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sustainability

Student interns work with Sustainability Coordinator Suzanne Huminski (left) on the campus' urban oasis at Beaver Pond.

Self-quarantine isn’t affecting just people. Fewer humans on beaches means sea turtle hatchlings are doing better than they have in years. Less boat traffic in Venice, Italy’s canals means marine life is actually visible. Reduced air pollution in Africa means that its second-highest mountain can be seen from Kenya’s capital city. And right here at Southern, sustainable efforts from the SCSU Campus Green Fund mean that the harvest from the Campus Community Garden can supply local soup kitchens with 800 pounds of fresh produce.

There’s no better time to keep up the momentum than on Earth Day! Help SCSU continue to make a big environmental impact by supporting the SCSU Campus Green Fund. The fund puts students at the heart of environmental change through sustainability internships and fellowships, ecological restoration at Beaver Pond, student conference travel, rain garden construction in New Haven neighborhoods, food recovery and composting programs, and more.

The bigger it is, the more we can do!

By the numbers:

  • 800 pounds: The amount of organic produce each season that has been donated by the Campus Community Garden to local soup kitchens
  • More than 60,000: The number of meals, since 2017, that SCSU has donated in the greater New Haven area through composting efforts as a member of the Food Recovery Network
  • More than 100 tons: The annual amount of food scrap SCSU has diverted from the waste stream thanks to its compost project
  • 36: The number of trees SCSU students have planted on Farnham Avenue in collaboration with Urban Resources Initiative and the City of New Haven
  • 200 campus community members: The number who have signed SCSU Climate’s Declaration — join here!
  • Less than 57%: SCSU has reduced its carbon footprint for campus buildings 57% below our 2008 benchmark
  • 100% Green Energy Purchase: SCSU made the switch to 100% clean, renewable electricity purchase in May 2018
  • 1.2 mega-watt solar array: SCSU’s first solar installation on Farnham Avenue

Give Now!

Southern is committed to net-carbon neutrality by 2050. The university's growing reliance on solar energy is part of that effort.

Solar power provides approximately eight percent of the electricity used at Southern — thanks to two multifaceted solar installations on opposite sides of campus. Combined they produce almost 2 megawatts of energy.

The newest solar project, located on the east side of campus off of Fitch St., went online in early 2020 and almost doubled Southern’s solar-generation capacity. It includes two large canopy arrays located above both the Fitch Street parking garage and the adjacent graduate parking lot near Davis Hall.

The initial solar project, installed on the west side of campus and operational since mid-2019, includes more than 3,000 photovoltaic panels. They are installed in three arrays located on: the roof of Wintergreen Garage, a ground mount near Brownell Hall, and a carport in the main parking lot. Click here for a bird’s eye view courtesy of Southern’s new Drone Academy Program.

There were no capital investment or up-front costs to Connecticut taxpayers for either of the projects thanks to a partnership between the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system, Distributed Solar Development (a GE Renewable Energy venture), and the Connecticut Green Bank. Southern purchases the electricity generated by the panels at significant discount compared to previous utility rates.

How eco-friendly is the rest of Southern’s electricity use? It’s 100 percent green! In 2018, Southern entered a 3-4 year contract for green-e certified electricity with Engie, an energy company, and now pays the same rate as previously contracted for conventional-generation electricity. Southern has lowered its carbon footprint for buildings by more than 50 percent since 2008.

When the Southern campus had to close suddenly in mid-March due to the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state of Connecticut, among the many repercussions was the large amount of food Chartwells was left with, with no students, faculty, or staff to serve it to. But with a food recovery program already in place on campus, through a partnership between the Office of Sustainability and Chartwells, the food was able to be quickly delivered to members of the local community.

Student Derek Faulkner, an environmental systems and sustainability studies major, intern in the Office of Sustainability, and vice president of the Geography, Environment & Marine Sciences Club, sprang into action, working with fellow Sustainability Office intern Julian Saria and many members of Chartwells staff to package and prepare the food for pickup and delivery. Together, Faulkner and Saria delivered over 300 pounds of food to St. Anne’s Soup Kitchen in Hamden, Park Ridge Tower Affordable Senior Living in New Haven, and Monterey Place Senior Living in New Haven.

