Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 86.83
Liaison Mark Lichtenstein
Submission Date Feb. 28, 2023

STARS v2.2

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
EN-14: Participation in Public Policy

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Mark Lichtenstein
Executive Director of Sustainability
Energy and Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the municipal/local level?:

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the municipal/local level:

ESF has had a long-standing engagement in public policy advocacy at the municipal/local level on issues related to environmental justice, environmental impact, and sustainability.

Some examples include:

- Predominantly Black Neighborhoods in Syracuse were devastated in the 1950s and 1960s to make space for Interstate 81 (I81), which snakes its way through the center of the city. Since then, similar social and economic policy decisions have limited the potential for growth in these areas. The looming decision of the New York State Department of Transportation to replace the current I81 viaduct presents a transformational opportunity for the broader community. ESF boarders these neighborhoods, and in 2019, ESF leaders publicly endorsed the "community grid solution" as a sustainable alternative to redeveloping the elevated interstate highway. ESF advocated for the grid option citing numerous sustainability benefits such as being more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, and addressing social and environmental justice issues of previously bisected historically significant minority neighborhoods (https://www.syracuse.com/news/2019/04/suny-esf-sold-on-i-81-grid-option-after-briefing-by-ny-officials.html). In 2023, the future of I81 in Syracuse is still in flux, and ESF continues to be a "go-to" location for advice and consultation. This includes:

Engagement of faculty, supported by the administration, such as this editorial: "ESF professor: I-81 plan fails people most affected by construction (Commentary)" (https://www.syracuse.com/opinion/2019/08/esf-professor-i-81-plan-fails-people-most-affected-by-construction-commentary.html).

Hosting I81-related dialogue sessions.

Late in 2022, the ESF Board of Trustees created a formal committee of the board to help the College better support and engage in local policy issues related to I81.

ESF is developing a stronger and supportive relationship with the local organization Blueprint 15 (https://purposebuiltcommunities.org/our-network/syracuse-blueprint-15/). The mission of Blueprint 15 is to work with community residents, local leaders and other partners to revitalize one of the impacted neighborhoods and create the conditions necessary so that every person has a genuine opportunity to achieve their highest potential. Blueprint 15 will lead the revitalization initiative to make sure the housing, education, and community wellness components have long-term success; ensure neighborhood residents are heard, included, and assisted; and serve as a point of accountability for all partners and funders. Blueprint 15's work is already influencing local policy decision-making, and ESF is playing an increasing role in that regard.

- The New York State Center for Sustainable Materials Management (CSMM) (www.centerforsmm.org) was created at ESF in 2020 and started its work in earnest in 2021. Embedded in one of its six core activity areas is the responsibility to advance and support sustainable materials management public policy at the local level. More specifically, this includes policies that advance product stewardship, green purchasing, and recycling. This advocacy started in 2022, and included the launch of a renewed "Recycle Right NY Campaign."

- ESF continues its efforts in Puerto Rico to advance sustainability. This includes promoting sustainable materials management local policy. An example includes ESF's continued and active support of the Vieques (Puerto Rico) Recycling Partnership (VRP) (ESF's executive operating officer co-founded the VRP) (www.prrecycles.org/vieques.html). VRP results include a plastic bag ban and other waste reduction efforts. The ESF executive operating officer is also on the board of directors for the local NGO, ViequesLove--a sustainability focused organization. ViequesLove works with the local municipality on a host of initiatives including community resiliency, asset mapping, renewable energy, and more (http://VIequeslove.org).

- The ESF president is the previous elected county executive for Onondaga County, NY. ESF resides in Onondaga County. The president has meetings with the current county leaders focused on local policy. One recent example includes the County's interest in developing an aquarium, and with engaging ESF experts with its appropriate development (focusng on appropriate treatment and display of flora and fauna).

- The College was supportive of one of its environmental biology majors, who led the charge to get her hometown of Homer, New York Bronze Climate Smart Community certification (Student Leads Hometown to Climate Smart Community Certification

- ESF faculty, with support of the College administration, continually work in local communities across New York State and in other areas of the U.S., and in international communities to serve as subject matter experts in the development of local policies related to bioeconomy, carbon management, ecosystem restoration, environmental health, forest management and use, invasive species management, land use, water quality, watershed management, and more. An examples is the work of ESF's environmental biology and environmental science faculty and researchers in the Finger Lakes region of New York State in relations to the prevention of Harmful Algal Blooms. An example includes the Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms in the Lower Great Lakes program. MERHAB-LGL is a multidisciplary program to develop monitoring strategies for harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Lake Champlain watersheds (https://www.esf.edu/merhab/). Through this program, assistance is provided to governments and local monitoring agencies through its toxin analysis service.

