$140,000 grant to fund environmental initiatives

09/10/2007

$140,000 grant to fund environmental initiatives

Skidmore has received a $140,000 grant from the Educational Foundation of America for a three-year pilot project designed to strengthen environmental initiatives on campus. The grant will allow Skidmore to hire a campus sustainability coordinator who will work with the college's Facilities Department and Environmental Studies Program on projects to reduce energy consumption and to increase environmental awareness among students, faculty, and staff.

The EFA grant will support the salary and benefits of the sustainability coordinator for two years. Skidmore will provide funding at the same level for a third year of the program. In addition to salary, the budget includes a "green" component to assist the coordinator in launching new projects once they have been approved.

The new coordinator will be a member of the Campus Environment Committee, which consists of students, faculty, and staff, and will be a resource for the student Environmental Action Club. The sustainability coordinator will also work with the Environmental Studies Program to integrate "greening" more thoroughly into the curriculum and to expand opportunities for internships.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Susan Kress expressed gratitude to the Educational Foundation of America, a philanthropic leader in the environmental arena. "It is our hope that environmental sustainability will engage the whole community in the responsibilities of public citizenship, one of the key goals of Skidmore's Strategic Plan," said Kress. She recognized Associate Professor Karen Kellogg and her Environmental Studies team for their work in advancing the project.

Kellogg, who directs Skidmore's Environmental Studies Program, said, "Almost every environmental issue has its roots in energy. It's the place where you can show results and demonstrate financial payback. It makes sense for us to focus on this area. We have an obligation to implement sustainability programs and to make them visible to our students, faculty, staff, and surrounding community. This will demonstrate our commitment to environmental awareness and our intention to communicate our progress on campus greening projects."

Northwoods Village apartments
Northwoods Village apartments

Kellogg stressed the goal of developing projects that can reduce the college's "carbon footprint." Such projects can involve refinements in the current campus infrastructure or can be completely new initiatives. As an example, she cited campus lighting, noting that the majority of fixed light bulbs on campus have been replaced with compact fluorescents, which provide high illumination using far less energy than incandescent lights. The new bulbs are less expensive over the long term from both an environmental and economic perspective. Kellogg envisions the campus sustainability coordinator developing a series of projects, both short- and long-term, that will provide similar paybacks.

Among the energy-conservation steps recently taken by Skidmore is the inclusion of geothermal heating and cooling in the on-campus Northwoods Village apartments, which opened in fall 2006. "I'm looking forward to working with the new coordinator on additional ways to make our facilities more energy-efficient as we move ahead with our campus plan," said Michael West, the college's vice president for administration and finance, who oversaw the Northwoods Village project.

Other initiatives include the newly launched Capital District Transportation Authority bus program for students, faculty, and staff. The college is also making plans to increase participation in the recycling program on campus and to enhance light and other energy conservation. There is also the possibility of a pilot bio-diesel instructional program.

Candidates for the new position will have knowledge of both environmental and facilities issues. It is expected that the coordinator's initial priorities will include publicizing current initiatives and energy savings, in addition to researching and developing new projects. New small-scale projects could include "vending misers," small devices installed on vending machines to shut off lights and cooling systems during low-traffic periods, or installing solar panels at the College's Van Lennep riding stables.

The campus sustainability coordinator also will be responsible for identifying and researching a larger-scale greening project, such as the use of motion detectors for classrooms to reduce lighting needs in off-hours.

To determine the success of the pilot program, the new coordinator will be responsible for quantifying such items as energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and other appropriate trends over the course of the first three years. To gauge whether the environmental awareness of the campus has been elevated, students, faculty, and staff will be surveyed at various times during the pilot project. Analysis of the surveys and energy savings will enable the college to determine whether to continue the project beyond the three-year term.

The Educational Foundation of America was established in 1959. According to its Web site, the foundation's mission includes advocating for progressive change in society.
























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