Friday, December 14, 2012

Funding Sustainability: $25,000 Available for Innovative Student Projects

Two years ago, students collected 600+ signatures from Union students approving the allocation of $5 from each student’s Student Activities fees to a fund to be used for projects that would have a measurable reduction of our ecological footprint. Petitioning for signatures lead to many long meetings with Student Forum, the creation of the VP of Sustainability position on Student Forum, the writing of Bylaws and thus The Union College Green Fee was born.

This past fall, the Green Fee Governance Committee (GFGC), charged with the responsibility of advertising, overseeing the application process as well as proper allocation of funds, has worked very hard to frame the first Request for Proposal (RFP) of The Union College Green Fee.

What exactly is the Green Fee you might ask?
The short answer is: $25K waiting to be used by Union students for sustainable projects.

Prior to the 2012-2013 academic year, Union has offered Presidential Green Grants (PGG’s), which have awarded a maximum of $2K to finance two types of sustainable projects. The first type is an on-campus project that lowers our carbon footprint. The second type is a research project with measures geared towards improving environmental conditions on a local or global scale. The funding of the PGG’s has and continues to be funded by President Ainlay’s Office as well as the Mellon Foundation Grant and is available to students, faculty & staff.

While $2K is more than adequate to satisfy a variety of smaller projects, it can be minimal for a larger-scale project. Potential projects include: installation of a solar panel array, a new bike sharing program, or a green roof that $2K would not cover. This is why a portion of students Student Activity Fee is funneled into a Green Fee Fund, which makes $25K available to Union students to see their sustainability projects realized.

So do you want 25 thousand dollars?

In order to access the fund, Union students can submit their proposals to the Green Fee Governance Committee, who will review proposals and allocate funding. The first round of proposals are due by the end of week 3 of winter term (January 25th, 2013), so start planning now!

Make sure to visit the  Garnet Goes Green Facebook page to locate the proposal guidelines and application. They are located in the “Photos” section.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the Chair or Vice Chair of the Green Fee Governance Committee.
-Chair: Jordan Pulling- 
-Vice Chair: Maxfield Fey-

Remember, you could go down in history as the backbone of an amazing sustainability project at Union!

Thanks and Happy Holidays from the Green Fee Governance Committee.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Dirty energy makes dirty weather" - a phrase that may finally STICK!

Al Gore may have found the catchphrase that finally makes the connection between fossil fuels, climate change, and our everyday lives. He closed his Huffington Post Opinion piece with it, and his CurrentTV Network is airing "24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report".

What's in a name, or in this case, a phrase?


Global warming - Not very threatening. "Dude, I like summer! Warmer weather means more flip-flops and less frostbite. Bring it on!"

Climate change - More accurate in that it implies effects beyond just temperature. But as with Global warming, "change" isn't so threatening.

But "dirty weather" trumps all of these - we can all understand it, and it makes a clear connection to exhaust and dirty fossil fuels.

In politics, LANGUAGE MATTERS! Republicans, under the tutelage of Frank Luntz have mastered the turn of a phrase for a generation - "Pro-life," "Death tax," and "Patriot Act," just to name a few.

Democrats have been woefully outgunned in the arena of political language (but see George Lakoff's Little Blue Book as an example of an effort to bring Democratic political language along).

But I think that "Dirty energy makes dirty weather" could stick in people's minds and actually influence policy in a profound way. Let's hope so - we need all the help we can get!

Monday, November 12, 2012

How Citizens United affects local environmental causes

Image courtesy of
UPDATE January 5, 2013 - You can read more about Richmond's relationship with Chevron in a recent New York Times story. 

The election of 2012 was notable for many things, including the wave of corporate money that was used to influence elections. As a result of the Supreme Court's Citizens United case, corporations can now contribute unlimited sums to elections on politics. Approximately $6 billion was spent on the 2012 election; almost $2 billion was spent in the Presidential election.

Interestingly, it isn't clear that all that money did much to influence the outcome in the Presidential election or even state-wide elections such as those for Senate. There is so much money coming in via FEC-regulated donations that the corporate donations may not shift the big races for President, Senate, Governor, etc., much at all. Consider Ohio: almost $150 million was spent on TV ads in Ohio. Do you really think that the 1000th political ad anyone saw changed her mind?

That's not to say that Corporate and other unregulated money didn't influence the election - just that its influence took place in the political understory - at the district or local level. Here, corporations get a real bang for their donation bucks - at the expense of good government and often the environment.

