College Hosts Sustainability Day

Sustainability is an issue that Ramapo College has focused pretty heavily on in the last couple years. Last Wednesday, an event called “Sustainability Day” continued this trend. The event revolved around the initiatives that Ramapo has taken in the past few years to address the growing issue of sustainability in modern times.

Sustainability refers to ecological and sustainable living. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, our environment and subsequently our lives have completely changed. Sustainability aims to bring us back to safe levels of ecological stability; basically, it’s about making small changes towards a sustainable future.  

The event ran for five hours and included speeches from various departments of the College including administration, food services and Residence Life. Each talked about what they have individually done to address the issue. The program was run by Ashwani Vasishth, a professor of environmental studies at the College. Students and faculty attended Wednesday’s event and were allowed to ask questions and comment on the topics of sustainability and how Ramapo is working towards a sustainable future.

The College has signed on to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a program that states, “We believe colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality.”

Speakers from the various departments explained what they were doing to bring sustainability to Ramapo College. The facilities department has worked on a program to bring five megawatts of solar panels to the College. Vasishth also commented that the facilities department was trying to use materials that would “reduce our carbon footprint” for ongoing construction projects at the College.

One of the major issues with implementing sustainable programs is the cost.

“One of my agendas is to figure out a way for accounting for sustainability. How much are we spending on sustainability kinds of initiatives and what kind of benefits are we getting from those interventions,” says Vasishth. “Students do care about these things … the most important thing is to create an environment on campus that gives students the freedom to articulate their feelings and express what they want to see the College doing.”

The various clubs and organizations that work towards sustainable living offered at the College each had a chance to explain their impact on the campus. The 1STEP club, which co-sponsored the event, talked about their hiking clean ups and other activities.

The keynote speaker for the event, Harold Glasser, traveled from Western Michigan University to explain their sustainability programs and what that college has done to make sustainability one of its top priorities. Glasser is a professor of environmental studies, as well as the executive director of campus sustainability.

Western Michigan University totes a 2014 award from Second Nature, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on bringing the topic of sustainability into the scoop of higher education institutions. The award is given to schools annually who have worked towards implementing the ACUPCC. The award is used to recognize “innovative and advanced leadership in education for sustainability, climate mitigation and adaptation and institutionalized sustainability.”

Glasser explained in his presentation some of the steps that both the students and administration have taken to incorporate sustainability into their university community.

“Deep, lasting, meaningful change is very complex and very challenging,” Glasser said. “It’s not easy to do the kinds of changes in terms of sustainability that truly will improve people’s quality of life … We need to do things in new ways.”

Glasser went on to explain how the University was able to coordinate through student and administration strategies toward a more sustainable campus. President of the University, Dr. John M. Dunn, decided to sign the ACUPCC. Students voted to essentially tax themselves, imposing an $8 charge in the fall and spring and a $4 charge in both summer sessions to create a more cohesive action towards sustainability.

Sophomore Andrew Dina, said of the event, “I felt that Ramapo College's Sustainability Day really helped me to understand the ways we as students can make a difference, and how Ramapo as an institution is doing its part to reduce waste and help the environment.”