College Improves Upon Sustainability Score, Inches Closer to Silver Status

PHOTO: Solar panels atop Kaplan HallMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Fortified by efforts to further reduce its environmental impact, SUNY Orange recently retained its “bronze” rating, narrowly missing out on an advanced “silver” classification, as part of the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

Behind strong improvements in several areas of College operations, SUNY Orange raised its STARS score by 23.2 percent from its initial rating in 2011. During its first STARS evaluation, SUNY Orange earned a rating score of 35.4, but that total increased to 43.6 in this current cycle. A score of 45 or higher earns participating colleges and universities a “silver” rating. The maximum score is 100.

STARS participants report achievements in the areas of: education and research; operations; and planning, administration and engagement. Participants earn credits for a variety of areas within each evaluation category, and the credits are compiled into a final rating.

Among those items that most significantly bolstered SUNY Orange’s 2014 rating were: improvements in food and beverage purchasing, the inclusion of sustainable features in the construction of Kaplan Hall on the Newburgh campus and the design of the Rowley Center for Science and Engineering on the Middletown campus, and the implementation of sustainability-related materials in orientations for new students and new employees. Additionally, the College has expanded its campus diversity culture, further reduced its energy consumption, developed broader “green” purchasing criteria for product and supplies, and improved its recycling efforts.

SUNY Orange is a charter member of the STARS program and was an early signee of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007.

“In 2008, the College’s Board of Trustees made sustainability one of five priorities in the College’s five-year Strategic Plan,” says Dr. William Richards, SUNY Orange president. “Our staff, faculty and students have embraced the notion of sustainability and have ensured that we are making strides in many different areas at the College. We will continue to maintain our commitment to sustainability and seek out innovative ways to improve wherever possible.”

The College has adopted an “Energy Efficient Purchasing Standards” policy that calls for purchases of only Energy Star labeled products. All computers purchased by the College are rated EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) Gold. Approximately half of the College’s expenditures for cleaning products go toward the acquisition of Green Seal or EcoLogo certified products, and the College now purchases copier paper that is comprised of 50 percent recycled content.

Approximately 40 percent of food products used in the College cafeterias is locally grown, with produce, fruit and eggs coming from local farms when in season.

PHOTO: Middletown campus rain gardenWhen new students and employees undergo their initial SUNY Orange orientation, they are provided materials that highlight the College’s sustainability projects and programs. In addition, students are encouraged to volunteer in such activities as Earth Day celebrations, campus clean-ups, TerraCycling and maintenance of the Educational Gardens (including the Middletown campus rain garden shown at left).

Over the past few years, SUNY Orange has placed more than 30 outside recycling containers across both campuses. Each of those containers is paired with a trash can, which has contributed to better sorting and collection of recyclables.

Kaplan Hall on the College’s Newburgh campus has been granted LEED Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and includes many environmentally friendly features both internally and externally. A rooftop array of photovoltaic panels (shown above)generates a small portion of the building’s annual electric power needs. High-performance windows and sunshades help moderate the building’s internal temperature. Energy efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems provide a high level of comfort and a healthy indoor environment.

The campus plaza serves as a green roof for the underground parking garage. Rainwater is collected from the roof of Kaplan Hall in underground cisterns for irrigation of the plaza greenery. Water efficient landscaping and native plants adorn the campus.

The Rowley Center for Science and Engineering, presently under construction on the Middletown campus, will also contain a rooftop array of photovoltaic panels, and many of the same sustainable purchasing and construction approaches that were employed in the Kaplan Hall project are being replicated as the Rowley Center moves closer to completion.

STARS, the only rating system of its kind that involves public reporting of comprehensive information related to a college’s or university’s sustainability performance, boasts more than 300 institutions from the United States and Canada as participants.

For information on the STARS program or the latest developments within SUNY Orange’s sustainability programming, contact Kirsten Gabrielsen, sustainability coordinator, at (845) 341-4118.

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940