Award Will Help School of Design Examine Students’ Attitudes Toward Sustainable Materials

A research project by a team from the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ School of Design is the recipient of one of two $5,000 awards from the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3) and the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP21). The second award went to a team from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

Each year, NYSAR3 and NYSP21 provide two $5,000 grants to New York state universities and colleges that are members of the NYSAR3 College Council. The grants go to campuses that have projects that focus on source reduction, reuse or recycling.

The School of Design project—led by assistant professors Seyeon Lee, Louise Manfredi, Zeke Leonard and Rebecca Kelly—will collect data on first-year design students’ understanding of waste management systems. The researchers will explore a) whether the students’ attitudes toward sustainable materials can be altered when confronted by accumulated landfill waste over the course of an academic year and b) given this information, will the students reduce, reuse, recycle or send the material to the waste-to-energy facility. The research will include data to determine if there is a decrease or increase in waste.

“This grant allows for the expansion of a pilot project that aimed to reshape waste disposal culture in design studios,” says Seyeon Lee. “This grant will specifically contribute to educating incoming freshmen on how we reduce/reuse/recycle studio waste in the School of Design.

“This opportunity will support the School of Design in making a positive step toward a significant culture shift through responsible material usage in design, this reducing landfill waste,” Lee says. “The broader goal is to provide a blueprint for other colleges and New York state institutions in education planning for environmentally conscious material management in the undergraduate student population.”

The second grant will enable ESF to purchase menstrual cups and materials for reusable pads. This effort will build upon the college’s zero waste and inclusivity goals and move closer to becoming a zero-waste campus by 2025. ESF launched its campuswide composting program in August 2019 and has seen a 27 percent decrease in trash (by weight) since that time.

“ESF is now systematically identifying single-use products that are consumed on campus for replacement with reusable alternatives. Choosing reusable options for menstrual products makes sense for many reasons,” says Sustainable Facilities Manager Susan Frasier. “This grant will allow ESF to offer hundreds of reusable menstrual products to members of the campus community, free of charge. This will help pair sustainability with financial accessibility, help normalize conversations about menstruation on campus and will, of course, reduce the amount of material that is sent to the landfill/incinerator.”

The College Council is designed to provide a forum for college students, staff and faculty to share information about common challenges and best practices related to recycling, waste prevention, and other environmental issues.

The College Council is a membership-based program offering many members-only benefits, including its own listserv, an electronic newsletter, regional and statewide workshops, discounted memberships and conference registration fees. To learn more about the College Council and NYSAR3, visit nysar3.org and Why Join. Interested in joining the College Council? Visit the registration page.