Part and parcel of Hudson Valley Community College’s sustainability efforts is its own green practices. The college’s Sustainability Committee is made up of representatives from the campus who are always looking at current practices and policies to discover ways to get better. They gather information to benchmark best practices. Then they make recommendations for improvement and, importantly, raise awareness around specific issues.
Hudson Valley Community College is proud that it is the first institution in the SUNY system to operate “off the grid.” In 2004, the college became independent of public utilities when it began operating a cogeneration plant. The 8,000 square-foot facility burns naturally occurring methane gas generated by decomposition taking place in a former landfill next to the campus.
Using methane along with natural gas produces enough electricity for the entire campus. It also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases the college emits. In fact, according to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse-gas reduction benefits of similar projects equate to planting more than 48,000 acres of forest per year or eliminating the annual carbon dioxide emissions from more than 36,000 cars. Hudson Valley Community College will also save at least $1.3 million during the first 15 years of the plant’s operation.
Other myriad changes have had an overwhelming cumulative effect:
- The college’s physical plant staff has conducted energy-use audits of all campus buildings to determine the most energy-efficient heating and cooling schedules.
- Energy Star-compliant appliances are purchased.
- The college uses high-efficiency fluorescent lighting systems and compact fluorescent bulbs indoors and LED lighting in many places outdoors.
- Food Service has eliminated the use of Styrofoam in its operations. Today, plates and take-out containers are made from recycled fiber.
- The campus farmer’s market promotes the increasingly popular “buy local” concept.
- A new parking deck will have spaces reserved for plug-in vehicles.
In 2007, the Recycling Committee devoted itself to increasing awareness and action on campus. The committee also advocated — and won — the addition of more containers for recycling on campus. The campus community recycles paper, cardboard, textbooks, packing materials, batteries and scrap metal.
The results have been gratifying. In two years, recycling efforts nearly tripled. In 2008 alone, the college recycled 141,020 pounds — nearly 70 tons — of paper. In addition to saving water, trees and landfill space, the college received $3,544 for the paper fiber it sold. Similarly gratifying was the Recycling Achievement Award received from T.A. Predal, the college’s recycling contractor, on Earth Day 2009, during the “Greening the Valley” celebration for efforts to increase paper recycling on campus.