by Briana Neuberger
The Stony Brook Environmental Club, in partnership with the Faculty Student Association and the Sustainability Studies Program, is working on initiatives to make the campus greener.
The projects include the introduction of reusable bags, more energy efficient lights and greener food options. They look to join already successful initiatives, such as finding cleaner fuel for campus buses.
Victoria Hargreaves, a sophomore environmental studies major, said, “We need to stress the importance of the environment.” She added, “In 50 years we’ll be in charge of everything.”
Ginny Clancy, the Coordinator of the Sustainability Studies Program, said, “Students get to work together to get experience; they use the campus as a lab to do research.”
There are many active initiatives striving for a greener campus, one of which is the Lighting Audit Project. “The project is a collaborative approach to research and learning centered on an issue. The project includes students from different fields of study working with mentors from the Sustainability Studies Program,” said Arlene Cassidy, the Director of Sustainability Studies.
The project team includes 25 students who collect data around campus. For phase one, a faculty member and their team are assigned a building to do a lighting audit. The team of students will then take cloudy day readings, and sunny day readings at highly populated places like the Student Activities Center.
“The questions we hope to ultimately investigate include,” said Cassidy, “What types of lights are being utilized? Are the present lights meeting standards most efficiently? Are there lighting alternatives that provide the standards yet decrease energy costs?”
Cassidy’s team is in charge of the Social Behavioral and Sciences building and the members are Hargreaves, Daniel Penzi, Fareen Islam and Will Polchinski. After they collect the data, they’ll move on to proposing solutions.
Although the project is voluntary, the students that are running the Lighting Audit Project are all receiving independent research credits.
“Maybe on a sunny day in June, we won’t need all the lights on,” said Clancy. “We’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint. We maybe can keep some of the lights off when not needed or have alternative lighting.”
The Lighting Audit Project team that audited the SBS building took light readings on the seventh floor. When exiting the elevator, the team immediately noticed light fixtures that were in front of a window that was providing the hallway with natural light. “We could use these windows to our advantage,” said Penzi. Hargreaves added, “These lights could be off right now.”
Using light meters to measure the light intensity of specific areas, the group determined that the seventh floor was overlit. Hargreaves said, “We need to figure out what is best. It’s not like we can talk to the building and tell it to turn off specific lights.”
The students also take readings inside the building during overcast days, sunny days and at night because the meters pick up both ambient and artificial light.
Although this initiative is fairly new, others have been ongoing. For example, the buses on campus use biodiesel, a clean alternative fuel that contains no petroleum. Biodiesel is biodegradable, nontoxic and essentially free of sulfur.
The FSA has partnered with the Environmental Club for about three years and they have collaborated on initiatives. One includes composting pre-consumer food waste. If half an onion isn’t used, it won’t end up in a landfill. Instead, it will be sent to a natural fertilizer compost.
FSA Director of Marketing and Communications Angela Agnello said, “The benefit of these efforts is that it reduces the amount of material sent to landfills, thereby reducing the use of fossil fuels and the carbon footprint on campus. In addition, aerobic composting, unlike anaerobic landfill degradation, does not result in the release of methane, a gas that is reported to be 25 times more powerful as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide. So, the university community’s food waste would have an effect on global warming as well.”
The efforts also include installing solar trash compactors, using environmentally-friendly cleaning products, providing cell phone battery recycling points, and RecycleMania, a huge effort on campus to get students to recycle. FSA has also installed filtered water stations in the SAC dining hall and in the Melville Library commuter lounge to encourage the campus community to use reusable water bottles.
Though Stony Brook and its Environmental Club work together often, not every project that students want to see is undertaken.
Melissa Czerniawski, the club’s president, wants the university to stop using plastic bags and use reusable ones. She wants to start in places like the SAC or the Student Union, where there is a high volume of people.
“The university ought to be held accountable for their claims of sustainability,” Czerniawski said.
She said reusable bags would be made out of cotton and polyester and “you pay a dollar once and reuse it over and over again.” She would also want to implement a discount if students have a reusable bag, just like Starbucks does when a student brings a reusable thermos.
The Environmental Club has even taken the lead on carrying out some of the initiatives it works on with the university, such as their organic garden in the South P lot and rooftop garden on the Health Science Center.
Czerniawski says the chefs in the hospital want to use the food from the garden for the patients. She says she wants to get garden spaces on campus so that students don’t have to go all the way to South P.
“It would be so much easier if it was only a five minute walk,” she said.
In regards to the Lighting Audit Project, Czerniawski said, “It’s very basic, turn the lights off at 10 PM and then at 10 AM. It’s the easiest thing to do.”
When asked what she wants to see from the university in the future, she said she hopes to see more green space and more sustainability programs.
“I hope the school keeps up their sustainable mantra—whatever that claims to be.”