Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 48.14
Liaison Sean Vormwald
Submission Date April 4, 2016
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Onondaga Community College
PA-1: Sustainability Coordination

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Sean Vormwald
Director of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety
Office of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have at least one sustainability committee, office, and/or officer that focuses on sustainability broadly and covers the entire institution?:

A brief description of the activities and substantive accomplishments of the committee(s), office(s), and/or officer(s) during the previous three years:

Onondaga Community College is committed to improving the sustainability of the campus by considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the College’s decisions. The sustainability initiative began in 2007 when Onondaga Community College joined the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. By joining the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, Onondaga agreed to become carbon neutral, or eliminate the College’s greenhouse gas emissions. Since then the College has been successfully working to integrate sustainability throughout campus operations, incorporate sustainability into the curriculum, inform the campus about Onondaga’s sustainability efforts, and promote sustainability in the community.

The College has developed a framework for effectively advancing greenhouse gas reduction and sustainability efforts on campus. Onondaga established a Sustainability Task Force to assist with developing the Sustainability Action Plan. The College also hired a sustainability director to coordinate campus sustainability efforts and greenhouse gas emission reduction initiatives. Onondaga’s goals related to the Presidents’ Climate Commitment have been incorporated into the College’s strategic planning process, ensuring that sustainability remains an institutional priority. The College recently reaffirmed its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance sustainability-related learning opportunities for students through the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge, a national effort organized by the White House prior to the December 2015 United Nations climate conference in Paris.

Onondaga has already made progress toward the goals of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment with emissions declining from the 2007 baseline despite a growing campus. The College has been able to reduce energy consumption by implementing many energy efficiency improvements across campus. Onondaga has even received recognition for the College’s outstanding energy performance in some campus buildings. Three of the College’s residence hall buildings earned the Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star label in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, demonstrating that the buildings are more energy efficient than 90% of similar residence halls in the country.

Onondaga is also integrating sustainable principles into the College’s construction projects. The SRC Arena and Events Center and the Academic II building both earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, exceeding their original goals of achieving LEED Silver. Among other sustainable features, these buildings conserve energy, use less water, and are more comfortable for building occupants than traditionally designed buildings.

Onondaga is also utilizing renewable energy to help power the campus. The College renovated the Furnace Brook Center in order to create a “smart” home laboratory for the Electrical Technology Program. The building has many sustainable features including solar panels, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and a sophisticated electricity monitoring and controls system. The building is used as an educational tool to teach students about green technology. Also, in July 2011 the College installed a 21.16 kW solar array on the roof of the Whitney Applied Technology Center. The solar panels provide learning opportunities for students and generate approximately 25,000 kWh of electricity to help power the building. The College also purchases renewable energy for 30% of campus electricity. These Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) support electricity made from non-polluting wind energy.

The College is also managing the campus grounds in a sustainable manner by implementing Onondaga’s Sustainable Landscape Master Plan. By growing meadows across campus and using native and low-maintenance plants, the College has been able to reduce the resources and labor needed to maintain the campus landscaping. This allows the College to protect the environment while keeping the campus looking great. Onondaga has also installed rain gardens, permeable pavement, and other green infrastructure in order to improve stormwater management and provide a learning tool for students. These efforts will be expanded as the result of a recent grant from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation.

Onondaga partnered with the student-run Whole Earth Club to plant a fruit tree orchard to provide a local, healthy, and sustainable food source for the campus community. The College also installed a raised bed herb garden for the Hospitality Management Program in order to teach students about growing fresh ingredients for their culinary dishes. Additionally, Onondaga created a food pantry to help improve food security for campus community members.

Onondaga is working to reduce emissions from commuting and the College’s vehicle fleet. Onondaga currently offers a 20% subsidy to students for bus passes, and Onondaga’s Fair Deal program allows employees to purchase bus tickets pre-tax in order to promote public transportation ridership. The College also installed bike lanes throughout campus in order to promote bicycling, and installed sidewalks across campus in order to increase pedestrian access. Onondaga also installed two electric vehicle charging stations to encourage students, employees, and campus visitors to use electric vehicles for their commute. Onondaga is also incorporating fuel efficient vehicles into the College’s fleet including the use of electric GEM cars and hybrid vehicles.

Onondaga has also been doing well in waste reduction and recycling efforts. The College finished strong in RecycleMania 2015, a national recycling contest between colleges and universities. Onondaga placed 1st in New York State and 20th nationally in the Waste Minimization category, meaning that Onondaga generated very little trash and recyclables per person compared with other campuses. The College has recycling bins throughout campus including battery recycling collection containers. Onondaga also has a “carry in, carry out” policy for many classrooms, with centralized recycling and trash bins located in hallways rather than classrooms in order to significantly reduce the need for plastic liners. The College is also phasing out paper towels in restrooms across campus by installing electric hand dryers in order to reduce resource consumption. Onondaga also established an end of the year residence hall move out program that allows students to donate unwanted goods to local charities instead of throwing away the items in the trash.

