Green Deen comes to UAlbany

This blog is a dual report. Mary Ellen Mallia, the director of Environmental Sustainability will provide the introduction and a council chair, will provide his impressions.

On March 18th, the Muslim Student Association and UAlbany Sustainability Council co-sponsored Ibrahim Abdul-Matin an environmental activist based in New York City.  This was the capstone event of Islam week. Deen means path or religion and to Abdul-Matin, the teaching of Islam encourages environmental stewardship. His very engaging speech challenged everyone, regardless of our faith, to live a sustainable life.  He recalled the piles of garbage he observed in his Mosque after breaking fast and felt that we as a community can do better in respecting the environment.  And in fact, this is what is expected of people of faith.  His book is divided into four main sections: water, waste, energy and food and discusses how our choices and actions in these areas affect the world around us.

Mary Ellen

He mentioned how Islam advocates that there should be a balance on Earth as far using natural resources. In essence, Islam would be against exploiting the world’s resources and polluting to the extent that it causes global warming and environmental degradation. In the month of Ramadan, (month of fasting) we should practice recycling and teaching the youth the importance of it. Overall this was a great program, one quote he said that stood out to me the most. He said “we need to get educated and educate others on the issues and solutions. The way that we manage the major systems of water, waste, energy and food define civilization. At no time in the history of the world have the people of the world been in more constant contact than we are now. This connectivity is a challenge and also a blessing. We can harness this people power to hold our institutions accountable and to find better ways to deliver water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, power to the industrious and reduce the impact that our actions have on the planet. We are all responsible for protecting the planet.”

Thanks to MSA for bringing Abdul-Matin to campus!!

What is your garbage part 2


The results are in from our waste audit conducted on St. Patrick’s day.  We analyzed about a dozen bags of garbage from randomly selected locations in the quads, dining hall, campus center, library and podium.

See the picture of the brave crew at left.

Below are pictures of the Green Scene team sorting and weighing the bags.

Overall we found that 50% of what was in the garbage was actually garbage, 22% was food waste, 17% was plastic, glass and/or aluminum recyclables, and 7% was paper recycling.

The offices had the most true waste in their garbage at 80%, followed by the campus center at 74%, dorms at 50% and dining halls at 34%.

The dorms had the highest amount of recyclables in the mix with 36% of their waste consisting of recyclables, followed by 20% recyclables in the dining hall,  campus center  and office waste.  The dining hall waste also contained the highest amount of food waste at 37%.One bright spot was that we did not find any hazardous waste or papers with highly personal and/or confidential information on it.

The audit helped us to increase awareness about the composition of our garbage and how much room we have for improvement!  We hope to make this an annual event and that it will also create incentive for students, faculty and staff will not only think twice about what they put in the garbage but will help to educate and encourage everyone in our campus community to be better recyclers.

What’s in your garbage?

Well, we’re going to find out this week.  On Thursday (St. Patrick’s Day), we will be doing a trash audit.  This involves opening up bags of garbage from selected locations across campus and assessing it’s contents.  This event is part of our Recyclemania campaign to raise awareness about waste minimization and encourage higher recycling rates.  We’ll be in front of the campus center from noon to 2 pm.  We expect to take lots of pictures and will report our results within the next couple of weeks.

Also this week, we are selling green grams.  We’ll be in the campus center between 11 am and 2 pm Monday through Thursday.   These are sweet treats with an environmental message.  All proceeds will be donated to the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center.  They only cost $1 and if you want one delivered to a friend, it’s $2. All deliveries will take place on St. Patrick’s Day.  For more information on either of these, contact the office at gogreen@albany.edu

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: http://www.waterfirstfilm.org.   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: http://www.oprah.com/showinfo/Oprah-and-378-Staffers-Go-Vegan-The-One-Week-Challenge

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

Recyclemania!

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!!

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