Wise stewardship of resources is one of the foundational elements of Union College's Strategic Plan, underscored by our commitment to sustainability. Union students have already made tremendous strides in this arena with student-initiated programs such as U Recycle, Do It In the Dark, and the Ozone theme house, and the College was named one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges in the last three editions of the Princeton Review’s new Guide to Green Colleges.
Three presidential initiatives serve to reinforce Union’s emphasis on sustainability:
- Formation of a Union College Sustainability Committee (U Sustain)
- Institution of the President's Green Grant Program
- Participation in the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment
The Sustainability Committee, U Sustain, is comprised of more than 40 faculty, staff, students, and administrators who seek to educate the campus community about ways to live, work, and enjoy Union in the most environmentally friendly way possible. Since its inception, U Sustain has often acted as a catalyst in bringing the right people and resources together to effect positive change. The committee has already made significant inroads in all of these areas and continues to provide regular progress reports to the President's Office. In December 2008, the initiative was honored as a winner of an Environmental Excellence Award from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
President's Green Grant Program
In 2007, President Ainlay funded the President's Green Grant Program, an initiative that provides eight grants of up to $2,000 each year toward grass-roots sustainability projects. Past recipients of grants include projects ranging from an innovative way to clean car exhaust to an expanded community garden to the design and analysis of an indoor air biofiltration system.
In the fall of 2007, President Ainlay signed a pact with hundreds of other leaders in higher education to formally work on reducing, and eventually eliminating, campus global warming emissions. As a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), Union promised to provide critical research and education that will help eliminate global warming and pledged to develop a comprehensive long-term plan to cut emissions. For example, Union now purchases 15 percent of its energy from renewable wind energy sources, and in November 2010, the College installed three 1.2-kilowatt wind turbines near the soccer fields adjacent to College Park Hall. The turbines supply 40 percent of the power used regularly at the athletic complex, reducing the College’s energy costs by several thousand dollars a year. Union also continues to pursue ways to differentiate itself in its sustainability efforts, such as developing a revolutionary form of rubberized concrete. The eco-friendly concrete grew out of the collaborative research of a Union professor and a mechanical engineering student, and it was used to pave a walkway on campus.