Click here for Full article in Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Article by JESSE ADCOCK
SARANAC LAKE — Around 100 turned out for a climate change symposium at the First Presbyterian Church of Saranac Lake, where the issue was discussed at the national, community and individual levels.
Titled “Climate Action: What are we doing about climate change?,” the symposium was organized by Adirondack Voters for Change, and co-sponsored by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Paul Smith’s College, First Presbyterian Church of Saranac Lake and TriLakes350.org.
“I wanted to focus on the action part,” said event organizer Ellen Beberman, committee chair of Adirondack Voters for Change. “For anything to change, it has to go from top to bottom. The whole society has to change. .. so the focuses went national, state, local, individual.
First to present was Richard Brandt, a research meteorologist from the University of Washington and current manager of SUNY Albany’s Whiteface Mountain Field Station, monitoring air quality.
“We just recently have developed a collaboration with Rochester and Harvard and SUNY Plattsburgh, and have a remarkable instrument that’s measuring the CO2 every few seconds, as well as the methane,” Brandt said, of the field station.
He said they’ve recorded a CO2 level increase from 350 to 420 ppm in recent history, and have been detecting increases in methane as well, from fracking in Pennsylvania. These greenhouse gas buildups cause hotter temperatures, faster ice melt in the world’s polar regions and rising sea levels.
“I wish I could tell more positive stories, but this is the story of climate,” Brandt said. “From the science perspective, what I’m trying to say is time is of the essence.
Next, Paul Smith’s College professor Joe Henderson, Ph.D., presented on the social dynamics of climate change, and the Green New Deal.
“Younger Americans are more worried than older Americans, which makes sense, given that they are the ones that are going to suffer the most from this,” Henderson said.
There is good news: the American people are very slowly moving toward acceptance, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
“Gradually, people are accepting it in the United States,” Henderson said. “Doubt around the science has been diminished.”
Henderson said Millennials are most likely to identify climate change as a problem — even Millennial Republicans.
“There’s a generational thing,” Henderson said. “We are the only advanced country in the world that has one political party that denies the science of climate change.”
Cathy Brown, a volunteer with the North Country chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, presented on the Carbon Dividend Act. It’s a bipartisan piece of legislation that would add a carbon tax onto industries that use fossil fuels, to drive the market toward renewable energy sources.
“At this late stage, I don’t think any one bill is going to be enough. We’re going to need a number of tools and I think this is a really important one,” Brown said.
At the community level, municipalities have the option of working with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to be designated Clean Energy Communities.
Kate Glenn, sustainability coordinator at Paul Smith’s College, laid out the basics of the program — with the state offering incentives, like matching grant funding, for communities that work to reduce their carbon footprint.
“It’s a toolkit that the state was able to create,” said Patrick Murphy, village trustee and member of the village Climate Smart Committee. “We can pick and choose exactly what’s going to work best for Saranac Lake.”
Next, Emmet Smith, co-founder of Northern Power and Light, explained the benefits of supporting local renewable power generators.
“My thesis here to today is talk about electricity choices,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of opportunities for people in the North Country to be able to choose a renewable electricity supply. And it’s one of the simpler things we can all do to mitigate our carbon footprint.”
Typically, when a customer pays the utility for their electricity, they might be paying 15 cents per kilowatt hour.
“Your local powerplant gets 1.5 cents,” Smith said. “You can’t build a new solar array on 1.5 cents, even with state subsidies.”
But through community distributed generation, a new power supply option by the state, a customer can buy a share in a local renewable generator in return for a credit on their utility bill.
“It actually results in a much higher rate for electricity going to the generator,”Smith said.
This means a community can preserve existing assets, like old hydro-electric generators, localize the value of electricity and localize the ownership of renewable generators.
“By localizing the value, ultimately that economic power gives you the ability to localize control,” he said.
Betsy Brooks, head of technical services and automation with the Clinton, Essex and Franklin Library system presented on the “Drawdown” project, which compiled 100 strategies for reversing global warming. Strategies range from city planning, to the individual behaviors to reduce human impact on the environment.
Top solutions included practicing a plant-rich diet, reducing food waste, preserving tropical forests and building offshore wind turbines and rooftop solar panels.
