In January 1971 during a new winter session called Intersession, all Messiah students took a week-long course—"Man and His Environmental Problems"—on the theme of ecology and environmental concerns. During this session students read classics of the environmental movement—“The Population Bomb” by Paul Erlich, “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, and “No Deposit, No Return: Man and His Environment,” edited by Huey Johnson. Students were powerfully impacted by the course, and Faculty Meeting Minutes from February 1971 indicate that Student Senate had sent a letter proposing "population control, support of all legislation dealing with ecology and population limiting, and support of ecology candidates."*
In 1971, students started EnCon, an environmental concern organization that hosted special programs and awareness days about environmental issues. One enthusiastic, but failed, initiative included designating a day when cars would not be allowed to drive to or park on campus in order to create awareness about pollution.
By the early 1980s, the general education course "Man and his Environmental Problems" required students to develop projects that increased awareness about environmental issues. To fulfill the project requirement, two students began a campuswide recycling program that collected material from residences, classrooms, and offices. These recycling efforts led the students to establish Earthkeepers, a student organization with creation care as its focus.
Over the years, Messiah College has continued to build on its sustainability efforts. The effort that really started it—the recycling program—is now a robust effort from which many other initiatives have grown, earning the College designation as a notable “green” campus by both Christian and secular sources.
Students aren't the only ones committed to sustainability. President Kim Phipps has signed both the American College and University President's Climate Commitment, a good-faith agreement committing Messiah to reduce global warming emissions and to achieve climate neutrality, and the Evangelical Call to Action on Climate Change, an initiative among faith-based organizations to works towards solving the global warming crisis.
Just in the last several years, Messiah College has taken important steps to strengthen sustainability by creating the necessary structures to enhance and further a cohesive effort across the institution.
Alumni Francis Eanes and Daniel Webster drafted a white paper to aid the College in climate action planning.
A Sustainability Studies Committee was established to give governance to the newly created major.
The Sustainability Studies major is officially launched.
In the 2009-2012 “Plan for Messiah,” the president situates sustainability, both through the newly formed academic program and operations, as a vehicle to strengthen the College’s mission. (Strategic Theme 3, goals 3 & 4)
The Sustainability Committee is established to work with the part-time Sustainability Coordinator to give leadership to advancing campus-wide initiatives.
A “green” tour of campus is implemented through the placement of signs around campus highlighting various departments’ efforts to practice creation care.
The half-time coordinator role evolves into a full-time position to give programmatic leadership and development to campus-wide sustainability initiatives.
*information from "Shared Faith, Bold Vision, Enduring Promise: The Maturing Years of Messiah College" by Paul Nisly. 2010.