The dictionary defines “sustainability” as “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources.” But there’s more to it than that, says Scott Anderson, VP-Planning and Administration at BMCC and co-chair of the college’s Sustainability Committee.
“Sustainability isn’t only about composting and turning off the lights. It’s an attitude and a way of life.”
That holistic view was the dominant theme at BMCC’s Sustainability Fair, under the sponsorship of the Sustainability Committee, the BMCC Association, the BMCC Student Government Association, the Office of Student Activities, and BMCC’s NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Group).
The annual event was co-founded in 2012 by Cynthia Wiseman, assistant professor in the Developmental Skills Department, and Lisa Bloodgood, a BMCC graduate and founder of the college’s Sustainability Club.
A multi-front initiative
Organized by Anderson, Wiseman and Tassia Rosa of NYPIRG at BMCC, the Sustainability Fair featured a variety of talks, presentations and demonstrations by vendors, environmental organizations and BMCC students. “Sustainability makes sense on many fronts,” says Rosa. “By making our infrastructure greener, we save money while saving energy.”
Some of the environmental organizations present were Food and Water Watch, Green Mountain Energy, and Riverkeeper, a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to protecting the Hudson River.
Apart from raising awareness around sustainability issues at BMCC, “the Fair also showcases some of the great things that are happening here,” says Wiseman, who coordinated the fair.
“Our rowing club is working to advance key environmental priorities and members of the health and wellness club are working with the Early Childhood Center to get the children involved.”
A poster session created by science major Jeff Hedrick and Jenish Karmachharya illustrated their research into the medicinal properties of certain plants. “If you can grow a plant that will cure a disease, or even relieve a headache, you’ve achieved a more sustainable way of helping people maintain their health than by producing drugs in labs from petrochemicals or heavy metals,” Hedrick says.
Among the speakers was Amy Heinemann, New York State Solar Ombudsman
with Sustainable CUNY, an initiative that promotes energy efficiency and alternative energy sources on campuses. In her remarks, she noted that the deployment of LED lighting at BMCC in 2015 will involve the installation of solar panels.
Eric Weltman, a senior organizer with Food and Water Watch, a not-for-profit consumer organizer, was on hand to deconstruct the ongoing debate around hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. “Our primary mission is to engage the people of New York City in issues around protecting our air, water and climate,” he says. “In particular, we’re trying to stop fracking in New York State.”
A dangerous method
Fracking, a process for extracting natural gas by injecting a potent cocktail of water and chemicals into the ground, is inherently dangerous, Weltman says. “We know that we will run out of fossil fuels one day. The question is whether we invest in developing safe, clean alternative fuels now, or wait till after we’ve polluted our air, contaminated our soil, wrecked our climate and poisoned our water.”
Fracking, Weltman adds, is a global issue—not just a local one: “If we can end fracking in New York, we’ll set an example for the whole world.”