Climate Action Plan to boost sustainability on campus

The college released a climate action plan Sept. 15 to address Oswego’s response to challenging worldwide issues, specifically global warming.

In 2008 alone, the college produced a "net eCO2 of 44,736 metric tons" according to the Oswego State’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). One household in the U.S., as stated on the EPA Web site, emits four metric tons per year.

Therefore, Oswego State is running as if it were more than 11,000 households. That’s more than one whole household per student.

This new C.A.P., submitted to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), summarizes the college’s efforts towards a "green" future.

"Our goal is also to ensure that all our students are fully prepared for the future with the intellectual capacity, skills, and access to technologies that enable them to innovate and adapt in an equitable, ethical and sustainable way," Oswego State President Deborah Stanley said in the plan.

The C.A.P. also includes the sustainability vision statement that involves three main sectors – educational, operational and financial.

"Educationally, SUNY Oswego will advance students’ understanding of environmental, cultural, political, and economic aspects of sustainability through curricular and co-curricular programming" the C.A.P. stated.

Operationally, the plan calls for planning and investing in "facilities, infrastructure and operational methods in a manner that maximizes social benefits and minimizes the use of non-renewable resources."

Financially, the college seeks to work together with the community, administration and students to maximize conservation while promoting social and ethical responsibility and respect, as the CAP mentions.

Jerry Desantis, associate vice president of facilities and sustainability coordinator, said the biggest part of this message is that "it’s easy being green."

"There’s a lot of opportunity to manage our carbon footprint every day," Desantis said. "This is a tremendous opportunity for students for future jobs, learning experiences and business ventures."

He said students are going to learn more, get more involved in the education process, learn about the inner connectedness of operations on campus, and get involved directly in the sustainability process.

"The college administration cannot do all of the changes by themselves," Desantis said. "In order to carry this out, students are going to have to be a big part of this."

For instance, a big part of the climate action plan involves the community of Oswego. In order to get to the levels of sustainability the college is seeking, cooperation between the city and college must occur.

The plan calls for these joint efforts in sustainability.

"We believe that…sustainability can only be achieved through cooperative planning and development of appropriate and diversified energy, housing, transportation, education and skill development, job and business growth, and health and wellness opportunities," Desantis said.

The C.A.P. also outlines specifics when it comes to carbon reduction on campus, such as reducing fossil fuel use and increasing alternative energy sources, especially geothermal and wind power. The college has already begun to put in motion the use of geothermal for building heating and cooling for the new science building on campus.

Another facet of the plan addresses the transportation contribution to the campus’s carbon footprint. As the plan lists, in 2008, transportation consisted of 29 percent of the net carbon emissions.

Desantis said that the plan will institute talks about transportation demand management with police discussions to reduce that percent by nearly half. He said this is the easy part, as those working on the campus sustainability initiative are discovering.

"Reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from campus is going to be easier than we thought," Desantis said. Beyond that is going to involve a larger coordinated planning effort.

Specific ways to reduce these GHG emissions are outlined in diagrams in the climate action plan, ranging from changing light bulbs, controlling water usage and utilizing alternative fuels (geothermal, wind, solar-active and passive).

Long-term and short-term goals are also expressed in the action plan including the possibility of utilizing wind energy from the construction of wind turbines.

The ACUPCC that President Stanley signed in 2007 calls for higher education institutions to take the first steps towards "greening" the education system. Oswego is one of 654 colleges and universities who have signed.

To see other colleges’ climate action plans, students and staff can go to presidentsclimatecommitment.org. The ACUPCC is part of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (aashe.org). Oswego State has a sustainability Web site, listing more information, under the leadership tab.