By Zia O’Neill Skidmore’s sustainability initiatives are not perfect and there is room for improvement. However, Skidmore is working hard to become more sustainable. I was initially excited to read what the Skidmore News Editorial Board had to say about future steps in the editorial “On Skidmore’s Sustainability Ventures.” However, I was disappointed in the editorial’s representation, depth of coverage, and accuracy of information regarding Skidmore’s sustainability ventures.
Sustainability was considered in the design and construction of the new apartments, particularly the utilization of geothermal heating and cooling. Among many efforts, the Northwoods Apartments were built using recycled materials for roofs, doors, and steel frames, windows were designed to maximize daylight, and sustainably harvest wood was used for trims. Spray foam insulation, which far exceeds NYS efficiency standards, was also used in the Sussman apartments.
The editors also stated that they would prefer if Skidmore didn’t “spend millions of dollars on flashier improvements” like solar panels. However, the project, which generates 12% of the college’s electricity needs, was funded by a 2.35 million dollar grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), with additional partnerships with Dynamic Energy and Washington Gas Energy Systems. Michael Hall, the special assistant to the Vice President of Finance and Administration, explained that Skidmore only paid legal fees associated with land permits and to Greenfield. The solar array will pay off these costs by 2017.
Skidmore did in part finance the $2 million geothermal project, but the college was aided by an $800,000 grant from the New York State HECAP. Even though it was a large investment, the college estimates they will save $110,000 each year from not having to purchase natural gas (Neugebaurer et al. 2012).
Skidmore Unplugged is currently based in residential halls because they are the only buildings that have individual energy meters. Levi Rogers, sustainability coordinator, explains that the office would like to install more meters, however the office decided to use remaining grant funding to reestablish the garden and renovate the bike share program, which were more inclusive campus initiatives. Unplugged aims to reach the greater Skidmore community through tabling, films, events, dialogues, trivia, and more but the Sustainable Skidmore Office is working to make Unplugged a more inclusive program, and fake energy bills have potential to be a good educational tool.
Other ongoing sustainability initiatives include purchasing recyclable tiled carpet, green seal certified cleaning products, paper goods with recycled content, water bottle refilling stations, zero-sort recycling, paperless offices, the library’s paper-cut system, utilizing low VOC paints and adhesives, independent boilers, lighting retrofits, Give + Go, trayless dining, low-flow water fixtures, and much more.
Skidmore is always looking for ways to make additional improvements. However, it is also important to recognize and acknowledge steps that have already been taken. Levi and Emily in the Skidmore Sustainability Office (Harder 110) are always open to schedule a meeting with members of the Skidmore community about ideas. Additionally, the Environmental Action Club meets Mondays at 9pm in Ladd 207.
Read the original opinion piece, "On Skidmore's Sustainability Ventures," here.
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Levi at firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily at email@example.com
"Current Initiatives - Buildings." Sustainable Skidmore. Skidmore College, n.d. Web. 17. Nov.
Neugebauer, Riley, Paul Lundberg, Michael Hall, and Daniel Rodecker. "Skidmore College's Innovative District Geothermal System." AASHE. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 6 July 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.