“There was a large amount of food that was not weighed due to the hectic nature of delivery that morning,” Faulkner says. “The head chef, Ernie Arroyo, really helped us out. We weighed about 200 pounds and a conservative estimate would be 300 total pounds. It was a mix of prepared food, packaged retail food, and bulk ingredients (salad bar, vegetables, pasta, meat, etc)” — all food that would have gone to waste if the Sustainability Office and Chartwells didn’t have a process in place for distributing food to the community.

About a quarter of New Haven residents don’t have enough food or enough money to buy food, and most people who can’t afford food don’t go hungry for just a day or a week — they experience food insecurity over long periods of time. The Food Recovery Network, the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America, has created a sustainability network across the United States where “food recovery is the norm and not the exception.”

To address hunger in Greater New Haven, in 2015 the Office of Sustainability, along with Residence Life, partnered with Chartwell’s and the Food Recovery Network’s Connecticut chapter to collect excess unserved food from Conn Hall and campus food retail locations. The Office works with Haven’s Harvest for some of the deliveries, but most of the food is delivered by SCSU interns. The unserved food is delivered to soup kitchens like the one at St. Ann’s Church in Hamden. “Without the students, we wouldn’t have any of it,” says Suzanne Huminski, campus sustainability coordinator. Each semester, SCSU sustainability interns plan and manage all aspects of daily food recovery, including logistics, collection and delivery, scheduling, administrative meetings, tracking results, and communications with community partners. Faulkner credits Saria and Latasha (Tash) Neil as being the program’s coordinators.

The delivery of food this month happened under unusual circumstances, but thanks to the quick thinking and action on the part of Faulkner, Saria, and Chartwells staff, many Greater New Haven residents were able to enjoy food that otherwise would have been thrown away. “And what better timing to ensure food security for someone in need than right now during this pandemic, as food becomes less available,” says Faulkner.

And the generosity of Southern Owls continues: Heather Stearns, campus recycling coordinator, reports that over the March 21-22 weekend, when students moved out of the residence halls, the Sustainability Office did a non-perishable food drive and collected still more food that will be donated to community agencies. Stearns says, “I will be assessing how much food we have on hand later this week and coordinating with some of partners to see where we will be sending it.”

Southern Connecticut State University’s Blue Economy project in Long Island Sound is gearing up to have a profound green impact.

The Project Blue Hub, created by a team of dedicated researchers and spearheaded by Colleen Bielitz, associate vice president for Strategic Initiatives & Outreach, and Patrick Heidkamp, professor in the Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences at SCSU, is the initial step towards creating a Blue Economy research, tech transfer and innovation hub in New Haven. By expanding the market for locally grown kelp and developing potential innovations aimed at the processing and marketing of kelp, the project will focus on the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved lives, and ocean ecosystem health.

Rich in biodiversity, kelp can be grown and harvested year round. It doesn’t need chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides, so its production is low impact. Kelp forests are home to a wide array of species, from invertebrates and fish to marine mammals and birds. Perhaps most importantly, kelp helps improve water quality by ‘fixing’ the nitrogen content of the surrounding water, reducing ocean acidification.

The world’s oceans are big business: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports the global ocean economy could double in size by 2030, reaching approximately $3 trillion. Based on information from a Southern Connecticut State University research team, the Long Island Sound Blue Economy is projected to grow by 67% during that same time frame to an estimated $13.3 billion.

Colleen Bielitz and Patrick Heidkamp

“Project Blue is so important is because it will allow for continuous economic growth and the advancement of our local community,” Bielitz said. “Through our hub, we will resolve social problems in a sustainable and efficient way. We will develop new technologies, products and services to meet the needs of our community and beyond while continuously improving our capabilities through better use of our resources and assets, particularly the Long Island Sound.”

By using the emerging Long Island Sound kelp/seaweed industry as a catalyst for subsequent Blue Economy initiatives, Project Blue Hub aims to find alternative channels and develop niche markets for kelp through a concerted effort of research and development, innovation, and tech transfer to incubate local businesses.

These business will play a key role in the expansion of the kelp market, such as designing kelp-based cosmetic products; the creation of animal feed from seaweed; the development of bioplastics from Kelp/Seaweed; the utilization of kelp-based bioyarn and biotextiles; and assessing the potential for kelp use in the pharmaceutical industry. Rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, and magnesium, expansion opportunities are ripe for kelp-based food products for consumers (for example, Fresh Kelp, Kelp Jerky, Kelp Beer, etc.). Kelp also is high in antioxidants, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids, which help to fight against disease-causing free radicals.

