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Energized about the environment

Brian Pine (Facilities), David Clark (Science/Engineering) and Brian Obach (Sociology) are passionate about incorporating environmentally friendly practices into the academic, cultural and economic atmospheres on campus.

"All the pieces are in place for New Paltz to be a leader in environmentally sound practices," said Obach, director of the campus Environmental Task Force.

With new academic programs, a task force, various environmentally sensitive projects and statewide initiatives, the college is ready to address issues regarding the environment.

"We want to see the college recognized as being at the forefront of the growing environmental movement," said Clark, associate dean of the School of Science and Engineering.

Pine, director of Facilities Operations, said the college has the unique opportunity to bring the academic side and the day-to-day operations side of the campus together.

Pine's attention to energy efficiency on campus echos the objectives put forth by the State University of New York (SUNY) Energy Task Force, which last month outlined a set of conservation and sustainability, transformational opportunities and management and planning goals.

The SUNY Energy Task Force's report included recommendations that will propel the entire educational system into a national leadership role in environmental issues, such as energy sustainability, using the best tool it has - education.

At New Paltz, Pine is looking at methods for reaching the SUNY task force's goal of lowering energy use (based on 1989-1990 figures) by 37 percent by 2010. The Facilities Operations staff work under the Governor's Executive Order 111, under which all state agencies should be more energy efficient and environmentally aware.

In the last few years, the college has unveiled two academic programs - the Environmental Geochemical Science major and the Environmental Studies minor - aimed at addressing the current and future challenges associated with energy, environment and economy.

Pine said he would like to collaborate with Clark, director of the Environmental Studies minor, and students in the college's new programs to help the college reach a higher level of environmental consciousness.

The Environmental Geochemical Science major combines courses in chemistry and geology to provide students with a working knowledge of the scientific background required to address many environmental problems. The program culminates in a senior research project done under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

The Environmental Studies minor includes a fieldwork component and allows students to create a general education program with an environmental theme. Many students fulfill their fieldwork at the Brook Farm Project outside of New Paltz under the direction of owner Dan Guenther.

Members of the Environmental Task Force were involved in the planning stages of the minor program. The task force, created in 2005, works with different constituencies on campus, including the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and Faculty Governance. The group's mission is to raise consciousness about environmental practices on campus and to engage in environmental improvements.

The task force and Facilities are working on projects including a material recovery effort at the end of the semester to collect useable materials at residence halls and donate them to local charities; a comprehensive recycling program and incorporating green design standards into new buildings and renovated areas.

Obach said given the cost savings and the environmental benefits, measures like these are both are both socially and fiscally responsible.

"They save the college money and bolster our reputation as a socially responsible institution," said Obach.