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Clarkson prepares 10 days of sustainability, food events

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POTSDAM — Clarkson University’s commitment to green living and locally sourced foods is so strong, it can’t be summed up in just one day — or one week, for that matter.

“We have a 10-day celebration of campus sustainability and local food celebration,” said Susan E. Powers, Clarkson’s associate director for sustainability.

On Wednesday, the school will kick off the celebration with the return of the Sustainable Iron Chef competition.

The competition debuted in March with a contest among three teams of students, staff and faculty using a “mystery box” of secret ingredients.

“The mystery box has only local ingredients,” said Courtney Evans, marketing manager for Clarkson’s dining services. “While we do want to cook locally, it isn’t always an option because of seasonality issues.”

Those seasonality issues will challenge competitors at the Student Center Forum from 2 to 4 p.m. The winning dish will be served at a Local Foods Dinner in the university’s Ross Brooks Dining Hall from 4 to 8 p.m. Oct. 23.

“This was just a fun challenge for us to do back in March,” said Ms. Evans. “We got a lot of positive feedback from it.”

Ms. Evans said Clarkson’s Dining Services emphasize sustainability no matter what they are cooking — or where they are serving it.

“Sustainability is important on campus. It is an initiative that is important to Dining Services as well,” she said. “We’re looking to minimize waste, food waste especially. Even in our catering service, many of our products that we use are reusable and/or compostable.”

Ms. Powers said the celebration goes far beyond cooking and eating.

“When a number of events are all consolidated into this time period, it becomes is much more visible,” she said. “The goal is that people attend some events and that people are made more aware of sustainability on campus.”

For Clarkson, sustainable living is not just a policy goal emphasized across campus, but a potential engine for economic development. In 2012, the university has received grants to build a state-of-the-art wind turbine blade testing facility and to renovate the historic Old Main building downtown to energy-efficient specifications.

“Sustaining our culture and our commitment to our historical context is part of sustainability too,” said Ms. Powers. “Our facilities have made a tremendous effort to make new construction more highly energy efficient.”

Ms. Powers noted a student-initiated proposal to install automatic lighting timers on campus, reducing the school’s energy use.

On Saturday, the school will dedicate the new Munter Trails along the Raquette River. The trails include two lookouts onto the river and run from Bayside Cemetery to just south of Maple Street.

“Valuing our natural resources and the revitalization of our waterfront so we can actually enjoy it is a huge part of showing Clarkson’s values,” said Ms. Powers.

The trail dedication is at 2:30 p.m. at the Canoe House.

A number of speakers and discussions will underscore the importance of environmentally conscious living. On Thursday, Clarkson welcomes Emily Hunter, a Canadian environmental advocate, to speak at the Cheel Campus Center at 9 p.m.

“Her parents were cofounders of Greenpeace and she has been involved in many Greenpeace-sort-of initiatives, saving whales and stopping poaching in the Galapagos,” said Ms. Powers. “She is by far the biggest speaker. It should be a real eye-opener, whether or not you agree with the sort of eco-warrior approach.”

The campus will broadcast a webinar focused on climate change by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education on Oct. 24 in the Student Center multipurpose rooms.

The webinar coincides with two events, the association’s Campus Sustainability Day and the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Food Day.

“Food Day is an initiative to have a focus around food and food sourcing, with a focus on healthier eating, sustainable farming and food security,” Ms. Powers said. “It is an awareness event and an educational event.”

Campus and community members are being encouraged to don green clothing on Oct. 24 to show their support for green initiatives and their Clarkson pride.

The university will offer tours of its greenhouse and anaerobic food digester behind Cheel Arena from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 24 and 27.

“This is something that students have been working on for a number of years. These are now operational to show we can grow food year-round in the greenhouse and manage our food waste to create biogas,” said Ms. Powers. “It is a great opportunity to highlight what students have contributed and student innovation has contributed to campus.”

The event also will involve an on-campus eco-scavenger hunt using smart phones and QR code scans, web discussions and contests, said Ms. Powers.

“This is a message of commitment — we feel like collectively, yes, we’ve certainly done all the pieces and parts of what you’re seeing this week, but it wasn’t truly focused before now,” she said.

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