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Case Study > Kathleen Schreiber's Environmentally Driven Life


Kathleen Schreiber’s Environmentally Driven Life

Kathleen Schreiber

Have you ever wondered what Millersville University is doing in order to make their campus the most environmentally efficient it can be? Kathleen Schreiber can be the one to not only educate you on the ever-changing environmental concerns of our world, but she is also an active member on the Millersville University president’s Task force for a Sustainable Campus, where environmental decisions evolve and are implemented.

Dutch Wonderland project (Click here for video)




Living Green in Kathleen's Home

Hybrid Vehicles

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Programmable Thermostats

Natural Lawn Care

Installing a Swale

Teaching Future Generations About the Importance of the Environment

Educating Millersville

Service Learning Projects

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Green Projects at Millersville

Presidents Taskforce for a Sustainable Campus

Dutch Wonderland Partnership: Creating an Environmental Greenway

Kathleen's Scholarly Research Projects

Climate Change's Affect on Disease Around the World



Kathleen Schreiber exemplifies a passion for one of the most precious and irreplaceable aspects of our world; the environment. Between her sustainability efforts in her home, her education of students, her position on the Millersville University sustainability task force and her involvement in the research field of environmental studies, Kathleen exerts all of the characteristics of a true green citizen. Her passion for going green is evident just in a simple conversation, where her demeanor is obviously excited and anxious to spread the word about the environments need.


portrait of Kathleen


Living Green in Kathleen’s Home

Hybrid Vehicles

Kathleen’s green living begins in some of the simplest ways, in her very own home. Her family and her have hopes of owning a hybrid car in the near future, but until they are able to afford the more expensive hybrid car, they choose to drive a fuel-efficient Honda CVCC, which gets on average 30 miles per the gallon.

There are numerous advantages, both environmentally and, in the long run, financially to owning a Hybrid for the car owner. On the environmental front, the simplest of benefits is that of the lack of pollution which they cause through carbon dioxide emissions. In a report published in 2007 by the US Department of Energy, it is stated that a traditional car consumes approximately 344.8 gallons of gasoline when driving 10,000 miles in distance. On the other hand when driving a Hybrid car the same amount of distance, it will use, on average, only 263.2 gallons of gasoline.

Additionally, in the same report, it is stated that Hybrid vehicles create about 294 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, which is about 158 grams less than the conventional vehicle. These numbers exemplify how much of an impact an individual can make, just imagine what effect an entire population could have when making similar changes.

On the finical front, hybrid cars do tend to be more expensive than traditional cars, but over the past few years the government has instituted a program where they are granting thousands of dollars in tax credits and breaks, in attempt to persuade American’s to purchase these environmentally friendly vehicles. For example, if Kathleen were to purchase an American-made Hybrid car, she could get up to a $1,500 in tax breaks, and as a result, off-set the higher costs of the vehicle.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Although purchasing a Hybrid car is out of reach for Kathleen at this point, other simple environmentally friendly things are financially plausible. For example, Kathleen has successfully switched all of her traditional light bulbs in her home over to compact florescent bulbs. In the past few years, florescent light bulbs have significantly decreased in price and increased in availability. When they were first introduced they were all very similar in both size and shape, but in recent years they have evolved into being much more decorative and universal, making them more useful for all.

Kathleen also emphasized that main environmental benefit which compact florescent light bulbs inhibit, which is the smaller amount of mercury which they emit after being disposed of. Traditional light bulbs contain about 500 milligrams of mercury, while compact fluorescent light bulbs contain just a mere 4 milligrams. This difference is astounding and making this easy change can surely make a huge positive change for our environment.

Along with the lower mercury levels, come the additional benefits which the homeowner reaps financially, in comparison to traditional bulbs. It has been proven that fluorescent light bulbs will save a home owner approximately $30 over the lifetime of the bulb, and consequently pay for itself over about six months.

With this being said there is still mercury contained within the glass tubing, which needs to be disposed of properly. It is recommended by the EPA that when a compact fluorescent light burns out that the consumer take the bulbs to local recycling plants. At these plants they have proper ways to dispose of the light bulbs, preventing as much mercury pollution as possible.

Besides the savings in money, the light bulb also uses approximately 75% less energy and lasts ten times longer than the previously used incandescent bulbs, consequently saving the homeowner money on their electric bill as well. These advantages are all great incentives for Kathleen to be encouraged to employ this small, yet impactful change in her home.

