Skidmore Sustainability looks into the future

Posted by The Editorial Board

Last Wednesday, Jan. 30 Skidmore co-hosted a lecture presented by professor emeritus of music Tom Denny. The lecture, titled Saratoga's Trees, explored the role trees play in the city of Saratoga. Instead of exploring the likes and dislikes of trees, or other aesthetic reactions people may have towards trees, Denny urged community members to look at the benefits of trees on an economic and environmental basis, forcing the audience to consider a new perspective.
The talk was co-sponsored by Sustainable Saratoga, the Environmental Studies Program at Skidmore College and Sustainable Skidmore.
Denny is currently leading the Urban Forestry Project in Saratoga Springs. His work with the organizations is working to bring to light the unique benefits of planting trees, showing how they can increase the cost of real estate, which benefits the economy. Despite these benefits he also quoted the famous saying, "one generation plants the trees and the next enjoys the shade." Relating it to Saratoga and the Urban Forestry Project, Denny concluded that in order for Saratoga to ensure that the next generation profits environmentally and economically, the community's urban forest must increase its number of trees.
Although Skidmore has no intention in planting more trees to increase environmental protection, Members of Sustainable Skidmore have implemented changes in certain programs like sustainability competitions and composting in order to benefit the environment and future community members.
In the coming months, Sustainable Skidmore will be hosting and participating in sustainability competitions. From Feb, 11 to March 4 Skidmore will participate on a national level against colleges in the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium, which comprises Hobart and William Smith College, Union College, Hamilton College, St. Lawrence University and Colgate University, in a competition called Campus Conservation Nationals.
The competition is the largest nationwide electricity and water use reduction competition among colleges and universities.
Feb. 13 to March 5, Skidmore will host an event for students living in the residence halls called "Skidmore Unplugged." During these 21 days each dorm tries to reduce their energy consumption percentage by the greatest amount. Each dorm's electricity consumption is calculated in real time online so that the residents can monitor it.
This year there is an added twist: Skidmore will be competing against four other colleges in the area-Hamilton, Hobart and William Smith, St. Lawrence, and Colgate to determine who can reduce their total energy by the largest percentage from all of their dorm buildings.
Limitations of existing programs are also being analyzed. For example, Skidmore Unplugged only involves the residence halls and doesn't consider other housing communities like Northwoods, Scribner, or Hillside apartments.
According to Skidmore's sustainability coordinator, Riley Neugebauer, "The reason that the Northwoods Apartment Village does not participate in Skidmore Unplugged is because those buildings are not metered individually and a part of our networked building management system, so we don't have the data to be able to include them in the competition at this time."
Despite this set back, Neugebauer remained hopeful for the future saying, "We hope to be able to do that in the future, but it is dependent on funding and infrastructure."
Composting in the housing villages has also been a point of revision for Sustainable Skidmore. Currently there is a compost program in Northwoods but none of the other housing developments.
"We feel that we need to improve our current composting program in the Northwoods apartments and really develop it and refine it so that it works really well before we expand into other locations" Neugebauer said.
Improvement in the program has begun in the following ways. The manager of the program, Margie Pfeffer, was offered a grant by New York State to fund the compost program in Northwoods. In addition to creating new positions, the grant allows more time and energy to be invested in the program.
With the improvements that have been made in the program, Neugebauer is hopeful for what the future holds saying, "I think we are in a really good place, and will be implementing some changes to the Northwoods program, with hopes that we can do more education, outreach, and assessment this semester so that the process and program can improve and become something that we feel more prepared to expand in the future."

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