Written by: Hannah Rion
Center for Sustainability Education and Outreach Assistant
What is the Sustainability Grant?
The Sustainability Grant program has been running here at Paul Smith’s College since the Fall of 2013. Funds from the program are derived from a $30 fee that all students pay during the Spring semester. This allows there to be roughly $25,000 available annually for students, faculty, and staff to apply for. These funds are then used to support sustainable initiatives on campus and throughout the college community.
The program gives proposers options of applying for either an under $500 or over $500 grant. The under $500 grants are accepted on a rolling basis and are judged based upon a funding rubric by the Smitty Sustainability Committee. This committee is comprised of students who feel passionate about sustainability and enjoy enacting positive forms of change on campus. The over $500 grants are first reviewed by the committee, in accordance to the rubric. After this, the proposals are voted upon by the entire student body, once during each semester of the school year. If more than half of the students vote to pass the proposal(s), the grant has passed and funds are distributed.
Throughout the program’s seven years of existence, more than $150,000 has been awarded to support projects focused on sustainability. These projects have ranged from installing LED light posts all across campus, to even starting the Beekeeping Club. If you have an idea you are excited about and would like to bring it to fruition, please reach out to the Center for Sustainability at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are currently accepting under $500 submissions up until April 20th. We encourage you to take a look at past grants, which can be found by visiting the Center for Sustainability’s website at www.paulsmiths.edu/sustainability.
Over $500 Grant Awards
Coastal Climate Stories Documentary – $2,876
Sean Jackson, Paul Smith’s College Climate Fellow, had the chance to travel throughout coastal communities along the East Coast of the United States during the Summer of 2019. During his time doing this, Sean collected numerous interviews from individuals willing to share their own experiences with the effects of climate change. After conducting several interviews, he felt as though there was a disconnect between his interview transcripts and the emotional stories he was hearing. This disconnect led him to transforming the project into a documentary. Sean further believed that collecting these stories in a documentary form would create a much more relatable medium for audiences.
Sean will be using the funds he received from the Sustainability Grant to further build off of his fellowship by completing the film in its entirety and submitting the film in hopes of entry into fourteen film festivals throughout the United States. The Center for Sustainability is excited that Sean has dedicated so much time to spreading awareness of the true stories many people in the United States are facing due to the effects of the climate crisis. We look forward to the final release of the film and wish him luck in his entries into the film festivals.
Lower Textbook Costs Initiative – $6,000
The Joan Weill Adirondack Library is initiating an Open Educational Resources (OER) pilot project to help make textbook costs for students more sustainable. The program is designed to incentivize and support faculty to redesign, plan, and teach courses using free or low cost OER materials and eTextbooks in order to lower the overall cost of PSC student’s education. The startling costs of textbooks can prove to be extremely difficult for many students to pay for. This initiative will assist those students by lowering the overall cost of their textbooks for select courses. In some cases, this project may lead to courses offering free textbooks to students.
The awarded funds will be directly allocated to departments and is to be used as seed money for numerous faculty members to redesign their courses around OER. This money will then incentivize faculty to take time and adjust their course to align better with OER textbooks, rather than the current text they use. The library chose to take this project on because they see the value in the college offering more hybrid class models, as well as offering affordable materials for students. It is with great anticipation that we work with both the library and faculty to see this initiative come to fruition.
Under $500 Grant Awards
The High Art and Subtle Science of Scrounging Book Purchase – $500
Nancy Dow and Bruce Kilgore, adjunct professors at Paul Smith’s College, teach one of the most beloved courses the college has to offer. Conservation Design: Green Construction (SUS 310) exposes students to topics such as cordwood construction, various renewable energy sources, affordable living, and much more. The course also hosts numerous guest speakers that discuss their experiences in “green” living. One speaker that paid a visit to the class during the Fall 2019 semester was James Juczak, self-proclaimed “scrounger”. Similar to how Mr. Juczak shared his expertise with students, he also wrote a book showcasing self-reliance, food growing and preservation techniques, as well as mortgage-free or alternative construction. His book, titled “The High Art and Subtle Science of Scrounging”, takes a unique perspective on day-to-day living. In order to provide the twenty-six students of the class with this text, Nancy submitted a Sustainability Grant. Once awarded, these funds supported the purchase of the book for students and provided them with literature to practice in their own life. We were extremely happy to support this project that directly benefits students.
