College hires new sustainability coordinator to ensure action on campus

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Alex Lykins recently replaced Meghan Haley-Quigley ’11 as the new manager of Sustainability and Green Initiatives at Union. Lykins had previously been working at Union as the Residence Director for Fox Hall for over a year before he took on his new position. During that time, Lykins spent nine months working with Haley-Quigley to improve sustainability on campus. Lykins mentioned some difficulties in this task by stating, “A big challenge Union faces is awareness of many of these issues.” He cites the diverse backgrounds of students as both a benefit and a roadblock to improving sustainability. Lykins detailed how recycling and energy preservation are practiced differently between communities, and the lack of a coherent definition of sustainability makes unifying efforts to protect and preserve the environment difficult. He stated, “Sustainability is an evolving thing that is hard to define… in general [sustainability] is just about being able to maintain living.” Lykins job is to focus on the environmental sustainability of Union, however he acknowledges that there is not one single approach. One of the most important issues he emphasized was the need for a comprehensive definition and general education on the topic. Lykins believes that in order for people to care about the environment and take action to protect it, they need to understand the problems that exist and why they matter. “Sustainability is a constant process of education,” Lykins said. As Sustainability Coordinator, Lykins works with students and faculty to improve sustainability on campus. The U-Sustain Committee, which is composed of approximately 70 members of the community, is one of the many groups that work with Lykins to enact sustainability proposals. Lykins further detailed the importance of student involvment in sustainability on campus by stating, “Students are the driving force for the majority of sustainable initiatives that happen.” One resource students have to improve sustainability on campus is the Green Grant. The Green Grant Program offers eight, $2,000 loans to subsidize student projects aimed at making the campus more environment-friendly. The U-Bike program and the compost bins in the dining halls are some of the products of past Green Grant projects. Lykins emphasized that “[Sustainability] should be something that is integrated into everything… everyone has a stake in it.” In 2007, Union College President Stephen Ainlay signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). As a part of ACUPCC, Union College has committed to becoming carbon neutral, emitting no greenhouse gases, by 2060. Union will continue publishing reports on their progress, enhancing environmental sustainability educational programs and emphasizing the importance of grassroots movements that work toward environmental sustainability. Lykins will be monitoring the progress of the school in meeting the ACUPCC commitment.

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