Through partnerships with Gateway Community College and CT Next, Southern is prepared to provide up to 300 students with practical research and learning experiences in the burgeoning kelp industry in the next two years, creating an infrastructure for ocean farming innovation.

“Our students will form research innovation teams and create proof-of-concept products and innovations in the Blue Economy,” Bielitz said. “This will eliminate or shorten the learning curve to enter the blue innovation workforce. With our hub specifically designed for Blue Economy ideas to be hatched, we will provide students with the hard and soft skills needed to operate in this space.”

Southern’s Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies and the Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences have long served as advocates for and experts in Connecticut’s oceanic health; now, partnering with government agencies, relevant local NGOs and business partners, Southern’s Blue Economy Project is leading the charge to create an infrastructure for ocean farming innovation — the economy of which encompasses renewable off-shore energy development, tourism, fisheries, maritime transport, waste management, climate change, coastal resilience, and more.

“Our work will highlight the close linkages between ocean health, climate change, and the well-being of the state,” Bielitz said. “This goes beyond viewing the ocean economy solely as a mechanism for economic growth. We want to create sustainable models based on the circular economy. Similar to the Green Economy, our Blue Economy hub will focus on being inclusive while acting as good stewards of our earth with a focus on social equity, while also meaningfully reducing environmental threats and ecological scarcities.”

President Joe Bertolino signed the climate emergency declaration, with students (left to right) Michaela Garland, Idongesit Udo-Okon, Lauren Brideau, and Brooke Mercaldi, along with Suzanne Huminski, coordinator of campus sustainability, and Robert Prezant, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

May be the first college or university in the United States to sign such a declaration

In response to recent student advocacy for stronger climate action, Southern now publicly recognizes climate change as a global emergency because of impacts on the environment and humankind. SCSU President Joe Bertolino signed a climate emergency declaration on May 30, 2019, making Southern possibly the first university in the United States to make such a declaration.

The emergency declaration is based on the following:

  • The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5C and evidence therein that a clear disproportionate burden of climate change impacts the most vulnerable members of societies
  • Unprecedented acceleration of atmospheric carbon levels that as of May 2019 are measured at 415 parts per million
  • Local community, health, environmental, and economic risk associated with hotter summers, declining air quality, diminished biodiversity, extreme weather and changes in precipitation trends, sea level rise and acidification, drought, and other manifestations of climate change

Southern pledged a carbon neutrality goal in 2008 and since then has cut its carbon footprint for buildings by 56 percent, a considerable achievement. Over 600 other campuses made the same pledge, and several have reached the goal of being net carbon neutral. Despite that collective progress, climate change presents humankind with a global emergency that will continue to grow — that is what this declaration signifies.

“Southern’s track record on reducing campus carbon emissions supports this declaration,” Bertolino said on signing the document. “We are a decade ahead of our original carbon goals, with additional projects planned. Carbon reduction has reduced operating costs and has not exceeded capital budgeting. Sustainable operations includes fiscal responsibility, community benefit, and environmental stewardship– we’re committed to all three.

“We welcome and support students’ advocacy for climate action and hope they continue. We understand the urgency of challenges that climate change presents to communities, and Southern is dedicated to leading and participating in solutions. The only way we will meet these challenges is if we work together.

“Recent reports from the United Nations show that even if we and other universities meet our carbon reduction goals, there will, of course, still be a global crisis caused by climate change. With this declaration, we’re signifying that we understand the need to boost our efforts even further through collective action, community engagement, partnerships, sharing best practices, and open platforms for innovation.”

Learn more about sustainability at Southern

The Declaration:

A Climate Emergency

Southern Connecticut State University is a public university with a mission to foster social justice on campus and as part of a broader community. In response to recent student advocacy for stronger climate action, SCSU reaffirms its Climate Leadership Commitment and the We Are Still In Declaration and publicly recognizes climate change as a global emergency because of impacts on the environment and humankind.

We base this emergency declaration on:
• The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5C and evidence therein that a clear disproportionate burden of climate change impacts the most vulnerable members of societies
• Unprecedented acceleration of atmospheric carbon levels that as of May 2019 are measured at 415 parts per million
• Local community, health, environmental, and economic risk associated with hotter summers, declining air quality, diminished biodiversity, extreme weather and changes in precipitation trends, sea level rise and acidification, drought, and other manifestations of climate change

Building upon a decade of participation in the Climate Leadership Commitment for colleges and universities, today, May 30, 2019, Southern Connecticut State University declares a climate emergency.

