2020 State of NY Sustainability Conference

2020 State of NY Sustainability Conference

December 2nd, 3rd & 4th, 2020 | Virtual Conference

Presented by: The New York Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education (NYCHSE) 

The New York Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education (NYCSHE), Cornell University, Ithaca College, and the Conference Steering Committee are pleased to invite state-wide participation in the tenth annual State of NY Sustainability Conference. The conference will be held on December 2nd-4th, 2020, and bring together faculty, staff, and students from private and public higher education institutions from across New York State for a virtual event. Registration is open through November 30th, 2020.

Registration is closed.  If you registered for the event and are looking for information about how to participate, please check your email for "2020 State of NY Sustainability" updates sent from Eventbrite and the Cornell Campus Sustainability Office.

Moving Forward in An Upside Down World

This year's theme is "Moving Forward in an Upside-Down World: Building Resilience, Adaptation, and Opportunity" which seeks to showcase ways in which higher education institutions can maintain momentum and advance sustainability efforts on their campuses during this turbulent time. 

2020 NYCSHE Conference Deadlines

Call for Proposals

October 1st

Registration Opens

October 9th

First Conference Proposal Deadline

October 23rd

Presenters Notified 

October 30th

Keynote Speakers Announced

Early November

Sessions & Agenda Announced
 Student Conference Proposals Due

November 16th

Award Nomination Deadline

November 20th

Registration Deadline

November 30th

Conference Format

This event is a virtual conference. Students, staff, and faculty from New York State institutions are encouraged to present and attend. The conference has been designed for equitable and engaging participation during a period of budget and travel restrictions, important public health mandates, and remote-work and learning.  Here's what you can expect:

  • Spread across three days to allow for time to engage, and time to be away from screens

  • Shorter presentation formats, and an emphasis on interactive dialogue

  • Asynchronous options for you to learn and connect on a flexible schedule

  • $0 cost registration for all attendees

  • Wellness resources & activities for attendees

Presenters will showcase their work and develop interactive experiences in 2-20 minute presentations, or develop collaborative experiences for 45-60 minutes.  See the Call for Proposals for more information.  

Conference Details

Registration Details

What is the cost of this event?

This year, the NYCSHE Steering Committee has waived all fees for all attendees.  This event is free.

What is the deadline to register?

Registration opens October 9th, 2020 and will close November 30th, 2020.  You must register for this event in order to attend.

Conference Registration

For questions about registration, please contact the Cornell University Campus Sustainability Office.

Who Can Apply

Faculty, staff, and students from public and private higher education institutions across New York State may apply. For-profit companies may submit a proposal, as long as there is an institutional partner also presenting and the focus of the presentation is a case study in higher education. 

What to Present

Sessions should showcase campus sustainability projects, policy, programs, and plans in operations, education, engagement, community collaboration, innovation, research, and related topics.  Supporting this year's theme of Moving Forward in an Upside-Down World: Building Resilience, Adaptation, and Opportunity, themes to consider include:

  • Campus sustainability progress, programs, policies and initiatives

  • Emerging opportunities in turbulent times (COVID, racial justice, budget restrictions, travel bans)

  • Connecting sustainability and social justice

  • Ways to avoid losing ground while competing with other institutional priorities and/or living with budget and staffing cuts

  • Integrating sustainability deeply / at a systems-level across campus

  • Student leadership and engagement in these activities

Proposals should also consider how their work supports the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


Proposal Submission Form

Deadline for general conference proposals is October 23rd, 2020.  Students may submit student-focused proposals through November 16th.


Share the call for proposals with your network! Click to download.

