Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Luxury of Water

Imagine walking over a mile with a five gallon bucket to a local water hole, digging for water to fill your bucket and then carrying the 40 pound load all the way back to your home.  For us, this is inconceivable in a country where access to clean water is abundant.  And how far will that 5 gallons take you?  Just think about how much water you use in the morning: for coffee, brushing teething, shaving, showering, etc…..

This is the reality for many women in Africa.  Yes, I did say women as this is considered women’s work in many parts of the continent.  As a result, many girls end up dropping out of school just to keep up with the need to gather water for the family’s existence.

This was all brought to witness by Amy Hart who made an excellent documentary entitled “Water First.”  Amy visited UAlbany yesterday and spoke in Professor Berger’s and Van Acker’s classes. Her film highlights the efforts of Charles Banda, who founded the Fresh Water project of Malawi.  Charles’ heroic effort to bring clean water to villages throughout Africa is related to the United Nations Millennium goals.  These goals were established in 2000 and are well known throughout the rest of the world but not as much in the US, mainly due to lack of media on the topic.  To learn about these, go to:

Charles shows how having access to water is fundamental to achieving any of these goals and necessary for villages to have the kind of food security and therefore begin to develop their social goals.

Of the 900 million people in Africa, 600 million do not have access to sanitation and 300 million of those do not have access to water.  That is equivalent to the entire population of the US. For us, a case of diarrhea is an inconvenience.  For those in Malawi, it is often a death sentence.  4,000 children die each day due to water borne illnesses that could be easily remedied in our country with antibiotics.  Charles’ program has shown significant success in terms of addressing this issue. In Malawi, 70% of the medical center’s cases were due to water borne illnesses prior to his initiative.  After, this number dropped to 2%

Information on Amy’s film is available at:   It is well worth your time to check it out.  It brings a realization of how fortunate we are to have access to abundant environmental and financial resources.

Meal choices and their impact

Given the stormy weather yesterday I left a bit early during a lull in the snow.  I arrived  home in time to see someone I haven’t spent time with in a long while – Oprah.  Her show was very fascinating.  The first part dealt with the choice of whether to eat meat or not.  Lisa Ling took us on a tour of a meat packing facility.  A very eye opening look.  The episode went on to talk about veganism and how the Oprah staff went vegan for a week. Some are making life long changes, others couldn’t wait to get back to their old eating habits.  But most felt much better, lost weight and plan on cutting back on their meat consumption.  I found it a very informative and balanced show on the issue.  Meat consumption was not demonized and the dangers of going vegan yet still consuming junk food were pointed out.  You can check out a recap at:

It helped illustrate the point that people are very disconnected as to where their food comes from and how it is produced.  Choices about your diet can obviously affect your health but it also has a large impact on resource and energy use.  For instance, it takes alot more energy to produce meat as opposed to vegetables.  And choosing locally produced foods helps to nuture our area’s economy.  It is estimated that for every 1 dollar spent locally, 3 more dollars generated in the economy.

So while we might first think of recycling, reducing energy consumption or choosing alternative transportation when we talk about sustainability, the choices about what you eat can have as much of an impact toward a healthier planet.

A Change Is Gonna Come

The University at Albany’s Student Sustainability Council is approaching the end of it’s third year in existence. Very exciting things have been happening throughout the past few years, and our growth has been excellent. I’ve been a member of the council from the very beginning and it’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve grown from a freshman council member, to a sophomore council chairman, and now as a junior I am both a chair and I work in the Office of Environmental Sustainability. Throughout the past two and a half years, we have all learned so much about the needs of the campus, the student body, and even the council itself. Each year we have progressively started earlier each semester, and have be able to do more each semester because of this. In an effort to do even more to expand our role on campus, and our ability to create a sustainable community at UAlbany, we are working on a new plan for the Sustainability Council. We will unveil the new Student Sustainability Council later in this semester, and it will be implemented in time for next year. This is a very exciting time for us all and we hope that more and more people will become involved each year.

We will be holding a spring kick-off event next Wednesday, February 2nd, at 8pm in Lecture Center 5, showing the video “The Story of Bottled Water” and holding a discussion afterward. Stay tuned for more events and information!

- Jeremy Grunstra


One of the great sustainability traditions at our university is our participation in Recyclemania, a national contest between colleges and universities.  UAlbany takes part in many of the categories including the Gorilla Prize (most recyclables) and Waste Minimization.

We are striving for a goal of 300,000 pounds of recyclables during the ten week period.   One item new this semester is the bottle return machine in the campus center. We had a kick off event for this last week.  We’re anxious to see how the campus community will receive this new outlet for their returnables and also to see how much use it will get!

We’ll be out in force over the next few weeks, at basketball games and at the apartments, to collect returnables, which we will donate to the Music Mobile, our local non profit organization that specializes in music and environmental education.

Come out next week for our kick off event:  February 2nd at 8 pm in LC 5.  We will be viewing the Story of Bottled Water and getting our teams together for collection drives.

Looking forward to a successful Recyclemania season!!

Photos from bottle promo

Photos are up at our facebook site from our bottle promotion (!/uagreenscene).

Those stopping by to answer trivia questions did very well! I think approximately 75% of people came away with a prize.  We’re not giving out answers here because we plan on doing more contests over the next few weeks.


Promotion tomorrow

Welcome back everyone!  We have a new addition on campus  –  a bottle return machine!  This is located in the campus center food court, lower level near the SEFCU branch.  We’re excited about having the opportunity to offer the campus community a place to bring their bottles and cans.  Plastic and aluminium only though.  Slips need to be redeemed at the Outtakes store.

