This theme is particularly relevant to the Hudson Valley as the Hudson River suffered deeply from pollution in the form of industrial waste until the 1970s. As recently as 2010, General Electric has funded a dredging campaign on the Upper Hudson River between the towns of Fort Edward and Troy.
One of the goals of the symposium was to provide local businesses with tangible ways to reduce their environmental impact in an effort to improve the environmental state of the Hudson Valley.
The symposium also aimed to bring together businesses from around the Hudson Valley to promote clean and energy-efficient technology and practices and to inform the Vassar community about these innovations.
Those local businesses in attendance included the paper-shredding and recycling company HV Shred and Recycle and the Orthopedic Associates of Dutchess County.
Additionally, the event was sponsored by Hudson Valley energy companies including Covanta Hudson Valley Renewable Energy, and the Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation.
According to Assistant for Sustainability Activities for Vassar’s College Committee on Sustainability Alistair Hall ’11, the Chamber of Commerce chose to have the symposium at Vassar because of the College’s continued involvement in environmental matters.
“The Chamber holds this symposium annually, and thought that with Vassar’s recent strides on these issues they should invite Vassar to play host this year,” Hall said.
Hall further explained that the Chamber of Commerce had been planning this year’s symposium for months. He noted, “They had reached out to Vassar in the fall about presenting and after some communications back and forth they asked us if we would like to play host as well.”
The Aula featured vendors on the sides of the room from organizations such as Strength for Life, which specializes in rehabilitative exercise, and Foundation for Wellness Professionals, an association for healthcare keynote speakers. Presenters spoke in front of an audience about new eco-friendly products and practices, while information pamphlets and refreshments were available in the back.
The event was separated into morning and afternoon sessions. From 8:30 a.m. to lunchtime, attendants listened to presentations and forums about energy and waste efficiency. After lunch until the end of the symposium at 4:00 p.m., the assemblies transitioned into discussion of healthy lifestyle practices for the people behind these businesses.
Hall himself has had a long-term commitment with environmental issues. After graduating Vassar in 2011, Hall moved on to the Green Corps, the Field School for Environmental Organizing. He graduated the Green Corps to work on campaigns for reformed food systems, clean energy, and park protections before coming back to Vassar.
Hall, along with the Director of the Purchasing Department Rosaleen Cardillo, and a Buyer for Purchasing Karen Gallagher, showed a report entitled “Supply Stream Sustainability: Greening Vassar’s Inputs and Outputs.”
“Supply Stream Sustainability” was held in the morning as one of the primary presentations on efficiency.
In their multi-media presentation, Hall, Cardillo and Gallagher detailed how Vassar has improved its sustainability programs.
“Alistair was approached by the Chamber, who also wanted Purchasing to speak,” Gallagher said about her participation. “Our presentation basically outlined the recent efforts to reduce our environmental impact through purchasing decisions and in making changes to our waste-stream,” she said.
“Alistair spoke using a zero-waste upstream -downstream exercise. The upstream: take an object and ask, ‘How was it made?’, ‘Where did you buy it?’ and downstream: ‘Where does it go?’”
Gallager then went on to describe some of the ways in which Vassar has tried to deal with the question of the final destination of what it consumes. She mentioned campus composting, bottled water being phased out of campus, and Students With A Purpose: Recycling (SWAPR).
Continuing, Gallagher said, “Purchasing spoke about the Big Belly Trash containers, surplus sale, Zip Cars, LaundryView, and toilet paper/paper towels.”
Gallagher also emphasized the dialogue that existed between the audience and the presenters, noting that interaction between the two groups was strong throughout the symposium.
Hall said that the center of “Supply Stream Sustainability” was around the efforts on waste and purchasing and that sustainability requires community participation and collaboration.
Those outside the Vassar community also spoke at the symposium. In addition to the presentation on “Greening Vassar’s Inputs and Outputs,” the symposium held a talk, “Starting with Energy Efficiency: The Low Hanging Fruit” during the morning session.
“All in the room were very interested and interacted with all speakers,” said Gallagher about the morning session, mentioning the focus many at the symposium seemed to have for alternative energies, “There seemed to be a lot of questions regarding Hudson Solar.”
Project leader Dave Byrne represented Hudson Solar, a solar energy company based servicing upstate New York and parts of New England.
Like those who presented on Vassar’s sustainability and energy efficiency, Byrne spoke in the morning along with Mike Arnoff of Arnoff Moving and Storage.
In between lectures, Dan Danieluc of D&D Health and Fitness lead participants in stretching exercises during a ten-minute break, encouraging healthy practices in the workspace.
After a lunch break the symposium shifted from the topic of the earth’s sustainability to humans’ own sustainability. Doctors and healthcare professionals lead talks on preventing injuries and exercising one’s mind to increase work efficiency.
The ten-minute breaks continued in the afternoon, followed by a lecture about the cause of back and neck pain. The symposium concluded with “Healthy Lifestyle Options and Leaving Dangerous Pain Medications Behind” with President and CEO of Topical Biomedics Lou Paradise.
Hall was enthusiastic about the event, saying, “We think the event went really well!” He continued, “There was a great turn out and it was great to discuss our take on sustainability with the Poughkeepsie Community.”