Sustainability Works


One of the first students to become involved with the College's Center for Resourceful Living recently returned to MCLA to speak to the community as part of the Vadnais Lecture Series. Frank O'Brien-Bernini, vice president and chief sustainability officer at the Owens Corning Corporation, delivered a lecture entitled "Making Sustainability Work in a Large, Global, Public Company."

O'Brien-Bernini (left), a student in the mid-1970s of Professor Lawrence Vadnais - for whom the lecture series is named - spoke about Owens-Corning and what that company is doing to make itself more sustainable. He shared with students how he and his colleagues endeavor to adhere to green principles, commented on the sustainability industry at large, explained what other companies are doing to become more green, and opened students' eyes to opportunities for careers in this growing field.

Sustainability, according to O'Brien-Bernini, is all about "leading change." Although there is much work to be done, each person can make a difference not only in their daily lives, but in their professional lives, he says.

"We hear so much about corporate interest groups lobbying against green legislation that it was comforting to hear that there are large corporations that are the exception to the rule," says Korinna Dennehey '13 of Lowell, MA. "It is possible to save the planet without sacrificing economic prosperity."

Ericka Oleson '13 of Florida, MA, already knew that the United States consumed more goods than many other nations. "However, it is from companies like Owens-Corning where the true passion and leadership is found," she says. "Owens-Corning, with their safety improvements, greener operations, and greener products are certainly inspiring for a country way above others in energy usage."

Jason Brown '13 of Baldwinville, MA, says that more companies should let the Environmental Protection Agency audit their books because that is a potential way to create a better, cleaner, and greener workplace. "I was encouraged to know that the company is very transparent and shares information that is not just the good," he says.

According to Christine Amor '11 of North Andover, MA, "The main ideas of this presentation were so concretely presented that Frank O'Brien-Bernini made it virtually impossible for one to walk away without learning a thing or two."

Amor says he also gave the students confidence that they could lower their carbon footprint and carry out the knowledge necessary to help others to understand the importance of sustainable living.

Created by former student members of the Center for Resourceful Living - an environmental studies program founded and overseen by Vadnais and his wife, Elizabeth, in the 1970s - the environmental-themed Vadnais Lecture is an endowed series and a permanent part of MCLA's offerings.

The College established the Berkshire Environmental Resource Center (BERC) in 2005 to advance student and faculty research and promote environmental awareness. For more information, go to About_MCLA.