After a decade of prioritizing climate leadership, SCSU is proud of its longstanding commitment to climate action, including:

  • Installation of a 1MW solar array on the west side of campus, and the development of a further 1MW of solar power on the East Campus
  • LEED Gold certification for the Academic Science and Laboratory Building
  • A four-year contract to procure 100 percent Green-e certified electricity, 2018-22
  • Extensive energy efficiency and waste reduction throughout campus, including commercial-scale composting of food scrap
  • 2018 launch of an undergraduate major in Environmental Systems and Sustainability
  • Endowed interdisciplinary research on climate and coastal resilience at the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies
  • Designing a new $48 million net-zero emissions School of Business building that will generate all of its energy and power needs through sustainable technologies

Through this emergency declaration, SCSU also recognizes the need to accelerate both pace and scale of our efforts, and a need for more unified and collective action to address the climate crisis. SCSU pledges to:

  1. Maintain our commitment to become carbon neutral and accelerate outcomes of the Climate Leadership Commitment and We Are Still in Declaration
  2. Expand research to advance climate action and resilience as part of a broader community
  3. Align SCSU climate action with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  4. Expand university partnerships with business and industry; local, state, and federal agencies; community organizations; and other institutions of higher education to advance climate and sustainability goals
  5. Expand collaboration with local and regional communities to enhance resilience from climate impacts
  6. Galvanize inclusive, equitable participation in climate action across all sectors of the SCSU community, and allow citizen assemblies to support the direction of our climate actions
  7. Expand and participate in open-source platforms and networks that support rapid interdisciplinary innovation to meet challenges of the changing climate
  8. Create and maintain a roadmap projecting where and how the campus becomes carbon neutral.

Signed,

President Joe Bertolino
May 30, 2019

 

If you haven’t walked down Farnham Avenue lately, you should! A brand new solar array is under construction in parking lot 9 next to Brownell Hall. The array, comprised of more than 3,000 individual solar panels, has been in planning for several years and will generate 1.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year. Once operational, this solar power will lower Southern’s electricity bill an estimated $60,000 a year.

The project is made possible by a partnership with CT Green Bank and GE Solar, optimizing federal and state renewable energy incentives and a financing structure called a power purchase agreement (PPA). “SCSU is not investing a single penny of capital in the project, and we will lower utility spending as soon as we flip the switch,” said Eric Lessne, associate director of planning and engineering for the CSCU system. “The SCSU community can take pride in this project,” added Robert Sheeley, associate vice president of capital budgeting and facilities operations. “Clean renewable energy from the sun means cleaner air and water, a healthier community, and an important step toward reaching our sustainability goals.”

“This is exciting! We’re already planning a second project for the academic side of campus,” said Suzie Huminski, Southern’s sustainability coordinator. She also keeps the project in perspective. “In taking this big step with climate action, it is more important than ever to make sure that when we use electricity, we’re using it wisely. Believe it or not, we’ll create more environmental benefit simply through conservation than we can installing solar. Turn off those lights and equipment when you are not using them.”

About a quarter of New Haven residents don’t have enough food or enough money to buy food, and most people who can’t afford food don’t go hungry for just a day or a week — they experience food insecurity over long periods of time. The Food Recovery Network, the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America, has created a sustainability network across the United States where “food recovery is the norm and not the exception.”

To address hunger in Greater New Haven, in 2015 the Office of Sustainability, along with Residence Life, partnered with Chartwell’s and the Food Recovery Network’s Connecticut chapter to collect excess unserved food from Conn Hall and campus food retail locations. The unserved food is delivered to soup kitchens like the one at St. Ann’s Church in Hamden. “Without the students, we wouldn’t have any of it,” says Suzanne Huminski, campus sustainability coordinator. Each semester, SCSU sustainability interns plan and manage all aspects of daily food recovery, including logistics, collection and delivery, scheduling, administrative meetings, tracking results, and communications with community partners.

The food recovery program is the fastest growing initiative that the Office of Sustainability oversees. Since 2015, over 30,000 pounds of food have been diverted from the waste stream, which equates to 23,000 meals served to those in need. The food recovery program has been such a success that there are plans to expand it. “We find that it really resonates with students, from donating the food to thinking about where the food is going and how’s processed,” says Heather Sterns, recycling coordinator.

