The Strategic Initiative Proposal

February 17, 1995

TO: Dr. Gary Judd, Dean of the Faculty

FROM: EcoLogic (Rensselaer Student Pugwash)

RE: FY96 Strategic Initative Proposal: The Greening of Rensselaer Initiative (GRI)


Introduction

We are a rapidly growing student organization called EcoLogic. Our group is about a year old, and is the environmental project of the Student Pugwash chapter here at Rensselaer. We concentrate on efforts designed to raise student and campus consciousness about environmental issues, and to develop campus environmental sustainability.

We propose a three-pronged initiative. First, we intend to move ahead with development of a clearinghouse for environmental information for the campus. Our goal is to provide "one-stop shopping" for students, staff, and faculty requiring environmental information and coordination. Second, we expect to press on with planning and implementation of a campus-wide solid waste reuse, reduction, and recycling program. Third, we want to initiate a greenhouse, garden and orchard program to build campus community and, most importantly, to create a living laboratory research center.

We intend to have all three aspects of the project complete one year after receipt of Strategic Initiative funding. Our target audience for all three prongs is the entire campus: students, staff, faculty, and alumni. We expect that the clearinghouse, once established, will be an ongoing enterprise sustained through the work of students and located in office space provided by Rensselaer. The ultimate disposition of the solid waste minimization and management program is currently under negotiation with Physical Plant. The greenhouse, garden and orchard, once established, will be staffed by students and eventually become self-supporting through sale of produce and plants.

 


Project Description

Environmental Information Clearinghouse

The highest priority requirement for improving communication and coordination among concerned individuals, departments, and offices on campus is provision of timely, accurate and customized environmental information sensitive to the unique needs of each. While we have already done the initial work to bring the Environmental Information Clearinghouse into being (e.g., electronic and written environmental resource material has been and continues to be collected and organized), we have reached a point where assistance is necessary to commence our outreach efforts. We intend to set up a telephone with voice mail in order to provide callers with a response to their queries within 24 hours. We are currently in the process of organizing a Special Collection in Folsom Library to temporarily house the growing volume of material we have collected. Rensselaer's Environmental Education Center, for which seed money is expected this year, could serve as the future repository of the materials and home of the Clearinghouse.

The Clearninghouse will, in the years to come, be able to research such pressing matters as energy conservation. We would work with Niagara Mohawk and others to do a full campus energy audit-heating, electricity, lighting. We suspect the Institute could cut back on campus energy bills with several minor adjustments (window treatments, caulking, low flow shower heads). Other possible projects include applying for grants from the United States Department of Energy or the New York State Energy Office to convert a residence hall to renewable energy production and use. Students working in the Clearinghouse could investigate the prospects for conversion of Institute vehicles to electricity, natural gas, or other alternative fuels.

We intend to operate the Clearinghouse with undergraduate student assistants. Our specific needs for the Clearinghouse fall into three categories: electronic, personnel, and material. Electronic needs are for telephone, voice mail, hard disk space on RCS, and office supplies. Using RCS work stations, we will access, manage, store and help disseminate environmental information. In order to maximize outreach, we need to alert the campus to the existence of the Clearinghouse and its services through the use of rensserv, Envirenss, RPInfo, and Institute newsletters. The rapidly growing volume of environmental information requires that we continue our collection efforts. We have found that some of the most interesting information is frequently not owned by Folsom Library nor by any affiliated library and is thus unavailable through inter-library loan. We consequently need a modest budget in order to purchase these materials. Personnel needs are for two ten hour per week student assistantships during the academic year, and two forty hour per week student jobs during the summer, to operate the Clearinghouse, do research, and collect further materials.

Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Program

EcoLogic is currently engaged in intensive efforts to modernize Rensselaer's recycling program. We aim ultimately to make it as easy to recycle on campus as it is to throw something away. We will work to "close the loop": provide the information and means necessary for Institute offices to not only process their own recyclables, but to purchase recycled materials whenever possible. We also intend to tighten the ties between Rensselaer and the Community Warehouse, the regional clearinghouse for used equipment and supplies. We have begun a pilot program at Nason Hall in order to generate data for our planned reforms to present to Institute administrators, who welcome our initiative and look forward to our proposal. We have access to Institute records on Rensselaer's waste stream, tipping fees, hauler contracts, and other pertinent information needed to formulate our proposal. We have made contact with other college campuses to see what we can learn from their programs, and have received instructional materials from Cornell University's public service offices. Initial campus enthusiasm is evinced by the nearly 1000 signatures on EcoLogic's recycling petition. An expanded recycling program will build on this enthusiasm. Our physical needs here are for 93 recycled plastic recycling bins for placement in the Commons area residence halls (and 3 extra per hall, totaling 18, as replacements). Personnel needs are for two ten hour per week student assistantships during the academic year, and two forty hour per week student jobs during the summer, to complete the proposal and implement the new, expanded program.