Chevron Refinery, Richmond CA
I know first-hand of one such example, from my own hometown of Richmond, CA. Some Union College students may have heard of Richmond if you have taken ENS100 - Introduction to Environmental Studies. I have presented the case study of the influence of Chevron USA, which has a large refinery in Richmond, on the city's politics.

Thanks to Citizens United, Chevron's influence on Richmond politics has gone nuclear.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Union students propose ways to make campus operations more sustainable

Hannah Gardella and Nicole Julich
On Monday, students in Prof. Anouk Verheyden-Gillikin's and Jeff Corbin's Intro to Environmental Studies (ENS100) class presented posters describing proposals to make Union College's operations more sustainable. This poster session is always a highlight of the term, as it shows students' creativity and often is the germ of ideas that the College later adopts. Each of the posters presented not only a specific project and how it would be carried out, but also calculations as to the energy and/or monetary savings relative to the cost of installation. We hope that we'll be seeing some of them implemented in the near future!

Bonsal Brooks
Proposed projects included installation of hand-driers in residences, a fee system for laundry, heat-exchange in shower drains, grey-water collection and use, and an expansion of Octopus' Garden, just to name a few!

Hopefully, the next step for at least some of these projects is that they'll apply for some of the $25,000 that is available for student-proposed projects that save energy - the Green Fee!

Super-thanks to Meghan Haley-Quigley, Fred Puliafico, and Paul Matarrazo of Facilities for their help and willingness to answer many many questions.

The projects:
A Better Future is Biomass - Ali Smith, Karyn DeFranco and Victoria Cannillo
Ben Forman describes his poster

Davidson Hall Rain Water Collection - Maya Whalen-Kipp , Sonia Sandoval, and Jay Foster-Grover

When they remodel Humanities, let’s build a Green Roof! - Liz Devine, Yixin Hu and Bonsal Brooks

Feasibility of Greywater Systems and Alternative Water Saving Methods - Mathias Whitmeyer and Rachel Ross

Who Likes Hot Showers? U DO! - Benjamin Forman, Malory Bichunsky, Rachel Wyman and Matthew Gottlieb

Chad Laustrup
The Expansion of Octopus’s Garden - Jackie Goldenberg and Olivia Powers

To dry or Nott to dry? - Lauren Coryea, Victoria Cullinan and Elora Weil

Sloan Aqus Greywater System - Nicole Bartlett, Alex Tancrell-Fontaine and Alison Troy

Water Refilling Stations: A More Green Union - Chad Laustrup and Alec Weiss

Waterless Urinals - Dan Hurwitt, Gregory Bel and Todd Fichman

Olivia Powers and Jackie Goldenberg
Decreasing energy use through pay-per load laundry alternative - Nicole Julich, Hannah Gardella, Daniel Tinklepaugh and Alex Husain

What is in store from a second Obama Administration?

Image: President Barack Obama waves to supporters after his victory speechWith Barack Obama's reelection, we can start to imagine what his second term will look like in terms of environmental issues.

While environmental issues played a very small role in the campaign, Obama did frequently tout initiatives to encourage alternative energy. He can also point to significant administrative and regulatory initiatives - including auto efficiency, mercury pollution, and EPA regulation of CO2 emissions. There was no significant legislative environmental achievement of Obama's first term, although that is as much a reflection of a hostile Congress and the focus on the economy as anything else.

I expect that Obama will continue to push things that the Energy Department, EPA, etc. can do to move environmental issues forward. However, I do not foresee a push, say, a comprehensive energy bill through Congress.  I also do not expect any movement to put a price tag on carbon emissions, as good a step as it would be.

Where he could do so much more would be to take the example that Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo have set and start LEADING on the issue of climate change, instead of hiding from it. Sandy's landfall finally woke up the media and helped the public make the connection between climate change and their lives. Exit polls found that 41% of voters thought that the President's handling of Sandy was "very important" or "important" in their decision. In an election decided by 2%, that is a big number.

Will Obama lead? Time will tell. One cause for optimism is that he mentioned climate change in his Victory Speech late Tuesday night:
We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened up by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.
After an entire debate season with no mention of climate change, that was a welcome nod to those of us who want action.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Happy Fall! Does it seem late?

I don't know about you, but this week I'm ready to think about anything other than the election...or hurricanes...So how about celebrating fall? Ah, raking leaves, the crisp air, and cider donuts.

