June 2, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 90°F


Campus community engages in Sustainability Week events

From April 17 to 22, Ithaca College’s Sustainability Week offered students opportunities like fairs, meetings and panels to engage and educate the campus community about sustainability. 

The event was organized by the college’s Sustainability Week Committee. The committee is made up of Scott Doyle, director of Energy Management and Sustainability; Christine Bataille, associate professor and chair in the Department of Management; Hormoz Movassaghi, professor and chair in the Department of Finance and International Business; Margaret Shackell, associate professor in the Department of Accounting and Business Law; seniors Olivia Knapp, Kaitlyn Pocze and Austin Ruffino and sophomore Alexa Monrad.

Doyle said there are many facets to sustainability and there are multiple ways to discuss them. He said this is why the college decided to have a mix of perspectives throughout the week to speak with students about their experiences. 

“The inspiration is to build off a growing interest … and to bring together people from campus and from across many different disciplines to talk about these very important issues, learn from each other and learn from folks in the community,” Doyle said. 

The Sustainability Week started off in the form of an SGC meeting with Doyle.

Senior Grace Madeya, president of the student body, said that before becoming an alumni, it was a great experience to listen and be a part of a Sustainability Week event.

“It’s nice to know that the college is going to have a commitment to really help the environment because you don’t see that at other institutions,” Madeya said.

On the second day, students had the opportunity to witness leaders from the local government speak at a panel titled “Demystifying Decarbonization.” Panelists included Terry Carroll, chief sustainability officer of the Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability; Nick Goldsmith, sustainability planner for the Town of Ithaca; and Rebecca Evans, acting director of sustainability for the City of Ithaca. 

The college’s School of Business also has ties with sustainable action through the college’s chapter of Net Impact. Net Impact is an international organization that strives to help people with business skills use their knowledge for positive environmental pursuits. The School of Business is also a certified platinum LEED building, meaning it is an energy-efficient, green building.

The event was moderated by senior Dehron Smith, who was voted to moderate by the Sustainability Week Committee.

Smith said that talking about sustainability with students is important because they will be the next leaders of the nation and must be knowledgeable about what work is happening to make the world more sustainable.

“We are going to be the people who will be making decisions in the future,” Smith said. “We have to be critics of our schools and society and figure out what changes we want to make and understand the reasons why we want to make these changes. … We want to be informed.”

Smith asked questions about the panelists’ roles and how they became inspired to pursue work in sustainability along with the specific work they do for the city, town and Tompkins County. Carroll said the first time he learned about climate change helped shape his career. 

“Once you find out about climate change, you don’t really forget about it that quickly,” Carroll said. “So then I just started to try and do whatever I could to steer my career in that direction.”

Smith asked the panelists about their thoughts on the political atmosphere of sustainability and climate change. Evans said students must get active in local elections and participate in the local government of Ithaca. 

“You live here and you’re given this amazing opportunity to engage in these movements and these programs like the Green New Deal,” Evans said. “You want political representation that aligns with your vision, whatever that may be. … The need to participate in that process is really, really critical.”

Goldsmith talked about decreasing the number of cars in the City and Town of Ithaca and in Tompkins County as a whole. 

“Electric vehicles are low-hanging fruit because the cost of electricity these days is going down,” Goldsmith said. “The harder part is how do we get people out of the vehicle on their bike or on foot? [How do we] have buildings close enough together so you can do several of your daily errands without driving?”

As the week continued, 25 students, staff and faculty were able to enjoy a sustainability-themed pop-up-pub from 4 to 6 p.m. April 19 in the Peggy Ryan Williams Center, complete with hors d’oeuvres and alcoholic beverages for students 21 and older. From 7 to 9 p.m., after the pop-up, students, staff and faculty were also able to attend a presentation by keynote speaker Arielle V. King, director of Programming at Black Girl Environmentalist. King will speak about how her work brings together a range of different audiences in environmental work, according to the Sustainability Week website

Doyle said the college decided to invite King and Daphne Frias, an activist who works to bring attention to Generation Z voices, to be keynote speakers of Sustainability Week because of their advocacy, activism and passion. 

“We brainstormed the types of voices we wanted to hear in the sustainability space,” Doyle said. “I think it’s important to, in particular, excite students about attending and also excite them about action.” 

At 12:10 p.m. on April 20, a sustainability colloquium will be hosted in the School of Business in which students will present on projects centered around sustainability. 

At 7 p.m. on April 20 in Textor 102, Frias will speak about the impacts of social media on climate action. She will be talking about the online campaigns that have been inspired by young, disabled leaders and highlight Gen-Z as a generation of activists. 

The Sustainability Fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21 in Textor Hall and will allow students to learn about sustainable businesses and the importance of eco-friendly start-ups. 

The final events of the week will take place April 22. From 9 to 11 a.m., Nature Rx Ithaca College a subcommittee of the college’s Natural Lands will organize a hike to celebrate the annual re-opening of South Hill’s Forest Products at Sugarbush. 

South Hill Forest Products is a student-run business that sells high-quality forest products like honey, hickory and maple syrup. The business opens every Spring after the winter months; its open house will act as the final event of the 2023 Sustainability Week. 

Smith said he was excited about Sustainability Week and that having a week of events to educate students about sustainability means that more students can have the opportunity to participate.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Smith said. “I know students are so busy and it’s really hard to break from your normal schedule … but if you can attend just one [event], it provides you the opportunity to see the perspective.”

Sophomore Uday Lambar said if he did not have other commitments, he would attend some of the events.

“I’m just interested in awareness about the situation,” Lambar said. “I think it’s a great cause and I’d probably learn something new.”

First-year student Harrison Chinchar said he was in a climate change seminar in Fall 2022 and learned about sustainability. He said that with that knowledge, he is a little more interested in attending Sustainability Week events.

“It seems like a good issue,” Chinchar said. “I guess I didn’t talk a lot about sustainability before the seminar, but now that I know more about it, I think I might go.”

Although the event is aimed at educating the students of the college, Doyle said the week of events is necessary for staff members and faculty to understand what other sustainable actions must be taken. 

“It’s useful to us — faculty and staff — to learn more of what students need in terms of sustainability and to learn what we can do to advance action … with the many skill sets we have on campus,” Doyle said.   


Vivian Rose can be reached at vrose@ithaca.edu