Contrary to what Kermit may think, it’s not always easy being green. When it comes to eco-friendly actions in everyday life, the easy option often overshadows any good-for-the-planet alternatives. Why walk to the recycling bin when the garbage can is right there? What’s the point in carpooling if you can drive yourself?
Yet, as we all know, green living is critical for a cleaner world. That’s why we tip our hats off to these Hudson Valley colleges. On top of juggling active communities and thousands of students, they find time to keep the earth in mind as well. Read on to see how these higher education institutions are doing their part to protect the planet.
Bard College is a leader on the eco-education front, tackling current environmental efforts while forecasting and preparing its community for future planetary concerns. As far as education goes, the college offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in sustainability. Students learn about green policy and practices as they recycle in their dorms and participate in food and agricultural programs on campus.
In 2015, Bard earned a Gold Rating from the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, a status it improved upon in 2017. In 2018, Bard became a Clean Air New York Campus and an EPA Green Power Partner. Needless to say, with the help of the Office of Sustainability, the school’s sustainability status has improved significantly since the first recycling program and geothermal system made their way onto campus in 1992.
Bowne Hall and Conklin Residence Hall at Dutchess Community College / Photo courtesy Dutchess Community College
Although Dutchess Community College is significantly smaller than the other schools on this list, it is no less mighty in its efforts to think green. On campus, for instance, both Bowne Hall and Conklin Residence Hall rely on geothermal systems for heating and cooling.
“Classrooms, offices, and hallways have occupancy sensors for lighting, which turns off if there’s no movement,” says Judi Stokes, Director of Communications and Public Relations at the college. On top of that, all exterior lighting uses energy-efficient LED bulbs, while food service waste goes straight into composting.
At Marist College in Poughkeepsie, the Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee, or CSAC, leads green programming, which extends to information technology, recycling, and public awareness. In 2017, the committee held two events to improve green operations on campus. The first, a partnership with the Habitat for Humanity student club, collected cardboard on Opening Day Move-in to be recycled. In October, CSAC hosted its 11th annual sustainability program to highlight the significance of environmentally positive endeavors on campus and in daily life.
The Information Technology office at Marist also makes strides when it comes to ecofriendly endeavors. Since 2007, IT has used 30 percent recycled paper in computer labs and saved more than 150 cases of paper per year. On top of that, IT saves old school computers from a fate in the landfill by turning them over to local non-profit organizations for reuse.
A view of the new solar energy system at SUNY New Paltz. Photo courtesy of SUNY New Paltz
In the Hudson Valley, SUNY New Paltz leads the way with cutting edge sustainable initiatives. On April 25, 2018, the college unveiled its latest addition, a new solar energy system. According to a statement from the school, “the $1.37 million project includes 217 kilowatts of photovoltaic arrays on the roofs of Elting Gymnasium and Sojourner Truth Library, and a hybrid power converter and battery storage system.” The project is part of Governor Cuomo’s push to increase the transmission of clean and renewable energy in New York by 2025.
The college, which boasts a STARS Silver Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, makes eco-friendly strides in other areas as well. In regard to dining, the campus integrates sustainable policies, vegan options, and local harvest meals. The students and faculty are heavily engaged in environmentally positive activities and research, a fact that helped the school improve its STARS ranking from 46 in 2015 to 53.76 in 2018.
Thompson Memorial Library, Vassar College. Photo by Tamar M. Thibodeau / Vassar College
Vassar College doesn’t just think green; it is green. Literally speaking, trees of every shape and size cover the Poughkeepsie campus, which earned a Gold Rating for Sustainability Initiatives from the Association from the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in 2018, jumping from its previous Silver Ratings in 2011 and 2014. The college boasts a number of green buildings and makes it easy for students to leave their cars at home, thanks to its partnerships with public transportation and rideshare programs. As far as food goes, the All Campus Dining Center regularly hosts Local Food Nights and serves locally grown produce. It also engages in “trayless dining” to save water and energy. At The Retreat, the college’s café space, all food waste, plates, cups, and utensils get composted.
In an effort to reduce waste each year, the Office of Sustainability, which oversees green initiatives at Vassar, hosts SWAPR. In May, departing students donate old books, clothing, furniture, and other dorm essentials to be sold to incoming students at a bargain price the following September. Items avoid the dumpster and find their way into the hands of students who need them.