Yet, does it seem like fall is (forgive me) falling later than it used to? My wife, who grew up in upstate NY, recalls the chore of doing the final leaf-rake before she could go Trick-or-Treating for Halloween. Right now, though,my trees in Niskayuna are at most only half-way through dropping their leaves. Is it our imagination, or is fall getting later?

Yes, fall is really getting later. There are two explanations: Climate change, and a shift toward new species.

First, climate change. Our warmer climate - already at least 0.5 degrees C warmer than early in the 20th Century - is causing plants and animals to adjust the timing of major annual events such as migration, emergence, or senescence. That means that our springs are starting earlier and our falls are ending later. Since 1970, New York's average temperature has warmed by 2 degrees C warmer; our winters are 5 degrees C warmer!

Japanese barberry - still green while the rest of the forest has dropped its leaves
That's not the only explanation for more green left in our forests in November. The other reason is that our forests are changing. Invasive species like Japanese barberry, autumn olive, or honeysuckle are now common in the forests of the northeast. A study published in Nature by Syracuse University's Jason Fridley has demonstrated that such invasive species have extended their growing season by four weeks in the fall! This extra time to photosynthesize and acquire resources may be a key element to their success compared to our native flora.

What does this mean for our forest? Well, many things.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On superstorms and climate change

First, of course, all of our thoughts and good wishes go out to those in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. We are all wishing you a speedy recovery.

As the cleanup begins, it is worth considering the links between strong storms and climate change.  First, let's acknowledge that there have always been megastorms, in the northeast and elsewhere. Andy Revkin has written in his indispensible DotEarth blog that severe hurricanes have been a regular feature of the northeast in the short - e.g. 100-years - and long - e.g. 5000 years - time-frames. Such events occur with a certain frequency in periods of cooler and warmer climate, and so their existence in-and-of-themselves is not evidence of a new climate.

However, you are correct if you've been thinking that exceptional weather has become, well...the norm. This year we've had the mega-drought in the midwest, west, and southwestern United States, massive wildfires in Colorado and elsewhere,  a destructive "derecho" storm that hammered states from Illinois to Virginia, and now Hurricane Sandy. Of course, these come on the heels of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, which devastated nearby Scoharie County and other areas in upstate New York and Vermont.

Climate scientists, for years, have been prefacing every statement about extreme weather and climate change by saying "no individual storm can be tied to climate change." But that is changing. A host of new published studies and individual statements have made the link clearer.
Yes, we had megastorms before. But the increasing intensity of weather events - droughts, hurricanes, thunderstorm activity - are entirely consistent with what climate models have been predicting. To say that it is unrelated to climate change is no longer defensible.

Newspapers and TV, like the candidates,  are ignoring the obvious - and well-documented - connections between extreme weather and climate.

That makes it all the more remarkable that our own Gov. Andrew Cuomo made this crystal clear statement:
"There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement, that is a factual statement ... Anyone who says there's not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality. "
And, not incidentally, denying the evidence.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ozone House & E-club go to Dionondehowa!

On Sunday the 14th of October, a caravan of cars left Union College for the Dionondehowa nature preserve in Shushan, New York. We arrived to rainy conditions and were given stern warnings about ticks by the directors of the preserve, Bonnie and Geoffrey. Even so, the situation was positive in light of all of the people who had arrived to help with the work that needed to be done around the preserve. 

Russian Olive plants had invaded part of the forest and one group was in charge terminating this invasive species which many times had small red berries. The forces in my group used clippers to cut the plants down and applied pesticide selectively so as to make sure to only kill the plants. Another group dealt with identifying other invasive species with bright orange tape for future disposal. Yet there were also American hunters on the prowl in the area. The third group patrolled the road in a pickup truck and put in place numerous ‘no hunting’ signs.

After a couple hours of work, Bonnie and Geoffrey treated us to a delicious meal of bread, cheese, soup, chocolate, and fruit. The food felt good in our stomachs on a fall day in the woods.  

Ozone House & Environmental Club take seasonal trips to    h           Dionondehowa- all are welcome!

"Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs, --
To the silent wilderness,

Where the soul need not repress

Its music."

Percy Bysshe Shelley, (1792-1822), "To Jane, The Invitation," c.1820
Many Thanks to Rachel Allen for the beautiful photos.

