By Scott Conroe, Staff Reporter, Cortland Standard (December 4, 2008)
SUNY Cortland senior Mark Morrell strings collected plastic bottles from trees outside Neubig Hall Wednesday with other Green Rep students to demonstrate the need to improve campus sustainability.
Three trees in front of Neubig Hall on the SUNY Cortland campus took on a different look Wednesday, courtesy of students trying to make a point about bottled water.
The Green Reps, students who advocate for colleges to find ways to cut down energy use and trash in residence halls, tied plastic water bottles in the trees’ lower branches using hemp twine.
The bottles will stay there until Friday afternoon, said physics professor Brice Smith, the group’s faculty coordinator.
“We collected 1,800 bottles in the week before Thanksgiving in residence halls,” Smith said. “The students wanted to show how much bottled water is consumed on campus and the other choices for getting water besides buying bottled.”
Students and faculty could carry stainless steel liquid containers, for example, that could be filled at water fountains or other water sources.
Plastic water bottles have become a national issue. Their health safety has been questioned. The Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit, says eight out of 10 bottles end up in landfills or incinerated with garbage because rules about what can be recycled are unclear.
About 30 billion bottles are sold in the United States each year, the institute said.
The 15 Green Reps students were paid hourly this semester with funds provided by William Shaut, the College’s vice president for finance and management, Smith said. The organization formed this semester. Other campuses have versions of it, sometimes called Eco Reps.
The students sponsored another project on Oct. 28 called Project Blackout, where they asked residence halls to turn off lights and electronic devices for one hour. The idea was to make students more aware of how much electricity they use.
Smith said about 50 percent of the students in some halls took part.
A cutting-edge residential facility at SUNY Cortland was recently awarded a prestigious designation by the nation’s leading evaluator of environmentally sustainable and energy efficient buildings.
Constructed in 2005, the Glass Tower Hall is one of approximately 40 newly constructed buildings in New York State to win Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED is an internationally recognized proprietary designation of the USGBC.
Officials at the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) and SUNY Cortland announced on July 17 that the USGBC recently completed its project review and granted LEED certification based on its stringent energy conservation measures and the environmentally safe materials used in its construction.
“Students at SUNY Cortland strive for excellence every day so it only stands to reason that they should live in a state-of-the-art residential facility that matches and inspires their goals and aspirations,” said Paul T. Williams, Jr., executive director of the Dormitory Authority.
“As a scientist — specifically a biologist — I was aware of this kind of certification,” added SUNY Cortland’s president, Erik J. Bitterbaum. “We’re very proud here at SUNY Cortland that we made a decision early on that all of our buildings were going to be LEED-certified, both new construction and renovations. By doing so we are as close to a zero-carbon footprint as possible and are improving our energy efficiency and letting our students, faculty and staff know the importance of the environment. It’s an ambitious goal, but we think an important one. We hope to set an example for future generations regarding energy use.”
Glass Tower Hall, a four-story residential facility with 194 beds, is the first new dormitory on campus in 32 years, DASNY officials noted. The $12.6 million project was completed on time and some $400,000 under budget. Glass Tower Hall opened in August 2005 and the intensive review process for LEED certification began in Spring 2006.
LEED certification goes well beyond installing energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, weather-tight windows and well-insulated walls, noted Rob Davenport of SUNY Cortland’s Facilities Planning, Design and Construction Office and the College’s site representative for the Glass Tower Hall project.
“People are surprised to learn about all the elements that go into this,” Davenport said. “The number of spaces in a bike rack; charging stations for our renewable energy cars; the size of the trees planted to convert more carbon to oxygen; outside lighting requirements to reduce light pollution; and the widths of sidewalks to reduce our carbon footprint. These are just some of the design details that have to come together to have a green building and meet the certification requirements.”
“The creative collaboration on Glass Tower Hall between our agency, the SUNY Cortland administration, the architect and general contractor has produced a stellar building that proudly reflects the forward-thinking environmental and educational values of the College,” Williams said. “This project exemplifies the statewide energy efficiency and environmental sustainability goals of Governor Paterson and it sets an example for others to follow.”
The Dormitory Authority works closely with the State University of New York to finance, design and build high quality, energy efficient and environmentally sustainable residential facilities. SUNY and the Dormitory Authority are currently adding more than 2,700 beds in new residence halls either under construction or being planned at a number of campuses including Binghamton, Stony Brook, Oswego, Geneseo and Potsdam.
Founded in 1944, the Dormitory Authority is the largest higher education, healthcare and public-purpose bonding and construction authority in the nation, currently managing 700 projects statewide valued at $7 billion.
For more information, contact DASNY spokesman Marc Violette at (518) 257-3382 or SUNY Cortland representative Jennifer Wilson at (607) 753-2232.