In an effort to address some of the environmental issues that our planet faces today, The Hunter Sustainability Project is building the campus’s first lush green roof to create a more sustainable future for the school.
In the very early stages of project development, the club’s goal is to create a sustainable space for students to enjoy, garner interest in the environment and sustainability, and collect valuable data for future green projects.
“The impact of the green roof will hopefully be profound,” said Maximilian Loffe, 20, the head of research. “Green roofs in general are incredibly useful to the environment, so we’re hoping this project is a success and a small step in showing that we can be successful in creating and keeping up a sustainable campus.”
The Hunter Sustainability Project (HSP) are aiming to have the garden, named Hunter Green Space, be constructed by the start of the 2017 Fall semester, and hope to have plants be grown by Spring/Summer 2018.
Loffe says the project is in its “baby stage”, not even a concept or blueprint has been drawn out yet. The project was successfully funded by The Green Initiative Fund (Hunter’s TGIF) just one month ago. Since then, the club has had their first general interest meeting for students and volunteers, got NYC Parks on board to help with the design of the space, and are in the process of getting geography and urban studies professors at Hunter College interested in mentoring club members as well as integrating some of their classes (such as the “Soils” course in the geography department) with the future garden.
The project will convert Hunter’s eighth floor terrace- which is currently unused- into a lush garden space where a variety of plants will grow and research on roof conditions will be collected, as well as aiming to have many other impacts.
The green roof roof will act as insulation, keeping in the heat in the winter and keeping the area of the building cool in the summer. The Green Space will also prolong the lifespan of the roof because the greenery grown will absorb rainwater and protect the rooftop from UV rays.
The Green Space will create a self-sustaining ecosystem in which the rainwater collection system will be irrigating the plants, and the compost turner will use food from the Hunter College cafeteria to make soil, eliminating waste.
According to New York City’s Resilience Strategy, green roofs keep buildings cool enough that in the early and late summer, buildings don’t need to turn on their air conditioning and in the winter, help higher floors retain heat. Also according to research, green roofs have two to three times the lifespan of normal roofs, saving building maintenance costs. Green roofs lower a building’s storm water runoff by 50-90 percent, preventing rain from entering sewer systems and overflowing into rivers.
“We want to be able to collect valuable data on roof conditions and the benefits of the space so we can hopefully build more successful green roofs and other projects for the campus in the future,” said Loffe. “We’re excited, we’ve never done this before and the process is all new to us so hopefully it’s a success.”
The biggest challenge for the club so far has been the design for the roof, as choosing the right vendor who is experienced with building green roofs on skyscrapers isn’t the easiest task. Loffe explains that such a project requires a lot of careful planning to make sure the weight of the garden does not go over the weight capacity of the roof, that there are no leaks, and that safety standards are met, but assures that club members are tackling the challenges.
The Hunter Sustainability Project has already hired students for the green roof, a dedicated garden caretaker, an outreach coordinator, and a research associate who will collect and analyze research data on the garden. Students in charge of taking care of the garden will be paid a yearly stipend for their efforts.
The Hunter Sustainability Project (HSP) was renamed in 2012 and has since become a group that tackles broader goals of engaging the Hunter College community with environmental issues and finding ways to be more sustainable.
“Our mission is to offer the Hunter community ways to change their behavior for the better,” said Lena Suponya, 21, the club’s president. “It’s really important to teach people all the little things they can do that can make a big impact and show them how easy it is to help the environment.”
Originally called the Hunter Solar Project, the club started as a student-led initiative to install a solar energy system on campus. In November of 2011, Hunter College completed the installation of a 3-kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel system next to a climate lab on top of Hunter’s North building. The solar panels and climate lab became the first of many big projects to come for the HSP, the club also hosting numerous events throughout the school year to educate students about sustainable practices.
With the rate of global warming rising three times over the last 30 years, and CO2 emissions increased by about 90 percent since 1970, trying to be eco-friendlier and practicing sustainability is a pressing issue. A survey conducted by the Princeton Review found that current freshmen are two times more likely to choose their school based on sustainability concerns than the entering freshman class just three years ago, illustrating just how important tackling environmental issues on campuses alone is.
The HSP’s everyday focuses on campus are their events, typically five events hosted a year, aimed at spreading awareness and showing students how they can get involved in green projects in their everyday lives and communities.
Such events have included Composting at Thanksgiving, the Love It Again Clothing Swap-a-thon (held twice a semester in which all students are welcome to bring clothes they no longer wish to wear and swap them with one another as a way to recycle), and Hunter Goes Green, a five-day event focusing on different aspects of sustainability such as food, biodiversity, energy, and etc. aimed at educating the student body about sustainable practices.
Suponya, club president, is well aware of the issues still facing the campus and assures that aside from focusing on larger projects like the new green roof, the club is also working on smaller tasks throughout the campus, such as all new hand dryers being reinstalled in the bathrooms and new recycling bins being placed throughout the buildings.
“We’re starting small so that things can actually start happening around the campus, baby steps,” said Suponya. “Even the smallest things make a big difference.”