Monday, October 22, 2012

#ClimateSilence? Blame the candidates...and the Media

Tonight was the fourth debate of the Presidential campaign - three between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and one between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden. That is about six hours of direct interaction, with the chance to discuss the most significant issues facing America's - and the world's - future. Certainly, issues related to war, peace, the economy, and health care deserve attention, and they received it. But how many questions were devoted to climate change, specifics about dealing with the threats of carbon accumulation in the atmosphere, or the national security implications of a changing climate?
Zero. Zilch. Nada.

If you think that maybe climate change isn't a significant-enough issue to warrant discussion in 2012 - in a year when extreme weather events have finally made the connection between global warming and Americans' lives and the loss of arctic sea ice has happened decades faster than models predicted - consider that climate change was discussed in the debates in 2008. And 2004. And 2000. In fact, the last time that climate change was NOT discussed in the Presidential or Vice-Presidential debates was...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Congratulations to 2012-2013 Presidential Green Grant winners!

President Stephen C. Ainlay with Green Grant winners Kevin Skeuse, John Rieffel, Mary Cornelia Pinkston, Livia Carroll, David Glasser, Tom Heisinger, along with Jeff Corbin, assistant professor of biology, and Meghan Haley-Quigley, sustainability coordinator.  
Monday President Ainlay and U-Sustain announced the winners of the 2012-2013 Presidential Green Grants. Eight projects, ranging from upgrading the bicycle facilities to research of pollution from jet engines, to use of beneficial insects as an alternative to pesticides were acknowledged in a ceremony in Feigenbaum Hall. 

Embedded image permalinkWinners included Livia Carroll, Kevin Skeuse '13, David Glasser, John Rieffel, Tom Heisinger, Mary Cornelia Pinkston '15, and Ralph Cueva '13.

Presidential Green Grants support initiatives that make College operations more sustainable or research projects designed to provide regional or global environmental benefits. In the 5-year history of the Green Grant Program, more than $60,000 has been awarded to such on-campus projects as Octopus' Garden, Campus Kitchens, and a variety of initiatives to reduce energy, paper, and other resource use. Funded research projects include the design of novel wind and solar technology and pioneering of the use of aerogels as a catalytic converter.

Green Grants funding is a result of the generosity of President Ainlay's Mellon-Hewlitt Discretionary Fund, and a Mellon Foundation Grant to Union College's Environmental Science, Policy and Engineering Program.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Geoengineering for the sake of the climate?

As atmospheric CO2 concentrations continue to rise, and efforts to slow emissions are stuck in "Park," schemes to scrub CO2 out of the atmosphere seem like a viable solution. Of course, we already depend on tree growth, particularly in places like the tropics, or the accumulation of dead carbon in bogs and the arctic to take carbon out of the atmosphere - or "sequester" it. There are also  much more ambitious plans that fall under the general heading of "geoengineering" - manipulating geological, chemical, or biological processes so as to draw down CO2 emissions. Regardless of how we do reducing what we put into the atmosphere, the thinking goes, we'd be prudent to also try to actively take it out.

One of the more oft-cited versions of this is to "fertilize" the ocean with iron. Dump iron filings onto the ocean's surface, and plankton would bloom by the millions, taking up CO2 as they do it. (The CO2 they take up would be from the ocean, but it would be replaced by CO2 from the atmosphere). Once the plankton die, they would drift to the bottom the ocean, taking the carbon they incorporated into their bodies with them. And, presto! We've "stored" some carbon at the bottom of the ocean and reduced the amount in the atmosphere.

Actually, the science behind this seems pretty strong - several small-scale experiments have indeed seen the expected planktonic bloom and a decline in local ocean CO2 levels. And the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 dropped ~40,000 tons of iron dust, and led to a global decline in atmospheric CO2.

All of this is in the news because it was just reported that an entrepreneur has dumped 100 tons of iron dust in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Canada. He has done it in exchange for $2.5 million from a "native Canadian group" according to the NY Times. It has been criticized from numerous corners. The opposition derives from, among other things, the unregulated nature of the action - it was not cleared by Canadian, US, or International regulators - the scale of the project, and the potential harms it could cause via pollution.

But I think we're going to see more and more of this. As a price gets placed on carbon, and the market for carbon "offsets" grows, we will see more and more companies and individuals looking to offer their services to sequester C. Given how little we know about the long-term consequences of this method for the ecology or chemistry of the ocean - or even the long-term effectiveness in storing carbon - we should be worried. But I'm sure we can count on our governments to step up and properly regulate future large-scale geoengineering projects, right?...Right?...Hello???

