Getting proactive about fighting climate change Symposium looks at national, community and individual levels

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.

National Level

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.

Community level

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.

Individual

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.

Come join us April 28th for the Paul Smith’s College March for Science!

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.

 

Paul Smith’s College Actually Recycles

Paul Smith’s College is the only four year college located within the Adirondack Park,
making it unique. It is also very unique in its experiential learning, which attracts a unique type
of student. The students that go to Paul Smith’s usually have a love for the outdoors, and some
amount of consciousness of environmental issues. But at Paul Smith’s, like many others
institutions, there are misconceptions around environmental issues on their campus. This is why
getting the right information out to the campus is so important. A common misconception is that
Paul Smith’s College does not recycle, when in actuality, they do.

The system on the Paul Smith’s College campus is Zero-Sort recycling by Casella. This
means that all the recyclables like paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, and metal cans are put in one
bin, eliminating the separating process. Many students believe that the college does not actually
recycle, because students can see facilities throw the recycling bags away at times. If a bag of
recycling is more than ten percent contaminated, it must be thrown away because the recycling
collector (Casella) will not accept more than that amount of unrecyclable material in the
recycling. To help mitigate this issue, there are now student workers that physically sort through
the recycling on the campus.

The recycling crew initiative began last Spring 2017 with four students who set up the
system that is now in place. Each day, facilities brings all of the recycling to the main recycling
container, and from there the recycling crew sorts through it. Having this physical separation is
important, because it assures that the system is recycling the maximum amount and no recycling
is thrown away if it isn’t contaminated.

The most common issue seen on the Paul Smith’s College campus is that the recycling is
not cleaned out, whether it is a soda or soup can, shampoo or conditioner, or anything else, it
must be washed out and clean. Another issue is when full coffees are thrown into the recycling.
The coffee contaminates everything else within the bag, therefore the bag must be thrown out.
Taking the time to make sure that what is being put in the recycling is actually recyclable is so
important, and something that the campus community struggles with. But do the efforts of
recycling even make a difference?

Recently there has been a lot of chatter around the topic of recycling. According to a New
York Times article “Plastics Pile Up as China refuses to Take the West’s Recycling,” on January
1, 2018 China banned the import of many recyclables from the West. Previously, the United
States had sent recycled plastics and others recyclables over to China to be made into new
products. With this ban in affect, recyclables are piling up. In some cases, people are just burying
their recyclables because there is no place for them. This action is then harmful to the
environment because the chemicals in the plastics can leech into the ground water or the
surrounding soil.

A study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health showed that participants who
drank water from popular polycarbonate water bottles for a week had a two-thirds increase in
their urine of bisphenol A (BPA). According to this study, exposure to BPA has been linked to
cardiovascular disease in humans. If drinking from plastic water bottles can have this kind of
effect on human’s health, imagine the effect that plastic has on the environment.

One simple solution to this issue, is to stop buying products with a lot of plastic
packaging. I know that this is challenging, some of the cheapest things are packaged with lots
plastic. But doing something as easy as bringing a reusable bag with you shopping, so you don’t
have to use a plastic bag, can really help. Plastic bags are actually not accepted in the recycling
system on campus, but they are a big issue around the world. According to Health Guidance,
there are an estimated 300 million plastic bags that accumulate in the Atlantic Ocean each year.
This has a negative effect on sea life, because they can be mistaken for a meal, and will cut off
the airway of many animals, causing so many needless deaths each year.

So yes, Paul Smith’s College does recycle, and so should you. Getting the right
information out to the campus community is something that is currently holding the college back
from having a really successful recycling program, but you could help. Read the signs above each
bin and make sure what you are recycling is actually recyclable and that it is clean. Doing this
will help not only our environment, but also the student workers that have to sort it each day.

Notes from the Recycling Team

Hey Everyone,

Jordan, Tom, and Julie here. When sorting though this weeks recycling we noted that there were a lot of coffee cups and Doritos bags in the recycling bags – these items are not recyclable. Common issues also include containers not being emptied and rinsed of food and/or drinks. PLEASE RINSE CONTAINERS OUT BEFORE YOU RECYCLE THEM. We also did not appreciate the dead animal left by the dumpster. If you are a hunter, please properly dispose of any animals carcasses.

Thank you and happy recycling!

Outcome of Spring 2018 Campus Sustainability Fund Proposals

This Spring 2018, the Campus Sustainability Fund had three over $500 proposals that went to campus-wide, student vote. The first proposal was for SAM Fest for $2,000; the second was for the Adirondack to Appenio Sustainable Parks Communities Project for $950; and the third was for VIC Café Supplies for $8,692.54. I am happy to announce that all three proposals were passed by the students. We had 176 students who voted, which is about 25% of the student body. There is also one under $500 proposal that has been passed so far this semester. It was for a guest speaker, Sara Safari, for $461.50. Since Fall 2013, the Campus Sustainability Fund has funded over 40 projects that have helped our campus community. Thank you to all who have voted.

If you would like more information on these proposals, or any previous ones, please visit our website http://www.paulsmiths.edu/sustainability/campus-sustainability-fund/. Also, please remember that we are still accepting under $500 proposals until April 30th.

Fall 2017 CSF Updates

Last semester, Fall 2017 there was a CSF proposal for $500 for an unmanned aerial system for ecological monitoring and communications here at Paul Smith’s College. This ongoing project will enable better monitoring and tracking of changes on PSC lands and can help communicate associated values. The system has not yet been purchased, but will be soon. We are excited to see this project come to fruition.

 

             

The Beekeeping Association now has two more hives and equipment to maintain all of them. Pictured are club members assembling the new hives. They also now have kits for most of the members, which include suits, gloves, a bee brush, and a hive tool. This was the result of a CSF proposal last Spring 2017 for $475, and then this past Fall 2017 for $1,837.70. The club has had great success thus far.

 

     

This semester, a Sustainability Capstone with 14 students are building micro-campers. The trailers for these campers were purchased through a CSF proposal this past Fall 2017 for $1,297. This is a unique hands-on experience that these students get to experience, and we are looking forward to seeing their progress this semester.

 

       

A Paul Smith’s College student, Tyler Dezago, was able to have an apprenticeship with David Nicols and build his own guitar. Tyler was able to purchase materials necessary for this project through a CSF proposal this past Fall 2017 for $500. This apprenticeship also counted as a three credit hour course at PSC (INT 399). Tyler also gave a presentation on his experience and showed off his work in February 2018.