Drawdown Learn: Faculty delegation picks up fresh ideas at climate solutions conference

From left: Michael Sheridan (Business), Emily Puthoff (Art), Kevin Caskey (Business), Megan Ferguson (Chemistry), Lisa Mitten (Office of Campus Sustainability), and Joel Oppenheimer (Counseling Center)

The Office of Campus Sustainability at SUNY New Paltz led a group of faculty members in diverse disciplines to the Omega Institute’s Drawdown Learn conference in Rhinebeck, New York, where they heard from researchers and authors who are working on developing the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global climate change.

The climate solutions proposed by Project Drawdown include the usual solutions of wind and solar, but also some surprises:

  • Refrigerant management is the number one climate solution. Hydrofluorocarbons are the primary chemical refrigerant in refrigerators and air conditioning systems, and they are potent greenhouse gases with thousands of times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
  • Education of women and girls and family planning is the number one climate solution if you combine the impact of both of these strategies.
  • Reducing food waste is the third most impactful climate solution.
  • Adopting a plant-rich diet is the fourth most impactful climate solution.

The SUNY New Paltz delegation to the Drawdown Learn conference was led by Campus Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Mitten, and included Michael Sheridan (Business), Megan Ferguson (Chemistry), Kevin Caskey (Business), Emily Puthoff (Art) and Joel Oppenheimer (Counseling Center).

Each participant offered some thoughts about why they attended, and how they’re bringing this new knowledge into their work at the College:

Lisa Mitten: “I’m interested in replicating a model of teaching about Drawdown Climate Solutions to learn more in-depth about climate solutions and develop plans to put them into action. I plan on working to integrate Drawdown solutions into campus sustainability planning and the Sustainability Faculty Learning Community as well.”

Megan Ferguson: “I found it really inspiring to meet so many people making real change on the climate front, and learn about more positive approaches to engage students and community members. In addition to incorporating Drawdown into at least one of my classes, I’m partnering with a NYS Master STEM teacher to introduce Drawdown to the Master Teachers cohort.”

Joel Oppenheimer: “As a social worker, I hear every week from students who tell me how important the natural beauty of our campus, and the surrounding environment, is to their mental health.”

Emily Putoff: “I went into the Drawdown Learn Summit with a feeling of despair over the recent IPCC report. I left the summit with a renewed sense of resolve, buoyed with the knowledge that we already have many of the solutions at hand to not only stop climate change, but to reverse it. It is up to all us of now to wake up, step up, pitch in, and work together on the drawdown.”

Michael Sheridan: “I’m considering using the Drawdown Eco-challenge, a behavior change competition, in my Introduction to Managing Sustainability class next semester.”

Kevin Caskey: “The biggest plus of attending was to see how I can integrate ideas, methods, models and data developed within the Project Drawdown team into my courses. When teaching Statistics, and to a lesser extent Operations, there is always a need for fresh questions and good, large sets of data to work with, and now I can start using data sets about climate change solutions.”

Visit the Office of Campus Sustainability at SUNY New Paltz to learn more about how the College is working to create a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable community, campus, region and world.