2016 Environmental Excellence Award
SUNY Upstate Medical University has won the 2016 Environmental Excellence Award from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for its sustainability efforts that have led to dramatic decreases in the institution’s carbon footprint.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said the award recognizes businesses and organizations that have demonstrated outstanding leadership in adopting innovative solutions to protect our environment and enhance our economy.
"These projects set a high bar for others to follow in addressing critical environmental and public health issues such as increasing energy efficiency, cleaning up our waters, keeping materials out of landfills, and making our healthcare sector more sustainable," Seggos said.
Thomas Pelis, Upstate assistant vice president for facilities and planning, thanked the DEC for the honor.
"SUNY Upstate Medical University is grateful for this recognition from the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation," he said. "As Central New York's largest employer, and with support from our local and regional partners, Upstate has made great strides to reduce waste and increase sustainability in all areas of our enterprise, from clinical care to research. Whether it's our 'Last Out, Lights Out' or battery recycling campaign or one of a dozen other sustainability initiatives, Upstate employees are doing their part to build a healthier planet."
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher commended Upstate for its work.
"SUNY's commitments to an energy-smart New York, to sustainability throughout our system, and to our ongoing efforts to minimize our carbon footprint is a part of our DNA," Zimpher said. "Upstate Medical University is steadfast in its approach, and has earned this recognition for its hard work and dedication toward this end. Congratulations to the Upstate Medical University community."
Upstate's sustainability project, known as "Think Green," was launched in 2008. The project's task force has focused on reducing fuel consumption and its carbon footprint, minimizing energy use, applying sustainability to supply purchases and management, institutional sustainability participation, recycling, energy conservation in construction and SUNY partnership. These efforts stem from Upstate's Climate Action Plan, which set the goal of reaching net zero emissions by the year 2050.
Over the last three years, Upstate has dedicated considerable resources to maintain and reinvest in its sustainability program. Upstate's carbon footprint has steadily decreased; approximately 6,250 tons of greenhouse gases have been removed each year, and only carbon-free resources for electrical energy are used, where practical.
Financially, the merit of Upstate's sustainability program is best illustrated by the savings from the installation of solar panels and implementation of an electronic medical record system, which has dramatically reduced paper use in clinical settings. In turn, Upstate has dedicated millions of dollars toward building renovations, which include the ensured use of 100% renewable energy.
Key highlights of Upstate's sustainability program include:
- installation of water filling stations to support the use of refillable water bottles
- building to a minimum of LEED Silver designation on all major capital projects
- installation of a “green roof” on the Upstate Cancer Center, which prevents 211,000 gallons of storm water from entering the sewer system and instead collects the water in a reservoir to be used in watering plants; (Upstate participates in Onondaga County’s Save the Rain Program.)
- installation of a solar array in Upstate’s Neuroscience Research Building, which heats 36 percent of the building’s hot water
- installation of electronic medical record system eliminates use of thousands of reams of paper as all documentation is now stored and shared electronically
- a Bike to Work initiative
- use of cleaning products that are considered “green” and environmentally friendly
- implementation of a successful electronics and batteries recycling program. In 2013-2014, more than six tons of batteries were recycled
- a “Last Out, Lights Out” campaign to encourage people to turn off the lights when leaving any room
- the introduction Zipcars for students and staff
Another reason for Upstate’s success, according to officials, is the various partnerships it has with agencies throughout the state. In addition to Onondaga County’s Save the Rain program, Upstate works closely with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to ensure energy conservation measures for new construction are reviewed.
The Medicine Bottles for Malawi initiative sends used medicine bottles to the African nation, and money raised from returnables are shared between Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital and Baltimore Woods, an area non-profit organization dedicated to environmental preservation.
Upstate’s sustainability program has yielded results that demonstrate how the program’s delivery of environmental, economic and social benefits as waste was decreased, while the institutions’ collection of compostable and recycling material soared.
The results from Upstate’s sustainability initiative are significant. The university’s overall waste stream has decreased 7 percent, while regulated medical waste has decreased 8 percent. Most significant, officials say, is the decrease in Upstate’s carbon footprint by 35 percent from 2012 to 2015. Additionally, dollars spent on gas and consuming resources have dropped, while increases have been made in Upstate’s investment in using efficiencies based on only renewable energy sources.
Other businesses and organizations being honored by the DEC are the New York Yankees, The Adirondack Mountain Club, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s MTA New York City Transit Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot, The Fashion Institute of Technology (also a SUNY campus), The New York Rural Water Association (NYRWA), Finger Lakes ReUse, Waste Management’s High Acres Landfill and Recycling Center.