University at Albany
 

Task Force on Environmental Sustainability

In creating the Task Force on Environmental Sustainability on February 1, 2006, President Kermit Hall outlined the broad goal it would help address. "As a public higher education institution, the University at Albany has both an obligation and an opportunity to be a leader in environmental sustainability. Our institution can and should set an example as an environmentally responsible citizen—a model for other colleges and universities as well as a model for our own students and the community in everyday life.”

The task force set out to assess the state of the University's sustainability policies and practices through the work of eight committees: built environment, curriculum development, energy use, environmental landscape, green commerce, public relations and outreach, solid and hazardous waste and transportation. These dedicated faculty, staff and students who served on the task force and its committees developed projects to help further the goals of environmental sustainability and recommend ways to raise awareness university-wide and promote a culture that supports sustainability.

To assist in this mission, the Office of Environmental Sustainability was created in January 2008 and the Office of Energy Management was established in July of the same year. The sustainability office is directed by Mary Ellen Mallia who heads a staff of student volunteers as well as coordinates activities of the student Sustainability Council and the faculty and staff Sustainability Coordinators. These groups play a key role in disseminating information about policies and providing feedback as to the effective implementation of such policies.

The University has made a very public commitment towards sustainability; first by signing the Talloires Declaration in 2006, and more recently by President George Philip signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in May 2008. The University completes its greenhouse gas emissions annually and has drafted a carbon neutrality plan.

Co-Leaders

Steve Beditz, Interim Vice President for Finance and Business

Mary Ellen Mallia, Director, Office of Environmental Sustainability

Andrei Lapenas, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Planning

George Robinson, Associate Professor, Co-Director, Campus Natural Areas Studies, Department of Biological Sciences

Members

John Giarrusso, Assistant VP for Physical Facilities

Catherine Herman, Interim VP for Media & Marketing

Indu, Energy Manager

Gary Kleppel, Professor, Director of Biodiversity, Conservation and Policy Program, Department of Biological Sciences

Catherine Lawson, Assistant Professor, Director of Masters of Regional Planning program, Department of Geography and Planning

Doug Melnick, Senior Planner, Department of Development & Planning, City of Albany

Robert Nakamura, Professor, Department of Political Science, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy

Richard R. Perez, Senior Research Associate, Atmospheric Sciences Research Center

Matthew Ryan, Graduate Assistant

Stacy Stern, Assistant to VP Finance and Business

Miriam Trementozzi, Associate Vice President for Community Engagement

Katherine Trent, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

Benjamin Weaver, Assistant to the Provost

Lisa Donohue, Environmental Health and Safety

Michelle McConville, Senior Staff Associate, University Auxiliary Services

Maritza Martinez, Assistant Dean, Educational Opportunity Program

Kendra Smith-Howard, Assistant Professor

Committees and Objectives
(Note: Individuals with an asterisk (*) next to their name are members of the Task Force)

Built Environment

Chair: Kate Lawson

Committee members: Ben Weaver, John Pipkin, S. Thyagarajan, Jason Zogg, Joy Kim

Objective: Address areas around and between campus buildings and other places where people interact with their surroundings, with the goal of improving these interactions

Goals/projects for academic year:
To facilitate the development of overarching strategies to promote and preserve the built environment on and between campuses

  • Participate in the Getty Grant by conducting a survey of student responses to the built environment
  • Coordinate with the Washington/Western BRT Study with recommendations for development around transit nodes to enhance the walking environment

Community Garden Sub-Committee

Chair: Lorre Smith

Committee members: David Lewis, Jackie Agostino, Ray Bromley, Kateri Gecewicz, Melissa Kalvestrand, Tim Malone, Dan Sellers

Objective: The University at Albany Community Garden is a space for students, faculty, staff, and community members to grow food sustainably and develop a biological community while strengthening our social community. Specifically, the garden aims to:

  • Provide Sustainable, Local Food – The garden will provide a local, organic food supply to the community;
  • Strengthen Community – The garden is a communal space where students, faculty, staff, and community members from diverse age groups and cultural backgrounds can interact and learn from each other while working cooperatively in the spirit of the mission;
  • Educate the Community – The garden is a platform for experiential education and research beyond the classroom in fields such as gardening, biology, community building, nutrition, and climate change, among others.

Curriculum Development

Chair: Kendra Smith-Howard

Committee members: Stacy Stern, Joy Kim, Dan Sellers, Mary Ellen Mallia

Objective: Assess incidence of daily choices that reflect ecological knowledge, incorporate concepts of sustainability into all academic activities, and develop campus sustainability service practicum

Goals/projects for academic year:

  • Identify courses that deal with sustainability
  • Seek out opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Help develop and promote educational events centered on environmental sustainability
  • Help incorporate Earth Day activities into courses

Energy Use

Chair: Indu

Committee members: Andrei Lapenas, Richard Perez, Matt Ryan, Brett Rogers

Objective: Assess energy use and resultant air pollution, promote conservation, green energy use, reduce air pollution and produce savings

Goals/projects for academic year:

  • Bring some type of energy campaign to the podium buildings
  • Inter session shut down, help achieve buy in
  • Once a week slowdowns for energy savings
  • Sponsor energy forum

Environmental Landscape

Chair: George Robinson

Committee members: John Arnason, Don Keenan, Steve Beditz

Objective: Build information base on land holdings, land cover and surface waters; develop policies for sustainable land planning; create more interesting and appealing campus grounds

Goals/projects for academic year:

  • Participate in post-"pond renovation" renovation
  • Calculations of ecological footprints, with emphasis on our reliance on natural "capital" to sustain us
  • Work with LA consultant on enhancing treed landscapes
  • Work with Hazardous Waste chair (Vinnie Franconere) on campus watershed plan
  • Research native plant species
  • Implement raingarden project

Green Commerce

Chair: Gary Kleppel (Bio/BCP)

Committee members: Dixie Botts (Barnes & Noble Bookstore), Helmut Hirsch (Biology/Human Biology), Kenneth Jones (Purchasing), Melissa Kalvestrand (Graduate Student), Erin LaBarge (Undergraduate), David Lewis (Geography and Planning), Michelle McConville (University Auxiliary Services), Dan Sellers, Lorre Smith (Library), Katherine Trent

Objective: Examine food procurement practices at UAlbany; assess the waste stream and potential for composting and replacing disposables with reusable's; focus on green product purchases

Goals/projects for academic year:

  • Develop a campus garden -- to provide food to faculty, staff and students; link the food production process with an academic education experience [planning to take place in Fall 2008]
  • Begin developing a campus biodiesel program to convert WVO from Chartwells' kitchens to biodiesel, part of which will be distributed to farmers that produced food for the campus [proposal submitted to NYFVI; NYS Assemblyman P. Lopez is moving the proposal forward]
  • Conduct large fall and early spring farmers' markets; develop a small weekly market on campus [completed]
  • Promote responsible, "change-of-culture" purchasing by giving extra credit to students who buy recycled products at the Bookstore
  • Convene a symposium on eating locally at the institutional level -- publish a report on the findings [planning to take place in Fall 2008]

Public Relations and Outreach

Chair: Holly Van Allen

Committee members: Gina Muscato, Cynthia Calautti, Miriam Trementozzi

Objective: To promote awareness of the Task Force on Environmental Sustainability; support the objectives and activities of individual committees through marketing efforts to increase participation and collaboration; foster relationships with the greater community by sponsoring and supporting programs and events that coincide with the mission statement

Goals/projects for academic year:

  • Assisting communities with publicizing upcoming events
  • Establishing community connections

Solid and Hazardous Waste Committee

Chair: Open Position (Hazardous waste); Open Position (Solid waste)

Committee members: Bob Nakamura, Doug Cornwall, Tim Reilly, Lisa Donohue, Kristen Kielbasa, Karina Cuenca, Meghan Reardon, Katie Devlin, Jessica Rivolo, Mary Ellen Mallia, Angelica, Andy

Objective: Understand source of waste production on the campuses; develop more proactive, responsible ways of reducing waste

Goals/projects for academic year:

  • Improve information on battery recycling
  • Improve recycling infrastructure in apartments
  • Improve recycling infrastructure on podium, with an emphasis on heavily populated areas such as the Campus Center, SEFCU and libraries
  • Initiate an ink jet and toner recycling program
  • Brainstorm on ideas to reduce the build up of hazardous waste in academic departments

Transportation

Chair: Kate Lawson

Committee members: Mike Sattinger, Rose Dorsman, Mike Koch, Jamie Sepler

Objective: Address areas around and between campus buildings as well as the means of traveling to the University with the goal of improving these interactions

Goals/projects for academic year:
Facilitate the development of a comprehensive transit strategy to serve the needs of students, staff and faculty

  • Develop and distribute a "user-friendly" University-focused transit map (http:www.albany.edu/pmts/UAlbany-Bus-Map(4).pdf)
  • Participate in the Western/Washington BRT Study to ensure accurate data collection and analysis of the transit services provided by CDTA
  • Conduct additional transit services analyses to provide a better understanding of the current transit system under the control of the University and develop strategies to maximize available resources
  • Use the findings from the concurrent studies to promote the use of transit and other alternative modes (e.g., walking and biking), including the identification of infrastructure needs (e.g., pathways between transit stops and building entrances)

Participate in grant proposals that will help promote and preserve better transportation options for the campus and surrounding area

  • Submit NYSERDA grant: Understand Commuter Patterns & Behavior: An Analysis to Recommend Policies Aimed at Reducing Vehicle Use
  • Submit DOH grant: Active Campus by Design: SUNY Healthy Heart Program

Coordinate with the Albany Bike Corridor Studio project, including working with surrounding neighborhoods to promote bike commuting

The task force is currently focusing on furthering our academic efforts in the field of environmental sustainability and hosted a campus forum on integrating sustainability into our academic endeavors in February. Currently a list serv has been set up to facilitate communication between those interested in exploring collaborative projects on this topic. If you would like to be on this list serv, please contact Mary Ellen Mallia at mmallia@uamail.albany.edu.