University at Albany named one of nation’s greenest schools
By Kassie Parisi
Assistant News Editor
On April 22 the University at Albany was recognized in the Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges. The schools that are mentioned are the schools that have a ranking of 85 or higher on the Princeton scale.
This is only the second year that UAlbany has made the list.
However, the large sustainability program makes it possible for all of the schools that take part in environmental stability to stay in contact and share ideas.
The other SUNY schools on the list included Geneseo, Binghamton, Oneonta, New Paltz, Potsdam, Stony Brook, and SUNY ESF. SUNY schools constitute 20 percent of the Princeton List.
The review noted environmentally friendly efforts taken by the
University community, such as the “Change a Light” campaign and the student residence electric bill done by Empire Commons.
“Change a Light” was implemented in the fall of 2012. This campaign replaced 1000 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CLFs) in some dorm rooms. This conversion saved 500 kilowatts per hour and 34,650 pounds of CO2.
According to Mary Ellen Mallia, the director of environmental sustainability at UAlbany, the sustainability committee worked with Residential Life to distribute the light bulbs in the rooms. ResLife staff then brought the old light bulbs back to the sustainability department to donate them.
Mallia said that this helps to educate new students about energy conservation.
“It lets the students know that there are a lot of people involved in the program,” she said.
The energy-conserving light bulbs are becoming a norm, and Mallia said that she hopes that students will begin to bring their own.
The Empire Commons electric bill is a mock electric bill that residents on Empire Commons receive four times a year.
It shows students how much electricity they are using and what the cost of using said amount of electricity would be in real life.
This program was responsible for saving 123,800 kilowatts per hour and decreasing the amount of CO2 used by 80,393 pounds. The program also saved residence halls $14,000 in energy costs. Mallia said that there was a large amount of positive feedback for this program.
“We make the bills as realistic as possible. Students enjoy seeing how much energy they use. We give them tips on how to use less energy, and they enjoy it,” she said.
However, Empire is currently the only apartment complex that takes part in this practice because it is the only apartment complex where the exact amount of electricity being used per room is known.
According to Mallia, calculating the amount used in each room in the other apartments would involve guesswork. The money saved by this program goes towards improving the residences, outfitting them with rewards such as ping-pong tables.
Some of the money goes back into the office of sustainability and pays for things such as the energy efficient light bulbs and the Recyclemania campaign.
Another aspect that the Princeton Review recognized was the fact that the Social Science building has solar panels the roof.
The panels were paid for with a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant. The 49 kilowatt panels have reduced the University’s carbon footprint by 500 tons. As for plans to add more solar panels at the University, that would require another grant.
Mallia said, “The grant supported fifty thousand kilowatts. That would be two hundred and fifty panels. That building was new and had the best features to put the panels on. We would need another grant to be able to install more panels.”
The correspondence of all of the environmental councils at all of the schools foster creativity and improvement. Mallia began her work here five years ago.
Since then, the movement has taken off.
“Five years ago, this was new and trendy. Now it’s become the culture of the university. People look for recycling options. It’s a cultural norm here now. People think more about how they can contribute. They are much more into helping. Everyone is realizing that every person has to play a role in this to make it successful.”
Other programs that the environmental sustainability program has are alternative transportation methods. This includes the CDTA busing and the bike share program. They also take part in a local food-purchasing program. This is the program that brings local farmer markets onto campus for family weekend in the fall.
The University is also a top competitor in Recyclemania, which is a competition promoting waste reduction and recycling between hundreds of universities in the United States.
The environmental sustainability program at UAlbany is young but continues to grow. “We try to get the word out,” Mallia said. “We are doing more smaller events, instead of a few huge ones. It’s a pretty new organization, but more and more people are becoming involved. It’s maturing. More people are gravitating towards it because it helps them reach the inner switch inside them that makes them realize that this is something everyone needs to do. It comes down to a lot of individual participation.” Even though the program is still growing, Mallia said, “What people are doing now is making a difference.”