Nonperishable foods collected from resident students are delivered to St. Ann’s Church food pantry.

The nonperishable food collection is another initiative that engages students. At the end of each semester, when they move out of their residence halls, resident students are encouraged to donate their unused, nonperishable foods instead of throwing it all away. Julie DellaVecchia ‘17, now a university assistant in the Sustainability Office, notifies students months beforehand with handouts and flyers, asking them to save as much food as they can before collection. The efforts for the 2018 spring semester yielded 2,500 pounds of nonperishable foods to go to people in need.

The impact of Southern’s sustainability efforts isn’t just felt on campus. “We make sure to reach a broader campus community and the city of New Haven to promote and facilitate sustainability,” says Huminski. Fighting food insecurity and giving people in the Greater New Haven area not just the resources they need, but the education to produce these resources, is just one way Southern gives back to the community.

The campus garden is another example of Southern’s outreach. The garden is student-run, and the produce grown in the garden is donated to organizations in the community, such as soup kitchens and emergency food pantries. Jennifer Anaziano, ‘18, is one of the sustainability interns who works in the garden. “We do things like weed, and recently we’ve planted more basil plants and a butterfly bush,” says Anaziano, adding, “we grow produce without using any pesticides. We only use organic chemicals.” In 2017, the garden was able to donate over 900 pounds of food to organizations in the community.

Last year, the Sustainability Office partnered with CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) and New Haven Farms to allow the students to grow more produce and offer nutrition programs, cooking demonstrations, and garden tours to families during the summer. Founded in 2007, CARE works to identify solutions to health challenges through community-based research and projects focusing on social, environmental, and behavioral risk factors. The summer garden nutrition program is running again this summer, again serving area residents who want to learn about growing fresh fruits and vegetables, nutrition, and healthy cooking. Many of the participants don’t have a yard, so they can’t have a garden, and they enjoy watching the vegetables grow and learning how to cook with fresh produce.

A tour of the campus organic garden, during the summer garden nutrition program

Having people take what they learn from the community garden and sharing it with friends and family is a major step towards a more sustainable future, “Sustainability is a long-term issue that is never going to go away, so having a population that is prepared to manage those challenges in the future is vital,” says Huminski.

 

map showing solar panels projected for SCSU campus

Southern Connecticut State University will soon be the new home for over 3,000 photovoltaic solar panels. The culmination of over two years’ planning, the renewable energy project will generate over a million kilowatt hours of electricity annually and will be installed with no capital investment or up-front cost by Connecticut taxpayers.

The Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) has partnered with Current powered by General Electric and Connecticut Green Bank to install the solar energy system on the SCSU campus in order to decrease operating expenses. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2018.

Solar panels will also be installed at Manchester and Middlesex Community Colleges, with the goal of extending to other campuses including Central, Housatonic, Asnuntuck, Quinebaug, Tunxis and Western in the next two years. The solar energy initiative is funded entirely with private capital sourced by Connecticut Green Bank and once fully implemented is estimated to save CSCU more than $10 million within the first 20 years.

SCSU’s panels will be installed in three arrays: as a combination ground mount and carport array in parking lot 9 near Brownell Hall, and a rooftop array at Wintergreen garage. The panels will help power the west side of campus, which largely comprises residential areas and business operations. Eric Lessne is the associate director for project management and engineering for the CSCU system, and has a long track record improving SCSU’s energy efficiency. “This is a public-private partnership with Current, powered by General Electric, and the Connecticut Green Bank,” Lessne says. “SCSU will purchase the electricity that the solar panels produce with substantial and immediate savings compared to our current utility rate. These solar panels will power about 4% of our electricity use as a campus.”

illustration showing solar car port on SCSU campus

SCSU President Joe Bertolino, who in early summer 2017 signed We Are Still In, joining over a thousand business leaders, university presidents, mayors and governors to support climate action to fulfill the Paris agreement, is very pleased about the project. “Clean renewable energy and social justice go hand in hand,” Bertolino says. “There was no question we wanted to do this. We’re already planning a second project.”

Robert Sheeley, SCSU associate vice president of facilities and capital budgeting, chairs the SCSU Sustainability Committee. “Our partnership with GE and CT Green Bank is a triple bottom-line win for the environment, our campus community, and for taxpayers,” Sheeley says. “Ten years ago, we dreamed about projects like this. We’re looking forward to breaking ground next year.”

