Students approve over $9000 in Sustainability Grant projects in Fall of 2019

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 sustainability@paulsmiths.edu. 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

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.

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