On-Campus Housing Composting Initiative – $485
Charlie Ritter, along with several other students saw a disconnect between the college’s commitment to sustainable practices and how food waste is managed in the dorms. In order to solve this issue, the students developed the idea of providing residents with the opportunity to compost their food scraps in their living quarters. The project idea was developed for a class project in Politics of the Environment and quickly gained backing by both Greta Hovland, Director of Dining Services, and Lou Kaminski, Director of Residence Life and Housing. These collaborations have allowed the project to continue to progress onto the next step of implementation. The program will be implemented throughout the Spring 2020 semester with buckets being distributed to dorm buildings within the coming weeks.
The food waste in both the dining hall and Cantwell labs is already diverted to Moonstone Farm, a small farm located on the outskirts of Saranac Lake. This established partnership fit perfectly for implementing this widespread composting initiative. The students saw importance in making this program an opt-in model to avoid contamination or misuse of the buckets. Educating students on the college’s current practices, as well as the overall benefits of composting is a critical part of this program. Each bucket will be accompanied with a guide distinguishing what can and cannot be placed in the bucket. Furthermore, the students hope to work with the Smitty Sustainability Committee to host outreach events that will continue to educate students. The Center for Sustainability anticipates this to be a longstanding initiative on campus and looks forward to the continued development of the program and partnerships.
Getting proactive about fighting climate change Symposium looks at national, community and individual levels
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.
Faculty members Celia Evans, Curt Stager and Lee Ann Sporn comprise an expert panel on climate change at the Adirondack Park Agency in Ray Brook, N.Y.: ‘We’re a force of nature’: Experts talk climate change at Adirondack Park Agency meeting
The Adirondack Explorer digs into the critical role Paul Smith’s College and the Adirondack Watershed Institute play in monitoring Lyme disease in North Country ticks: As ticks and disease spread north, monitoring is threatened
The Adirondack Watershed Institute tested hundreds of private wells and found that over half of those which receive runoff from state roads contain concerning levels of road salt: As winter sets in, environmental groups keep road salt in spotlight
Please come out to Paul Smith’s second March for Science. Last year it was a great success and this year
we want to make it even better.
Starting at 10 am the march will go down route 30 from Paul Smiths to the VIC. Bring a sign and some
good protest chants. Afterwards we encourage you to attend the 4th annual SAM Fest beginning at
11 am. This year’s theme is renewal.
For this to be a success we need people. This is a reminder for you to spread the word until the event. It
is happening Saturday, April 28th! Tell your friends, family, other students, students from your local
schools, and anyone else you can possibly think of.
It is important to keep in mind that this is a march for SCIENCE. We want to put forward a positive
message with a strong showing to start off the day.
The march is being organized by the Center for Campus Sustainability and the Outdoor Ed Program
Design & Planning class.
On November 8th and 9th Sustainability Coordinator Kate Glenn will lead a team of students from Paul Smith’s College including, Jessie McCarty, Matthew Philips, Hannah Rion, Val Hoffman and Sebastian Huber, will be attending the 9th annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The summit began in 2008 after a student from a local area high school contacted the Director of Programs, Jen Kretzer, with the idea hold a conference for high school students to learn about climate change and strategies to lower their carbon footprint. What started as a small conference with about 5 schools, has now blossomed in to a huge event with over 200 students from 30 high schools and colleges.
The summit consists of two days of plenary speakers, hands on workshops, and some motivational activities. Using the information from those workshops, along with goals the schools set before going to the event, each school develops a Climate Action Plan. The climate action plan is a well developed plan for each school to take steps towards carbon neutrality. In a CAP each school sets Climate Neutrality goals for this year, next year, and the years to come. Since the first AYSC at the Wild Center, Youth Summits have since popped up all across the country and even the world. The Wild centers climate action program has even received recognition from the Whitehouse during the Obama administration.
Paul Smith’s college has attended and sponsored the AYCS since it started. Over the past few years the college has even sent plenary speakers as well as faculty that have hosted workshops. Curt Stager will be a plenary speaker at this years summit. Valarie Hoffman and Kate Glenn will be hosting a workshop. This year the Paul Smiths team hopes to accomplish several things, including the update our current Climate Action Plan so it better suits our school’s current sustainability needs. Including to sync the goals of the STARS reporting system with the updated CAP. This year’s team will also be focusing on plans to redesign a new food waste management system. Since the North Elba biodigester project was canceled, we need a new plan for our organic waste. We’re looking forward to another Adirondack Youth Climate Summit!!