September 14, 2004

Cornell Greens Watch Ithaca's Environment

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When Christelle Munnelly ’05, was asked why she chose the Cornell Greens over the plethora of other environmental organizations on campus, she replied that “everyone said the Greens was the most active group.”

And active they are. Among the many accomplishments that this unaffiliated environmental organization has had, they have been a driving force on campus to ensure that the University engage in the most environmentally-friendly practices possible.

Not only do the members of the Greens create environmental awareness on campus, but they also partake in nationwide campaigns with groups like Rainforest Action Network and EcoPledge, a non-profit organization that targets corporations that practice unfriendly environmental activities.

The Cornell Greens is the oldest environmental group on campus and has about twenty active members at any given time. Students from many of the different undergraduate colleges at Cornell make up the membership of the Greens, all brought together by their intense dedication to increasing environmental awareness on campus and throughout the nation.

“The Cornell Greens is a non-partisan group that strives to bring issues of environmental quality and stability on campus as well as educate the student body about small steps they can take to change their ecological footprint,” said Joseph Notaro ’07, president of the Greens.

“We’re trying to get students to think about the style of food they eat, the energy they use and how these basic lifestyle patterns could be more sustainable,” he added. Election

While the Greens are not affiliated with the Green Party, they are urging students to register to vote since many important environmental concerns are at stake with the upcoming election.

“There is a large force on campus that goes around the dorms to get students to register to vote … the Greens are now focusing on working with other groups, particularly democratic groups, to get John Kerry elected,” said Greens member Rebecca Wilbanks ’07.

Kerry received a score of 97 out of 100 possible points from the National League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group, before the Democratic primaries.

“Last year we had tables in Willard Straight where we had information about all the candidates and their environmental records. We were not endorsing any particular candidate but rather educating students as to who has done what to the environment,” said Wilbanks. Some of the other projects that the Greens are pursuing include an attempt to get all new Cornell University buildings to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, which means that the buildings are in line with a national standard of environmental design.

“This includes certain provisions for energy conservation, where materials are obtained from and how wastes are handled,” Notaro explained.

As of now, Cornell uses the LEED standards as guidelines but has not received the certification.

“It will look good for Cornell to be LEED certified and Cornell will save money in the long-term because they’ll be saving money on energy,” Notaro said.

The Greens meet with members of the Cornell administration, including President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 and HalCraft, vice president for administraton and chief financial officer, on a consistent basis to urge them to adopt the agreement.

According to Wilbanks, “President Lehman has been extremely favorable towards environmental issues” and more than willing to meet with members of the Greens to discuss such concerns.

In addition to University wide policy, the Greens are also involved in the daily practices of students in campus housing. They are trying to encourage composting of organic waste, such as food scraps and newsprint, in the residence halls. Composting is a way of recycling waste so that it decomposes and becomes soil for reuse.

“Cornell Dining already does compost some things…they sell the compost material after it’s been broken down to the Plantations. It can then be used for planting,” Wilbanks said. In addition, the Greens are researching the sources of the cotton used to make Cornell clothing to see if organic materials can be purchased if it is not already.

Another one of their many successful endeavors included a campaign organized by EcoPledge against PepsiCo. for not using enough recycled plastic in their bottles. As part of a nationwide attempt to urge Pepsi to use more recycled products, Christelle Munnelly ’05, an active member of the Greens, along with students from many other organizations, collected hundreds of messages from students and put them in empty Pepsi bottles.

Along with campaginers nationwide, Munnelly sent the bottles to Pepsi headquarters, urging them to be more environmentally conscious. PepsiCo. now uses 25 percent recycled plastic as opposed to the 10 percent that they once used.

The Greens are an extremely active environmental group at Cornell that gets funding from the SAFC and the CUPB, among other sources. They hold weekly meetings on Mondays at 8 p.m. in Anabel Taylor Hall, where potential new members are always welcome.

Archived article by Erica Kerman
Sun Contributor