Programmable Thermostats

The implementation of a programmable thermostat is another green initiative that Kathleen has employed in her home, which has also made a vast difference in her energy saving process. A programmable thermostat is a thermostat which Kathleen can pre-program to control her home’s temperature all throughout the year, at all times while she is away during the day or asleep at night. She explained that she typically has the thermostat programmed to turn on one hour before she usually arrives home at night, and has it turn off one hour after she is settled in bed at night. The effectiveness of a programmable thermostat is evident when considering that the average household can save about $180 a year on their energy bills by putting a programmable thermostat into use.

It is evident that when Kathleen employs these tactics inside of her home that she is not only helping the environment but that she is also saving money in the long run. Considering that she has many people in her home that depend on her, any money which she can save by implementing these simple and environmentally friendly steps is greatly appreciated.

Natural Lawn Care

The tactics which she employs extend outside of her home’s wall and into her backyard as well. When working in her yard, Kathleen chooses to never use any herbicides or pesticides on weeds or other unwanted plants. These chemicals have been proven to have many adverse effects on the environment which they are used. One main problem which arises when using herbicides and pesticides is that a majority of them are non-biodegradable. Waste which is non-biodegradable will not break down, either at all, or ever. Typical examples of this are plastics, glass, and plastic bags. As a result the use, the use of herbicides and pesticides can leave long-lasting effects on the surrounding area which they are used.

There is also proof that these chemicals can be slightly toxic and can cause illness in not only animals, but also humans who may be exposed to them. The National Cancer Research Institute has had much probable cause to suspect that they have can lead to certain cancers, such as cancers of the prostate, the stomach, and the brain. The use of these chemicals is also known to adversely affect infants and children, due to their susceptibility to disease at a young.

When taking a glimpse at more specific chemicals, it has been proven that the herbicide Glyphosate can cause painful eye and skin irritations as well as upper respiratory problems to humans. Another herbicide commonly referred to as Paraquat, is also proven to cause irritations to the skin and can even lead to accidental or suicidal death. These unnatural chemicals can also easily be transported to a widespread location, considering they often seep into steams and local waterways, and in effect polluting underground water supplies. As a result, many, including Kathleen, have chosen to exclude these toxic chemicals from their backyards, and instead weed the old fashioned way, by hand.

Installing a Swale

One additional environmental initiative that Kathleen’s family uses outside of their home is a swale. A swale is a grassy swallow which is put into the ground by either the developer or the homeowner. In Kathleen’s instance the swale was part of the selling point for her when she purchased her house several years ago. Its purpose is to collect a heavy storm’s water runoff from the surrounding streets, driveways, and rooftops.

Not only is this a natural way to collect water, but the grass where the water ends up, also removes pollutants from the water which it collects as it seeps into the soil. Another purpose of the swale is to increase the infiltration of rainwater. Kathleen described that her swale filters excess rainwater from her street into her backyard horizontally, where it slowly seeps into the ground and runs into a nearby stream. The rainwater has been such an issue in her suburban neighborhood due to the excess pavement of the surrounding area. Maintaining and advocating the use of her swale is just one more way in which Kathleen operates an environmentally forward and sustainable household.

Teaching Future Generations about the Importance of the Environment

Educating Millersville

Aside from Kathleen’s initiatives at her home, she admits that most of passion and efforts are geared towards influencing and educating future generations about a plethora of environmental issues, which will have a great affect on them in their lifetimes. She is a professor at Millersville University, teaching a multitude of environmentally driven geography classes to students, ranging from freshman to seniors. Some of her classes include Resources and the Environment, Climate and Society, Biogeography, and an Environmental Impact Assessment to Geography majors.

Her lower level Resources and the Environment class is a multi-faceted class where students learn about an extensive range of environmental problems in North America and ways in which they can be slowed or righted. The topics are looked at from a perspective of interrelatedness to one another.

Service Learning Projects

To supplement the learning material, students are also required to participate in multiple service learning projects. One of the main projects which students are involved in is a partnership with Penn Manor elementary school where the college students serve as role models to the elementary students. In teams, all of the students are required to monitor water quality in a local stream in effort to initiate and implement stream improvements in the future, through the data which they collect.

Other service learning projects which Kathleen has her students participate in include serving on civic environmental boards, partaking in river and highway clean ups, lobbying for protection of the local Serpentine Barrens, and riparian buffer, which is a vegetated area near a stream which acts as shade and protection from nearby land usage, and maintenance for the Little Conestoga Watershed. Involvement in all of these worthwhile initiatives not only helps in the protection of the local environment, but it also gives students a hands-on learning experience, which will be something that is more likely to leave a lasting impact on their young and impressionable minds.

