As a part of the American College University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPPC) signed by former college President Steven Poskanzer in 2008, current President Donald Christian has released the Campus Sustainability Plan.
The ACUPPC program is “a national program that facilitates the expansion of environmental education, research, and environmental performance on college campuses,” according to the plan.
In addition to the plan, the college has hired a sustainability coordinator and part-time energy coordinator to work in the newly opened Office of Campus Sustainability.
KT Tobin, chair of the Campus Sustainability Committee, said fostering a more sustainable campus is a priority for SUNY across all 64 campuses. Chancellor of SUNY central Nancy Zimpher released the Power of SUNY Strategic Plan in 2010 which highlighted six ideas to improve communities throughout the SUNY system. One of the ideas calls for “an energy-smart New York.”
“This is not something that we’re just doing locally at our one little old SUNY New Paltz campus,” Tobin said. “This is something that SUNY-wide has been identified as a significant agenda item and an important agenda item…we’re definitely in sync with our larger entity.”
To comply with the commitment and the plan laid out by SUNY central, the Campus Sustainability Plan addresses ways that SUNY New Paltz will try to reduce its carbon footprint.
The plan outlines a “three-phased approach to reduce carbon emissions over the next 20 years,” among other goals, such as incorporating environmental themes into classes that do not deal explicitly with environmental education.
The first phase, conservation, will see the college installing wall and ceiling mounted occupancy sensors and expanding its energy management system to control heating and cooling in approximately 95 percent of buildings, among other techniques. According to the plan, this phase will be completed in approximately five years.
After the first phase is complete, the college will begin to purchase new energy efficient equipment. One of the new pieces of equipment may be a biomass boiler. According to Energy Coordinator Brian Pine, one of the boilers in the central plant needs to be replaced and the college is looking to purchase a boiler that is fired with bio fuel.
One possible source of the fuel is willow grass, which can provide opportunities for local suppliers and farmers. The boiler can also be fueled by gas if bio fuel is not available. Pine said the idea is in the very early stages and there are still “bugs” that need to be worked out.
“Willow grass has some issues with it because of its low BTU content and ability to move the material around,” Pine said. “It’s a very sustainable way to maintain heat systems and who knows where it can go 10 years down the road, but that’s very early in the discussion.”
In the final phase, “cost-effective renewable energy projects” will be implemented to further decrease the college’s carbon footprint.
One such project is the implementation of solar energy. Pine said he is a “very big advocate” of solar energy because it has a lifespan of about 20 years and needs “virtually no maintenance.”
The college already has a number of solar energy projects installed, including a 50Kw system on the roof of the Athletic and Wellness Center and a 10Kw system on the roof of Resnick Engineering Hall, which was built by students, Pine said.
Pine said some viable options for installing further solar energy projects include the lecture center and the residence halls. He also said the college may look into a power purchase agreement with a solar provider to increase the photovoltaic increase of rays.
Tobin said that another important aspect of this plan is environmental education.
“We need to reduce our carbon footprint through the energy we use in our buildings and facilities, but we also as educators have to teach students about these issues so that they can be positive agents for change as citizens and workers,” Tobin said.
The plan lays out a goal to recruit 50 environmental studies minors and 25 environmental-geochemical science majors by 2015 and also to develop an environmental studies major.
Tobin said that not only does the college want to recruit more students who major and minor in environmental studies, but she also thinks “it’s critically important that this is a theme that’s infused throughout the curriculum.”
The Sustainability Committee is in the process of compiling courses that teach about sustainability. Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Mitten will help to lead the charge for infusing environmental topics into curriculum. Mitten said she is “open and receptive” to hearing from faculty to help them develop sustainability throughout programs.
“My intention is getting to know faculty who think of sustainability as a priority and just having conversations with them, figuring out what they want, what they need, how we can relate what they’re doing to what’s going on across campus,” Mitten said.
She also said that as a public institution, SUNY New Paltz can take advantage of opportunities that other people may not have in terms of funding and people power.
“The fact that we’re a community, a very large community, it’s the opportunity to do a lot of really interesting work together…when you get out into the real world things are a lot more segmented and there’s not as much of that community culture to learn together.”