How to Make Fordham More Sustainable

How+to+Make+Fordham+More+Sustainable

RecyclingBy GSAS 

At Fordham University, we strive to enrich our lives and the lives of those around us through the principles of a Jesuit education. The Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1534, has long held a deep respect for the intellectual and ethical challenges of our world. As such, a Jesuit education should be revered as one that embraces the potential of its students to be the change they want to see in the world. Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, said that “students have to be invited to wrestle with the great ethical issues of their time.” One of the greatest ethical issues of our time is the conservation of our planet. As a group of conservation biology students, we know now, more than ever that steps must be taken to preserve the world that we are so spiritually and physically intertwined with. As a Jesuit university, Fordham should be leading the way, but all too often we have seen signs that environmental concern and conservation are not top priorities for our institution. As such, the Fall 2015 Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Conservation Biology class has compiled a list of unsustainable practices our university is currently engaged in, alongside meaningful — and easily employed — changes that can be made. In doing so, Fordham can truly be seen as challengers of unethical standards.

Landscaping & Horticulture
The Rose Hill campus has been lauded for its landscaping efforts which, while aesthetically pleasing, are ripe with unsustainable practices that Fordham has made no public commitment to address. One such practice can be found in the irrigation system. Running the sprinklers during rain or in peak sun on hot days is inefficient and wasteful. Additionally, a number of sprinkler heads target paved or non-landscaped areas. With no greenery to absorb the water, runoff drains directly into local waterways along with the pesticides, herbicides and non-organic fertilizers that are liberally applied on the campus. Runoff has been shown to be the cause of many deleterious effects to local ecosystems.

Another example is the intensive landscaping and horticultural practices that are used to cultivate ornamental plants not native to the region or even the continent. Some of these plant species may be invasive to nearby ecosystems. Meanwhile, forcing these plants on campus supports little biodiversity and minimizes the capacity for native flora and fauna to provide valuable space in the ecosystem. The industrial supplies, gas-powered equipment and human effort needed to maintain ornamental species and expansive turf lawns come at a high energy cost.

Irrigation concerns can be easily addressed at low cost in order to use water more sustainably by following the Environment Protection Agency’s “WaterSense: Tips for Watering Wisely.” “WaterSense” offers a number of simple steps to ensure the maximum efficiency and sustainability of irrigation systems. These options are simple, cost-effective and would help Fordham reduce water waste without sacrificing the beauty of our campus grounds.

Fordham can easily cultivate a diverse array of native plant species, utilizing campus waste as a nutrient source. Native flora will provide food and habitat for native fauna, linking the the campus ecosystem to that of the region, and these plants require less maintenance because they are adapted to the local climate. Native flora is also adapted to local pests and attracts organisms that feed on potential pests. Finally, Fordham can end the use of commercial fertilizers by composting campus waste and plant litter. Managing a local nutrient cycle will maintain soil richness, support beneficial microbial life and reduce harm to the local environment.

For Further Information:
EPA WaterSense site: http://www3.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor/watering_tips.html
Sustaining Manageable Water Supplies in NY state: https://www.nae.edu/Publications/Bridge/55183/55202.aspx

Georgetown University: Use of Low-water Landscape Strategies:
http://sustainability.georgetown.edu/water/conservationhttp://www.aashe.org/files/publications/monographs/landscaping-2013/sustainable_campus_landscape_guide.pdf

AASHE: http://www.aashe.org/resources/general-resources-campus-sustainability/

Vehicle Usage & Emissions
Carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are one of the biggest problems plaguing energy reform in the world today. Unfortunately, Fordham relies on the burning of non-renewable resources for nearly every means of inter- and intra-campus transportation consequently contrib-uting to the pollution that is causing irreversible damage to the global climate system. With regards to vehicular emissions in New York City, Fordham appears to be maintaining the (unsustainable) status quo.

Undoubtedly, the Ram Van service provides safe, speedy and convenient transport for Fordham students. Within the last year, Fordham has invested in a new fleet of vans that utilize both biodiesel and regular diesel thus decreasing Fordham’s negative impact on the environment. However, the new fleet of vans has yet to begin utilizing their biodiesel capabilities.

While security vehicles patrolling the streets surrounding campus at night in an effort to deter crime and cultivate a sense of security for off-campus students is a commendable practice, the daytime patrolling of our small, pedestrian campus as well as idling near walkways or in parking garages, seems unnecessary. These vehicles may give the impression of safety, but are really just a symbol of campus excess. The campus should either invest in hybrid vehicles with a stop/start function while parked or turn off the engine while in park.