In Kathleen’s upper level classes she narrows her focus to issues concerning climate change, the design of environmentally friendly buildings, issues revolving around biodiversity loss and finally how to asses all of these issues through the completion of an environmental impact assessments.

Kathleen also stresses that the continent of Europe is much more advanced than the United States in their initiatives to prevent further destruction to our environment, in her classes. After many recommendations were made by an independent organization entitled the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), individual countries were given the opportunity to implement those recommendations in their countries. As a result, the world as a whole can have the opportunity to save our vulnerable environment on a united front.

A majority of the countries in Europe took this advice to heart and took various steps to do something positive for the world. Although the United States has been overwhelmingly supportive of the panel and its research, they have done next to nothing, in comparison to Europe, to make something happen. With our countries position as a world leader, Kathleen emphasizes that it is our responsibility to be leaders on environmental progress, as opposed to sitting on the back burner, leaving the work up to others. For these reasons, it is obvious how important education on these subjects and issues truly is.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

One additional educational project which Kathleen takes part in at Millersville University is entitled Research Experiences for Undergrads. For the past three summers she has had the opportunity to mentor one intern as they complete data collection of how the impact of land use and precipitation events effects stream nitrate concentrations in Lancaster. The study was initiated when it was realized that nitrate concentrations in the Chesapeake Bay seemed to decline in a period of time between 1999 and 2002, where there were recorded drought conditions. It was previously assumed that this occurred because during these dry times there are fewer opportunities for run off to occur, which inevitably would carry pollution to the water ways as well. The students’ job is to determine if this presumption holds true, as well as to determine if land use has anything to do with the amount of pollution which occurs.

In order to either prove or disprove this theory the students had the responsibility of collecting stream water quality data using the LaMotte water quality test kits in urban, agricultural, and forested areas all throughout the Susquehanna Valley. Once the results have been collected, their will be better evidence of a link between amounts of precipitation and water quality of rivers which lead to the Chesapeake Bay.

At the end of the research project, all of the students who have participated, along with Kathleen, will have their names published as co-authors of the final manuscript and be able to better understand how to collect data, analyze data, and draw conclusions. All of these tools will, inevitably, be extremely valuable resources for their future studies or careers.

Green Projects at Millersville

Presidents Task force for a Sustainable Campus

Beyond her role as an educator at Millersville, Kathleen also holds a place on the Presidents Task Force for a Sustainable Campus. This newly formed task force will come together to make recommendations and suggestions to those who allocate funds and resources to particular projects, all in effort to making Millersville a more green and sustainable campus. A sustainable campus can defined as a conscious attempt to go with the grain of nature, by learning to understand the natural world and mankind’s place in it.

This task force is under is operating under the belief that all businesses, including that of Millersville University, have the responsibility to make some sort of difference in the world. The concept that things which are helpful to the environment can also be positive for a business is becoming more popularized, particularly in reference to Fortune 500 companies.

With this being said, it is also obvious that many typical business practices are not necessarily environmentally friendly. Considering the amounts of paper and pollution which many businesses generate, the notion of being environmentally friendly can sometimes become more difficult to attain. Although, with much effort and planning, it is plausible for any organization to become a green business.

There has been an enormous amount of support for sustainability from all sectors, but particularly from the federal government, in recent years. In 2008, former President Bush approved a Higher Education Opportunity Act, which resulted in multiple provisions for the progression and development of campus sustainability. This innovative law gives colleges and universities the opportunity to develop research and academic programs pertaining to sustainability through the use of government grants. The law also encourages these institutions as well as federal and business officials to endorse sustainability practices.

According to Kathleen’s research for the task force, the National Wildlife Federation is the organization who has conducted the largest study on various trends of sustainability at the college level. Their findings show that many colleges are implementing a multitude of sustainable practices, but their education practices are still lacking in incorporating sustainability material in their classrooms.

In order to better inform students across the nation, who are concerned with colleges green practices, the Princeton Review has even begun including a rating on how green a college is in its recommendations. All of this research and efforts truly show how pertinent the topic of green living and sustainability is and needs to be for our future generations.

As a result of all of the plethora of research and resulted trends in environmental activism, the Presidents Task force for a Sustainable Campus here at Millersville has developed a goal to operate our campus in a way that we are making efforts to solve social and environmental problems as opposed to cause them. Their feat is to not only improve the quality of living for their students and community, but also for the planet as a whole.

