Special visitor to campus

We had a special visit from Anugraha John, the Executive Director of Global Citizens for Sustainable Development.  Here are some of our impressions.

The lecture was co-organized by the Offices of International Education and Environmental Sustainability.  GCSD, an organization based inBangalore,India, brings sustainable development to impoverished areas of the world through initiatives like the “We Build” program.  “We Build” has students from around the world—including students from UAlbany—build homes for impoverished single mothers in India.

When building these homes, John integrates his three pillar philosophy on sustainability, which includes economic, societal, and environmental sustainability. Not only does “We Build” use environmentally sustainable materials, they also help women learn tangible skills to enable them to continue living an economically stable life. To communicate a sense of social sustainability and responsibility in the women receiving this gift, “We Build” only builds the houses to 70% completion. The women and their communities then develop a sense of ownership over their new home by finishing the building process. Students from UAlbany can volunteer for this program as a winter or summer session course through the Office of International Education.   Check out their web site for more information.

To end the presentation, John took us through an exercise that challenge us to fill a spaceship with all the items we would need to live in the future.  It was very interesting to tap into our imagination to create a vision for a new world and interesting as to what we left behind and what suddenly became much more valuable and vital to us.  Ironically the valuable items are the things we usually take for grant (like access to water and food) and the things we might see as valuable in our world became worthless in this new one (like cell phones).
John’s main point is that if we are concerned about our world that we need to connect, converse and commit to action.  The kind of events John organizes crosses borders but we don’t need to replicate this on such a large scale. Setting up a simple local program or discussion group can be the first step towards creating a larger global community and becoming better global citizens.

(thanks to Jackie Mirandola Mullen for helping with this piece)


Energy campaign, season 5

It’s hard to believe that we have been doing an energy campaign in the dorms for five years now.  But yesterday does mark the start of our fifth campaign.  We’ve been improving gradually over the years. At first the dorms saw an average of a 4 to 5 percent decrease, now they are averaging in the double digits.  And that has paid off in the form of new recreation tables, games, bikes and recycling bins for the students to enjoy.

We brought the campaign to the academic buildings two years ago.  We’ve seen decreases from our baseline of 6 and 8% over the last two years but are still short of our 10% goal.  This year we’ve added some extra incentives to try and increase these numbers.  A bagel breakfast will be awarded to the building that achieves the largest percentage decline from their baseline and occupants in top performing buildings will receive beverage coupons.

In addition, we’ve hired a team of student workers who will go around and do energy checks at night in the academic buildings. They will be going around turning off lights in the classroom and handing out energy conservation reminders.

I’ll be posting our progress at our web site: http://www.albany.edu/gogreen under the Energy section of UAlbany and Sustainability.

Mary Ellen

Back to school

It’s hard to believe that it’s time for the students to come back. The slower pace of the summer will give way to the hustle of activity.  But the new year brings new adventures.

This year the office will be sponsoring a move in program.  Look for our student volunteers on Indian and State quad tomorrow (Thursday) and Colonial and Dutch on Friday.  Both days between 10 am and 2 pm.  They’ll be handing out compact florescent light bulbs and collecting cardboard boxes for recycling.

Later, the students will greet the new residents of the World of Environment and Sustainability living learning community as well as those living in the sustainability themed house in Colonial.  Each of these areas received specialized recycling bins and sustainability council members will be giving mini lessons on recycling and changing out light bulbs.

As always, we’ll be present at Librarypalooza and the SA block party to greet all of our freshman.  The first council meeting will be on September 9 at 3 pm in University Hall 306 for student who is interested in taking a leadership role in sustainability.

Faculty and staff, you can join our coordinators program if you would like to represent your department and become a point person for sustainability.  Our first meeting will be September 6 at 12 pm in University Hall 306.

See you all soon!

Mary Ellen

What We Did on Summer Vacation; Solar Panels and Hybrids

Remember creating those essays in school?  Well, despite the quiet nature of the office during the summer, quite a few projects were completed.  Three more hybrid buses were delivered in June.  The summer routes ran completely on hybrid power!!  What a great turnaround and accomplishment for our mass transit office and maintenance crew.  We went from having a rather old, worn out fleet to one that is now one third hybrid.  And more good things are to come!!

Another new development is the completion of our first renewable energy project on campus.  Technicians installed a 49 kwh system on the roof of the solar science building.  See the picture below:

We also completed the update of our web site.  Check out: http://www.albany.edu/gogreen for our new look.  There is lots of information and reference guides under our “Resources” and “Fliers and Handbooks” link.

We have started doing a comprehensive sustainability assessment called the STARS rating system. This is part of the national sustainability organization, AASHE, of which UAlbany is a member.  Look for more info and updates on our progress as we map out all the sustainability programs, policies and initiatives.

