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Purchase Facilities Staff Address Student Concerns About Sustainability

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

By Jennifer Ward

Jamie Simiele pulls a plastic water bottle out of a dumpster (Photo by Jennifer Ward)

With Earth Day coming up and environmental conservation on many students’ minds, students living on campus have expressed dissatisfaction with the way they think Purchase seems to handle waste removal and sustainability.

The college prides itself on the campus’ recycling process, and how much they care about the environment. Purchase has many initiatives, such as "Free New," and "The Rocket." This is to make sure that they are constantly monitoring the environment on campus and ensuring that students are all doing what they can.

“I look at sustainability through many different lenses,” said Thomas Kelly, senior energy manager here at Purchase College. “I see it from the energy side of things, but I also look at it as waste reduction, waste reuse, and diversion rates. I also look at sustainability from land use, how the property is being utilized, underutilized, and over-utilized.”

Picon's post on the Open Forum calling for students to pose questions or concerns about sustainability on campus (Photo by Marcia Hunt)

A few weeks ago, Corina Picon, a psychology major, began to raise an uproar to the student body about the school’s process when it comes to how they recycle. In the Purchase Open Forum, she spoke about her frustrations with what she said she's seen of the waste removal process and how she wanted to know how other students may feel when it comes to this current situation.

“I think students don’t have a full understanding of the recycling program on campus,” said Michael Kopas, senior director of Facilities. “How do we get the campus community more engaged in recycling? We want to improve things, if changes need to happen students need to let us know.”

According to Facilities, the office has received no complaints directly from the student body, but they say that they are open to conversation with students about what they could do better. They are hoping that students will take them up on this.

Picon said, “Some people think it’s okay to recycle some things, or that they can’t recycle others. I think it’s important to keep in mind what is happening to your trash and to work collaboratively with the people around you.”

One major complaint seems to be on how Purchase does not separate paper, plastics and glass. Picon has stated how upsetting and potentially harmful it is that everything ends up in the same pile at the end of the day. She is currently attempting to advocate for more of a separation between different recyclables. Kopas says this isn’t possible at the moment.

A plastic water bottle gets recycled (Photo by Jennifer Ward)

“That’s where community involvement comes in; keeping things separate to begin with,” said Kopas. “Custodians can’t go through the trash bags to make sure there are no recyclables in there. The expectation shouldn’t be that we expect them to do that.”

Contrary to popular belief on campus, Kelly and Kopas say that the school actually has many different initiatives currently in action attempting to improve sustainability on campus. They just don’t know how to communicate it with students.

“We have to communicate our intentions more. It’s really a balance between us and the student body,” said Kopas. “Communication is tough on this campus, nobody reads the emails. So how we get this information out is falling on us.”

“We need to talk to students who are the most passionate about this and see their ideas that we can generate as the first step,” said Kelly. “Once we see everything from the student’s viewpoints and what it’s all like, we can go back and invest in the resources that are needed to have a better sustainable solution.”

One initiative Purchase currently has in place that very few seem to know about is the “Free New.” There are several sheds spread out around resident buildings on campus. Students can donate anything that they no longer want while moving out to the Free New sheds, where it is safely stored all break. During move-in, the Free New is open, and with a “first come first serve” style students can come and claim people’s old items for their dorm that year, and the cycle continues.

Purchase also has a composter machine, “The Rocket,” which takes food waste, combines it with wood chips, and creates a subcompact for the campus. This can create fertilizer on campus, instead of just wasting away food.

“There are things in place, do I wish there was a lot more in place. I would love to do that,” said Kelly.

While the Office of Sustainability is currently looking for a new coordinator, they say that they remain open to students’ ideas and want to make sure that the student body feels open enough to communicate with them.

Kelly and Kopas both have an open-door policy, and with just one email they are willing to talk to students one on one about their ideas when it comes to campus sustainability.

“If you have a sustainability idea that can positively affect the campus, you can submit an application and money will be allocated to implement that idea,” said Kelly. “I’ll be more than happy to sit with any students and talk with them, whatever the case may be.”



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