October 25, 2007

Cornell Celebrates Sustainability Day

Print More

Boasting numerous environmentally friendly eateries and even an organic clothing store, Ithaca remains an ecologically conscious community. It should come as no surprise then, that students, faculty and other members of the community have followed in this grain and are pursuing many environmentally conscious endeavors right here on Cornell’s campus. Campus Sustainability Day, sponsored by The Sustainability Hub, served as a forum and display for the various Cornell clubs and community organizations that are committed to sustainability. Everything from advocacy groups, including KyotoNow! and the Cornell Organization for Labor Action, to local Ithacan food vendors was showcased on Ho Plaza yesterday afternoon, offering information on posters and fliers and even organic food samples.
According to its website, the Sustainability Hub is “a student organization that works to outreach about campus sustainability, reduce Cornell’s impact on the environment, and unite other campus organizations and collaborate on different projects.”
Efforts to increase sustainability also extend off campus to the larger Ithaca community.
“People are really excited about the concept of sustainability,” said Autumn Newell, founder and owner of local clothing store Tuff Soul, located on State Street in the Commons. Newell, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Tech­nology in New York, founded the store this year with the intent of integrating “green” practices such as the use of biodegradable soap and organic cotton in order to promote environmental consciousness.
“Many people find it difficult to adhere to sustainability through clothing. They often shop in department stores and are unaware of the profound impact these manufacturers have on the other side of the world,” she said.
Other groups present at Campus Sustainability Day provided different ways to get involved. The Cornell Computer Reuse Association acquires and refurbishes unwanted computers for donation to schools who may not have access to this technology. The group functions on both a local and international scale, having donated to locations as close as Ithaca High School and as far away as Zambia and South Africa. CCRA is currently hoping to extend the program to countries like Kenya and Jamaica.
Another club, The Engineers for a Sustainable World, is hoping to install a sustainable form of water treatment, which does not rely on external power, in Honduras during winter break. The project, which aims to purify ten liters of water for the cost of $1, earned the top prize last year at the National Engineers for A Sustainable World Conference, in which 40 schools competed.
The University has also enacted several programs in order to establish a green campus. Dean Koyanagi, Cornell’s sustainability coordinator, presented several of these programs at Campus Sustainability Day. According to Koyanagi, Cornell has adhered to the Kyoto protocols to control CO2 emissions. In addition, the University recycles 2000 tons of building material and disposes of 320 tons of cafeteria food in composts instead of landfills per year. He specifically noted that Alice Cook House, built in 2005, is the first residence hall in New York State that meets the United States Green Building Council’s “Green Standards.”
Despite these efforts, the general consensus seemed to be that there is much left to be done. Carlos Rymer ’08, a member of KyotoNow!, an advocacy group for global warming issues, will be part of a group of over 80 students from Cornell and Ithaca College who will attend PowerShift 2007, the first national youth summit designed to serve as a forum for global warming issues, in November. The summit will be held at the University of Maryland, College Park.
While lobbying in our nation’s capital, Rymer said he hopes to send a message to Congress.
“Our schools and universities have demonstrated that they are committed to combating the global warming issue. Yet what has our government done? Not enough,” he said.
A similar event, Step It Up, will be held in Ithaca on Nov. 3rd on the Arts Quad and in Tutelo Park. The event, which will occur simultaneously at locations around the country, was started by author Bill McKibben, a Harvard grad who currently serves as a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. McKibben urges for 10 percent reduction of emissions in three years, a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, and a Green Jobs Corps to help fix homes and businesses so those targets can be met.
Austin Ihm ’10 came to the Campus Sustainability Day to find out about such opportunities through which he could get involved.
“In a sense, the various means of promoting sustainability shown here today are a clear sign that we have taken steps in the right direction. At the same time, however, it makes me realize that there are many avenues which remain open for improvement.”