College students: Reduce your school’s carbon footprint, get $1M

Student-led coalitions will develop million-dollar ideas in a new statewide competition to cut down greenhouse gas emissions on New York State college and university campuses and beyond.

Calling climate change “one of the most defining issues of our time,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the competition on Friday, challenging students to “aggressively reduce” emissions and offering three $1 million prizes to help winning coalitions implement their ideas.

“Our state’s college students have a pivotal role to play in building a cleaner and more energy-efficient future,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We hope to inspire the next generation to change the world.”

The awards are part of Reforming the Energy Vision, a Cuomo-sponsored effort to build a cleaner, more affordable and more resilient state energy system through a combination of innovative energy policies and statewide initiatives. Through the REV Campus Challenge, student-led groups can recruit faculty and other staff members in the creation of greenhouse gas-reducing strategies.

Ideas and plans will be submitted to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority early next year, with awards expected to be announced later in 2016. Proposals will be evaluated on a number of criteria, including their ability to improve energy efficiency and increase renewables.

Long Island colleges and universities have a running start on the competition, with several institutional greenhouse gas-focused initiatives already in effect. Stony Brook University has implemented several protocols to reduce emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030 (compared to 2007-08 levels) and to be carbon-neutral by 2050. In 2012, SBU also signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, formalizing the school’s pledge to enhance campus sustainability.

Hofstra University has been repeatedly praised by the EPA for its participation in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, which as of 2013 was providing over 10 percent of the university’s electricity. Adelphi University has also initiated several environmentally friendly programs, including recycling efforts and the incorporation of green construction standards.

In May, Adelphi also announced a $13.5 million project with Canadian firm Ecosystem to increase energy efficiency by replacing the university’s aging and inefficient boiler system.

Now Island students will follow their schools’ leads for a shot at the $1 million prizes.

Students at our colleges and universities have been motivated to find solutions to the most pressing challenges of the time,” noted Richard Kauffman, the state’s chairman of energy and finance. “[The Rev Campus Challenge] will help New York’s great student minds think big and turn ideas into action.”