NYCHE call for proposals flyer


Presentation Types

Presentations can be submitted in the following formats:

  • Mini (2 min): 5 or less slides presented in 2 minutes.  Presentations will be combined into similar themes for attendees.
  • Short (20 min): 1-2 presenters share a detailed overview of a specific project or topic. 15 min presentation, minimum 5 min Q&A.
  • Deep-dive (45 min): High level presentation with emphasis on interactive dialogue and engagement.  Example: 2 presenters share approach to food waste for 15 minutes, then all session attendees break-out into small groups to discuss lessons learned.
  • Collaborative Experience (60 min): Workshop, Networking Meeting, or Interactive Session with multiple presenters.  At least half of this time must be spent in interactive dialogue, activities, or break-outs to ensure hands-on virtual participation.
  • Pre-recorded Virtual Tour: Recommended 10 min or less (e.g. campus facility) in any format- video, audio with images, etc. Have fun and don't worry too much about quality.  Grab your cellphone and do a walk-through of your project, or edit together a few great clips of exciting things from your campus, facility, or program you'd like to share!

Conference organizers will arrange sessions to allow for short breaks in between presentations.

Presentation Requirements

Interactive Sessions
All presentations must consider ways to ensure engagement and dialogue from participants in your session.  How will you use your time to foster conversation and connection in a virtual space?  The conference will be hosted in Zoom.  Look for resources here soon.

Web Accessibility
NYCSHE strongly encourages attendees to design and present content for Web Accessibility, ensuring access to attendees with visual and auditory impairements, color-blindness, and cognitive processing barriers can access information.  

These guidelines will help both presenters and attendees ensure a just and progressive space for learning and connection.

  • Respect the gender identity of all participants. Seek to ensure engagement through respectful inclusion. Consider introducing yourself with your preferred pronouns, or changing your Zoom name to include pronouns.  Check out this flyer for more.
  • Seek to ensure equity in your conversations. Be aware of implicit bias in who speaks / takes up time.  Use moderation techniques such as asking attendees to use the "raise hand function" to allow more people more time to engage.
Nomination Form

Nominations Open for New York State Sustainability Leadership Awards

Do you know a sustainability champion worthy of recognition?

The State of New York Sustainability Leadership Awards recognize students and sustainability practitioners who have demonstrated leadership in higher education sustainability. Awards will be presented at the NY State of Sustainability Conference, Dec 2-4th, 2020. 

Submissions are due Friday, November 20th. 

Nomination Form

  Wednesday December 2nd, 2020

9:00am - 9:45am

Pre-conference Wellness Session:  Dynamic Stretches To Get Your Blood Flowing (Cornell Wellness)

Pre-conference Networking Session:  Quick Energizers to Engage Your Teams, Virtually (Cornell Outdoor Education)

10:00am - 11:45am

Pre-conference Sustainability Officers Meeting (Private)

12:00pm - 1:15pm

Conference Welcome
Host Presidents Martha Pollack, Cornell University and Shirley Collado, Ithaca College

Keynote Panel: Sustainability and Resiliency in Times of Change 
Rick Burgess, VP Facilities & Campus Services, Lynden Archer, Dean of the College of Engineering, and Neil Lewis, Faculty, Communications, Cornell University

15 minute stretch break

1:30pm - 2:15pm

Keynote Speaker: The UN’s IPCC 1.5 Report: How to reach low climate targets 
Professor Natalie Mahowald, Lead Author of the 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report

2:30pm - 3:15pm

Concurrent Workshops
What is “Sustainability” in the Times of Anti-Racist Uprisings & a Global Pandemic?
Engaging Students with the UN SDGs, Virtually

3:15pm - 4:00pm

Virtual Asynchronous Content
Wellness Session: Sustaining Yourself with Personal Sustainability (Cornell Wellness)
Cornell Utilities: Power to Learn!
Food Recovery: Caring for Your Community During COVID-19
Valuing Our Natural Resources

Thursday December 3rd, 2020

9:00am - 9:45am

Wellness Session: Moving While Meeting

10:00am - 10:45am

Keynote: New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA)
Anne Reynolds, Executive Director, Alliance for Clean Energy New York

New York Senator Rachel May will welcome Anne Reynolds

10:45am - 11:15am

Keynote: One Health Sustainability: Human, Animal, and Environmental Health are All Connected 
Professor Daryl V. Nydam, DVM, Professor: Dept. of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Science, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

11:30am - 12:15pm

Workshop: What Can We Learn from Covid to Advance Climate Action and Create a Path Toward Sustainable Development?