The Rev. Joann White, pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Saranac Lake, presented on faith and climate change. She recounted being in theological seminary, and asking a professor what God created the earth from. White said the professor replied that God used his own self, and therefore, all of creation is sacred. She outlined some of the efforts her congregation has undertaken, from hikes to renovating the building to be more energy efficient.
Beberman said the symposium was not a one time thing, and that Adirondack Voters for Change plans to organize more climate-related community events, like a panel discussion with North Country politicians.
This article was written by PSC Student and Sustainability Assistant Hannah Rion
Do you ever think about the amount of food you produce in a day, a week, or a month? How about the amount of food that doesn’t even see a fork or spoon, but just gets tossed in the trash? That has been the sad story for the food scraps that are produced in our culinary labs here at Paul Smith’s College. In fact, three years ago there was a campus-wide program known as “Food Scraps for Pigs” where pre-consumer food waste from Cantwell, as well as the dining hall was being used by Atlas Hoofed It Farm, in Vermontville, NY, to feed pigs. There were challenges with pickup and consistent collection of scraps, so the program wasn’t continued, but recently Emily Sommer’s Farm to Table class has partnered with Sustainability Coordinator Kate Glenn and Jake Vennie-Vollrath of Moonstone Farm, to collect and donate our food scraps to Moonstone Farm for animal feed and compost.
The Farm to Table culinary class, part of the new two-year accelerated culinary program, was visiting Moonstone Farm on a monthly basis, “to get their hands dirty and learn more about the ins and outs of running a small farm in the Adirondacks”, as Jake explained to me. The class also started to brainstorm ideas on how to solve some of the problems the farm was facing. One of these lurking issues happened to be “inputs” and soil health, which Jake was currently sourcing compost from Vermont to solve. Thus caused Emily and the class to start thinking they could have a real potential impact if they were to start diverting the pre-consumer waste from the culinary labs here on campus to Moonstone Farm. Emily then mentioned the project to Kate Glenn, Sustainability Coordinator for the college, and so the wheels began to turn. Kate Glenn then organized a planning meeting with the facilities department, Sodexo, and Emily to develop and establish a written plan and procedures for the project. During the meeting it was discussed who would collect the buckets, how they would be delivered and other remaining logistics. With the purchase of five gallon buckets, funded by the Sustainability Grant, the project was officially up-and-running. Additionally, Kate brought in the support from Sodexo to have the dining hall’s pre-consumer food waste also be diverted to the farm.
“Moonstone Farm specializes in growing heirloom vegetables organically and healthy soils grow tastier vegetables”, says Jake. The food waste serves a variety of purposes on the farm, such as feeding chickens directly, feeding mealworms and black soldier flies which eventually feed the chickens, while the rest is “…composted to create organic matter for our greenhouses, hopyard, fruit trees/bushes, and vegetable fields.” In the short time of a month, the dining hall has collected 218.2 pounds of pre-consumer food waste thanks to the help of Sodexo employees. Meanwhile, the Culinary Department has gathered 251.2 pounds with the help of students and instructors. Evidently, this diversion of food waste is serving an extremely more purposeful objective than it would sitting in a landfill spewing off methane gas Furthermore, this practice allows for a decrease in the heavy food waste facilities has to dispose of, and can be reflected on the college’s Greenhouse Gas Report, which tracks the production of methane.
Pre-consumer food waste is often overlooked when discussing composting practices, causing it to become a growing problem. This type of composting specifically focuses on the scraps that are a byproduct of food preparation. Food loss and waste accounts for about 4.4 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) per year. To put this in perspective, if food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest GHG emitter – surpassed only by China and the United States” (“Food Waste Facts”). A large portion of this food waste could be gold for many farmers in helping them restore nutrients to their soil. Jake shares that, “Not only is reducing food waste (or redirecting it to better uses) economically smart, it might be the easiest thing that we can do to address global warming.” The implementation of more programs like these across the United States is essential to help combat the negative effects of food waste. This project serves as a perfect example of discovering an issue and developing a working solution.
Both Emily and Jake believe the program is working extremely well, however, they share high hopes for the future. Jake shared with me that this partnership has inspired him to “think bigger” and someday he hopes “…to soon obtain all of PSC’s food waste for composting and assist the college in making it completely food waste free.” The farm is also currently working on plans for a larger drum composter that could handle more volume and produce compost more efficiently than the existing compost piles. As for Emily and her Farm to Table class, she says, “The main reason for our Farm to Table class was so that the students can appreciate more where their food is coming from, how much work goes into getting it in their fridges and on their tables. So adding the composting buckets was just another step into appreciating our food that much more.”
