FIT’s 8th Annual Sustainability Conference is almost here!
Please mark your calendars and join us Tuesday April 8th (see program details below) for one event or stay with us the whole day.
We will also be giving away some great prizes- including Two CITIbike yearly memberships (these will be great to use now that it’s SPRING!) and 30 of these awesome stainless steel water bottles from S’well. Did you know in the US alone, an estimated 50 billion plastic bottles are dumped in landfill sites each year, and over 200 billion globally? Be part of the solution and learn more about what you & others can do to help the environment…
Professor Sandra Krasovec
Interested in learning more about SUSTAINABILITY? Wondering what FIT is doing to be a greener campus? Come to the 8th Annual Sustainability Conference in the Great Hall on April 8th and find out. Join us for Keynote Speaker Robert Kennedy, Jr. at 1pm as well as a great line up of interesting speakers throughout the day. This exciting event is free, to learn more and sign up click here… Hope to see you there!
On September 17th I attended, and presented, at the The Power of Green SUNY, the 2013 State Universities of New York Sustainability Conference. It was a stunning day in Buffalo and the venue was an old mansion. While I enjoyed representing FIT and presenting on the Council and the Mayor’s Challenge, the most interesting part was hearing about initiatives at other SUNY campuses.
The keynote speaker was Samina Raja, a Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Buffalo. Her project, Building Food Connections, aims to enhance food security and the capacity of local and regional governments to improve community food systems. This will also benefit small and mid-sized farmers and underserved community residents. She made the interesting comparison of college campuses to food deserts, where residents don’t have easy access to fresh food.
There was a panel of presentations on Organic Waste Diversion. I learned that schools can do a waste audit in their cafeteria. It’s low tech and serves as a great baseline for making changes- the leftover food from student’s plates and from the food service is literally weighed on a scale. Many schools have found that going tray-less in cafeterias makes an impact on reducing food waste. Three different methods for composting that are being practiced on different SUNY campuses were presented: O2 Compost Microbins, black soldierfly composting and heavy duty grinding and composting machinery from Korea. In the former 2, there is ongoing student involvement in keeping the systems running and the projects serve as campus “science experiments” that faculty will bring their students too as part of course curriculum.
One of the most interesting presentations was from SUNY New Paltz, “Measuring, Tracking and Contracting for Food Using the Real Food Calculator and the SUNY Sustainable Dining Service Benchmarking Tool.” These 2 methods help evaluate if food items are indeed local and promoting health across communities.
Finally, Stony Brook University shared their experiences building a bike share program. They started with 25 bikes and locks that they issued out to students by semester. Demand for the bikes grew quickly and they recently expanded to 4 solar powered bike stations and 48 bicycles (similar to the ones recently installed in New York City). The students use these bikes for free for the first hour and pay a nominal fee after that. Each student pays a transportation fee each year. Investing this money into the bike share program will lead to reduced air pollution from buses and cost savings as the college will not need to purchase as many new buses as they have in the past.
It made me start thinking about what more can be done on our own campus. I’m excited to plan events for FIT’s No Impact Week in Fall 2014.
I admit it; I am not a big fan of Earth Day. This aversion could stem from what happened to me on one of the first Earth Day celebrations in NYC in Central Park, when a large dog mistook my back as a tree stump and I was urinated upon; but, it doesn’t. My objection to Earth Day is more fundamental. Why must we set aside a day (or a week) to be “Earth conscious?” We should be cognizant of the planet and our effects on the planet every day – not once a year. For those of us who are trained ecologists, geologists, hydrologists, oceanographers, climatologists, and other environmental scientists; and for those that are passionate, active, and concerned citizens (AKA environmentalists), we don’t need an “earth” day. The people of the earth don’t need an Earth Day. Or do we?
With 7 billion people on this planet, increasing at 1% per year, perhaps we need to be reminded about finite resources, and unsustainable population growth and consumption. With agro-ecosystems providing the equivalent of more than 2700 Kcal per person, and with nearly 1 billion people undernourished, while obesity becomes epidemic elsewhere, perhaps we need a wake-up call. With unprecedented levels of factory farming and feedlots across the globe, loss of soil fertility and top soil, increased levels of pesticides and pharmaceuticals in groundwater, and 70% of the world’s freshwater being used by agribusiness – perhaps we need new priorities and new educational outreach.
With our climate system permanently altered by greenhouse gas emissions, with sea ice and land ice melting at unparalleled rates, with sea level rising, with increased frequency and severity of storms, with changes in the thermohaline conveyor system slowing the Gulf Stream and consequently allowing water levels to rise on the Mid-Atlantic coast of North America, and all the while, global carbon emissions still rise, perhaps we need a regular reminder that change is necessary.
While rivers cease to reach the oceans, and while ocean systems are over-harvested and polluted, we need to act now. We need to act. The dominant social and economic paradigms of consumerism and consumption as a measure of self-worth have to change. I tell my students that “business as usual” is no longer acceptable, that the dominant paradigms are outdated and self-destructive; that it’s up to all of us to work to protect the planet for the future.
My utopian world is one in which Earth Day is not necessary – until then I’ll continue to work to bring about change and hope that at some point we won’t need Earth Day any longer.
Arthur H. Kopelman, Ph.D.
SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Professor of Science at FIT