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Environmental Studies and Sciences Students Create Campus Sustainability Initiatives

Course Supports Campus Sustainability Initiatives

Friday, March 13, 2015

Matt Porter '15 shakes hands with Siena President Br. F. Edward Coughlin,O.F.M., Ph.D. after presenting his group's award-winning sustainability project.
Matt Porter '15 shakes hands with Siena President Br. F. Edward Coughlin,O.F.M., Ph.D. after presenting his group's award-winning sustainability project.

By Regina Stracqualursi ’15

At Siena College, students are given opportunities to use what they learn in the classroom to make real, positive changes in the community. Student enrolled in Professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences Jean Mangun, Ph.D.’s course, “The Sustainable Campus Project” worked throughout an entire semester to develop an initiative that will help to expand Siena’s growing sustainability efforts.

“What really sold me on the class was the ability to actually make a difference on campus and invoke some change,” said Tyler Clausen ’15.

Mangun developed the course to meet the needs and interests of students such as Clausen, many of whom expressed ideas on ways to improve sustainability on campus.

“I created this activity-based course so that they could explore creative solutions but in a semi-structured environment that would be part of my teaching responsibilities,” Mangun said.

Ultimately, students had the freedom to create any project they wanted, as long as it made a positive change. “This class gave me the resources needed to make the changes I wanted to see,” said Matt Porter ’15.

Porter, Clausen and fellow environmental studies and sciences majors Mary Claire Arnold ’14 and Michael Loschiavo ’15 developed a sustainability initiative that recognized the need for a compost system to reduce food waste on campus. Specifically, they targeted the food waste created by Roots Café, a student-run, sustainable lunch that features local, organic and fair trade meals.

“We decided to make a compost system that uses a rotating 55-gallon barrel instead of your traditional compost pile,” said Porter. “By rotating the barrel every other day more air is able to circulate through the compost pile, which in turn makes the waste decompose faster.”

Porter and his group won a $1,000 grant from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute. The students will begin construction on their composter this spring. 

“Besides having the freedom to create and propose our own project, the most rewarding part of the course was receiving a grant from the NYSP2I and being able to bring our project to life,” said Loschiavo. “We can put our project in motion and hopefully see it grow in the hands of future environmental science majors.”

This team of students and the rest of Mangun's class presented their research projects to members of the Siena community, including faculty, staff, administrators and president Br. F. Edward Coughlin, O.F.M., Ph.D. Mangun hopes to offer the course again in the future, after the current sustainability initiatives are in place.