Suzie Huminski, SCSU’s sustainability coordinator, explains, “We chose sites for this solar project that are best for maximizing energy production and don’t compromise other potential land uses or ecological value. Even though our goal is to maximize solar installation, it is just as important to consider ecosystem and community value for potential sites as it is to consider southern sun exposure. We’re proud to take such a big step forward with our climate leadership efforts.”

SCSU students have been involved in the process as well. Huminski recalls that in 2015, four students worked with her as part of a fellowship funded by Energize CT. Together, the student fellows worked with consultants at Celtic Energy to conduct a campus solar feasibility study. The university was already in early stages of solar planning, and these students got a real-time firsthand view of planning a large commercial renewable project.

Of the four fellows, Huminski reports that Skyler Edmondson, ‘16, got a job working in the solar industry after graduation, and another fellow, Justin Lipe, M.S. Chemistry, ’16, now works at Quantum Biopower, Connecticut’s first anaerobic digester located in Southington. The facility converts food scrap to renewable energy and landscape products.

“Anything we can do to make our system and our planet more viable and sustainable in the future is a step we’re willing to take,” said CSCU President Mark Ojakian of the solar project. “I want to sincerely thank all our partners who worked hard to make this important project possible.”

“The CSCU has shown tremendous leadership with this initiative,” commented Connecticut Green Bank President and CEO Bryan Garcia. “The Connecticut Green Bank is thrilled to be supporting CSCU’s efforts to go green. By not only installing solar energy systems across multiple campuses at once but using private capital to finance the projects, CSCU will be saving significant dollars for the State. And with a high-quality partner like GE overseeing the installations, there is little question these systems will perform and create a win-win-win for all involved.”

“This project is a great representation of the potential of solar generation,” said Amol Kapur, Current by GE’s business development manager for the CSCU portfolio, “CSCU is demonstrating the value of bringing together engineering, technology and finance to support both business and sustainability goals.”

 

Garden class with CARE at SCSU Community Garden

“Eat your vegetables” is time-honored advice for anyone looking to improve the quality of their diet. But for some people who don’t have easy access to fresh produce, preparing and eating healthy meals can be a challenge.

This summer, area residents who wanted to learn about growing fresh fruits and vegetables, nutrition, and healthy cooking were able to take part in a campus outreach program developed and run by the Sustainability Office and CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement), assisted by New Haven Farms (NHF). The program involved improving the university’s organic garden, located near Davis Hall, while teaching participants about growing and preparing produce from the garden. Sessions took place on six Tuesday evenings, from early July through mid-August.

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Suzanne Huminski, coordinator of the Sustainability Office, and Alycia Santilli, director of CARE, teamed up with a few of their interns to establish the community garden education program. Santilli says that CARE “dedicated some limited grant funds to consult with New Haven Farms and expand the growing capacity of the garden.” Two public health interns planned and piloted the garden-based nutrition education program, which was based on New Haven Farms’ more extensive health education curriculum. Two Sustainability Office interns cared for the garden and worked with participants on growing and harvesting vegetables. Families from low-income communities that surround Southern were invited to take part in the program.

New Haven Farms’ 16-week garden program is open to people who are referred through a health center, Santilli explains. For instance, individuals at risk for diabetes might be referred to the program so they can learn healthier eating habits. “We’ve adapted their program to ours,” Santilli says, “but ours is not connected to health centers or prescriptions.” Sustainability intern Kaelyn Audette visited New Haven Farms to learn about the garden program and bring back what she learned to Southern’s garden. Abby Putzer and Meadeshia Mitchell, both graduate students in public health, went to NHF once a week starting in May to help with NHF’s health education program, so they could understand how it works.

CARE cooking class at SCSU community garden
While CARE sponsored the health education component of the program, with the help of interns Putzer and Mitchell, sustainability interns Audette and Megan McNivens gave the participants a weekly garden tour, answered their questions, and did some cooking demonstrations. Guest chefs also visited the program to do cooking demonstrations. Huminski says it was “very impressive to watch how Kaelyn and Megan stepped up and went above and beyond.”

A core group of about seven participants came every week. The program was an opportunity for the interns to work with community members and to learn how to manage a project themselves.

