State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s (ESF) leadership in sustainability and climate innovation is demonstrated by administrative commitment, technological innovation, educational programs and community engagement.

The ESF administration has committed to carbon neutrality by 2015. ESF’s Climate Action Plan will make it the second higher education institution nationally to achieve that accomplishment without purchased carbon offsets. Also, President Neil Murphy chose to institutionalize sustainability through ESF’s accreditation. The sustainability-themed self-study, submitted to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, was developed through a participatory process involving nearly 100 faculty, staff and students, and led to the incorporation of sustainability goals in the College’s assessment plan.  ESF is the first institution in the Middle States region, perhaps the nation, to integrate sustainability into the accreditation process.

Technological innovation is embodied in the cornerstone of ESF’s Climate Action Plan, the new Gateway Center. Targeting LEED Platinum Plus certification, the building features a biomass CHP plant that will save 65,000 gigajoules of fossil fuel and reduce CO2 emissions by 2,700 tons annually. It will heat five campus buildings and provide more than 20 percent of the campus’ electrical needs.

Significantly, we located the power plant in the building that welcomes visitors to campus and provides a hub for campus activity. Its visibility engages visitors in a discussion of energy and sustainability. Gateway teaches with displays, viewing windows and interpretive material.  During its first year of operation  (2012-2013), the CHP will test pellets made from shrub willow grown on ESF properties and researched by dozens of faculty, staff and students.

In preparing students to solve problems related to climate change and contribute to the new green economy, ESF has expanded its academic offerings to include a Sustainable Energy Management major and Renewable Energy minor. Both programs provide students with real-world experiences. To improve access to sustainability coursework, the Office of Energy and Sustainability partnered with the Provost to create an online database that allows faculty and students to identify courses by keywords such as climate change, water resources and social justice.

Outside the classroom, students are encouraged to take initiative in launching sustainability projects. They have introduced biodiesel production, an organic garden and orchard, mushroom cultivation and a compost operation through a student-led sustainability fund.

ESF cultivates relationships with industry and community partners to improve sustainability on and off campus. Partnerships with Solar Liberty have resulted in the installation of more than $500,000 in photovoltaic arrays on campus. A partnership with the USDA encourages production of shrub willow as a sustainable energy resource. ESF students have worked with Onondaga County, the city of Syracuse, the villages of Skaneateles and Preble, and the New York State Fair to enhance sustainability and establish baseline data so local leaders can monitor reductions in GHG emissions and solid waste.

ESF has been teaching students to be environmental stewards for more than 100 years. Through research, education and innovation, the College will continue to lead the way in preparing the next generation of sustainability and climate leaders.