We’ll be having a promotion tomorrow (Thursday) from 12 to 1 pm.  Look for the tweets from our office and UAS.  We will be broadcasting out trivia questions related to recycling (like do you know how many hours you can run a TV from the energy saved by recycling one can?).  Stop by with the answers and win a prize.  There will also be a chance to enter a raffle and win a year’s supply of Coca-Cola.

Hope to see you all there!!

New happenings

With many people gone, we are turning down the temps here so if you come on campus, dress warm!!  This is the third year of our intersession shut down, a time when we save a lot of energy and money.

We’ve also gotten two new pieces of equipment.  Our first hybrid bus has arrived.  The drivers are undergoing training so it will be operational for the spring semester. If you are in Albany over break, look for it down Western/Madison avenue.

We’ve also taken delivery of a bottle return machine.  This is located in the campus center near the SEFCU branch.  This is currently getting set up to accept plastic bottles and cans.  Monies can be redeemed at Outtakes.  This should be fully operational at the start of the spring semester.  So start collecting those returnables!!

Eating local

We are about to release our end of semester bulletin for the fall and in it I talk about a new source of buying local products: the Helderberg Market.  I posed this question to the readers of the bulletin and will repeat it here.   What is your favorite spot to purchase local produce?

Sustainability week

Next week will be action packed with lots of sustainability tips and activities.   The UAlbany Sustainability Council has been working hard to put together a week full of events.  Each day will feature tabling in the LC concourse between 10 am and 4 pm.   Stop by to see the different exhibitors, enter raffles and try the bin shoot to win some prizes.  Lil’D will be by on Monday to calculate his carbon footprint.   Each evening there will be a movie at the quads (list below).  The week will wrap up with a discussion forum on Friday at 3 pm in University Hall 110.  Hear Professors Delano, Kleppel and Robinson along with our Energy Officer Indu discuss the ways they incorporate sustainability into their lives.

Here is the schedule of events listing each day’s theme and the groups tabling

Monday – Human Impact Day

Albany Country Stormwater Coalition

Cascades Recovery Systems

Campus Greens

Lil’ D doing his carbon footprint

Movie night: 7 pm Indian Quad penthouse, National Geographic Human Impact

Tuesday – Green Energy day

No luck here, just the sustainability group tabling

Movie night: 8 pm Tuscarora Conference room, Kilowatt Ours


Wednesday – Transportation day


Connect by Hertz

UAlbany Shuttle

Free raffle for an IPod!!

Movie night: 8 pm Colonial Quad penthouse, The Lorax

Thursday – Conservation day

Wow Green Now

Friends of the Pine Bush

Movie night: 8 pm State Quad penthouse, Ferngully

Any questions, contact the office at 956-8120

Sustainability Office Tours County Waste’s Single Stream Recycling Facility

NYSAR3 Region 4 members (UAlbany is a member) visited the County Waste Single Stream Recycling Facility on October 22, as part of its regional meeting.  Mary Ellen and I attended. County Waste collects the University’s commingled recycling. It also services any off campus students in the Albany area. This means the facts about single stream recycling that follow pertain to off campus students rather than on campus. If on campus you still need to separate your recyclables. The owner, Scott Earl, led the tour.  At the entrance to the facility is a large live feed video screen that will be used as an educational tool for school groups and other parties that don’t go into the facility. There is a conference room nearby where groups can meet and talk with facility managers.  That is where NYSAR3 had its meeting. On the tipping floor, trucks dump the recycling loads where large fans help dry any items that are damp. Large rigid items such as plastics and metals are removed by hand if seen.  Plastic bags are also removed by hand.  The plastic bags and rigid plastics are placed in separated bays to be sorted and processed Sundays.  The rigid plastics are baled while the bags are ripped opened and processed accordingly. The materials are fed onto a conveyor belt and go through an initial picking line where several workers pull the remaining plastic bags and any shredded paper and drop them below into separate bins. The material then proceeds over an initial set of “star screens,” which are a series of parallel rollers with star-shaped knobs every few inches, and holes sized for specific types of materials in between. At this first set of screens, glass bottles are crushed by the knobs and fall through the small holes into a bin, where the glass be shipped out as crushed aggregate. The remaining materials (primarily paper, cardboard, and plastic) are lifted up and passed the screens and progress down the line. The second series of screens sort out the plastic containers which fall through to the plastic sorting stream. Plastic containers are currently being stored until the “green eyes” optical scanner system is on-line in the next couple of weeks; this system will sort the plastics by color and type. The cardboard then comes out at a second picking line. The remaining fiber stream now consists almost entirely of paper, which is sorted through a final time to remove most of the remaining contaminants. Contamination is very low – the residual rate is about 3% (compared to a 9% national average for single stream facilities).  Key contaminants are PVC pipe, vinyl blinds, garden hose, and small amounts of crushed glass in the fiber stream (up to 2% glass shards are allowed).  Plastic lids and caps are allowed in this system and aren’t considered contaminants. Hardcover books and pizza boxes are accepted as well.  For some recycling facilities soiled pizza boxes aren’t allowed because of potential pests, but the fiber is baled so quickly and sent out that it is not a concern (just remove the wax paper and shake out the box). Materials are baled and shipped out to national and international markets.For materials going overseas, they take pictures of the truck when it is one-quarter full, half full and full and send them to the buyer of the bales.  The buyer pays half of the cost based on market price and quality of the truckload from the digital pictures.  The rest of the payment is made upon receiving the material. The facility currently receives about 500 tons/day of materials, five to six days per week, and is operating at a process rate of 18-20 tons per hour (maximum rate is approximately 35 tons/hour). The facility operates during two, 10-hour shifts (one shift employs 40 workers and the second, 36), and there are four hours of maintenance in every 24 hour period.

All in all it was a very informative interesting tour. Thanks to Scott Earl and County Waste for hosting, and thanks NYSAR3 for organizing.

-Bill Valleau   Graduate Assistant


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