For Further Information:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiesel#Vehicular_use_and_manufacturer_acceptance)
https://www.edf.org/climate/reports/idling

Public Transportation
New York City’s public transportation system is a part of everyday life for Fordham students. The cost of one subway ride is currently $2.75 which, while individually inexpensive, quickly adds up for a student commuting to class daily. Ideally, Fordham should supply some form of compensation to aid students in their travels. However, another solution might be a Green-Travel Policy. For example, in exchange for a Fordham-supplied MetroCards, students must participate in a weekly green, environmental or conservation initiative.

Power & Energy
The Ram Fit Center is a great place for Fordham students to work out and maintain a healthy lifestyle, while simultaneously balancing a busy college schedule. Unfortunately, in order to run this facility, vast amounts of energy are required to power the overhead lighting, climate controls and the cardiovascular equipment — including stationary bikes, treadmills and ellipti-cals. Currently, the Ram Fit Center does not utilize any source of alternative energy, making it a carbon-heavy component of the Rose Hill campus.

ReRevTM is a technology system capable of converting our gym facility into a carbon-neutral operation. Aerobic activity creates heat energy that is usually wasted. However, by installing ReRev onto the Ram Fit Center equipment, this kinetic energy can be converted into electrical energy that can be used to power the gym. According to the ReRev website, a typical thirty-minute workout produces enough electricity to run a Compact Fluorescent bulb for over two hours, charge a cell phone six times or to run a computer for 30 minutes. By retrofitting the Ram Fit Center equipment with ReRev technology, we can make the Rose Hill campus more sustainable and give students the opportunity to directly contribute to these efforts.

Alternative Energy
While our campus is rich with quaint green spaces for natural vegetation to grow, a comparable number of concrete structures, such as the Rose Hill parking garage, are consequences of Fordham’s urban locale. Fortunately, large concrete structures are easily transformed into green complexes.

Currently, the top floor of the parking garage is inaccessible and, in fact, houses a small green roof used for student research. Because not all of the roof space is utilized, the installation of solar panels atop the parking garage would allow Fordham to reduce demand on both the environment and the commuters who park on campus. Solar panels are becoming an increasingly popular way to utilize the space once lost to asphalt and concrete. Retrofitting the inaccessible roof with solar panels would certainly make a difference to those who park beneath it, potentially offsetting some of the annual $580 per capita cost accrued by commuters. Further efforts to obtain more clean energy and more savings could be made by equipping the parking lot, adjacent to the parking garage, with solar canopies. Although the administration prohibits parking, at least the lot will function as a source of clean energy.

Green Roofs
While the research-allocated Rose Hill parking garage green roof is currently the only one on either of Fordham’s campuses, there is an abundance of space for prospective green roofs at both Rose Hill and Lincoln Center. Green roofs have long been a topic of research for Fordham’s graduate students focused on environmental sustainability, but putting green roofs into practice has not yet been considered by the university.

To become a more sustainable and environmentally progressive facility, Rose Hill’s Fordham Urban Sustainability and Ecosystems (FUSE) project has been working to determine the specifics of integrating green roof systems into campus infrastructure for several years. Properly installed green roofs offer environmental and economic benefits through the reduction of energy and maintenance costs by protecting rooftops from sun exposure during warm seasons and increasing heat retention during cool seasons. Green roofs are durable — easily tolerating a range of heat, moisture and wind levels — and function to both filter rainwater and capture ex-cess water during heavy storms. Additionally, research conducted by Fordham alumnus Dustin Partridge, under the advisement of Dr. Alan Clark, found that birds land on green roofs while passing through the city on their migratory route. The consequences of erecting green roofs on campus are only positive with New York legislated green roof incentives including a one-year tax abatement of $4.50 per square foot (up to $100,000 or the building’s tax liability, whichever is less) through March 15, 2018.

For Further Information:
http://legacy.fordham.edu/campus_resources/enewsroom/inside_fordham/february_6_2012/news/more_green_more_bird_81623.asp
https://www.javitscenter.com/media/4434/javits-center-green-roof-study-3-2-15-2.pdf
http://www.nycgovparks.org/greening/greenbelt-native-plant-center/garden-species-lists/garden-green-roof
http://www.nycgovparks.org/greening/greenbelt-native-plant-center/design-assistance
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/html/sustainability/green_roofs.shtml

Waste
Food waste is a large, yet easily rectified, issue for any college campus. Adopting measures such as offering smaller portions, buying smarter and utilizing fresh local foods for multiple meal recipes could offer some relief from an overabundance of waste. Another solution is establishing composting facilities on campus. Additionally, repurposing unused food by donating it to homeless shelters or local food banks would uphold Jesuit morals while simultaneously reducing wastefulness.

For Further Information:
http://www.bu.edu/sustainability/what-were-doing/food/
http://www.sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/food

As a class, we cannot thank you enough for taking the time to hear our plea and consider these issues. The first step is to get our university talking. Change must and will come with Fordham leading the procession as we so often do.

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Conservation Biology Class of Fall 2015