15 minute stretch break

12:30pm - 1:45pm

Keynote: Connecting the Dots Between the Climate Crisis and Racial Justice
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, founder of Urban Ocean Lab & Co-Founder of the All We Can Save Project

Bill Nye "The Science Guy" will welcome Dr. Johnson

15 minute stretch break

2:00pm - 3:00pm

Concurrent Sessions (4 Breakout Rooms, Short Presentations)

Engagement Room
Learning Sustainability and the 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership
Sustainability Passport Program: An effective framework to foster
sustainable behavior on campus
Mission Sustainability: To-Do List Module

Curriculum Room
Teaching “With” and Not “About” Sustainability
A Class to Jumpstart Climate Leadership for 1st Year Students
Integrating Sustainable Design Interdisciplinary Courses into Higher Education Curriculum: Toward a Green Future

Partnerships Room
The Academic Library as a Sustainability Partner: Cultivating sustainability resilience and opportunities by building community collaboration
Alternative, Unordinary, Creative: Effective Sustainability Partnerships
Creating Opportunities for Collaborative, Campus-Wide Global Learning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Innovation Room
Scope 3 Analysis of Cornell University’s Carbon Budget
Cornell’s STARS Report Toolkit
Introducing the PowerHouse: A Renewable Energy Outreach Tool

15 minute break

3:15pm - 4:00pm

Virtual Happy Hour: Sip & Sustain! 
Can we have a fun, connected networking hour...virtually?  You bet we can!  Bring your craziest cup or mug and your beverage of choice, and join us for a fun and connected networking event. We'll start with 10 minutes of facilitated relaxation, followed by interactive networking. You won't want to miss it! 
 (Cornell Wellness and Ithaca College)

Friday December 4th, 2020

9:00am - 9:45am

Prerecorded Wellness Sessions (Cornell Wellness)

10:00am - 10:45am

Concurrent Sessions (Four Sessions, 45 minutes)

• Building Collaborative Sustainability Networks at SUNY New Paltz: A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Workshop
• Is the “price” right? Weighing the costs and benefits of extended campus involvement
• Quadruple Bottom Line Business Analysis Framework
• Wellness Session: De-Stress Desk Stretches (30 min)

15 minute break

11:00am - Noon

Collaborative Experiences (Three Sessions, 60 min)

• Renewable Energy, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
• The 2041 Project: Imagining a Positive Climate Future Using the Tools of Worldbuilding
• Zero Net Carbon with Passive House Principles Post-Training Roundtable
• Environmental Justice & Racial Justice Intersectionality 101

10 minute break

12:15pm - 1:50pm

Keynote: Raven the Science Maven: We’re All in This Together 
Raven Baxter is an American molecular biologist, rapper, and science communicator and founder of STEMbassy, a science advocacy organization and web series. 

Vendor Showcase
2 min lightening presentations by vendors followed by breakout rooms for connection

15 minute break

2:00pm - 3:00pm

Concurrent Sessions (4 Breakout Rooms, Short Presentations)

Sustainability and the Economy Room
• Career Opportunities in Sustainability & Business
• Bringing the Circular Economy to College Campuses
One Coffee Cup at a Time
• Creating a Community Conversation about Plastic Pollution Solutions:
The Plastic Challenge Podcast

Engagement Room
•  Exploring Student Engagement During the Pandemic
•  Lessons from a Student Environmental Leader: How to Retain
and Engage Student Members
•  Immersion Experiences at the Ecovillage in Our Own Backyard

Justice & Community Building Room
•  Building Coalitions and an Equitable Recovery in NYC
•  Environmental Activism in Latin America: From Allende to Morales

Adapting Initiatives during COVID Room
•  Union College: Fall 2020 Student Initiatives
•  Lessons From A Virtual Bike Film Festival
•  Free Store for All: Managing Clothing Waste on a COVID College Campus
•  Cornell Thrift
•  Cornell Compost
•  Anabel’s Grocery
•  RIT FoodShare: Reimagined
•  Unique Collaborations in Time of Virtual Learning

