Stony Brook University was recently designated by the Groundwater Foundation as a Groundwater Guardian Green Site for its clean groundwater and environmental stewardship.
Groundwater Guardian is a program of the Groundwater Foundation, an organization based in Lincoln, Neb., that works with cities, schools and other entities to protect and promote awareness of groundwater conditions.
SBU’s award mainly acknowledged sustainable practices across the university’s campuses related to pesticide and fertilizer usage, pollution prevention, water management, planting and irrigation. The application also detailed the campuses’ infrastructure efforts including the creation of green spaces in parking lots to address water runoff.
“Student employees did a lot of the work on the application, working with other departments like Grounds—who maintain the green areas—and EHS [Environmental Health and Safety]—who ensure a safe work environment on campus,” said Greg Monaco, the university’s sustainability coordinator.
James O’Connor, the director of Sustainability and Transportation Operations, also emphasized the Office of Sustainability’s role in communicating with the rest of the university to ensure the articulation of all aspects of the program.
This is Stony Brook’s first year applying for and receiving the green site designation.
The Facilities and Services team has prioritized conservation over the past few years in an attempt to improve how the campus operates, and members hope to continue this plan into the future.
According to O’Connor and Monaco, the team is focusing on water usage in irrigation of the green spaces on campus—for example, making sure that irrigation is not taking place during any kind of precipitation or winter weather.
Today, the university irrigates much of the campus in a controlled and responsible manner, and the program has been able to move on to fertilizer/pesticide control and naturally beautifying the campus.
Facilities and Services recently collaborated with the University Senate to install a native species meadow at the north entrance of the campus to function as a green space, requiring minimal maintenance due to less irrigation, fertilizer and pesticide use.
Groundwater Foundation gave the designation to Stony Brook despite a controversy in November 2013 at Stony Brook’s Southampton campus regarding federal environmental permit/law violations. O’Connor declined to comment regarding the protests and legal proceedings that took place at the time.
Ongoing research has shifted focus to mulching and disposal of food and water waste, along with use of fertilizer and pesticide that is safer for the environment and the groundwater.
“We’re very happy with the award, but we really want to continue to build and grow,” O’Connor said.