Berkeley Today Stories
Earth Is Our Business Too – Berkeley College Promotes Sustainability
Environmental issues became a top priority at Berkeley College in 2007 with the launch of Project GreenPath, a committee dedicated to promoting sustainability. Since then, huge strides have been made to move the College closer to becoming a sustainable institution. Berkeley College promotes environmental awareness through education, incorporates environmental concerns in all decision-making processes, engages in best practices to protect the environment, and encourages a sense of responsibility in staff, faculty, and students.
In 2007, Berkeley College signed on to the New York City Mayor’s Carbon Challenge (now known as the New York City Carbon Challenge) to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2017. In July 2009, Berkeley College President Dario Cortes, Ph.D., signed the American Colleges and Universities President’s Climate Commitment Challenge. By joining this action plan, Berkeley College has pledged to make steps towards carbon neutrality by 2050.
“When I think about the Berkeley College I started working at almost 15 years ago, I am continually impressed by the leaps and bounds we have made toward sustainability,” said Laura Harste, Ph.D., Chair of the Project GreenPath Committee, and a Professor in the Math and Sciences Department, Berkeley College School of Liberal Arts.
Environmentally friendly changes at all Berkeley campuses include installing low-energy vending machines and copiers, setting computers to power down when not in use, installing water filtration stations, using a waste management company that converts waste to alternative fuels, and installing energy saving windows and lighting fixtures.
“These changes have made a big impact. In fact, the White Plains campus had such a drop in energy use after its retrofits that the energy supply company called to see if the site had closed down,” Dr. Harste said.
The growth of Berkeley College Online® has also helped the environment by allowing more students to take individual courses or entire degree programs through distance learning.
“I tell students in my online Sustainable Solutions course that they can list the course as the number one thing they are doing to help the environment. It means they are not commuting to college, which cuts down on emissions,” Dr. Harste said.
The Berkeley Bookstore and Library also support sustainability efforts. The bookstore partners with Better World Books to reuse or recycle used textbooks, and sells reusable water bottles and travel mugs, recycled bags, and organic clothing. The Berkeley College Library promotes environmental initiatives by providing resources and hosting activities in honor of Earth Day.
“Many students are unaware of the environmental concerns that impact their families right now,” Dr. Harste said. “Once they understand those concerns, they start having a greater interest in what they can do to change things.”
Project GreenPath is continually reevaluating better ways to incorporate sustainability through innovation and education and is seeking new people to join the committee. For more information, email Laura Harste, Ph.D., at LVH@BerkeleyCollege.edu.