For sake of our children, \’think small and dream big\’ to be more sustainable

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\”Why sustainability? The challenges we face are many, they\’re daunting, and everyone needs to help. We all need to be leaders,\” said Mike Hoffmann, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES) in Ithaca and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, during his keynote address at the President\’s Sustainable Campus Committee\’s (PSCC) inaugural summit at the Cornell Plantations Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center.

President David Skorton formed the PSCC in 2010 to oversee all aspects of sustainability in campus operations and facilities. Co-chaired by Tim Fahey, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Natural Resources, and Kyu Whang, vice president for facilities services, the PSCC has been building teams of faculty, staff and students to be thought leaders and to implement projects in 10 major areas: people, water, food, land, energy, purchasing, transportation, waste, climate and buildings. Each team is co-chaired by a faculty member and a staff member.

The purpose of the summit was to bring the 10 teams together to exchange success stories and case studies, provide updates, engage in teambuilding and brainstorm for new green campus opportunities.

In his talk, Hoffmann outlined some of the environmental challenges humanity faces, including the need to feed \”9 billion people by the year 2050,\” risks to biodiversity, including \”the sixth great extinction\” and a warming climate due to greenhouse gas emissions, which are now melting Arctic Sea ice, he said. \”Glacier National Park won\’t have any glaciers in 10 years,\” he added.

\”These are the facts, it\’s the truth, it\’s science based,\” Hoffmann said before posing the question, \”What can you do?\”

For Hoffmann, the challenge of countering these issues is a personal one.

\”In the year 2050, what will my daughters say about their dad? Did he try?\” he said. He entreated the audience to be sustainability leaders. \”Think small, think big, think weird, dream,\” he said.

CUAES has adopted the goal of being a model for the university and the country, Hoffmann said. He has empowered his 55 staff members to come up with ideas. Some of the staff-inspired initiatives include: partnering with Cornell\’s Department of Energy and Sustainability to retrofit plant growth chambers and greenhouses to save energy and more than $400,000 per year; shutting down underutilized buildings in winter; installing a grass pellet furnace on a CUAES farm that will return the investment in nine months; and cutting down on nonessential mowing, he said.

The CALS Green: Energy Conservation and Sustainability Initiative has worked with staff and faculty to reduce the carbon footprint and save money in offices and labs with such simple measures as closing lab fume hoods when not in use.

\”Being a model works,\” said Hoffmann, as such actions are already spreading beyond campus to other agricultural experiments stations. He regularly gives talks across the country on such Cornell successes.

\”I don\’t think it hurts to tell the truth and share why we need to be sustainable,\” he said. He asked the audience to feel empowered to do the same. \”I\’m going to do this for the rest of my life, for the sake of my daughters.\”

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