plates, silverware and cups during get-togethers.

Meatless Mondays

Eating less meat has numerous health benefits in addition to environmental benefits. Reducing your meat consumption can help fight diabetes, reduce risk of cancer and reduce your carbon footprint.  By cutting out meat one day a week, you can make a difference. Click here for more information and recipe ideas.

Eating Local

By eating local, you are able to get fresh, quality produce that came from nearby, instead of produce that has been trucked across the country. You are also supporting local farmers and reducing your environmental impact. If you want to eat locally, start with Local Harvest. This site will help you find farmers’ markets, restaurants using local ingredients, meat processors and more.

Energy and Water Conservation

Tips for Saving Money on Your Energy Bill

  • Check air filters in your heating and cooling units monthly. Dirty air filters make it harder for air to come through your system, using more energy.
  • Seal your heating and cooling ducts. These ducts move air to and from your central air conditioner, furnace and heat pumps. If they are not sealed properly they can waste energy.
  • Invest in a power strip. Plug your electronics and chargers into the strip and switch it off when you are finished.
  • Use compact florescent lighting instead of incandescent bulbs. Lighting takes up a big part of the energy bill, so by replacing these lights you can save both on money and energy.
  • Make sure your fridge and freezers are full. It takes more energy to cool an emptier system.
  • Turn off your computer when finished for the day. Shutting down computers makes a huge difference when looking at energy consumption.
  • Try to buy local foods when possible. When you buy local, you know where your food is coming from. Local foods also cut down on transportation costs.
  • If you are going to be off campus or away from home for an extended period of time, make sure to unplug your appliances and electronics. This includes things like TVs, toasters, clocks, microwaves, etc.
  • In rooms with excellent natural day lighting, consider turning on less artificial/electric lighting.

Tips for Saving Money on Your Water Bill

  • Cut off two minutes from your average shower time. Taking a five minute shower only uses 10-25 gallons of water.
  • When washing clothing, make sure you use a full load of laundry. This, along with using a high efficiency washer, can save on water bills.
  • When washing clothes turn the water temperature to cold. It uses much less energy.
  • When washing dishes by hand, don't let the water run. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Check for leaks throughout your home and be sure to fix them.

Outdoor Dual Trash/Recycling Bins

Earth Tub Composting Systems

Green Roof on Zurn Ceramics Lab

Indoor Recycling Bin Upgrades

Trash Pickup around Erie County

Beach Cleanup at Presque Isle