|Submission Date||March 5, 2021|
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
PRE-2: Points of Distinction
Name of the institution’s featured sustainability program, initiative, or accomplishment:
A brief description of the institution’s featured program, initiative, or accomplishment:
In September 2020, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new academic collaborations between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) with three State University of New York colleges that will help drive solutions to benefit local and statewide solid waste management and recycling. These partnerships with the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), University at Buffalo, and Stony Brook University are intended to focus on innovative strategies to improve recycling and waste reduction to simultaneously strengthen New York's economy and protect the environment. ESF was identified as the "front door" (umbrella) for this multi-institutional initiative.
The DEC entered into a 10-year partnership and commitment with ESF -- the first five years funded at $5.75 million -- to establish the New York State Center for Sustainable Materials Management based at ESF. This investment is in part helping develop a comprehensive plan to improve recycling and address market access challenges for recyclable materials. Local government recyclers are currently experiencing decreased recycling revenues and increased costs due to the lack of market access for collected materials.
Importantly, the Center's work focuses primarily on waste prevention and reduction, as well as a comprehensive community outreach and public education campaign with direct stakeholder engagement led by its partner, Syracuse University. Other projects include the research and development of recycling alternatives for "non-recyclable fibrous materials" such as lower grade paper, including composting and conversion options.
ESF's Officer-in-Charge at the time, Joseph Rufo, said, "This Center will help reduce waste and reinvigorate the State's recycling industry. As part of this effort, ESF will serve as a convener for a variety of related state-wide initiatives with efforts that are destined to be economic engines, creating far more jobs than landfills. A variety of ESF faculty, staff, and students will work hand-in-glove with the DEC, other SUNY campuses, Syracuse University, and other partners statewide. Ultimately, the goal is to transition this state Center into a national center when the time is right."
The Center -- the first of it's kind in the Nation -- is focusing on community engagement, outreach, policy development, public education, research and technical assistance with the intention of:
- promoting waste prevention and reduction-particularly packaging reduction and product stewardship;
- encouraging closed-loop, responsible purchasing;
- developing economic markets for recyclables, fostering entrepreneurship and helping convert manufacturing to use recycling feedstock;
- launching a comprehensive community outreach and public education campaign, and facilitating additional stakeholder engagement;
- identifying new methods to manage non-recyclable fibrous materials through the development of composting options; and
- identifying new methods to manage non-recyclable fibrous materials through the development of unique conversion options.
Which of the following impact areas does the featured program, initiative, or accomplishment most closely relate to?:
Coordination & Planning
Website URL where more information about the accomplishment may be found:
STARS credit in which the featured program, initiative, or accomplishment is reported (if applicable):
A photograph or document associated with the featured program, initiative, or accomplishment:
Name of a second highlighted sustainability program/initiative/accomplishment:
A brief description of the second program/initiative/accomplishment:
A team of 18 students from ESF and four from Syracuse University won their competition in the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Design Challenge, prevailing over 17 other teams, including competitors from Germany and India. The design was for an energy-efficient building designed to be part of the Syracuse Housing Authority's plan to remake a neighborhood in Syracuse, NY. The team presented the award-winning concept, called Syracuse Energy Efficient Design, to Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and authority representatives.
The 36-unit building would include a day-care facility, community gardens, and other outdoor spaces for residents. The net-zero energy building would feature geothermal energy for heating and cooling, and a solar array on the carport. Target residents would have low to moderate income levels.