15 minute break

3:15pm - 4:15pm

Concurrent Workshops
•  SUNY Sustainability Coalition Diversity and Inclusion Action Planning 
•  Using Food to Tell the Climate Change Story: We all eat

Wednesday December 2nd, 2020

Martha Pollack, Cornell University
President Martha Pollack
Shirley Collado, Ithaca College President
President Shirley Collado

12:00pm: Conference Welcome with Host Presidents Martha Pollack, Cornell University and Shirley Collado, Ithaca College

President Martha Pollack, Cornell University, and President Shirley Collado, Ithaca College, will welcome conference participants from across New York State to the 2020 New York State of Sustainability Conference, touching on campus accolades such as Cornell's plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2035 and recent STARS Platinum Rating, and Ithaca College's holistic approach to sustainability inclusive of human, ecological, and financial needs.

Martha E. Pollack is the fourteenth president of Cornell University and professor of computer science, information science, and linguistics. She sees Cornell’s foundational commitment to diversity and equity as central to our identity and success, and has engaged the entire university in the work of building an open, inclusive community whose members communicate effectively across difference.  

Shirley M. Collado is the ninth president of Ithaca College. She is known nationally for designing and implementing innovative approaches to higher education that expand student access and success, and has extensive experience overseeing complex not-for-profit organizations in both the private and public sectors of higher education. 

Rick Burgess, Cornell University
Vice President Rick Burgess, Cornell
Lynden Archer
Dean Lynden Archer, Cornell
Neil Lewis
Dr. Neil Lewis, Cornell

12:30pm: Sustainability and Resiliency in Times of Change

Connecting the dots between fiscal challenges, racial justice, and health and operational concerns due to the COVID19 pandemic, join administrators and faculty as they discuss how keeping sustainability on the table has allowed for an even more innovation and potential for the Cornell community, and why disruption can sometimes lead to a stronger future. 

  • Rick Burgess, Vice President of Facilities & Campus Services, Cornell University

  • Lynden Archer, Dean of the College of Engineering at Cornell University

  • Dr. Neil Lewis, Faculty of Communications, Cornell University

Moderated by Sarah Zemanick, Director of the Campus Sustainability Office, Cornell University & Dan DeZarn, Director of Sustainability, SUNY Geneseo

Natalie Mahowald
Dr. Natalie Mahowald, Cornell

1:30pm: The UN’s IPCC 1.5 Report: How to reach low climate targets

Natalie Mahowald, one of the lead authors of the 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report and the Irving Porter Church Professor in Engineering at Cornell University will present results from the IPCC 1.5 special report on how to reach low climate targets as well as achieve sustainable development goals.  Reaching low climate targets will require substantial changes to behavior, switches to sustainable energy and the development of new technologies in carbon dioxide removal as well as other non-power sector CO2 emission areas.  How can nations and higher education partners engage in the work to do to this, while allowing developing countries to continue to develop, but along more sustainable pathways?

Moderated by Enid Cardinal, Senior Advisor to the President for Strategic Planning and Sustainability, Rochester Institute of Technology

Thursday December 3rd, 2020

Anne Reynolds
Anne Reynolds, Alliance for Clean Energy New York
Senator Rachel May
New York Senator Rachel May 

10:00am: New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA)

Anne Reynolds is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY), an Albany-based nonprofit organization formed in 2006 to promote clean and renewable energy and energy efficiency. Ms. Reynolds has over 20 years of experience in the energy and environmental arena. Most recently she served as a Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in the role of chief financial and operations officer, overseeing an annual budget of over $900 million and a portfolio that includes facility operations and construction, budgeting and fiscal management, capital planning, human resources, department-wide planning, and information technology. At DEC she also served as Assistant Commissioner for Policy and Planning, which included legislative affairs, and the Director of the Commissioner’s Policy Office.

