SUNY Oswego's initial sustainability self-study rates a silver

After a yearlong study, SUNY Oswego has attained a silver rating in the STARS higher education sustainability tracking system, laying out achievements to date and a roadmap for improvements in “green” initiatives across the institution.

Auxiliary Services workers with fresh produce.The college last month joined 114 colleges and universities—including the College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Fredonia, the only two others in SUNY at the time—that completed the extensive inventory set out by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). Another 150 institutions have registered to complete a STARS rating assessment in the next year.

John Moore, SUNY Oswego’s director of facilities engineering and sustainability, and Thad Mantaro, coordinator of civic engagement, relied on students Nicholas Pike, Jason MacLeod and recent graduate Rhyan Spangler—as well as the cooperation and assistance of departments collegewide—to complete the detailed sustainability status report. It resulted in a self-assigned score of 55.73, at the silver rating level. This leaves plenty of room for improvements to reach the gold (22 institutions so far) and, ultimately, platinum level (none yet) of sustainable practices.

“Really the next step is to celebrate where we are, because I think we have done a pretty good job as an institution moving forward on the Presidents’ Climate Commitment,” Moore said. “Then we need to get the college’s Presidents’ Climate Commitment and Environmental Sustainability Team, Campus Environmental Advisory Council and Climate Action Steering Committee together and go over this (STARS) roadmap in detail.”

President Deborah F. Stanley signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, joining a nationwide network of more than 1,500 institutions to develop plans for and move toward carbon neutrality by 2050.

Three-year cycle

The college will need to update the STARS report every three years, under the auspices—but not the review—of the American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education.

“It’s not audited. It’s not graded. It’s our self-reported tool to track sustainability initiatives on our campus,” Moore said.

The report details achievements—and work still to be done—in four sustainability realms: education and research; operations; planning, administration and engagement; and innovation. A few of many examples:

*  The student Mobile Recycling Cart and the student-run Green Team’s CarrotMob fundraising effort.

* Thirty-five sustainability-focused courses, from conservation biology to construction systems to “Crafting Sustainable Communities in Ecuador”—as well as a proposed sustainability minor.

* Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification for the Village on-campus student townhouses.

* Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 29,889 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2005 to 27,084.3 this year, a decrease achieved with more students on campus and no carbon offset purchases.

* Innovations in dining services, from vegan dining options to trans-fat-free frying oil, from purchasing locally grown produce to donating leftover food from catered events to the Salvation Army Food Drive.

* In the category of innovations, the STARS report pointed to the Books for South Sudan project, this summer’s GENIUS Olympiad high school science and art competition, a spring 2010 exhibit titled “Art Students Interpret Environmental Issues” and the Lee Hall wind turbine pilot project.

SUNY Oswego’s full report is available at

PHOTO CAPTION: Close to home—Maria Johnson, second from right, owner of C’s Farm Market of Oswego, talks with Littlepage Dining Hall kitchen workers as they prepare locally grown produce. From left are salad specialist Eva Hernandez and student workers Marlon Vassell and Annie Palmer. “Living off the land” and consuming less energy on shipping food and other purchased items are just two of the standards laid out in the STARS higher education sustainability rating system. The college worked on its rating for months, inventorying achievements as well as goals for future improvements.

- 30 -

(Posted: Aug 31, 2011)