SUNY is one of the state’s largest energy consumers, with a utility and vehicle fuels budget of $250 million. By 2020, SUNY has a goal to reduce system-wide non-renewable energy consumption by 30%. This energy conservation goal is challenging but is achievable, based on behavioral changes, technology and reexamining business as usual, without forgetting our core mission of educating our students for their future. We are working to coordinate and spearhead significant energy reduction and food measures across the SUNY system through implementation of strategic policies and sharing of best practices. With an enrollment of 465,000 students, SUNY is responsible for educating students on the social and environmental effects of consuming resources as well as exposing students to the global complexities they will be faced with after their collegiate years. Such complexities include over population, deforestation, over- harvested oceans, rising temperatures, and fresh water, energy and food shortages. With all of our students and more than 2.7 million alumni worldwide, the Office of Sustainability wants to play a role in creating a generation of environmental stewards and leaders who will work towards solving these global complexities.
Eric Mazzone, P.E., PhD.
The SUNY Office of Sustainability "Featured Campus" showcases an innovative sustainability-related initiative on a SUNY campus. It not only recognizes the school for striving to become more sustainable but also affords other SUNY institutions with an opportunity to learn and collaborate on related sustainability initiatives. The SUNY Office of Sustainability is interested in your cutting-edge sustainability story. What is happening at your campus that will help propel sustainability at other SUNY campuses?
Dr. Cornelius B Murphy Jr is past President of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Neil, as a faculty member of the Department of Environmental Resource Engineering at SUNY ESF, is teaching a course this semester entitled, “Water – An Incredible Journey”. The course begins with the “Origin of Water on Planet Earth” and concludes with a lecture entitled, “Solar System and Exoplanet Search for Water". Neil challenges his students and the SUNY sustainability community with the idea that if we can recycle more than 90% of the water on the International Space Station, we should be able to do a better job on Earth.
In 2012, in a collaborative effort with the 5 Gyres institute and the Flagship Niagara League, Dr. Sherri A. Mason lead the first-ever survey of plastic pollution within the Great Lakes. Not only was the abundance of plastic pollution within the Great Lakes comparable, or in some cases greater than, the most polluted areas of the sea, the vast majority of this plastic particulate were less than 1 millimeter in size. The concern here is that the smaller the plastic particle the more easily it is ingested by aquatic organisms. The Mason research group found that 1)Plastic abundances increase as you follow the flow of water through the system; 2)One of the main sources of these tiny plastic particles is water treatment plants that are unable to remove microbeads and microfibers from personal care products (toothpastes, body washes, etc); and 3) These tiny plastic particles increase in count as you move up the trophic level (akin to bioaccumulation).
The plastic particles per square kilometer within the surface waters of the Great Lakes are: Lake Superior, 8,000; Lake Huron, 6,000; Lake Michigan 28,000; Lake Erie, 46,000; and Lake Ontario 280,000. To-date the group has analyzed 18 species (17 fish species and the double-crested cormorant) from multiple trophic levels. Every species analyzed thus far has contained some amount of plastic. Counts per specimen and per species are highly variable, as could be expected given differing size, trophic level and feeding habitats, however, it does appear that lower trophic level organisms have smaller counts, which increase with the trophic level.
The South Campus Runoff and Pedestrian Project is an effort to remediate groundwater and reduce storm water runoff among several residence halls on the SUNY Oneonta campus. The project integrates green infrastructure practices to remediate runoff from a 21-acre zone of campus. The focus of the project is the construction of a bio-retention system which incorporates redirecting the outflow of a portion of the 1960s-vintage storm water system, terracing of an adjacent 30 degree slope, installing a 600’ permeable pavement pedestrian pathway, and planting suitable low maintenance native species along the slopes. This project is the subject of a $910,000 Green Infrastructure Grant Program award from the State of New York.
In October of 2012, Kate Spector (Mathematics Department) and Grace Maxon-Clarke (Educational Opportunity Program) traveled to Havana, Cuba to study the role of women in sustainable development. During their stay, they visited a neighborhood community employing permaculture techniques as a means to create and support an urban agricultural hub. Captivated by the power of permaculture to transform communities, Kate and Grace began working on bringing permaculture to their own campus, SUNY Oswego. Working with SUNY Oswego’s Sustainability Office and a newly formed permaculture committee, they drafted and presented a proposal to the College Council to create a ¾-acre “Permaculture Living Lab” (PLL). In May 2014 the lab was approved to be installed adjacent to the Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation. Surrounded by Lake Ontario and the Oswego River, efforts to protect local waterways are a major consideration in the design of the PLL. Fueled by student volunteer efforts, ‘huglekultur’ beds were installed, on contour, on steep grounds at the PLL. During times of drought, these beds will act as water reserves that slowly release water back to surrounding vegetation. During rainy times, these beds will act as sponges and absorb runoff, thus diminishing erosion. Additionally, the site design will include a water catchment system. Rainwater will be caught on the garden shed and stored for later use. To assess baseline site conditions and effectiveness of these techniques, wireless environmental sensors will be placed throughout the site. These sensors will monitor air quality, soil moisture and pH levels, and temperature.To learn more about the Permaculture Living Lab or get involved, please check out: www.oswego.edu/permaculture or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sunyozpll.