SUNY Oswego’s Sustainability Office strives to keep the waters shining

OSWEGO, N.Y. — Sustainability has become increasingly important in the fight against climate change in recent years, and for SUNY Oswego, there has been much action done to increase awareness of its importance.

This is no surprise to many students on campus with the emergence of the sustainability program, which is run by the university’s Sustainability Office.

Despite the strong-blowing winds during the event, titled Shining Waters, the office’s campus sustainability coordinator, Jonathan Mills, says that there was between 20 to 25 pounds of trash collected from the most recent activity.

“I think just having that redundancy of students asking and faculty asking when are we going out to clean up litter on the lake shore,” Mills said. “I think that type of program really resonates with the campus.”

In Shining Waters, the office hosts a collaborative activity with the university’s Community Services volunteer group. They pick up trash and other debris spread throughout the campus. The program begins at Marano Campus Center every Wednesday at 4 p.m., and students join together to collect trash that did not reach its final destination.

The office also operates various other programs for the campus community in order to configure a better living environment for both students and other living things that roam around.

Various trash remains continue to live throughout the campus environment. Photo by Ryan Ravenell.

In the most recent program that occurred this Wednesday, there was an interesting collection of trash, debris, and other materials that were collected from multiple locations.

The most of any items that were found were cigarette butts, in the grass and near the shoreline. There were also a few glass bottles, a geocache, and what looked like a car component.

Mills later said that they hope that the activities from Shining Waters inspire people to pick up trash on their daily walk throughout campus.

“I think having that be super visible of a program having our office lead that program in conjunction with community services is hugely beneficial and resonates with the students it seems like,” Mills said.

Mills, who says the program has been running for under 10 years, indicated that there were some unusual finds from over the years.

“Last year in Shining Waters, we probably found a bunch of paintballs down at the lake shore,” Mills said. “We weren’t quite sure what they were, we thought they were berries, but they ended up being paint. Someone squeezed and got paint all over them.”

Mills said sustainability is important to the campus community.

“I would say it’s hugely important if as we’ve seen, climate is changing and what are we doing as a campus to become a more carbon neutral campus to be more sustainable-literate of a campus,” Mills said. “It’s hugely important if we want to continue to provide education and academic resources to students in generations and generations and generations from now.”

Mills said funding for infrastructure in more recent years throughout campus has been spent on sustainable energy throughout various buildings around campus.

“I would say go back to all the way when we did Shineman,” Mills said. “I mean putting in geothermal wells in some of our buildings has been hugely important and beneficial to just bringing down our emissions on campus.”

Mills later said that the university once had the largest geothermal fields in the state when Shineman Center was constructed. The center opened doors to the public in 2013.

SUNY Oswego student Natalie Miller is a physics major who believes that sustainability affects her everyday life, but that it may need some changes in areas across campus.

“I know the school does do some great things for sustainability, like all the skylights in Shineman and then all the solar panels and whatnot,” Miller said. “The other thing is that there’s some things that are recyclable or marketed as recyclable but they’re not quite as recyclable as they’re kind of made out to be.”

Miller also noticed differences in paper towels installed in bathroom units in Shineman.

“I’ve noticed that the paper towels in Shineman have gotten even thinner and I’m sure there’s probably a good reason for it,” Miller said. “Like long term sure, short term compromise for the long term goal of keeping the planet alive.”

Miller later said that people are using more paper towels than needed and that it’s creating a mess.

The physics student said that something about the recycling bins across campus also stand out, and that people may need to get rid of some disposables right away.

“One thing that kind of sticks out to me is that a lot of the recycling bins that are outside throughout campus they have the little circle bottle for like a can or a bottle but more than just small circular shaped things are recyclable,” Miller said.

The office is hosting various events in celebration of Earth Month. Mills heavily emphasized a Maple Breakfast event on this Saturday, which will occur at Fallbrook Recreation Center from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.