In order to take the first steps towards sustainability, the task force has recommended that President McNairy and her Cabinet members begin a three-stage process, which will, hopefully, result in a more sustainable campus. The first stage would consist of creating a permanent standing sustainability committee here at Millersville. This committee would consist of members from various groups around campus, all of which would have equal say in the decision making. Their would also be one chair appointed to the committee as well as a graduate student to support and guide the task force’s actions.

The second two stages would be small steps to reach the final goal of having one full-time employee in charge of the sustainability committee. According to Kathleen, once this committee has been finalized many new green projects will begin. Talks of things such as solar panels and other alternatives to traditional energy sources are all hopes for the future here at Millersville.

Dutch Wonderland Partnership: Creating an Environmental Greenway

An additional new and exciting project which is in the planning stages is a project where Millersville University has teamed up with Dutch Wonderland amusement park to develop and institute a green project in their park. According to the website, Dutch Wonderland has been a leader in the “green scene” with initiatives such as their comprehensive recycling program which endorses green habits through a group of strolling characters who call themselves the “Knights of the Recyclables”. Through games and songs, the characters encourage children to recycle, both in the park and at home.

In order to continue this trend of going green, the amusement park approached Millersville to create and implement an environmental greenway at the far side of their property, a few months ago. A greenway is an area which has an abundance of things from nature, such as grassy areas, flowers, and trees, amidst an area which is predominantly covered with pavement. More specifically Dutch Wonderland wants to utilize this area as a place where families can eat and relax together when they need a break from the hustle and bustle of the trademark rides and crowds.

Besides the picnic tables and the relaxing environment, the park also plans to add several different hands-on stations where kids can visit to learn about a variety of different environmental initiatives. An assortment of stations will include information and activities about things such as how participants can reduce their carbon foot print by recycling, how they can save money and energy in their homes, and what other alternatives there are to traditional energy sources, beyond what they already know and use.

Kathleen is very excited about this project and the experience it will provide for those who students and faculty whom have the opportunity to work directly with the park and the project. She believes that combining these educational experiences with the memorable fun which Dutch Wonderland already provides for children, will make for an excellent day of learning and fun for children and parents alike.

Kathleen’s Scholarly Research Projects

Climate Change’s Affect on Disease Around the World

Beyond the multitude of projects which Kathleen is involved in at home and at Millersville, she has recently been recruited to participate in a joint research project with Penn State University. This project’s goal is analyze and make conclusions on how climate change is expected to influence dengue as well as malaria in endemic areas around the world.

Dengue is the leading cause of illness and death in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It is stated that more than 100 million people are infected with one of the four viruses which causes dengue each year. Due to the fact that there is not yet a cure for this disease, the death toll is extremely high.

Malaria affects many of the same locations and people. It is most commonly mosquito-bourne and caused by a parasite. Approximately one million people die needlessly every year due to complications of malaria, due to the fact that it can be prevented with the simple use of mosquito nets.

These two deadly diseases have been on the rise in the past few years, raising many questions as to why and why now. One of the main differences which have been noticed is the fact that the climate has been gradually changing over this period of time, due to global warming. It is the job of the primary researchers of this study to determine if this correlation, indeed, holds true.

There has been previous research done on this subject, but this focused more on how climate change impacts human health in general, as opposed to how the climate change has impacted these two specific diseases. In this previous research, it was estimated that more than 150,000 lives have been taken due to disease directly related to climate change. Some of the things which have been attributed to climate change include cardiovascular problems, respiratory illness, disease, and malnutrition as a result of crop failures.

All of the data which was collected in these previous research projects is not very well-rounded, due to the novelty of these issues. This combined with the fact that it is all extremely coarse, broad, and vague data, resulted in the need for some updated research endeavors.

In order to achieve the research goals of the joint venture, the researchers have set out to alter the data, in order to make it more geographically and disease specific, through a technique called downscaling. It is Kathleen’s job to formulate new and improved means of downscaling, which then can be applied to various hotspots around the world were these diseases are most prevalent. Her tasks may be more difficult than those who are just completing primary research, due to the fact that she is venturing into uncharted land, where few techniques have previously existed.


It is safe to say that Kathleen Schreiber is an environmentally friendly and progressive member of not only Lancaster, but also the world. Her efforts at home, in the classroom, and in the field of environmental studies are nothing less than admirable. She is a role model for her peers as well as for the future generations which these problems and issues will most dramatically effect. Following her lead on the road to sustainability would most definitely result in not only a more environmentally friendly Millersville, but also a more environmentally friendly and appreciative world.









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