The Smitty Sustainability Committee fully supports the efforts of all the people involved in this project, especially the students who are filling the buckets with proper pre-consumer food scraps. The committee is currently working with the dining hall to design an effective program to tackle post-consumer food waste on campus. We will be implementing a separate bin labeled compost and providing signage that educates students on what they can scrape into the bin later in the spring semester. Combating food waste is an extremely critical issue that needs action sooner, rather than later. By keeping the conversation and programs like this going, everyone involved hopes to have a significant positive impact.
Would you like to make a difference on campus? You can learn more about the possibility of funding from the Sustainability Grant by reaching out to Hannah Rion, Sustainability Grant and Office Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting https://www.paulsmiths.edu/sustainability/campus-sustainability-fund/
Paul Smith’s College has recently expanded its options for energy sourcing, enabling college officials to balance the use of energy on campus while also supporting the regional economy. PSC has recently joined the Feel Good Heat Initiative, coordinated by the Northern Forest Center, as well as made an agreement to receive electric power from a hydroelectric plant in St. Regis Falls. These two partnerships complement the college’s existing use of wood pellet fuel sourced locally in Massena.
The Feel Good Heat Initiative promotes economic and community vitality as well as strong forest stewardship in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York, by promoting automated wood heat — whole-building, integrated wood pellet boiler systems that can replace an oil or propane boiler.
“By transitioning to automated wood heat, institutions, businesses and homeowners in New York can keep their heating dollars at home and support local jobs and local businesses while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Leslie Karasin, the Adirondack program manager for the Northern Forest Center. “We applaud Paul Smith’s College for making a commitment to helping us promote this opportunity, which is such a great fit for the forest-based economy that the college celebrates. We encourage everyone in the area to check out feelgoodheat.org to learn more about no-fuss options to heat with local wood pellets.”
Meanwhile, the college has also signed on as an early customer for Northern Power & Light, a Saranac Lake-based company with a hydro facility in St. Regis Falls. Similar to rooftop solar, electricity from the generator creates a credit on customers’ utility bills.
“These are our local resources,” said Northern Power & Light co-founder Emmett Smith. “It used to be that you paid a local company, like Paul Smith’s Electric Light & Power Co., for your electricity. Now, a lot of what you pay goes overseas, while the smaller local power plants are forced to shut down. We want to give local generators a bigger share of the retail price.”
Paul Smith’s also recently installed a pellet boiler to heat three different academic buildings using wood pellets that come from Curran Renewable Energy in Massena. The system, one of the first of its kind in Upstate New York, displaces an estimated 28,000 gallons of heating oil each year. The pellet boiler was installed at a minimal cost for the college, which received grant funding through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, known as NYSERDA.
“The college’s leadership with this pellet boiler installation demonstrates what is possible with this fabulous technology,” said Karasin. “Without having to physically move wood or pellets around, campus staff are able to keep classrooms warm with a local, renewable resource that is 100 percent local.”
These actions will continue to help the institution as it works toward its goal of going carbon neutral by 2029, as outlined in the college’s Climate Action Plan and the American Colleges and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
“What’s powerful about these initiatives is that they don’t just benefit Paul Smith’s — they help build the North Country’s renewable energy infrastructure as a whole,” said Kate Glenn, lecturer and sustainability coordinator at Paul Smith’s.
“By working with NYSERDA, the Northern Forest Center’s Feel Good Heat Initiative and Northern Power & Light, we are supporting local businesses, allowing our students first hand access to new technology, and inviting the public to learn more about these opportunities, all of which is essential to developing climate resilient communities here in the North Country,” Glenn added.
About Paul Smith’s College
At Paul Smith’s College, it’s about the experience. We are the only four-year institution of higher education in the Adirondacks. Our programs – in fields including hospitality, culinary arts, forestry, natural resources, entrepreneurship and the sciences – draw on industries and resources available in our own backyard while preparing students for successful careers anywhere. For more information, visit www.paulsmiths.edu.