CCPS Professor Hosts First Session in Sustainability Showcase Series

November 27, 2023

April M. Merenda, Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management, B.S. and Program Coordinator for Master of Science in International Hospitality Management degree program in The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies, facilitated a virtual panel discussion on September 26 featuring special guest speaker Peter Barker, Associate Director of Energy and Sustainability at St. John’s University. The panelists explored ways to enhance personal sustainability. 

“Sustainability stands as a core principle with the potential to positively transform our world,” Prof. Merenda said. “Its essence lies in the preservation of our planet’s resources, ensuring a high quality of life for future generations.”

This event marked the inaugural session in a series of sustainability showcases moderated by Prof. Merenda. She is also a member of the Skål International Sustainability Committee and is currently in Australia representing the University’s academic program on sustainability to international members. Prof. Merenda is also learning about Australia's advancements in sustainability since the pandemic.

Mr. Barker’s primary focus at St. John’s involves enhancing building energy efficiency and minimizing the campus’s overall carbon footprint through the upgrade of energy systems. Recent improvements include the installation of new light sensors and boilers in campus buildings.

He explained how an often overlooked but impactful way for people to contribute to sustainability is by simply turning off lights. While automation can play a role, instilling basic behavioral changes, such as adjusting thermostat temperatures or managing windows, is crucial in our collective efforts to reshape the world.

Mr. Barker and his team collaborated with the Department of Campus Facilities and Services on a project to plant a maple tree near Gate 7. This initiative was carried out in partnership with Skål International.

Panelist David P. Hedlund, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Division of Sport Management, emphasized the intricate connection between sports and sustainability, revealing a more profound relationship than one might initially perceive. Numerous sports, particularly those conducted outdoors, face a direct impact from environmental conditions. For example, activities like snowboarding and skiing are contingent on cold temperatures for snow production. 

However, with the ongoing threat of climate change, the future viability of these sports may be jeopardized. Dr. Hedlund shed light on the sustainability efforts within sport arenas, where constant upgrades are being implemented to create a more eco-friendly environment. These initiatives not only contribute to the preservation of our planet, but also generate new employment opportunities for students aspiring to enter the field.

Panelist Emma McClendon, Assistant Professor of Fashion Studies, Division of Administration and Economics, addressed the fashion industry’s historical culpability in generating excessive waste. This waste extends from the utilization of fossil fuels in the production of clothing materials and fibers to the vast quantities of resources involved in the manufacturing process. For example, a single pair of jeans requires much cotton, and a large amount of water is used in cultivating that cotton.

Prof. McClendon proposed a shift toward a more sustainable global supply chain, envisioning a transition from a linear to a circular model. In this paradigm, the fashion industry embraces sustainability at every stage, incorporating environmentally friendly materials in clothing creation, adopting eco-friendly packaging and shipping practices, and encouraging consumers to actively participate in sustainable practices. 

Consumers, in turn, play a pivotal role by researching the materials used in their clothing purchases and contemplating responsible actions when they no longer want a particular item. Possibilities include repurposing the item into something new or reselling it to extend its lifespan.

The webinar concluded with the moderators facilitating a question-and-answer session with students and discussing ways to enhance sustainability on campus.