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About Sustainability at Geneseo

Sustainability Defined

Sustainability at its simplest is that something can continue, in its current state, indefinitely. Most people understand the way the word is currently being used, i.e. to preserve the environment, by not making it any worse and trying to fix current environmental problems. In its most holistic form, however, the word involves three realms or pillars: environment, economy, and society. Thus we want to “sustain” those three areas. It is not only important to conserve and protect, but to conserve, protect, and provide equal access to them, i.e. justice for all constituents (primarily meaning humans). While the focus is understandably on the environment, since it is vital to our continued success as a species, economic and social justice are also key to a sustainable world.

Sustainability Statement

SUNY Geneseo calls upon all members of our community to embrace sustainability as a core value, including a commitment to its constitutive principles of ecological, social, and economic justice. We recognize the critical role of higher education in creating a sustainable society. Through teaching, research, service, and institutional conduct we strive to nurture the values, skills and knowledge necessary to sustain and enhance human and non-human life on the planet.

The college understands that sustainability is a process of building support for societal and intergenerational equity and a shared sense of responsibility for the ethical stewardship of our social and natural environment. We endorse the broad scientific consensus that human demands on the planet threaten the ecological, social and economic resources upon which our global society depends.

As a public liberal arts college, we seek solutions to these increasingly complex, interdisciplinary problems that are consistent with our shared values and ideals. Recognizing that the promotion of sustainability is central to the mission of the college, SUNY Geneseo calls upon its faculty, students and staff to foster a culture of sustainable and responsible citizenship on campus. By minimizing the environmental impact of our institutional operations and integrating the principles of sustainability throughout our academic disciplines and co-curricular life we can begin to realize a more profound and enduring form of prosperity for current and future generations.

Rationale and History of Campus Sustainability

In the fall of 2006, the Environmental Impact and Sustainability Task Force, comprised of faculty, students and staff from across departments and divisions at the college, was formed at SUNY Geneseo to implement strategies to reduce the College’s environmental impact. On June 26, 2007, President Christopher Dahl signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) which committed the College to calculating the College’s greenhouse gas footprint, setting a date for carbon neutrality and establishing an action plan for achieving that goal. In addition, the ACUPCC also committed the college to initiating at least two specific tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before the submission of the action plan. Geneseo fulfilled this part of the commitment by establishing a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the equivalent of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard. In addition, the College has an appliance purchasing policy that requires the purchase of Energy Star certified products for all areas where these ratings exist, and has increased access to public transportation (through the LATS bus system) for the campus and wider community.

Beginning in 2008, the Task Force student intern, Alicia Kowsky, along with members of the climate impact and monitoring subcommittee conducted a baseline greenhouse gas inventory for the College. This inventory was completed by our summer 2009 student intern, Hallie Miller, to include comprehensive information on the College’s electricity, natural gas, transportation, solid waste, and wastewater contributions to greenhouse gas outputs from 1990-2009. This important information is critical for establishing a picture of the College’s current and historical greenhouse gas footprint, and as basis for predicting future trends in our greenhouse gas emissions.

The Climate Action Plan for SUNY Geneseo makes clear the actions that have already been taken to increase energy efficiency on campus, identifies new projects to reduce or offset our energy usage, and sets a timeline for climate neutrality with interim goals. The ultimate goal is to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 with less than 20 percent of the reduction at that time through purchased, off-site carbon credits.

In 2012, the task force was designated as a Presidential Commission by President Christopher C. Dahl.

Due to increasing demands and expectations by federal and state government, SUNY, and the faculty, staff, and students of SUNY Geneseo, the Office of Sustainability was formed in 2013.