Posted by Prof. Jeff Corbin

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Will Green Issues Affect Your Vote This November?

This election, there are many issues to consider when choosing which candidate will best lead our country. Although the candidates stance on environmental issues will not dictate who wins this election; topics such as climate change, energy, green jobs, and environmental protections are critical to all of our futures' whether we be democrat, republican or unaffiliated. These topics deserve debate time too. So far in this election, the candidates have touched on gas prices, fuel efficiency standards and pathways to energy independence. According to a study conducted by the Yale Center on Climate Change 68% of voters believe we should be making a medium to large scale effort to stop climate change, so why aren't we talking about it? So, with some reading between the lines we have tried to outline each candidates stance on the this subject-hope it helps!

The Obama Campaign:

Although he has not talked much about environmental issues so far this campaign, Barack Obama has openly stated, “denying climate change doesn’t make it stop”, and past decisions and voting history shows his support for the environmental movement. Obama is not the greenest candidate, but he has made some steps in the right direction. 

  • Earlier this year, Obama rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline’s proposed route that would go from Canada to Texas (although he suggested that a shorter pipeline proposal instead). 
  • While both candidates feel that energy independence is important, Obama has said that clean energy needs to be explored and grown and fossil fuel exploration can not be our only source of domestic energy. 
"But what I've also said is we can't just produce traditional sources of energy; we've also got to look to the future. That's why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you're going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That's why we've doubled clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels. And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years....And if we are only thinking about tomorrow or the next day and not thinking about 10 years from now, we're not going to control our own economic future, because China, Germany -- they're making these investments. And I'm not going to cede those jobs of the future to those countries. I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States." - last night's presidential debate
  • In terms of oil subsidies, Obama said during last weeks debate, "Does anybody think that Exxon Mobil needs some extra money every time you go to the pump? Why wouldn't we want to eliminate that?" Romney quickly shot back that he believes in the oil subsidies.
  • Last week Obama said, “On energy, I’m big on oil and gas, and developing clean coal technology, but I also believe that if we’re ever going to have control of our energy future, then we’ve got to invest in solar and wind and biofuels, and that it does make sense for us to double our fuel-efficiency standards on cars.” It’s not the perfect answer, but this candidate’s stance is better than the alternatives.  
  • In regards to drilling permits- Gov. Romney is correct that the number of permits has declined during the Obama administration. This has happened for two reasons: 1) Permits that had been granted to oil companies were not being used- use it or lose it! 2) And after deepwater horizon deep water drilling froze and shallow water drilling slowed. We are now approaching pre-spill levels. 

The Romney Campaign:

Mitt Romney has openly made a mockery of Obama’s plans to slow climate change. At the Republican National Convention, Romney said, “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans — [bites lip and pauses for audience laughter] — and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.” 

  • While Romney tries to avoid discussing the issue any further, his running mate Paul Ryan has made it clear that he does not think the environment is of concern and has even questioned the motives of climate change scientists. 
"Ryan questions the reliability of climate science, and in 2011 he opposed an amendment recognizing "that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare." Beyond the scientific questions, Ryan also has a history of opposing legislative action on climate change, voting against the cap-and-trade initiative in 2009, saying "This bill is not about science, it's not about costs and benefits; it's about ideology." " - Hayley Dunning, The Scientist
  • Ryan recently said in Ohio two weeks ago that Day 1 in office they would approve the Keystone XL Pipeline as the pipeline is the key to building jobs. 
  • The Romney campaign has attacked the Obama campaign for investing in green energy and companies and failing. Romney has ignored renewable energy, pushed the need for only coal and oil, and ignored environmental issues all together.
"In the energy sector, Ryan supports the idea of reliable renewable energy sources, but thinks federal funding is not the way to go, repeatedly arguing that government should not "pick winners and losers." He consistently voted against federal funding for energy initiatives such as research into wind and solar energy and improving the design of nuclear and "clean coal" plants. He did, however,suggest in 2000 that opening federal land, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to oil and gas drilling could raise some funds for alternative energy research." - Hayley Dunning, The Scientist
  • Loss of wildlife is not a concern of Gov. Romney's: 
"Mr. Romney, to illustrate his charge that Mr. Obama was hostile to the oil industry, said that the Obama administration had criminally prosecuted oil companies working in North Dakota for killing migratory birds. True. In September 2011, the United States attorney for North Dakota charged seven oil and natural gas companies for killing 28 migratory birds found dead near oil waste lagoons" - John M. Broder, reporter, NY Times

With due respect to both candidates- neither has spent time discussing the issue of climate change.

