From the ground up: SUNY-ESF creates Office of Energy and Sustainability to expand efforts

SUNY-ESF has restructured the Office of Renewable Energy in order to focus more on sustainability and eliminate any confusion regarding the office’s responsibilities.

The office will now be called the Office of Energy and Sustainability. The new name will provide greater focus and visibility, said Michael Kelleher, executive director of the office.

One major change is having the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry graduate students serve as the college’s sustainability coordinator, a one-year rolling assignment, Kelleher said.

“It provides them great experience and provides ESF with a new perspective each year,” he said.

Andrea Webster is the first sustainability coordinator and said she primarily works as a peer educator.

She said 75 percent of her job involves working with students and that ESF students are constantly bringing up new ideas.

“I really want to help ESF communicate with its students and its faculty. ESF has a ton of sustainability projects and I’m trying to improve their recognition,” Webster said.

While ESF holds a Silver Sustainability Rating and is working toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2015, the office is working on projects geared toward students, according to the office’s website.

One of the projects the office is working on involves cataloging ESF courses so they can be easily found by a key search word, Webster said.

Searching for a certain class topic, such as sustainability or water, traditionally brings up only classes with those words in the course title. But organizing classes under certain key words allows more in-depth searches that go beyond class titles, Webster said.

This will help students who want to focus their education on specific topics to find courses in that area of study, she said.

Currently, faculty and students are submitting suggestions of key words and the program will be launched next fall, Webster said.

The Eco-Reps program is another one of the office’s main projects, Webster said.

The project is currently based in Centennial Hall, but will spread to the entire campus next year, Webster said.

Kelly Corbine, a sophomore natural resources management major, is one of the 10 representatives who are a part of the program.

“The program is also designed for us to educate the residents as well as reinforce ‘green’ living,” Corbine said in an email.

The goal of Eco-Reps is to get students thinking about the environment and how they can begin to live more sustainably, as well as to work with ESF on other environmentally friendly initiatives, Corbine said.

“My position is helping promote sustainability because I can be there to constantly remind the students and get them thinking about being more friendly towards the earth,” she said.

The Eco-Reps choose a different topic each month to focus on and then incorporate it into learning activities for their residents, Corbine said.

Kelleher, executive director of the office, spoke at one of their training sessions and educated them about ESF’s sustainability plan.

Corbine said they learned a lot from him that they were then able to share with their peers.

“ESF students are always eager to learn about the environment so we don’t see (any) issues in participation once the word gets out,” she said. “In a few months we hope to have large turn-outs and an enthusiastic bunch of students.”



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