Put your sustainable notions into daily practice with ideas gleaned from these local resources
Today`s trend toward all things green makes sustainability literacy increasingly necessary. When it comes down to learning about sustainability, Syracuse offers a wealth of educational resources that community members can access and explore to create their own environmentally friendly lifestyle. The result is an improved quality of life at home, at work and for the community.
Steve Lloyd, associate director of Syracuse University’s Sustainability Division, highlights three concepts that should persuade most skeptics to embrace sustainability. The seventh-generation idea of the Haudenosaunee, who believed that before doing anything that could affect the environment, “you have to look ahead and think about how cutting a tree will affect the seventh generation,” Lloyd says. “You’d go out over a matter of seven generations.” Then, there are the concepts of “reduce, reuse and recycle” and “people, profit, planet,” which yield social justice and a better living environment by supporting increased wages and child labor laws, among others.
“We can’t be constant consumers of coal, oil, natural gas. We should look for wind, solar or geothermal energy sources,” Lloyd says. “Any of the reusable energy sources last longer and are replaced easily.”
While sustainable practices initially cost more, green efforts pay off in the long run, according to Lloyd. For instance, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings bring with them a 2 percent to 6 percent higher construction costs than regular buildings. But the investment is worth it because it leads to improved worker productivity. “There are fewer sick days due to better inside airing and better water quality,” Lloyd says.
But home and business owners have different needs regarding sustainability. “Businesses have different air circulation needs, there’s more lighting, a lot of information technology and outside lighting and parking,” Lloyd says. “A lot of people are more aware of the consumption in their home because they are more driven by money-saving.”
SU’s Sustainability Division uses different ways to disseminate green-practices information. “We go to senior citizen homes or organizations because they like the face-toface interaction,” Lloyd says. “Some of these people have never used a computer, so you have to do face-to-face.” Meanwhile, parents are urged to teach their children by setting good examples, such as turning off audio and visual equipment and recycling, Lloyd notes.
While most universities and colleges in the area offer academic courses focusing on sustainability, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and SU not only offer them, but they also invite expert speakers to discuss sustainability topics. SU’s Sustainability Division website (http://greenuniversecity.syr.edu/) lists numerous academic events open to the public, while SUNY-ESF offers the Going Green webinar series about sustainability (www.esf.edu/sustainability/goinggreen.asp), produced in collaboration with News 10 Now.
The Internet is a valuable learning and assessment tool that can help you identify lifestyle practices that need improvement, according to Lloyd. For instance, SU’s Sustainability Division website provides an online energy use and lifestyle calculator that helps people assess their carbon footprint and enables them to take action, such as consolidating car trips. “You have to find out what your baseline is to make changes,” Lloyd says. “Change one or two things, you shouldn’t go all crazy and try to change everything at once because you’ll fail.
“Say you’re not computer savvy, you can always call a school and ask about sustainability,” Lloyd adds. “A lot of times, people in the university arena can help local companies.”
One such company is GreeningUSA, a Syracuse-based non-profit environmental organization that has promoted sustainable practices since its inception in 2004 and publishes a newsletter that lists local sustainability events, according to Diane Brandli, company communications chair. “We advocate for sustainable communities to the benefit of local economies and environments,” she says.
GreeningUSA developed top-to-bottom and grass-roots approaches to spread the green word. The “12 Traits of Sustainable Communities” program, spearheaded by local architect and sustainability consultant Peter Arsenault, entails discussions with community leaders. Introduced last year, it is a rating system that counties, cities and towns can use to assess and improve their sustainability levels.
At the grass-roots level is the Sustainability Academy, implemented through interactive sessions held in workshops or festival format, to bring sustainability education to local communities. Developed by GreeningUSA’s education committee and chaired by environmental educator Gregory Michel, the academy was created in 2007.
Michel, president and founder of Fayetteville-based Eco Aha! that provides consulting services to schools, businesses and communities, had attended a FOCUS Greater Syracuse “Citizens Academy” seminar, where he honed his knowledge about the inner workings of local government and ways in which citizens can improve the quality of life in their communities. The academy also came out of a Syracuse City School District reconstruction program implemented in response to a Sustainable Design Assessment Team report of the American Institute of Architects in 2006.
On average, workshop series include up to 12 sessions spanning two months. Each workshop is tailored to the learning needs of the hosting community, Michel says. For instance, the three-seminar workshop held at Fowler High School for Near West Side community members in May 2009 included “Sustainability 101,” “Recycling,” “Food, Gardening and Green Infrastructure” and “Healthy and Green Schools.” Meanwhile, a one-day “Trick or Trees: Time to Plant Festival” facilitated the planting of more than 150 trees in the Near West Side.
“All of the sessions have been on the grassroots level,” Michel says. “We’re talking to community members who live and breathe the neighborhoods and we’re mostly focusing on the Near West Side to introduce financial involvement of energy efficiency and healthy food on a lower budget.”
“Sustainability projects are a huge opportunity for communities and their quality of life on a national and local level,” Michel adds. “There are a lot of commercial opportunities that come as a surge in communities looking at green jobs. The more residents are aware about sustainability, the more opportunities there are.”
For parents who want to offer their children a head-start in sustainability literacy, Lloyd recommends 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, by Sophie Javna (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2009) and Sheri Amsel’s 365 Ways to Live Green for Kids: Saving the Environment at Home, School, or at Play--Every Day! (Adams Media, 2009). Those seeking guides to daily sustainable approaches can read Greg Horn’s Living Green: A Practical Guide to Sustainability (Freedom Press, 2006) and Stephen and Rebekah Hren’s The Carbon- Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008).
“Anything by author Bill McKibben,” Lloyd also recommends. “He’s an authority in the field.” An environmentalist who writes about global warming and alternative energy and advocates for localized economies, McKibben’s works include The End of Nature (Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2006) and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008).
For further reading, the Onondaga County Public Library offers GreenFILE, a bibliographic directory featuring nearly 300,000 records concerning environmental issues, such as global warming, energy conservation, natural resources and pollution. You can access the directory on the Library’s website, under the “A-Z List of Databases” tab (www.onlib. org). Sustainability topics include installing solar panels, recycling, green agriculture and waste management. The library also provides an Environmental Issues and Policy Collection with more than 175 journals, featuring scientific, governmental and corporate perspectives on the environment.