Garden, Greenhouse and Orchard

EcoLogic is presently negotiating with Institute officals for land, water and electricity for a garden of still to be determined dimensions and for a 20'x 50' greenhouse in an as yet undetermined location on campus. Our primary aim is to provide organically grown vegetables for student dining halls (Marriott Food Services has expressed keen interest in our plans), annual and perennial plants for use in Rensselaer landscaping, and an interdisciplinary field laboratory for use in instruction, including especially the new concentration in Ecological Economics. Students could be assured that no chemicals were used in the production of their vegetables, thus mitigating concern over pesticide residues. We would start small and build up over time to some ideal level of production. We intend to plant a small fruit tree orchard and several berry bushes to accompany the garden. While we have yet to determine the varieties to plant, apples, plums, cherries, blueberries and blackberries seem like a good start to us. Composting of campus food waste, leaves, and grass clippings will provide the necessary fertilizer (a marriott manager has also expressed willingness to cooperate in a food scrap composting program). We can call on Cornell Cooperative Extensions, with whom we have already made contact, for technical assistance, if necessary. We need to procure the basic tools, raw materials, and structure before proceeding further. We have identified suppliers for all necessary materials. Personnel needs are for two ten hour per week student assistantships during the academic year and two forty hour per week student jobs during the summer to establish and manage the program.

Conclusion: Measuring Success and Relationship to Strategic Iniatives

We will measure the success of our project using metrics scaled to the particular nature of each program. For the Clearinghouse, ultimate success will be obtained when an individual or office on campus with an environmental question turns to us for information and direction. for this to happen, our publicity efforts must be successful. Campus citizens must first know of our existence, and we must then build a reputation as a service that delivers on its promise. We will keep track of the number of calls we receive and the assistance we proffer. Recommended reforms will directly, positively, and permanently affect the Instiutes's operating budget, going straight to the problem of the structural deficit. The recycling program ought to have immediate and noticeable effects through its savings on tipping fees for Rensselaer. It will markedly and permanently reduce the solid waste stream on campus. Other savings will accrue through materials use reduction and the use of exchanged materials. The garden and greenhouse will be successful if they attract campus support and participation, sufficient student interest for their operation, and sufficient revenues to sustain themselves. The composting program itself will save significant money that no longer needs to be spent on grabage disposal. Harvest time could be a pleasant opportunity to build community of just the sort recently called for by the Faculty Senate Subcommittee on Community Building. It is widely known that a campus garden can bring people together and can provide a sense of purpose and pride to a community. This is a project that would undoubtedly generate positive and wide publicity in the local media, as recommended by David Orr during his campus visit last year.

We are condfident in predicting that we can meet the various criteria for Strategic Initiative funding: to retain or attract students, to improve campus community life, to empower students, to save operating costs (and even make money), to help mend the structural deficit, and to reflect well on the Institute. The question is not whether but how much savings and new revenues the Institute will realize. Ultimately, the Greening of Rensselaer Initiative will act as a recruiting tool: we will be famous for our greeness and prospective students will beat a path to the hills of Troy. We know we would have been even more eager to attend Rensselaer had such programs already been in place. Upon hearing of our efforts and success, alumni will likely be better disposed to contribute to Institute development campaigns.

We hope to provide the means for students to make ends doing right, for students to do well by doing good. We intend to work to instiutionalize ways to build credit around the project's three programs, to make it possible for students to participate as interns or as part of their practicums. Several of us are already doing so on an ad hoc basis. After receiving SI funding, we intend to aggressively seek external funding to meet future needs, hopefully in conjunction with the Environmental Education Center. The really thrilling dimension of this Initiative is that the project will be run by students, for the benefit of the whole campus community. It will be self-perpetuating and self-renewing. New students will be attracted to it every year to replace those who graduate. We simply must move ahead along the lines outlined here to establish a position of leadership in the field of environmental education.

 


Budget

Environmental Information Clearinghouse

postage: $300.00
budget for telephone: $1200.00
telephone: $50.00
office supplies: $500.00
books, videos, periodicals: $1000.00
student assistanships and summer jobs: $10,000.00

Subtotal: $13,050.00

Reduction, Reuse and Recycling

111 plastic bins @ $10/per bin: $1100.00
student assistantships and summer jobs: $10,000.00

Subtotal: $11,110.00

Garden/Greenhouse

assorted garden hand tools: $500.00
rototiller: $3500.00
one complete greenhouse kit: $15,000
watering supplies: $350.00
garden supplies (seeds, soil, pots, etc.): $1000.00
student assistantships and summer job positions: $10,000.00

Subtotal: $30,350.00

Total: $54,510.00