Which impact areas does the second program/initiative/accomplishment most closely relate to?:
Website URL where more information about the second program/initiative/accomplishment may be found:
STARS credit in which the second program/initiative/accomplishment is reported (if applicable):
A photograph or document associated with the second program/initiative/accomplishment:
Name of a third highlighted program/initiative/accomplishment:
A brief description of the third program/initiative/accomplishment:
In 2018, ESF began work on a project, funded by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) Campus Challenge, to create a Clean Energy Master Plan (CEMP) in partnership with Ramboll Inc. Building on ESF’s 2009 Climate Action Plan, the CEMP provides a snapshot of historical energy and GHG emission trends, and a roadmap for further reductions in energy use, fossil fuel dependence, utility costs, and GHG emissions. A team of ESF staff members, faculty and students worked closely with a team of engineers from Ramboll to create the CEMP and engage ESF leadership, the campus community, SUNY Construction Fund, and other key stakeholders in the process. The CEMP takes a comprehensive approach to energy management with strategic focus areas in energy efficiency, resiliency, renewables, stewardship, and engagement.
In addition, NYSERDA funded a parallel effort to document ESF's CEMP process and create an educational video to share with other institutions who might be embarking on or considering a clean energy master plan. The CEMP and the video were completed in 2020 and will be released to the public in 2021.
Energy utility data, audit results, feasibility studies, and plans for current and future energy and construction projects provided the basis for the CEMP analysis. Since prioritizing GHG emission reductions, ESF’s clean energy efforts to date have reduced GHG emissions by 25%. Total campus energy use and energy use per square foot have also decreased over that time. The primary driver of GHG reductions has been reduced dependence on purchased steam and electricity from the grid, offset by the more efficient onsite Gateway Center CHP plant. Still, heating remains the largest source of energy use, fossil fuel dependence, and GHG emissions, representing about two thirds of ESF’s fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions. ESF is currently dependent on natural gas-fired steam for heating. This includes steam purchased from an external source, and steam produced at the Gateway Center CHP, which primarily uses natural gas. The Gateway CHP is fueled by a mix of natural gas and biomass, and has the potential to use a greater percentage of biomass. ESF’s biggest opportunity for deep decarbonization over the long term is finding alternatives to natural gas and purchased steam to heat ESF's Syracuse (main) campus buildings during cold winters and shoulder months.
Energy modeling and scenario planning conducted by Ramboll identified one potential approach to address this issue and dramatically reduce GHG emissions over the mid- to long-term through phased implementation of a low-temperature hot water distribution system. This could be expanded over time and work as an integrated system with a diverse mix of clean energy technologies such as geothermal, biomass, and biofuels to offset purchased steam and natural gas. This hot water loop and required building retrofits could be implemented in a phased approach in sync with the ESF Facilities Master Plan (FMP) and periodic investments to retrofit existing buildings including SUNY-driven Deep Energy Retrofits. In addition to natural gas and purchased steam for heat, grid-purchased electricity is the next largest opportunity for reductions, accounting for approximately 28% of ESF’s energy/fossil fuel use and GHG emissions. ESF’s participation in the Large-Scale Renewable Energy (LSRE) consortium of SUNY and other NYS colleges, which would secure 100% of purchased electricity from renewable sources, is a critical component of the CEMP and ESF’s leadership towards SUNY and NYS energy and carbon goals.
The CEMP for ESF is a living document that provides a vision and pathway for transitioning to a low-carbon campus that showcases and benefits from a mix of proven clean energy technologies and operational strategies that increase energy independence and resilience. With a continued comprehensive approach to energy management, ESF has the potential to reduce energy use, transition to a blend of renewable sources, and cut GHG emissions by 40% in the near term, and 80% or more over the long term. At the same time, these practices will continue to reduce utility costs and fossil fuel dependence, making the College more financially and operationally sustainable. The CEMP supports ESF’s expanding potential to serve as a clean energy leader for SUNY, NYS, and beyond, while creating new opportunities for student and faculty engagement and collaboration. The CEMP strengthens the foundation for a growing suite of clean energy tools and initiatives at ESF, leading the way toward the sustainable, zero-carbon institution of the future.
Which impact areas does the third program/initiative/accomplishment most closely relate to?:
Coordination & Planning
Website URL where more information about the third program/initiative/accomplishment may be found:
STARS credit in which the third program/initiative/accomplishment is reported (if applicable):
A photograph or document associated with the third program/initiative/accomplishment:
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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.