By Kathryn Vellone
In helping to fulfill our institution’s mission toward greater sustainability in higher education, Paul Smith’s College Center for Campus Sustainability staff will begin using the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) during this spring semester. STARS is a program provided by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and allows for partnering colleges and universities to measure their overall sustainability performance under a uniform method. With STARS, however, sustainability tracking goes way beyond measuring a lower carbon footprint and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. It also encompasses sustainability in an institution’s curriculum, community engagement and diversity, and planning, allowing for continuous improvement in all areas of higher education.
So what are some other perks of the STARS program, especially for our college? First, with some data gathering and reporting, colleges can earn recognition points under the general areas of: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration. Upon accumulation of these points, they can earn a STARS Reporter recognition, or even a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum rating. Second and perhaps more importantly than a high achievement award, the STARS program is TRANSPARENT, meaning that all of our students and staff can view our performance at any time through the program website, and be included in a global community committed to sustainability advancement.
For more information on the STARS reporting system and how it can benefit Paul Smith’s College, visit www.stars.aashe.org, or feel free to contact the Center for Campus Sustainability. Share your thoughts and ideas on how we can become a STAR in the sustainability world!
The Wild Center in Tupper Lake hosts an annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. This year the summit was hosted on November 3 and 4. Each year, students from around the Northeast come together to learn about climate change, and what they can do in their own lives and school to combat the effects. The theme of the 2016 Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was “Branching out.” This years summit team consisted of five student attendees: Jack Gallagher, Erika Ochs, Josh Staquet, Dan Stevener and myself, Valerie Hoffman. Also our Sustainability Coordinator Kate Glenn, this was her sixth Youth Climate Summit. The summit was broken into plenary sessions, when everyone attends, and workshops, where students chose an area they are interested in to learn more about.
I am always inspired to help the environment and human race when I leave the summit. This being my third year attending was very exciting. I find it really exciting to see what schools (high school and colleges) did in the past year and to see their growth. There were so many cool presenters like The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), which is an organization that has perfected presenting information in a fun and informative way. Also Rob Carr, who will be teaching Environmental Communication with Curt Stager this spring semester, gave a presentation on giving a presentation. For a fantastic presentation you need to know your audience, why it matters to them, have a main message, and use minimal words on the slides. My eyes were opened to how many opportunities are out there if you really put your mind to it. Alizé Carrère is a cultural ecologist who was able to become a National Geographic Explorer. She received a grant from National Geographic and went to Madagascar to study erosion gullies. To get a grant from National Geographic all you have to do is be between the ages of 18 and 26 and have an idea. Alizé Carrère is hosting a series on how the world is adapting to climate change. One of my favorite presenters are farmers, Mark and Kristin Kimball from Essex Farm always plan an exciting session. This year we had to find Captain Carbon, tie him up and bury him. This was to show carbon sequestration. Every year is a new and exciting skit. After all of these sessions you get to gather as a school team and draft a climate action plan. This is later discussed with every participating school at the end of the second day. Right before lunch on the second day a poster session is held for each school to show what they do to reduce their carbon footprint or promote sustainability. Each school decorated a cardboard tree with leafs covered in candy wrappers. On the leaf they wrote how their school was going to branch out about climate change. The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit will always be one of the best memories I have from Paul Smith’s College. I am proud that Paul Smith’s College has opportunities like this to share with their students.
This was my third year attending the youth climate summit however it was my first time not being involved in the planning process before going. I was very inspired as always and have a few projects i’d like to work with the sustainability office to carry out. It was great to see schools there with their first environmental clubs and to see the program is growing. Being team captain I got to sit in a lunch meeting where I learned that the program was year round and offers funding to the high schools that need it for their future projects like the sustainability office here on campus. The speakers were very informative and different than years before. I am excited to see what will happen in future summits as the program continues to expand around the world.
The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was a great educational experience; I learned a lot and had fun. It was really impressive to see high school students full of climate change knowledge. Watching students work with each other and enjoy learning was so refreshing. These students care about the environment and want to make change, it was awesome! We got the privilege to meet Alizé Carrère a National Geographic Explorer, she spoke about her journey around the world making small changes in their communities and studying people’s culture. We also were given the opportunity to attend workshops with professors from Paul Smith’s. I personally attended Curt Stager’s seminar, we got to work together to make charts based off studies Curt has done for years. We looked at everything from salamanders, to Lake Champlain freezing over completely. Students were shocked for some of the results. The power of students coming together to make a difference is empowering itself to watch. We are the future; we can make change if we come together. I’m proud to be a Smitty, and to have been a part of The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit.
What I have to say about the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was that it was an awesome experience. It was very informative and inspirational on what to do to reduce the issues of our climate. It was also for entertaining with the fun activities offered there as well. It is definitely worth going to for those who are into supporting the environment and reducing climate issues.
The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was a good opportunity for students to both learn and address the problems of climate change. It is incredibly important for the younger generation to be ever increasingly aware about the dangers caused by climate change because the younger generation are the ones who will ultimately feel the most effect from it in their lifetime. The biggest key takeaway from the Climate Summit was there are lots of people around the world who haven’t given up hope and are fighting on reversing this issue even though it will be an incredible uphill battle, especially given the current political climate. I was the age of these kids just shy of a decade ago, and I don’t remember anybody in my high school taking a stand like these kids did. This alone gives me hope for the future.
Paul Smith’s College was well represented the speakers and workshop presenters. Paul Smiths alumni Larry Montague is an eco-hip-hop artist performed and ran a workshop on how hip hop can save the planet. Curt Stager also ran a workshop titled “Bringing Climate Change Down to Where You Live.” Bethany Garretson presented during a workshop called “How to Make Social Change a Reality.” Kate Glenn and I ran a workshop last year on “Community Mapping and Climate Action planning”, the worksheet and pre-summit maters every summit group used for this years summit came from that workshop.
Special THANKS to the WILD CENTER for putting on and Inviting us to such an amazing event.