Onondaga’s print management initiative has decreased waste by implementing a student print quota that limits the number of free prints students receive each semester. This initiative significantly reduces the amount of paper used on campus. The College also composts pre-consumer food waste from the cafeteria. The food scraps are transported to a nearby composting facility administered by the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency where they are recycled into a natural fertilizer instead of going to an incinerator or landfill.

In addition to the College’s efforts in greening campus operations, Onondaga is working to teach students about sustainability in the classroom. The College received a grant in 2007 from the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) to develop sustainability-related academic programs and workforce training. This funding supported the expansion of sustainability-focused curriculum in the Automotive Technology, Environmental Technology, and Architectural Technology degree programs. Each of these programs has been actively working to integrate sustainability concepts into their courses. The Automotive Technology program includes instruction on alternative fuel vehicles such as natural gas, hybrid, and electric vehicle technologies. The Environmental Technology program includes coursework covering topics such as renewable energy, bio-materials, and waste management. The Architectural Technology program has successfully integrated green building and sustainable design principles throughout many courses in the department. Onondaga also developed sustainability-related courses, such as Introduction to Sustainability, through the Interdisciplinary Studies Department.

Onondaga is also working to teach students about sustainability outside of the classroom. The College installed a series of interactive educational displays in Ferrante Hall in order to teach students about environmental health topics. The installation includes a living green wall featuring live plants and educational content highlighting ways that plants contribute to environmental health. The signage also includes information on environmentally related careers and Onondaga’s sustainability initiative. The series also includes an Energy Dashboard that displays real-time energy consumption for the building. The Energy Dashboard shows electricity and natural gas consumption, allowing viewers to compare the building’s energy usage with other campus buildings and the previous week’s energy utilization.

The College sponsors a number of educational events to raise awareness about sustainability on campus. Onondaga’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety partners with academic departments and the Whole Earth Club, a student environmental organization, to host a number of guest speakers for Earth Day, Campus Sustainability Day, and other sustainability focused events. The College also organized Bike to Onondaga Day in conjunction with national Bike to Work Day in order to raise awareness about biking as a sustainable, healthy form of transportation.

In response to the educational efforts of students, the Onondaga Community College Foundation has invested a portion of their endowment in a sustainable investment fund. After an extensive review, the Foundation board established the fund, which includes human rights and environmental criteria in its investment strategy. This initiative is consistent with national efforts to develop fossil fuel free investments for college and university endowments.

Onondaga is also working to promote sustainability in the community. Onondaga has participated in a number of local sustainability initiatives such as the NY Prize micro-grid feasibility study to explore developing a community micro-grid to improve the resilience and sustainability of the community’s electricity supply, the Central New York Electric Vehicle Charging Station Plan to explore ways of improving electric vehicle infrastructure, and the City of Syracuse sustainability planning process.

Onondaga completed a campus wide sustainability assessment using the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The College received a STARS Silver rating in 2012, demonstrating progress on sustainability in areas related to education, operations, administration, and engagement. The STARS program allows the College to benchmark Onondaga’s efforts against peer institutions and track performance in key sustainability areas over time.

Onondaga was also included in the 2015 edition of The Princeton Review Guide to 353 Green Colleges. The green guide profiles colleges with exceptional commitments to sustainability. The College was selected because of its many environmental initiatives such as achieving LEED Gold certification for both the SRC Arena and Events Center and the Academic II building, implementing programs to reduce waste and promote recycling, utilizing renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and incorporating the concept of sustainability into the curriculum.

Does the institution have at least one sustainability committee?:

The charter or mission statement of the committee(s) or a brief description of each committee's purview and activities:

The Sustainability Curriculum Committee works toward advancing sustainability in the curriculum. The committee recommends new course proposals to the Interdisciplinary Studies Department.

Members of each committee, including affiliations and role (e.g. staff, student, or faculty):

The following faculty members are active in the Sustainability Curriculum Committee.

David Green
Doug Hagrman
Peter Kraai
Tom Keenan
Karl Klein
Patrick Kenny
Shelley Ley
Brian McAninch
Leonard Pyzynski
Tim Stedman

The website URL where information about the sustainability committee(s) is available:

Does the institution have at least one sustainability office that includes more than 1 full-time equivalent (FTE) employee?:

A brief description of each sustainability office:

The Office of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety, staffed by the Director of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety, is responsible for coordinating the College's sustainability efforts.

Full-time equivalent (FTE) of people employed in the sustainability office(s):

The website URL where information about the sustainability office(s) is available:

Does the institution have at least one sustainability officer?:

Name and title of each sustainability officer:
Sean Vormwald, Director of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety

A brief description of each sustainability officer position:

The Director of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety is responsible for advancing the College's sustainability efforts including integrating sustainability throughout campus operations, incorporating sustainability into the curriculum, educating campus members about sustainability, and reaching out to the community regarding Onondaga's sustainability initiative.

The website URL where information about the sustainability officer(s) is available:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.