Earth Week: Recognized with awards, Geneseo to become greener

*Corrected April 30: The petition submitted by GEO asks the college to remove bottled water from the admissions office, not the entire campus.*

The Rochester Business Journal has honored Geneseo with a 2010 Environmental Leadership Award in the Resource Reduction category as recognition of the college's environmental initiatives and progress toward sustainability.

According to a Geneseo press release, the award is presented annually to "area organizations that are making great strides to become environmentally sound and helping to make the community a healthier place."

The award commended Geneseo's "upgrade to the campus power plant to improve efficiency, repairs to the campus steam distribution system to save water, and student-generated projects to reduce electricity consumption [as] significant steps towards building a greener campus."

The award also recognized the efforts of Geneseo's sustainability task force. The task force, established in 2006 and co-chaired by biology professor Kristi Hannam and Assistant Director of Facilities Services Kirk Spangler, is a volunteer committee of faculty, staff and students charged with developing strategic initiatives to develop campus conservation efforts.

Sophomore Donna Hanrahan, a student intern to the task force, said that the accumulation of many small initiatives has helped Geneseo become more sustainable. Such initiatives have included setting duplex printing defaults, removing trashcans from classrooms and encouraging students to swap their regular light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs.

Geneseo was also recently named to The Princeton Review's Guide to 286 Green Colleges as an environmentally-friendly college, and placed second out of SUNY schools and fourth among New York state schools in the waste minimization category of RecycleMania, a national collegiate competition.

Geneseo celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day with a series of events for Earth Week, which began on April 22 and runs through Friday. The events sought to foster greater environmental-consciousness on campus and encouraged "sustainability, reducing consumption, conserving water resources, promoting sustainable food, encouraging efficient transportation, and giving back to the earth," according to a Geneseo press release.

Students celebrated Earth Day itself with herb planting in the College Union followed by a dinner at Red Jacket Dining Hall that featured presentations by Colleen Garrity, climatologist and geography professor, and Rebecca Stewart, Campus Auxiliary Services marketing director.

On Friday, Geneseo Environmental Organization showed No Impact Man, a documentary about a man's attempt to live while making zero environmental impact. GEO also recently brought a giant inflatable duck to campus that was erected on the College Green. The duck was a part of GEO's polyvinyl chloride-free campaign, which challenged the college to cease buying products that contain PVC, a toxic chemical found in many plastics.

GEO, which has also been working on water privatization issues for the last two years, submitted a petition Thursday which asks the college to remove all bottled water from campus. Senior Adam Kroopnick, president of GEO, said he hopes the college will recognize that "students don't support this representation of our community" and that "we can better reflect who we are in terms of social responsibility."

GEO recently built a structure of empty Aquafina water bottles consumed by the campus. It was displayed in the College Union lobby and intended to show that "Geneseo's isn't a sustainable campus yet," Kroopnick said. "We are moving towards sustainability, [but] the bottled water given out in the admissions office as a marketing tool is an example of how unsustainable we still are."

Hanrahan said that environmental sustainability is not officially represented at Geneseo in the Facilities department, but noted an initiative to fill such a position. Hanrahan said she hopes that creating a position will make "the possibility of making our ideas a reality more realistic."

While Geneseo currently offers an environmental science minor, the task force hopes to integrate environmental studies into the curriculum for all students. "Environmental issues are universal issues that affect everyone," said Hanrahan. "Ultimately, the goal is to create an entirely carbon neutral campus."