By Sean Jackson,Sustainable Transportation Fellow
In the Adirondacks one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions is transportation. That being said, the future of transportation is looking up and green. With more and more electric vehicle and plug-in electric hybrid models becoming available every quarter, the necessary infrastructure (charging stations) to charge them has been following. I’m proud to say that over Spring Break, Paul Smith’s College and Apex Solar completed the installation of 5 electric vehicle charging stations with the ability to accommodate up to 10 vehicles at a time. This $90K project was supported entirely by grant funding from NYSERDA’s (New York State Research Energy and Development Authority) Paul Smith’s College Installs 5 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Charge NY Grant and National Grid’s Electric Vehicle SE Charging Station programs. What this means is that the project was completed at no cost to the college.
Supported by ChargePoint software, our Phase 2 chargers (pretty fast!)are located across three different locations both on campus and at the VIC. Each station has 2 charging ports on either side to accommodate charging of up to 2 vehicles at a time. The most visible station is located in the commuter lot, out in front of Currier Hall with a total of two ports. The other on campus stations (2 more) are located behind our facilities buildings in parking lot 1. The remaining 2 stations live at the VIC to serve visitors to the VIC.
These new additions to our campus infrastructure are great- but what next? Coming in the Fall of 2020 the Center for Sustainability will be hosting an event to showcase our new charging stations to work with owners of electric vehicles, local car dealers, and energy providers to address the benefits of electric vehicles and hybrids in the North Country. Another key component of this event is to connect the North Country’s electric vehicle initiatives and give potential EV customers a chance to get behind the wheel! These are efforts to connect the charging network laterally with the help of organizations like the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) and the Green Energy Consumer Alliance (GECA).
We may be in uncertain times, but we must stay encouraged. State leaders are pushing to make New York a front runner in the transition towards a sustainable energy system and economy- and many corporations are listening. These ambitious goals are supported by legislation such as New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act as well as commitment of companies like GM announcing things like 400+ mile electric vehicle ranges and the release of 20 new electric models by 2023. Change is coming to transportation and Paul Smith’s is going to be ready to welcome these exciting developments when they arrive.
Paul Smith’s College has earned a STARS Bronze rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for its sustainability achievements. STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.
The STARS program, which has more than 800 participants in 30 countries, is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting information related to a college’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.
Kate Glenn, sustainability coordinator and lecturer at Paul Smith’s, said that the college performed especially well in curriculum, which tracks sustainability-specific courses such as Sustainable Food Systems, Alternative Energy, and Sustainable Development. Glenn also noted that every department on campus offers courses that have sustainability-related objectives.
“Another area we excelled in was campus engagement,” added Glenn, “including campus outreach, sustainability student employment opportunities, and campus programming that includes guest speakers and trips.”
The college’s Sustainability Grant Program, which provides funds for faculty, staff and students, also plays a role though backing a wide variety of projects. Meanwhile, energy initiatives announced earlier this year include the installation of a wood pellet boiler that has offset 28,000 gallons of oil annually and a partnership with Northern Power & Light and the Northern Forest Center’s Feel Good Heat Initiative, which focuses on locally-sourced wood fuel. Paul Smith’s also signed on with Northern Power & Light, a Saranac Lake-based company with a hydroelectric facility in nearby St. Regis Falls.
“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “Paul Smith’s College has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Bronze rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”
Glenn said a goal for next year is STARS Silver. Planned efforts include expanding sustainability efforts in the areas of energy, food and dining, grounds, and transportation. Two students will also work as Sustainability Fellows, an employment opportunity geared toward furthering the college’s sustainability goals.
“Paul Smith’s College is committed to being a model for sustainability in our region,” Glenn said. “In addition to lowering our carbon footprint, we want to strive to practice sustainability across all aspects of our institution.”
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.
AASHE is an association of colleges and universities that are working to create a sustainable future. AASHE’s mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation. It provides resources, professional development and a network of support to enable institutions of higher education to model and advance sustainability in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research. For more information about AASHE, visit www.aashe.org.
For more information about the STARS program, visit stars.aashe.org.
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/
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!!
Congratulations to Currier hall for winning week 3!!!! Upper St Regis Hall has won the 2017 Energy Competition!! Overall we saved 2,095 kWh of electricity. How awesome is that?! Behavioral changes can make a huge impact on electricity bills. Have a wonderful summer and keep saving energy!!!