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.

Paul Smith’s College Donates Food Scraps to Local Farm !

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 sustainability@paulsmiths.edu or by visiting https://www.paulsmiths.edu/sustainability/campus-sustainability-fund/

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 https://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.

Fall 2017 Campus Sustainability Vote Update

This Fall, the Campus Sustainability Fund had two over $500 proposals that went to campus wide student vote. The first proposal was for the Paul Smith’s College Beekeeping Association for $1837.70, and the second was for a Capstone project for next semester for $1297, and both were passed! We had 186 students that voted, which is only about 24% of the student body. Two under $500 proposals were also passed this semester. The first proposal was for a guitar making apprenticeship for $500, and the second was for a GIS class to make maps to show the benefits of installing a solar farm for $344.75Since Fall 2013, the Campus Sustainability Fund has funded 35 projects that have helped our campus community. Thank you to all voted. If you would like more information on these proposals, or any previous proposals, please visit our website https://www.paulsmiths.edu/sustainability/campus-sustainability-fund/

Residence Hall Energy Info Displayed on the Flat Screen in the Student Center

Check out the display on the flat screen in the Student Center this month- April 1st to April 22nd. We are running our fifth annual Energy Conservation Competition. Electric meters were purchased and installed in all 15 residence halls on campus in 2013 by student Jon Buyl. The goal of the energy meters was to show that changes in behavior can make a big difference in how much electricity is used on campus. This was a $43,000 project that was funded by the Campus Sustainability Fund.  Below is a description of what the colors represent. All color changes are based on BASELINE data that has been collected throughout the semester.

COLOR SCHEME:

Red: Legend will read “Worst Energy Use.”  This value is a KW/sqft value which is above the “High Energy Use” value (yellow).  This boils down to the worst performing buildings at any current time.  Students should react to this by working to shut off devices to lower their present demand and move them into the “yellow”

Yellow: Legend will read “High Energy Use.”  This value is a KW/sqft value which is above the neutral building load value (Brown) but not as high as those in red.  To summarize, these buildings are use more energy than the neutral and students should be working to move these buildings back down into the “Neutral Building Load” range.

Brown: Legend will read “Neutral Building Load.”  This value is a KW/sqft value which falls in an acceptable range (tbd) of energy use.  Students in this range should be concerned that they possibly could jump into the Yellow if additional load occurs.  They should be working to get below this range and turn their background Blue which would show low energy use in their building.

Blue: Legend will read “Low Energy Use.”  This value is a KW/sqft value which demonstrates the building is performing better than the average (Brown) building.  Students who live here, should be excited that they are doing their part in conserving energy, but should continue to push forward to get their building into the Green.

Green: Legend will read “Best Energy Use.”  This value is a KW/sqft value which demonstrates the building is performing in the best range possible.  Students who live in these buildings should continue to do what they are doing in their conservation efforts and should be proud that their buildings are in this range.  The buildings that spend the most time in this Green range will have the best chances to win the overall prize.

VALUES:

Total KWH- This value is Total KWH for the building.  This is a value that is accumulated continually.

KWH/sq/ft – This value is Total KWH divided by sq/ft per building.  This is a value that is accumulated continually.  This gives an overall equal playing field no matter the size of the building.  This will be the value which will continue to be accumulated over the month to award the overall winner of the Green Games Contest.

KW/sq/ft- This value is based off of present demand.  This value is the driver for the changing colors throughout the day.  This value is changed in intervals of every 15 minutes.  To sum this up, if the colors are going to change, the changes will occur once every 15 minutes based on the current usage in each building.