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level?:

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level:

ESF's government and external relations activities link the College with the community, elected officials, and agencies to communicate about sustainability and environmental challenges and opportunities. The College continually works to develop relationships with those who have an opportunity to affect the College's future and fulfill ESF's vision of “a better world through environmental discovery.” The focus is on efforts to develop relationships with state, regional, and local governments in order to secure support for institutional initiatives and individual research projects consistent with the mission of the college and priorities, and advocate for public policies that align with principles of sustainable development and responsible stewardship of natural resources. A few examples include:

- ESF faculty and other leaders were active with New York State's groundbreaking work on climate change in 2021-22, through the States Climate Action Council. Focus areas included bioeconomy/biomaterials, carbon management, and solid waste management (ESF Faculty/Trustee Appointed to New York State Climate Action Council Advisory Panels

- The NYS Center for Sustainable Materials Management (CSMM) (discussed above) was involved in a few noteworthy efforts:

Advancing Zero Waste strategies (Center for Sustainable Materials ManagementPartners with GBCI to Advance Zero-Waste Strategies in New York State (https://www.esf.edu/news/2022/csmm-zero-waste.php)

Launching a revamped Recycle Right NY Campaign (https://recyclerightny.org)

Assisting with the NYS Post Consumer Paint Program (https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/120606.html), specially working with the NYS Legislator who was the sponsor of the related legislation

Helping promote appropriate mercury thermostat management (https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/92655.html)

- ESF faculty were appointed to the NYS Climate Impacts Assessment Project (SUNY ESF Faculty, Alumnus Appointed to State Climate Impacts Assessment Project

- ESF partnered with NYS agencies to promote Climate-Smart Farms and Forests (ESF Partners with State Agencies to Promote Climate-Smart Farms and Forests (https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-announces-new-york-state-awarded-60-million-federal-funds-advance-smart).

- The union representing the largest component of ESF employees is the Statewide United University Professionals (UUP). UUP also represents thousands of faculty members and professional employees across NYS. With the support of ESF leadership, ESF's lead sustainability professional serves as co-chair for UUP's Environmental Issues and Advocacy Committee, which is dedicated to fighting for a more sustainable and just NYS and SUNY system (legislative platform: https://uupinfo.org/communications/releases/220505.php).

- ESF is engaged in sustainability efforts in the Caribbean that include public policy advocacy. Some examples include:

The ESF executive operating officer was co-founder of the Puerto Rico Recycling Partnership, and in 2011 developed the first comprehensive sustainable materials management plan for the region. That plan continues to have impact (http://www.prrecycles.org).

The ESF executive operating officer is vice president of Island Green Living Association in the US Virgin Islands. Island Green is the primary NGO in the USVI working with the territorial government on sustainability issues, initiatives, and policies (https://islandgreenliving.org).

- The ESF president is engaged in many personal meetings with NYS policy makers such as the governor and legislators. ESF hosts meetings, roundtables, and policy dialogues with State legislators. All of these are intended to influence public policy.

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the national level?:

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the national level:

Examples include:

- ESF's executive operating officer is an honorary, lifetime board member of the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) (https://nrcrecycles.org/). Through this mechanism, extensive comments were provided that influenced the development of the new National Recycling Strategy (https://www.epa.gov/recyclingstrategy).

- Extensive comments were invited and provided to inform the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling Grant Program.

- In 2020, ESF's executive operating officer served as the primary author of the "Accelerating Sustainable Materials Management in the U.S." chapter of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network's (SDSN) America's Zero Carbon Action Plan (ZCAP) (https://www.unsdsn.org/Zero-Carbon-Action-Plan). This was a policy pathways document delivered to the incoming Biden Administration. The College's direction of sustainable facilities also served as a contributor. In 2022, SDSN reconvened the group that developed ZCAP to continue related advocacy.

- ESF's executive operating officer is a formal advisory council member and advisor for Beyond Plastics (https://www.beyondplastics.org/) based at Bennington College (Vermont) whose mission is to end plastic pollution everywhere.

- ESF continues to be a We Are Still In pledge signatory (https://www.wearestillin.com/organization/suny-college-environmental-science-and-forestry). This includes commitments to:

Reduce short-lived climate pollutant emissions
Responsible engagement in climate policy
Reducing the climate impact of transportation
Increase use of renewable power
Managing campus landholdings as a carbon sink
Invest Endowment Funds in Clean Energy and Technology Solutions
Designing and hosting a cross-sectoral forum at the institution
Take actions that lead to Climate Leadership Network Marks of Distinction
Sign one of the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments

- ESF’s faculty play a variety of roles that impact national policy, including Dr. Lemir Teron Named Richard P. Nathan Public Policy Fellow https://rockinst.org/news/article/the-rockefeller-institute-of-government-announces-the-2022-23-richard-p-nathan-public-policy-fellows/

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the international level?:

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the international level:

- ESF's executive operating officer continues to be the only person within the SUNY system of 64 campuses statewide to represent SUNY as Observer Status in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/parties-non-party-stakeholders/non-party-stakeholders/overview/observer-organizations).

- ESF's executive operating officer is working to develop a Caribbean-basin sustainability network and initiative. This includes expansion of GREEN-PR, which he conceived of more than 10 years ago and is still active (Generating Replicable Environmental Education Networks - Puerto Rico). This expanded effort is first focused on the region including the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico (main island), US Virgin Islands, and Vieques (Puerto Rico). The intent is to expand next to the Mesoamerican Reef Region of Central America.

- ESF's executive operating officer is an expert advisor to GreenVI, a sustainability-focused NGO in the British Virgin Islands, advising local, national, and academic leaders there.

- ESF's president is active on international issues (ESF President Mahoney Speaks at International Conference https://www.esf.edu/news/2021/news-president-mahoney-international-conference.php).

A brief description of other political positions the institution has taken during the previous three years (if applicable):

A brief description of political donations the institution made during the previous three years (if applicable):

Website URL where information about the institution’s sustainability advocacy efforts is available:

Additional documentation to support 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.