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Sustainability is our Lifestyle

By Janell Boakye

Published 9/29/2021

After three prolonged years of a revamp, the Stony Brook Union is officially reopened! The new Union features a variety of sustainability resources such as a water bottle refill station, motion sensored lights, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, etc. However, the Union isn’t the only facility on campus that promotes a sustainable lifestyle. Even though the Student Activities Center isn’t as brand new as the Union, the Student Activities Center has experienced changes as well. Unlike the Union, the Wolf Ride Bike Share station is placed right in front of the Student Activities Center, enabling students to bike around campus. Moreover, the Student Activities Centers contains similar sustainable resources but not as many as in the Union. 

water refil In 2009, Stony Brook University started utilizing water bottle refill stations. Water bottle refill stations are stations that allow you to fill your water bottles with clean filtered water. All you have to do is place your water bottle against the touchless sensor and like magic the cold water flows directly into your bottle with minimal splashing! The cost of these stations range from $1,000 to $3,000 but the technology is worth the expense. Each station measures how many plastic bottles are being saved from each refill. These stations are placed in many locations, such as the Stony Brook Union, the Staller Center, East Side Dining, academic buildings, etc. Interestingly, the most used water refilling station is in the Student Activities Center! Laura Osa, the project manager for the water bottle station project, helps to research the results of these water refill stations. According to Laura, “throughout the Water Bottle Station Project (Fall 2018 to Spring 2020) the Student Activities Center refill station had over 120,000 total fill-ups, and on average over 11,000 fill-ups monthly!” If interested in learning more about her study with the water refill stations, keep an eye out for her research publication or search, "The Water Bottle Station Project" on Google.
Programs like “Fill it Forward” encourage students to protect the environment and engage in eco-friendly practices like reducing, reusing, and recycling. The Fill it Forward application is available to download on any smartphone, and grants students the opportunity to win prizes for refilling their water bottles. The Student Activities Center harbors a tremendous amount of foot traffic with students daily and acts as the central location used to hand out Fill it Forward tags for student’s water bottles or mugs. Water refill stations are more efficient than drinking fountains because they offer more hydration, cleaner water, and are less time consuming. With water refilling stations, students have access to more water than the amount consumed from drinking at a fountain faucet. In addition, unlike the drinking fountains, water refill stations filter chemicals from the water. With the use of these stations, we are slowly making a difference on campus. As more individuals use them, our dependence on plastic water bottles decreases. Another aspect that features water conservations is that our facilities host many motion sensor faucets in the restrooms. These faucets help to use water wisely by reducing unnecessary water consumption. This can lead to less plastic waste in our area and can help save our nearby oceans. fill it forward
wolf share ride If you ever pass by the Students Activities Center, you might notice that there are bikes lined outside by the bus loop. These are known as Wolf Ride Bike Share stations and are located near numerous buildings throughout campus such as Javits Lecture Center, Life Sciences, the Wang Center, and many more. Students who have paid the transportation fee and are in good academic standing have access to any of these bikes. They can easily use them by placing their SBU ID card into the kiosk and should use their birthdate as the pin number! Faculty, staff, and visitors also have access to the bikes shares but instead are prompted to insert their credit/debit card. The Wolf Ride Bike Share contributes to a sustainable environment by allowing students to travel and explore campus while guaranteeing that they aren’t contributing to air pollution. 

Stony Brook has also taken many efforts to improve its energy efficiency in the Union and the Student Activities Center. When you step into most rooms in these facilities, you may notice that the lights automatically turn on. The reason behind this phenomenon is not because the room is haunted but because those new lights are motion sensor lights! These motion sensor lights turn on once they detect motion and automatically turn off after a period of time of no movements. Additionally, the university has taken an initiative in reducing energy consumption by upgrading the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. HVAC systems contribute to a huge portion of energy consumption in buildings. To decrease the consumption of energy, variable frequency drive control panels were placed in many buildings, like the Student Activities Center and Stony Brook Union. These panels keep track of the speed at which the systems operate and so when the motor speed slows down, energy consumption decreases. These efforts taken by Stony Brook have immensely improved their energy efficiency. When the state mandated Executive Order 88 (NYS E088) which ordered a 20% reduction in energy at state facilities by April 1, 2020, Stony Brook was the only large SUNY that reached the goal!

Every year, the university has an Earthstock festival on the Student Activities Center Plaza where we celebrate Earth Day. At this week-long event, students engage in fun activities and learn about the importance of a clean environment. For Earthstock 2021, craft night took place in the Union Ballroom where students painted suncatchers and made their own DIY air plant terrariums! It is important that we as a Stony Brook community keep the Earth clean, and that we can all live a healthy lifestyle and pass it forward to future generations. As Stony Brook continues to improve sustainability on campus, we need to make sure that we are also doing our part by reducing the use of plastic, using less energy, and using zero-emission vehicles. Sustainability is the future! earthstock

Special thanks to Tom Lanzilota, our Campus Sustainability and Energy Manger and Greg Monaco, our Sustainability coordinator!

Thomas Lanzilotta Laura Osa Gregory Monaco