Friday, November 15, 2013

Celebrate America Recycles Day Today! (November 15th)

Recycling programs differ by institution, town, city & county. So it does require one to do a little bit of research to sort your recyclables correctly. But it is worth it! Recycling saves energy, reduces landfills, preserves our resources & protects our wildlife, is good for the economy & reduces our climate problems.

Here at Union we recycle:
Paper Products: blue bin with paper slot found on each floor of every building
Plastic/Metal/Glass: blue bin with round hole on each floor of every building
Cardboard: Break down & place adjacent to trash or recycling bins
Plastic Bags & Film Plastic: recycling container outside of the C-Store (1st flr Reamer)
Electronics, Batteries, Lightbulbs & Ink Cartridges: Bring to Front Office of Facilities Services
Food Waste: in Upperclass & West Dining Hall. Or at your event upon request!

Sometimes recycling can be confusing, so if you have any questions please reach out!
ext 6765

Take the pledge today

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hazardous Waste Reduction Program Created for Schenectady County Residents

Through the Hazardous Waste Reduction Program, Schenectady County Compost Facility & Recycling Center is now collecting unwanted household chemicals (paints, aerosols, bleach, etc.) from community residents for their safe and environmentally-friendly disposal.

This is part of the County's many efforts to support environmentally sound endeavors, and will provide community members with a disposal facility for common household items other than the trash can.

The community's next Collection Day is Saturday, November 16th, 2013. In order to participate in the event, residents must obtain an annual Compost Facility and Recycling Center permit. For a complete list of accepted chemicals and to register for Collection Day, please visit the Program's website.

Posted by: Sophie Cowley '17

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Electric City Food Co-op Kicks off Membership Drive

Schenectady's own food co-op in-the-making, the Electric City Co-op, has plans to boost its membership and raise funds-- as well as awareness-- over the next several months. One exciting event that the co-op board has planned is a traditional hoedown, with square dancing, food and fun hosted in a beautiful 150-year-old barn turned house in Rotterdam Junction.

Since the spring of 2012, Katherine Wolfram, the founder of the Electric City Food Co-Op, has been collaborating with community members to translate her dream into a reality. The Co-op's goal is to create a local, farm-to-table market in the heart of Schenectady, a place where anyone can have access to fresh foods and produce without needing to step foot into a grocery store. Over the past year and a half, many impressive strides have been taken toward the Co-op's development, but additional financial support is definitely needed to get the Co-op off the ground.

Painting table at Upper Union St. Harvest Festival last month

A future site for the Co-op has been chosen, and though the space will require a good amount of time and funds, the Co-op board is excited to see its transformation. If you or someone you know would like to see a place where delicious food meets benefits of local production and sustainability in our community, please consider donating to the Co-op or applying for membership.

Check out the link above for more information or visit the Co-op's Facebook page. Make sure to buy your tickets for the November 16th hoedown!

Posted by: Sophie Cowley '17

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hydrofracking Tour of Susquehanna County

Pipeline construction. (Kominoski, 2012)

Craig and Sandy Kominoski heard about the controversy over hydrofracking and wanted to see for themselves what it was all about. They arranged to take a tour of fracking country in Susquehanna County, PA and what they found shocked them. In their presentation at Union last Wednesday, they showed the pictures they took during their trip and told the story behind the pictures.

What struck me the most was how much of the impacts of fracking couldn't be seen in the pictures. When you drive past a fracking well, it looks fairly innocuous. What you don't see is hundreds of chemicals with the potential to contaminate groundwater, the miles of pipelines required to get the natural gas to its destination, and the compression stations required every two to four miles along that pipeline.

Three years of fracking in Susquehanna
County has brought 500 wells
with only 20% of plan completed.
There is drilling in 24 counties in PA.
(Kominoski, 2012)

One of the locals showed them around and told them about what goes on that they couldn't see for themselves. For example, one of the towns fought to get clean drinking water paid for by the fracking companies when their groundwater became contaminated, but lost that battle and now have to pay for it out of their own pocket. They could see the "water buffalo" storage tanks next to almost every house.

