A still relevant report from a few years ago is urging higher education leaders not only to engage in preventing climate change but to prepare for and respond to its impact.
The report, “Higher Education’s Role in Adapting to a Changing Climate,” compiled by the Higher Education Climate Adaptation Committee, states that many colleges and universities have taken some steps to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But these institutions “are having a key role to play when it comes to preparing our society to deal with the impact that climate change disruption across the globe” the report states. The discussion must shift to include prevention and adaptation, the report states, and colleges and universities have a unique opportunity to push that change.
The report recommends climate change-focused curriculum, research, risk management, and community engagement. It points out that colleges have the opportunity to serve as “hubs” in their local communities for climate change adaptation strategies.
A few years ago, SUNY Orange was named the “Green Business of the Year” by the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. During the preceding decade, SUNY Orange had undertaken significant measures to reduce its environmental impact and the College was recognized for its efforts when it received the Orange County Chamber of Commerce’s “Green Business of the Year” award during the Chamber’s annual meeting and awards presentation a few years way back at the Falkirk Estate and Country Club in Central Valley.
That evening, SUNY Orange was among 11 honorees accepting the Chamber’s most prestigious awards. Additional winners included Orange County Trust Company (Large Business of the Year), Focus Media, Inc. (Medium Business of the Year), Holbert’s Catering/The Backyard Bistro (Small Business of the Year), Innate Chiropractic (Start-Up Business of the Year), Independent Living, Inc. (Not-for-Profit Enterprise of the Year), Orange Regional Medical Center (President’s Award), Bill Sivillo of Captain’s Club Cruises & Tours (General Membership Volunteer of the Year), Josh Sommers of Focus Media (Board of Directors Volunteer of the Year), Hearthstone Construction Company (Commitment to Community), and the late David Cocks (Legacy Award, to be presented posthumously).
That same year, SUNY Orange earned a “bronze” rating after completing a yearlong self-study as part of the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The College, a charter member of the STARS program and an early signee of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, continues to strengthen its sustainability resume through such projects as constructing sustainable buildings, reducing its environmental footprint, and injecting green technologies and topics into its curriculum.
A few years ago, the SUNY Orange Board of Trustees made sustainability one of five strategic priorities in the College’s Strategic Plan. Additionally, the College has formulated a Sustainability Master Plan to guide its efforts, named a part-time sustainability coordinator to oversee plans and projects, and established a standing Sustainability Committee with representatives from all corners of the College. See also this post on Hydrogen.
During the past decade, the College has operated on a four-day work week, reducing its energy usage which has had greatly expanded its recycling and e-waste programs. Boiler temperatures are lowered on weekends and during vacations, new lighting fixtures and compact fluorescent bulbs have been installed in many buildings, and several green infrastructure projects – campus rain garden and riparian stream buffer restoration along Wawayanda Avenue – were completed.
The College’s Board of Trustees approved a policy requiring the College to construct all new buildings of 20,000 square feet or larger to LEED Silver specifications.
SUNY Orange has also completed a Climate Action Plan and has received an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant from Orange County, awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy under the American Resource and Recover Act, to perform an energy audit on its Middletown campus.
In addition, the Newburgh campus – which was not included in the College’s initial STARS submission but was part of the following report – was a bellwether for sustainability. To learn how solar energy systems work, check out this post.
Kaplan Hall is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council for LEED Certification and includes many environmentally friendly features both internally and externally.
A rooftop array of photovoltaic panels generates over 2.5 percent of the building’s annual electric power needs. High-performance windows and sunshades help moderate the building’s internal temperature. Energy efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems provide a high level of comfort and a healthy indoor environment and the school stimulates efforts of individuals looking to green-up their homes efficiently.
The campus plaza serves as a green roof for the underground parking garage. Rainwater is collected from the roof of Kaplan Hall in underground cisterns for irrigation of the plaza greenery. Water-efficient landscaping and native plants adorn the plaza. Renovations to the Tower Building mirror some of the environmentally friendly features incorporated into Kaplan Hall.
Through all of its sustainability efforts, the College infuses systemic changes campus-wide that will create more efficient and environmentally friendly campuses in both Middletown and Newburgh; create a College-wide “culture” of environmental stewardship via programming that stresses outreach, education and awareness; and raise the “Sustainability IQ” of students, faculty and staff through ongoing programs that promote current trends, the College’s “green” procedures and ways that the College community can become involved in ongoing efforts.