In addition to nutrition education, garden tours, and cooking demonstrations, participants received free produce from the garden. And the garden is now so productive, thanks to Audette and McNivens, that the Sustainability Office is also able to continue making donations to the St. Ann’s soup kitchen, which it has done for years. “Our goal was to double the produce in the garden so we could continue donating to the soup kitchens but also give a bag of produce to each of the participants,” says Huminski, and the goal was met. She says 363 lb. of produce was harvested from mid-July through early August, and the yield is expected to increase through September.

The weekly garden tour was exciting, says Audette. Many of the participants don’t have a yard, so they can’t have a garden, and they enjoyed watching the vegetables grow. Teaching people to eat more healthily – how to use different vegetables and make healthy food choices – was gratifying, the interns say. Participants got to see vegetables go from farm to plate, and they enjoyed taking home what they learned and sharing it with their families. “It was fun to see them come excitedly each week to show what they’d learned,” says McNivens.

Audette graduated in May; she majored in public health and plans to go to graduate school. McNivens is a junior psychology major. Putzer and Mitchell are MPH students, and this project was part of their practicum.

CARE garden class, entrance to SCSU Community Garden

There is a demand in urban neighborhoods for fresh produce, Santilli says, and beyond the community garden program, participants can continue to eat healthily even if they don’t have a yard where they can grow vegetables. New Haven has a network of about 50 community gardens where residents can grow their own produce, and farmers markets and farmstands around the city, as well as a mobile pantry through Connecticut Food Bank, offer fresh produce.

Santilli says, “We are hopeful that this will be a successful pilot year – and then we hope to start fundraising to become a more institutionalized program. It’s a fantastic university-community partnership.”

Huminski agrees, adding, “this is just the start,” of using the campus garden for community-based projects. “That is a big hillside back there, and it can work harder for the community, the education of our students, and for the environment.”

See more photos from the campus garden and community garden program.

Academic Science and Laboratory Building

Southern’s Academic Science & Laboratory Building has been certified LEED® Gold, placing it among the top one-third most sustainably designed certified buildings in the state.

Designed by Centerbrook Architects & Planners, the nearly 104,000-square-foot building exceeded expectations with its sustainable features. Originally targeted for LEED® Silver, the Academic Science & Laboratory Building scored 63 points on the LEED® scale to earn BD+C (Building Design + Construction) Gold.

“We are grateful to Centerbrook Architects & Planners for their innovative, sustainable design work,” said SCSU President Joe Bertolino. “This is our second LEED® Gold recognition at Southern – the first was awarded for our new home for the School of Business – and adds to our growing reputation as an environmentally friendly campus.”

Southern has been recognized regionally and nationally in recent years for its greening initiatives — including new building design, energy efficiency and student-driven recycling programs.

Designing a sustainable facility that would increase operational efficiency and reduce the SCSU’s long-term energy and water costs was an important goal of the project. This is a challenge for laboratories, which are voracious consumers of energy and water.

What resulted was a building that saves the university 34 percent on its energy consumption and reduces water use by 20 percent.

“Science laboratory buildings present significant challenges from a sustainability standpoint, especially one with 76 fume hoods, as this one had,” said Centerbrook Partner Jefferson B. Riley, FAIA. “Through a holistic sustainable design approach we were able to provide students, faculty and staff with a healthy and uplifting environment in which to learn and work.”

Riley’s design, marshaled by Centerbrook’s project architect Reno Migani, AIA, and project manager Andrew Safran, AIA, captured six out of 10 points in Water Efficiency, including both points available in the Innovative Wastewater Technologies subcategory. This was achieved by the rainwater collection system that reduces the amount of potable water used to irrigate the quad by more than 60 percent.

The project also earned 22 out of a possible 26 tallies in LEED’s Sustainable Sites category. By connecting to Jennings Hall and utilizing existing resources, the new building’s program and footprint was reduced, while promoting connectivity between the science disciplines.

The Academic Science & Laboratory Building is the 18th project designed by Centerbrook to earn LEED certification. An additional six are currently slated for LEED.

“Southern Connecticut State University’s LEED certification demonstrates tremendous green building leadership,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “The urgency of USGBC’s mission has challenged the industry to move faster and reach further than ever before, and Academic Science & Laboratory Building serves as a prime example of just how much we can accomplish.”

The LEED certification system was established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000. Short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED is the foremost program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. LEED-certified buildings are found in all 50 states and in more than 164 countries and territories.

http://www.usgbc.org/projects/new-academic-and-laboratory-building