Let us know what you think of the new website!

Mary Ellen


My excellent solar adventure part 4

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated my quest to bring solar power to my home.  With a slower summer schedule, I’ve got some time to let you know how the mission is going.

Back in December, NYSERDA announced some really good incentives for solar thermal.  For those that aren’t familiar with solar thermal, this uses solar panels and/or tubes to heat the water for your electric hot water tank.  This can have some significant savings in your electric bill since hot water can account for up to 30% of your electricity use.  If you are one to calculate “paybacks”, a solar thermal system offers an excellent return when compared to the traditional solar panel system, with a 3 to 7 year payback depending on the system.

The announcement of this new incentive inspired me to brush the dust off of the quotes I received for solar panel and solar thermal systems in the past.  Since it had been a while, the company I decided to use needed to come out and re-inspect the area.  They sent me a new quote, I accepted and away we went.  However, my dream of a new system met with two roadblocks: first, we needed to get a new roof and second, two trees next to our house needed to come down in order to access the southern exposure enough to power the system.  Both of these were things I knew needed to be done regardless.  The roof is about 20 years old and the two trees have had severe lighting damage, one is hollowed out, and they pose a risk to our home.

So with that in mind, I accepted these additional projects in the spirit of bettering my home, but it did add to the overall total cost of the project.   Right now we are in a waiting pattern. The company I contracted with has gotten approval from NYSERDA and submitted paperwork to the town for a work permit.  I’ve contracted with another company to put on our new roof and to a third company to take down the trees.  Now I’m just waiting for everyone to show up and start the jobs.   I’ll post some pictures later as the work gets done.

Mary Ellen

Recap of the spring

Wow, it was certainly an ambitious spring!  We held several programs that were so well received.  Below is a brief summary of some of the highlights:

Student Conference

The Sustainability Council did an amazing job putting together the Capital District’s first student sustainability conference.  Attendance was sold out and we had representatives from seven colleges.  Pictured at right are the co-chairs: Jonny Puglia, Hillary Closs and Chris Franklin.

YNN9 did a nice piece on it.  Here is the link:


Spring Awakening

We combined forces with our Employee Assistance Program to put on the Spring Awakening Event.  This combined the EAP wellness fair, a student sustainability fair, a farmer’s market and the clothing exchange for a great event.  The word has spread about the exchange with SA providing some much appreciated PR and a contest to encourage donations.  We exchanged twice the number of clothing pieces as last year!  We donated the remaining items to the City Mission and raised over $100 for them as well.  Our Communications and Marketing department did a great job helping us out with a green scavenger hunt leading up to the event day.

Shredding day

Every year the office sponsors a shredding day with EAP.  This year we shredded and recycled an amazing 15,000 pounds of paper!! That’s the equivalent of planting over 100 trees.

Give and Go

Our move out program, called the Give and Go, also saw record donations this year.  Res Life did a great job getting the word out to the residents and this really increased the number of items we collected.  You can see me at right picking some garbage out of our collection bin on State Quad.

I am very proud of all the hard work done by the council members this year and it’s amazing to see their growth.  I am also very excited about the way our campus is becoming much more conscious about their environmental responsibility.  I wish everyone a safe and restful summer.

Mary Ellen

A Little Time Off

Our semester is coming to a close. Next week is spring break, and after that there is only one more week of classes before finals begin. We have seen so many changes this year and we are very excited for what is going to happen next year. Our membership is growing, our programs are becoming larger and larger, and our audiences are getting bigger and bigger.

If there was ever time for a “green revolution” it is now. With the recession stagnating and natural disasters wrecking havoc on the world, it’s time that we start thinking about more sustainable, safer, and environmentally friendly ways of living. That’s our greater goal. To develop these ideas and share them with our peers, not just so that our campus becomes more sustainable, but that our lives become more sustainable. At the Capital District Student Sustainability Conference that we hosted two weeks ago, we heard many people speak about the implications of our technological advances. Professor Gary Kleppel spoke about the dangers of industrial farming, and revealed just how many dangerous chemicals and hormones we are putting into our bodies. Scott Kellogg of The Radix Ecological Sustainability Center discussed with us how unsustainable urban living leads to more and more urban decay, and that when the time comes when we can no longer rely on the corporate, industrial supply chain that supports us now, how helpless we will be. Education and implementation are radically important at this moment.

Sustainable living is what will prevent a complete collapse of society as we know it. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in the next 50 years. But we have to start now, otherwise we will continue to damage the Earth beyond recognition, beyond sustainable levels.

As we approach next year, we want to focus on these ideas, educate and implement in ways that are easily translatable into our everyday lives. Going forward, we hope to report back that our mission is successful, that we are doing all we can to change the way we live.

– Jeremy Grunstra