Our questions for the candidates:

  • What is clean coal?
  • Romney claims he can make us energy independence in 8 years - but at what cost?
  • When did we start using our own facts? Shouldn't something be indisputable? 
Treehugger has questions too! 

Here's # 8
 NASA climatologist James Hansen has said that exploitation of the Canadian tar sands means "game over" for the climate, due to the massive amount of stored carbon contained in this unconventional fossil fuel source, yet both Governor Romney and President Obama have essentially giving support for efforts to expand its importation into the United States. What's your position on increasing use of unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Union welcomes noted climate scientist Michael Mann to campus - Wed Oct 10 @7:30 in Nott Memorial 
"The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars Book
Dr. Michael E. Mann

Dr Michael Mann is a Professor at Penn State University and Director of the Earth System Science Center. He was a lead contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's assessments which won the Nobel Prize. He is a leading figure in the field of paleoclimate and in understanding how past climate change informs current climate trends.

He is also the author of books that present climate science in a way that is easily understood by non-scientists, and is a co-founder of He will be discussing his latest book, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars," in which he details his development from an academic who communicated primarily with fellow scientists to a direct target of a coordinated slander and disinformation campaign orchestrated by the fossil fuel industry and others who oppose action on climate change. Dr. Mann is now a leading bridge between academic science, policy-makers who must understand the nature of climate change in order to design responses, and the general public.

Mr. Mann will be available to sign copies of his books, which will be on sale at the Union College Bookstore this week and in the Nott the night of his talk.

For more:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Composting Comes to Upper!!

We are proud to announce that on Monday September 24th composting  began at Upper Class Dining Hall! 
This initiative has been a long time coming and has been made possible by the collaboration of Dining Services, Empire Zero and the Schenectady County Composting Facility. Upper is the first phase of our comprehensive composting program, so if all goes well we'll be  expanding to West!

Students from Ozone House and Environmental Club welcomed the campus community to the new composting program by monitoring the waste/scraping stations during lunch on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday. By Wednesday students no longer needed their help, hopefully indicating that food waste/compostables separation will be a smooth transition!

Our first week has been extremely successful, contamination has been minimal, lets hope that it stays that way!

But what is compost...?
Compost is the decomposition of organic matter. Food waste is wetted, aerated, turned and under the right conditions will break down into a humus. Compost can be used to enhance soils, act as a natural pesticide and reduce erosion.  

Why are we composting at Union? 
We are composting for a variety of reasons! Composting reduces the amount of food waste going to the landfill and thus the production of methane (30x more potent than CO2) during decomposition, our carbon footprint and our waste hauling costs. We are composting because we believe that our food scraps are more useful in the form of compost than they are in our landfills! And because composting promotes a cradle to cradle mindset rather than cradle to grave.

What can I compost?

 If you can eat it you can compost it! 
All food scraps
 Straws and napkins from upper

What can't I compost?

Peanut butter, butter, honey and condiment portion cups
 Paper cups 
 Coffee cup lids
 Sugar and tea bag wrappers
 Coffee stirrers
 Plastic cutlery
Other wrappers 

There are three bins for compostable items and one bin for trash. All bins are clearly labeled to avoid confusion! 

Special thanks to Dining Services for making this happen!! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Green Fee and Green Grants: What's the difference?

Have an idea for a sustainability project? Want to see it come to life? Here at Union, students are given the opportunity to take their ideas and see them realized! The type, cost and scope of your project will determine which source of funding you should apply for! You have two choices........

Presidential Green Grant (PGG)- Green Grants are funded by President Ainlay for smaller scale sustainability projects. Green Grants can be up to $2,000 dollars and are typically awarded to projects that have a visual impact, are educational in value or support sustainability related research. 

PGG Winners include:

  • Union Exchange: Union's own craigslit! Look out for the re-launch party!
  • Thesis/Senior Project Funding - ex: potting shed @ Octopus' Garden, built with green building guidelines in mind
  • Electric hand dryers in Reamer to replace paper towels
  • Octopus's Garden creation and expansion

See application for green grant below!

