An intro to (green) Penn

PennGreen pre-orientation program

The PennGreen pre-orientation program that student leaders are planning for August 2009 will give incoming freshman a “green” introduction to both Penn and Philadelphia.

This year, though, the PennGreen initiative was held for the 14 student leaders who will lead next year’s incoming freshmen through their environmentally themed pre-orientation program. The program is also designed to help incoming students connect with other like-minded peers. “We really see it as an introduction to Penn, to Philadelphia, and to their peers through an environmental lens, giving them a head start on what’s happening at Penn and in Philadelphia in terms of green or sustainable efforts,” says Laura Boudreau W’10, student leader of the PennGreen initiative.

In order to help figure out exactly what kinds of programs would appeal to next year’s incoming freshmen, Boudreau organized the week-long PennGreen leadership training program, in which students visited local sites, met with experts and immersed themselves in environmental and sustainable issues.

The students sat down with faculty from across campus, as well as with administrators from Facilities and Real Estate Services and Penn Dining to discuss how the University hopes to make itself a more sustainable place. They also learned about the Schuylkill River and Philadelphia’s watershed at the Waterworks Interpretative Center, and volunteered to collect recyclable materials between innings at a Phillies game.

One of the most impressive trips that Boudreau hopes to replicate at next year’s pre-orientation program was their visit to and community service at Mill Creek Farm (pictured), an urban garden located at 49th and Brown streets in northwest Philadelphia. The farm, which utilizes solar power and composts waste, impressed Boudreau and her peers, who saw the impact the farm has had on young people in the neighborhood who spent time at the farm and were well-versed in vegetable lore.

To help devise the pilot program, Boudreau tapped her friend and fellow environmentalist, Bob Goldman C’10, who grew up just outside Philadelphia. Goldman’s regional knowledge was incredibly important when the two sat down to figure out places to visit that were fun, educational and connected to students in some way.

“We took a tour of the Morris Arboretum through an environmental lens,” she says. “The Arboretum is something that is pretty accessible to students.”

Boudreau, who is an active environmentalist on campus and serves on the executive board of Penn Environmental Group, the Environmental Sustainability Council and the Recyclemania committee, says she definitely learned from the pilot program.

“Every event and activity that we went to, you couldn’t help but take something away,” she says. “[For example] I try to buy local food, but I had no idea what an urban farm would look like. It just made me appreciate more what I do, and how I try to incorporate sustainability into my lifestyle.”
In her two years at the University, Boudreau has been impressed with the amount of resources and efforts to improve environmental awareness on campus.

“In the past two years, Penn’s attitude has really changed,” she says. “The PennGreen program is proof of that—there’s so much support of the program.”

Originally published Sept. 18, 2008

Originally published on September 18, 2008