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.