The Green Fee- Two years ago, students petitioned to allocate $5 from each student's Student Activities fees to an account that will fund sustainability projects that will result in a measurable decrease in our carbon footprint! Because it is student money proposals must be submitted by students but collaboration with faculty & staff is encouraged. The Green Fee Governance Committee (GFGC) believes that the strongest applications will come from student/faculty/staff collaboration and student research.

 $25,000 is available every year for 1 large project or a few smaller projects. 

Proposals are due on January 25th, 2013 and will be reviewed by the GFGC. This committee is comprised of one student rep from U-Sustain, one student rep from environmental club, one student rep from the Committee on Committees, the VP of Sustainability of Student Forum one staff rep from Facilities Services a faculty member from the ENS department, and the Sustainability Coordinator. 

This is the Green Fee's first year so lets make it count! 

Want to learn more? Have questions? Contact the GFGC Chair or Vice Chair. Max Fey - or Jordan Pulling 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ozone Café - The Best Meal You'll Eat All Week!

Friday's 12 - 1:30pm!

Ozone Café was started in 2007 by Ozone House and quickly became a hit here at Union. The café is run by student volunteers in Old Chapel (behind Sorum and Green house when it's nice!) and serves up local organic vegetarian food as well as seasonal produce from Octopus's Garden. Just swipe your ID card, grab a set of cutlery and get served a delicious meal by your peers! Special thanks to Dining Services & Chef Willy!
For the weekly menu: Click Here

Check out today's menu:

If you are interested in getting involved do not hesitate to mention it to your server or approach the dancing mass of students waiting in line for your plates.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Want to Get Involved with the Environmental Movement @ Union? These are the people you need to know......................

Looking to get involved in one of our environmental groups or need to contact one of our leaders? 

U-Sustain: A committee of students, faculty and staff working together to help reduce Union's carbon footprint and make the college more sustainable. U-sustain meets on Wednesday of Week 2, 5, and 8 in Old Chapel during Common Lunch!
Faculty Leaders: 
Jeff Corbin:
Laura MacManus-Spencer:
Student Leaders: 
Stacie Schwartz:
Kyle Lanzit:
Gozzie Onyiuke:

Environmental Club: An all student run organization where the ultimate goal is to raise environmental awareness on campus. The club brings speakers to campus, raises money for ecological organizations, petitions and works on community service projects. Club meets Mondays at 6:00pm in Humanities 115. 
President: Theodore Huss:
Treasurer: Jennifer Sexton:
Secretary: Sarah Neely:
Publicity: Olivia Williamson:
Historians: Lauren Hafkemeyer and Jordan Pulling:

Octopus's Garden: The garden was a student initiative funded by a Green Grant in 2008. The idea was conceived with the intention of producing delicious produce for those without access to fresh vegetables in our community. In recent years OG's produce has been donated to the food pantry, used for Ozone Cafe and in the dining halls. Very recently, a new collaboration has formed between OG and Campus Kitchens which we will continue to foster considering that it brings us back to our original mission!
The garden is always in need of tending, so.....
If you are interested in getting down in the dirt contact: 
Connie Schmitz at

Octopus's Garden Club!!
OGC is being re-formed this year. A very successful meeting was held during week 2 and officers were chosen! And during week 3 potatoes were harvested! Weekly meetings will be held on Thursdays at 6pm in Golub Great Room!
Ram Batta:
PR: Emily Crampe:
Treasurer: Jared Kimler:             

Campus Kitchens: Student volunteers take excess food from Union's dining halls and create a healthy, balanced meal which they deliver to the City Mission of Schenectady. 
CKUC Meets Saturdays from 11:00-1:30 in College Park Hall. 
Tori Chee:

Ozone Cafe: A student run cafe that offers a local & organic freshly made lunch on Fridays in Old Chapel from 12 to 1:30pm. The best meal you'll have all week is just a meal swipe away!
If you are interested in serving contact: 
Maxwell prime:

Student Forum: 
V.P of Sustainability 
Max Fey:

Green Fee Governance Committee (GFGC): Committee creates and releases The Green Fee RFP. The GFGC reviews proposals and determines proper allocation of funds. Committee Members include:
ENS faculty member: David Gillikin 
ENS student: Lucas Comstock
Facilities Services staff member: Paul Matarazo
VP of Sustainability: Max Fey
U-Sustain student: Billy Phillips
Sustainability Coordinator: Meghan Haley-Quigley
Environmental Club student: Jordan Pulling
Committee on Committees student: Peter Durkin

Sustainability Coordinator:  
Meghan Haley-Quigley:

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