Copyright © 2013 by SUNY Oneonta
- 108 Ravine Parkway
- Oneonta, NY 13820
The transition to a single-stream recycling program will mark a symbolic step in the college’s sustainability efforts.
Sustainability Coordinator Hannah Morgan and Environmental Activism Club President Alex Lyakhov are a dynamic duo. As one of the most active and vocal student leaders on campus, Lyakhov has spent the past three years raising awareness and advocating for change—including the creation of a sustainability coordinator position. Four months into her new job in that very role, Morgan is bridging the gap between what Lyakhov calls “the idealism of students and the pragmatism of staff.”
For example, last year, as co-founder and chair of the Student Sustainability Committee, Lyakhov helped create an inventory of waste and recycling bins on campus to call attention to an area where the college could do better. Now, Morgan is using that report in her work to transition the college to a single-stream recycling program. A contract with a new waste-management company that can provide this service will take effect in June, and by next fall, campus residents, employees and visitors will be throwing everything from newspapers to water bottles into the same blue bins.
“The goal is to have a recycling bin next to every garbage can,” says Morgan. “I think it’s symbolic. When students come to campus, if there aren’t a lot of recycling receptacles around, they get the wrong image of the college. It’s going to be a big step—both symbolically and behaviorally.”
Another of the Student Sustainability Committee’s goals was the establishment of a Student Sustainability Fund, and Morgan has already put one in place. This semester, she received 15 proposals for projects ranging from distributing reusable water bottles to installing a bike rack at the college’s Cooperstown Campus. A total of $6,000 was awarded in the first round of funding.
“It empowers the students,” says Morgan, “and that’s the most important thing: showing them that their voice matters on campus.”
Lyakhov will graduate in May with a meteorology degree—and the knowledge that his voice made a difference in moving SUNY Oneonta’s sustainability efforts forward. In addition to his work with the Student Sustainability Committee, he is one of three student members on the President’s Advisory Council on Sustainability. Last spring, he chaired the college’s committee for Green Dragon Week, an annual event series organized by students for the first time in 2012. Activities included a talk by world-renowned author and biologist Sandra Steingraber, a climate change teach-in, film discussions and screenings of "Gasland" and "Avatar", and a club expo on the quad.
In recognition of these and other efforts, Lyakhov was one of 17 students chosen from throughout the SUNY system last fall to receive the SUNY Emerging Leader Award.
Hannah Morgan, SUNY Oneonta’s first Sustainability Coordinator, poses with recycling bins and student Alex Lyakhov, president of the Environmental Activism Club. Photo by Michael Forster Rothbart