Craig and Sandy's presentation wasn't exactly impartial and as you can probably tell, I'm pretty biased too. How can I not be when I've seen the tears in my friend's eyes as she witnessed the fracking in her homestate? But there is a value to seeing the other side of the story. Why would people all across the country allow fracking on their property? Is there a way to make fracking safer and are any precautions being taken by companies? It's important to answer these questions too to get a complete picture of fracking.

-Rachel Ross

Friday, November 8, 2013

Octopus' Garden Yields Seasonal Harvest of 1,589 pounds!

As the colder weather sets in and the harvesting season comes to a close, total yields have been counted to sum up the wonderful efforts of our campus' own organic garden.

The top yield of the season were carrots (237.5 lbs) and greens (237 lbs). Potatoes and sweet potatoes were also a large portion of the yield, about 100 lbs each. This is very good news for our garden! Of course, these efforts could not have been made possible without the help and devotion of the Octopus Garden volunteers, both students and faculty.

Thanks to the generosity of the Presidential Green Grant committee, along with Dining Services and an anonymous Alumnus donation, the Octopus' Garden has recently received a good deal of financial support for the upcoming year. We are hopeful that the 2014 season will produce an even more plentiful harvest!

Of course, Octopus' Garden could always use another helping hand. There is still time this season to get involved! Email for more information or to volunteer, or visit the Octopus Garden Facebook page.

Posted by: Sophie Cowley '17

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Presidential Green Grants - 6 years (and counting!) of funding sustainabilty at Union

This week, Union College awarded its 6th crop of Presidential Green Grant (PGG) awards. 20 different projects, proposed by students, staff, and faculty from all over campus, received between $700 and $2000 to support research projects to improve environmental conditions or initiatives to increase the sustainability of Union's operations.

Since 2007, we have awarded more than $75,000 to projects designed to reduce pollution, waste, and energy use; to increase energy efficiency, environmental education, and local food; and to generally support the tremendous creativity and drive in our own community on behalf of the environment.

These grants have become a key component of Union's research and sustainability efforts. They are a crucial mechanism by which grassroots ideas from within our own community can get support to become a reality.  

$2000 is practically chump-change for a large corporation, or even a Silicon Valley start-up in need of venture capital. But that seed money may be just the ticket to buy the supplies - and the moral support - needed for a project to go from the drawing board to reality. The combination of our financial support and our grantees' hard work has proven to be an unbeatable combination.

Today, thanks to PGGs, we have an organic garden that supplies local food to our Dining Halls and local food missions. An early $2000 grant to study the use of aerogels as an automotive catalytic converter led to more than $500,000 in grant funding from the National Science Foundation and at least one patent application. We have supported a variety of projects related to the development of more efficient solar and wind technologies.

I can't wait to see what the research in chemistry, biology, and engineering in this years' proposals will accomplish. Or how our recycling, composting, and energy efficiency efforts will get even stronger.

The Green Grants would not be possible without the unwavering support of President Stephen Ainlay and his Administration, who has generously funded the PGG's since I proposed them in 2007. The last three years a grant to Union's Environmental Science, Policy, and Engineering Program from the Mellon Foundation has specifically funded research proposals related to the environment. I can't thank them enough for their commitment to environmental efforts at Union, and for their support of our community's initiatives.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Environmental Club & Ozone House 2013 Trash Audit Results

This past Wednesday, the Environmental Club and Ozone House performed a trash audit to break down exactly how much waste-- including recycling and compost-- is wrongly sent to the landfill every day. The audit is meant to raise awareness on the amount of waste produced across campus and allows for potential improvement on the distribution of future waste.

Student volunteers removed trash bags from the following buildings: Ferro House, Humanities, Edward, Smith, Davidson, Lippman, Science & Engineering, Reamer, Webster, South College, Wells, Olin, West College, North College, Breazzano, Beuth, Schaffer Library, Golub House, and Ozone House. 

The trash was first weighed, then combined and finally sorted into eight different waste categories: compost, plastics, metal, paper + cardboard, plastic bags, glass, landfill ("true trash") and liquids.

While only about 40% of the trash collected was "true trash," about 25% of the trash was actually compostable, and approximately the remaining 35% were recyclables. 

The data on trash weight and distribution from Wednesday's audit can be found in the charts above and below. 

Credit: Annie Nelson

Credit: Annie Nelson

Posted by Sophie Cowley '17