Fordham Five: Ways Fordham Students and Administration Can Improve Sustainability


Courtesy of Ross Garlick

Courtesy of Ross Garlick

“Climate change” and “sustainability” are big idea words to which ugly politics and a feeling of helplessness often are attached. Climate change politics are extremely personal to few and legislative action moves at the pace of an endangered three-toed sloth. Sustainability has a tendency to turn into a negligible, impersonal burden.

At Fordham, both the student body and the administration are capable of changing their ways for the betterment of the environment.

“It’s all about changing little habits,” Steve Franks, Ph.D.ecologist and Professor of Biological Sciences at Fordham Rose Hill, said in an interview with The Ram Realm.

In light of the recent IPCC summit in Berlin, not to mention the recent news of planet warming perhaps rendering Mt. Everest too dangerous to climb, Dr. Franks and Dr. J.D. Lewis, also a Ph.D. ecologist and the Department Chair of Biological Sciences, offered their ideas on ways in which, with small changes of habit, Fordham students and Fordham administrators can allow the environment to flourish .

1.  Mildly sacrifice the pristine landscape

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

The “Climate Change” section of Fordham’s sustainability policy reads that the school is “working to meet the City of New York’s program for carbon reduction of 30% by the year 2017.” As of now, Fordham has not yet reached it’s 30% reduction goal. According to’s Plan NYC page, only five schools, including NYU and Barnard have met the goal so far and since 2005, overall university carbon emission is down 16%.

Dr. Franks noted Fordham’s meticulously well-kept landscape as an area in which the school wastes fossil fuels.

“They keep it looking like a beautiful campus,” Franks said. “And it’s a wonderful campus and it helps attract people here. Which is important. To keep it in that state, however, we use a lot of resources and we have a big carbon footprint because of that.”

For instance, Dr. Franks points to eliminating leaf-blowers and water intensive habits needed for keeping the campus extra-green. The small change to the aesthetic of the campus, a couple more leaves and some dead grass on the lawns, would certainly help the school achieve it’s 2017 carbon emission reduction objective.

 2. Outfit the newly renovated Loyola building’s roof with passive solar energy water pipes.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

At the Fordham’s Calder Center, researchers and professors have specifically requested a green – or sustainable – building, according to Franks.

As for Rose Hill?

“It’s hard to retrofit (buildings for sustainability),” Franks said, but there are options. Passive solar energy is one option for current and future renovations. An immediate move to outfit the Loyola Center, which is under renovation right now, with black, solar-heated water pipes would drastically increase the old building’s energy efficiency.

It could “absolutely” be a viable renovation project, according to Franks.

3. Students: eat less meat, eat more veggies

People don’t have to be completely vegetarian or completely vegan,” Franks said. Helping eat sustainably is about tweaking habits. Think about what went into making a meal, and then seek an option into which less energy was expended.

New York has a big agriculture industry and Fordham can cut down on it’s environmental impact by taking advantage of locally produced food.

“I know it is more difficult here,” Franks said. Here he alludes to the fact that the Bronx is in a low-income area and as a result it is subject to high-calorie foods. This is a sad reality for Fordham students and Bronx residents alike. Yet, as Franks pointed out, things are indeed changing.

“You can get tofu anywhere now these days,” Franks said.

(link to Pandise’s article)

4. Buy a permanent water bottle

Dr. Lewis warns that ones water footprint is just as important as one’s carbon footprint. So he offers an easy solution for the average college student.

“Buy a permanent water bottle,” Dr. Lewis said.

Currently, Fordham’s bookstore sells Camelbak water bottles, in two colors with a Fordham emblazoned on the side, for $25 and assorted Nalgene water bottles, in four colors and also emblazoned, for $16.

Cutting back on water use also goes hand in hand with changing one’s diet habits. The reason sustainability folks are behind eating vegan and vegetarian is interesting, and a rather intuitive concept, which portends to water use because of the humongous amount of water that goes into raising and maintaining  popular, larger livestock, like beef, pork and chicken.

Courtesy of Fordham University

Courtesy of Fordham University

“The more you eat low on the food chain the less energy goes into that food,” Dr. Franks said. “If you eat a lot meat and other animal products, basically a lot goes into feeding that animal and that energy is eventually lost as waste and a lot of that waste goes into carbon dioxide and the atmosphere.”

 5. Stop Running the Air Conditioning During the Winter

“It’s just such a waste,” Franks said of the school’s tendency to use electricity to keep rooms cool in the winter. But it is that kind of unnecessary excessiveness that both the school and students should aim to cut out.

“It is all just like the case of turning your water off when you’re brushing your teeth,” Lewis said of sustainability and affecting positive change for the climate.

For both students as individuals and as a representative part of a larger body, and for school administrators, “It is just a matter making smart habits,” Franks said.

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