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The results are in! Data show Earth Week made a difference
Monday, May 10, 2010

Shake the Habit at Subway
Above, 13,000 customers were exposed to SUNY Fredonia's "Shake the Habit" campaign in Dunkirk and Fredonia.

Middle: 1,350 CFL bulbs were given away, which eqates to a total energy savings of more than $87,000 over traditional incandescent lights.

Bottom: 65 tons of electronics were collected by SUNY Fredonia for recycling. (Click for enlargement)

CFL Bulb giveaway

Electronics Recycling Event


This year’s third annual Earth “Week” at SUNY Fredonia — which grew to 11 days in 2010 — took community engagement and educational outreach to a new level and generated unprecedented results. The April series of events was organized to educate the campus and community about issues affecting the environment, and teach lifestyle choices that can improve sustainability as well as reduce the region’s carbon footprint.

The most significant event this year was a community-wide plastic bag free initiative dubbed, “Shake the Habit,” which drew 60 participating area retailers whose average daily volume of 13,000 customers were exposed to the concept, with many either receiving or investing in reusable bags for the first time.

The April 22 event, developed by Chemistry Professor and Earth Week Coordinator Sherri Mason, was designed to both change customer preferences as well as make businesses think twice about how their actions impact the environment.

“I really wanted to find ways that we could make a broader impact in the Dunkirk-Fredonia community this year,” said Dr. Mason, a key participant in both the campus’ Sustainability Committee and the FACE (Fredonia Academic Community Engagement) Center, both of which sponsor the Earth Week events. “This year, we wanted Earth Week to extend far beyond the campus borders.”

Many area businesses either distributed free reusable bags or offered them at a discount. Others encouraged shoppers to go without if they weren’t absolutely needed, or use paper substitutes.

An event which has become an annual favorite with the community is the Electronics Recycling Day, held for the first time this year at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds. More than 500 vehicles lined up on April 24, with cars at one point snaking past the D&F Plaza on Vineyard Drive. By mid afternoon, more than 130,000 pounds of material — 65 tons which filled five tractor trailers — were otherwise saved from area landfills.

The campus also partnered with the Rotary Club’s annual Home and Garden Show to organize the first ever Chautauqua County Green Expo, adjacent to the recycling event on the fairgrounds. SUNY Fredonia Sustainability Committee member Christina Jarvis led several students in a compact fluorescent light (CFL) blub giveaway initiative. In just a few hours they distributed 1,350 bulbs, which Dr. Jarvis said equates to a total energy savings of more than $87,000 over traditional incandescent lights.

CFL bulbs not only save money, but they lower the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Using incandescent light bulbs for 8,000 hours generates 525 tons of CO2, which plummets to 118 tons when using CFL bulbs, a reduction of nearly 78 percent.

Other highlights included:

• A Lake Erie beach clean-up at Point Gratiot, which drew more than 50 volunteers of all ages to clean up a 3/8-mile stretch of the beach. In all, 223 bags were filled which held 321 pounds of total debris;

• “Weight the Waste,” an event through which revealed how much food waste can be reduced by not using trays in dining halls. On April 20, customers of Erie Dining Hall were given the identical menu choices they had on March 30, and the total amount of unconsumed food was weighed on both days. About five ounces per person was produced on March 30, but on the April 20 “Trayless Tuesday,” when diners were encouraged not to use trays, waste dropped to 2.72 ounces per person — a 45 percent decline;

• A “Dumpster Dive,” during which actual trash from a residence hall dumpster was sorted to determine what could have been recycled. Over 490 pounds of trash was sorted, and more than 160 pounds was recyclable. These results are very encouraging for the campus, which conducted this event for the third straight year. Two years ago, a shocking 90 percent of the waste was determined to be recyclable. With this year’s figure representing just 33 percent of the total mass, it illustrates a highly measurable increase in campus recycling habits and a major change in not only the awareness of the issues, but in residents’ behaviors as well; and

• The 10-week-long RecycleMania competition, held earlier this semester, which generated an impressive year-over-year improvement. Just 7,200 pounds of materials were recycled per week, on average, in 2009 — a number which vaulted to more than 10,000 pounds per week in 2010. This remarkable increase placed SUNY Fredonia 106th among 246 colleges in the “Per Capita Classic” with 14.06 pounds per person. The college also finished fourth out of nine participating SUNY schools, and 13 among 25 colleges in New York State.

In the end, over 2,500 people participated in the 42 Earth Week on- and off-campus events held over the 11-day span (not including the 13,000-plus “Shake the Habit” customers), and a common theme throughout was student involvement. For example, 25 science students assisted various Shake the Habit businesses and educated their customers about the logic and benefits behind this much needed change. Similarly, 22 public relations majors assisted with the grassroots outreach to area businesses, while students from the campus television station, WNYF, created a public service announcement which helped spread the word among retailers and customers alike. The men’s soccer team volunteered to unload materials from people’s cars during Electronic Recycling Day. Even a campus a cappella group, Premium Blend, joined the fray by creating an environmentally themed song set list which they performed as an “opening act” for Earth Day keynote speaker Lois Gibbs. In all, eleven student groups and three affiliated classes played pivotal roles in the week’s success.

“This is something we try to weave into all of our sustainably-minded events,” added Tracy Bennett, vice president for Administration and chair of the Sustainability Committee. “These are not simply chances for our students to get involved, but chances for them to really take the reins. As educators of tomorrow’s leaders, we feel this is a tremendous opportunity for our students to accept a challenge and make a real difference both on our campus and in our community.”

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