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Sustainability During a Pandemic

In a time when it’s difficult to even just keep our status quo, it’s really hard to envision sustainable change and even harder to plan for it. With broken supply chains, a rise in single-use plastics, mass destruction of food, and an assault of unrelenting take-out containers, it’s easy for us to lose hope that we can build a more sustainable society and better future in the age of COVID-19.

One of the things this pandemic has demonstrated is that this vision of a sustainable future is essential. We must restructure our ways to rely on our local economies and to be self-sufficient, not relying on other sources that are from across the country and especially from across the world. It has brought to light racial and social inequalities so that we may eliminate them, forced us to stay home and decrease carbon emissions, innovate new ways of social interaction, and has bonded us through our hardships as not only a country but as a global community. Even though progress may be hard right now, it is still happening and The Sustainability Steering Committee would like to highlight some of our campus’s recent sustainability wins.

Love Food, Reduce Waste

Here at Siena, students are offered a wide selection of foods to eat in the dining halls. The buffet-style dining in Lonnstrom and Snyder makes it easy to take whatever you want to eat and then some. But what happens to the food you don’t eat? To reduce the amount of food wasted in dining halls, AVI Foodsystems has started a campaign entitled “Love Food, Reduce Waste.” This program aims to promote more sustainable food consumption and lessen food waste at Siena. Being aware of the foods you are not eating in addition to the foods you are eating can help you live a more sustainable life, and benefit the community and the world around you.

Sustainable Commute Bet

We all know how frustrating it can be to be stuck in traffic, but have you ever thought about how your method of transportation is affecting the environment?
Most of us can reduce our emissions by simply taking the bus, carpooling, or even biking on occasion. As a way to raise awareness about sustainable means of travel, Dr. Boyd organized a sustainability commute bet (where participants earn points for each day they sustainably commute to work/school). This was the perfect opportunity for Dr. Rebecca Clark, one of the biology professors here at Siena, to promote her main form of travel—biking!

A Classroom Approach to Saving the Planet

The new community-engaged Environmental Action (POSC 349) course was focused on energizing the campus for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on Apr. 22. A total of 15 students formed separate teams to work with campus departments such as AVI Food Service, the Siena College Research Institute, the Stack Center, and community non-profit partners such as Mayan Hands, Beyond Plastics and local physicians. Covid-19, however, created some unanticipated mayhem for community-engaged activism.

Oceans or Landfills?

Last February, Judith Enck spoke to a stuffed room in “the norm,” as part of the Siena College’s Climate series: “Oceans or Landfills.” The room was packed as she explained the incredible impacts that climate change and our environment’s plastics have, and the urgent need to move away from them. Even though plastic is an integral part of our lives, Enck blew everybody away with how much we don’t know, and what big companies don’t want us to know. As a key player in Bennington College’s switch to sustainable practices, she is prepared to help Siena College students become passionate about reducing plastic use.

Bernie says: Go Green, Live Gold!

Recently, Siena added a new addition to the walls across campus, and the picture of the Saint Bernard is intended to remind students to turn off the lights when they leave a room. Facilities have been at work updating lighting and fixtures on campus, installing LED lights, energy-efficient devices and motion sensor switches. However, Siena still spends over 1.2 million dollars on electricity alone, with a portion of that cost from lights being left on in dorm rooms, academic buildings, and other facilities. The burning of unnecessary electricity not only costs the school and ultimately students, but costs the environment as well.

Siena Climate Series

Climate change is an existential crisis, and it intersects with everything that Siena cares about as a Franciscan community. To that end, the School of Science proposed to present a year-long lecture series on the topic, featuring faculty in a range of academic disciplines. The “Siena Climate Series” is the brainchild of John Cummings, Ph.D., dean of the School of Science. It is organized by Sarah Berke, Ph.D., associate professor of Biology; Nora Mills Boyd, Ph.D., assistant professor of Philosophy; and Tom Dickens, Ph.D., professor of Religious Studies. The series kicked off in Spring 2020 with a talk from Dr. Boyd on “Deeper Than Consensus: Philosophy and Climate Science”. While a quarter of the talks needed to be canceled due to a national quarantine, there is hope to continue the series in the near future.

Canvas on Campus

The Canvas on Campus event was put together to support the Care
for Creation initiative at the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy.
As of Mar. 1, 2020, New York banned the use of plastic bags and the FCSA team felt that this would be the perfect opportunity to encourage other Siena students to take small steps that would benefit our environment. The team at the FCSA designed and distributed free canvas bags to students and staff during Free Period in the Atrium of the SSU to use in place of plastic bags.

After we place our faith again in the hands of scientists and shun misinformation, we will unite and realize that we are more alike all across the globe than we are different. When the pandemic is over, we must remain hopeful that the resource and climate crisis are the next obstacles we work to overcome.