Sustainability Office Opens On New Paltz Campus


SUNY New Paltz has hired its first full-time employee dedicated to campus sustainability.

Lisa Mitten began her duties as Campus Sustainability Coordinator on May 1. Her position is a part of the Office of Campus Sustainability, an office whose creation was simultaneous with Mitten’s hire.

“There has been a lot of work in the past few years in that direction [sustainability] and now this is the first time we’ve had a full-time person devoted to that,” Mitten said.

The office will be under the supervision of Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management John Shupe. According to Shupe, the office was created “to help the campus continue our sustainability efforts, to enhance them and to provide leadership to the campus community as we move forward in these important endeavors.”

A New Paltz press release, signed by Shupe, outlined goals that will help to “spearhead sustainability efforts on campus.”

They included improving recycling efforts, reducing energy use, assisting faculty and staff in implementing sustainability initiatives, working with and educating the campus community and taking advantage of local and national sustainability resources.

Mitten said she plans to “create momentum” for making the campus infrastructure more sustainable.

For the past nine years, Mitten worked for Project Management Services Inc. — a Virginia-based company that provides consultant work to federal government agencies in the process of designing, constructing or renovating property.

Mitten’s job was to facilitate teams of architects and engineers in evaluating projects and devise ways to make them better investments for “the tax-payer dollar.”

When considering the costs of building, Mitten said the greatest expense is not design and construction, but rather “the cost of actually operating and maintaining it throughout the life of the building — that’s 25 or 50 years. It’s a lot of money.”

In her previous job, Mitten said there was a greater focus on cost. But with her new position working for a university, Mitten said that she is interested in the opportunity to look beyond “how much money you spend, or how much oil you burn,” and explore variables such as green house gas emissions and other external effects.

Mitten said her job as the campus sustainability coordinator stretches beyond buildings and energy — it’s a broad focus that includes other facets of sustainability that embrace local food procurement in the dining hall and educating the campus about these issues.

“It also impacts curriculum and courses and working with faculty and departments to identify those courses and programs that either in part or in a much greater way have elements of sustainability,” she said. “And then also building relationships with students, the students who are involved with, either individually or as a student organization, in some aspects of sustainability on campus such as the recycling club and students for sustainable agriculture.”

Former Director of Operations for Facility Brian Pine has returned to New Paltz and will assist Mitten in the Office of Campus Sustainability as the energy coordinator.

“Lisa is an educator and a source for the community,” he said.

Pine also served as an advisor for the Sustainability Committee, which was established in 2010.

Mitten said she is in the process of meeting with members of the Sustainability Committee and plans to work closely with the Committee in the future.

In December, President Donald Christian released the Campus Sustainability Plan. Mitten said she plans to delve into that plan and move those initiatives forward.

“That document is kind of like a guide, and it shows where the campus has been, and where the campus wants to go and strategies for how to get there to reduce overall carbon emission on campus,” Mitten said. “The document is considered to be a living, breathing document that evolves over time.”