Anne Reynolds will be welcomed by Senator Rachel May. Senator Rachel May represents Central New York’s 53 rd District, which includes most of the City of Syracuse, parts of Onondaga and Oneida counties, and all of Madison County. She chairs the Senate Committee on Aging and the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, and is a member of the committees on agriculture, elections, environmental conservation, higher education, and Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation.

Senator Rachel May serves in New York's 53rd senate district, covering parts of Onondaga, Oneida, and Madison counties.

Daryl Nydam
Dr. Daryl Van Nydam, Cornell

10:45am: One Health Sustainability: Human, Animal, and Environmental Health are All Connected

Human health and well-being are linked to the health of wildlife, livestock, and the environment. This One Health framework allows us to see the connections between sustainability challenges, linking the protection of natural ecosystems to the improvement of human health – including the our timely challenge of COVID-19.  Understand some examples of the One Health framework from one of the leading practitioners Dr. Daryl Nydam, whose research focuses on the intersection of agriculture and public health with sustainable dairy production.

Daryl Van Nydam, DVM, is a Professor in the Dept. of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Science at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.  Read his full bio here.

Aryana Johnson
Dr. Ayana Johnson
Bill Nye
Bill Nye

12:30pm: Connecting the dots between climate issues and racial justice:

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, writer, and Brooklyn native. She is founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for coastal cities, and is co-creator and co-host of the Spotify/Gimlet podcast How to Save a Planet. With Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, she co-edited the anthology All We Can Save, and co-founded The All We Can Save Project.  Recently, Dr. Johnson co-created the Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including the ocean in climate policy. She curates and hosts the Science & Society series at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. Ayana was co-director of partnerships for the March for Science, creating a coalition of over 300 organizations that inspired over 1 million people around the world to take to the streets to support the role of science in policymaking. S In this talk she will explore the intersections of science, policy, culture, and justice.

Dr. Johnson will be welcomed by Bill Nye "The Science Guy", science communicator, television presenter, and mechanical engineer, Cornell '77.  As a comedian, author, and inventor, Bill is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. 


Moderated by: Shorna Allred, Associate Professor of Natural Resources & the Environment, Cornell University

Friday December 4th, 2020

Raven Baxter
Raven Baxter

12:15pm: Raven the Science Maven: We're All in This Together

Raven Baxter, also known as Raven the Science Maven, is an award-winning and internationally acclaimed science communicator and molecular biologist and rapper who works to progress the state of science education and culture by creating spaces that are inclusive, educational, and real.Baxter is a doctoral student at the University at Buffalo and is the founder of Science Haven, a non-profit organization that operates at the intersections of science, education, and the public. Science Haven houses STEMbassy, a live web series that connects the public with science and technology professionals, and Black In Science Communication, a group that works to build relationships in the science community, equipping others with the knowledge and resources necessary to share science with the world in their own flavor.

She is recognized in Fortune magazine's "40 Under 40" list for 2020. Join her for a talk about understanding the power of your voice and living unapologetically to build bridges between sustainability, science, and the public.

Partner Level

Friend Level

Associate Level

Thank you to the 2020 NYCSHE Conference Steering Committee!

  • Kimberly Anderson    Cornell University    Chair of NYCSHE 2020 Conference, Sustainability Engagement Manager
  • Ryan McPherson    University at Buffalo    Chief Sustainability Officer
  • Dan DeZarn    SUNY Geneseo    Director of Sustainability
  • Marian Brown    Wells College    Director, Center for Sustainability and the Environment
  • Greg Lischke, P.E.    Ithaca College    Director of Energy Management & Sustainability
  • John Pumillo    Colgate University    Director of Sustainability
  • Karen Pearson, Ph.D.    Fashion Institute Technology NYC    Professor and Chair of Science and Mathematics and Chair FIT's Sustainability Council
  • Valarie Avalone    Monroe Community College    Director of Planning, Institutional Planning/Effectiveness/Accountability
  • Enid Cardinal    Rochester Institute of Technology    Senior Advisor to the President for Strategic Planning and Sustainability
  • Careen Arsenault    Cornell University    Co-chair of NYCSHE 2020 Conference Sustainability Administrator
  • Sarah Brylinsky    Cornell University    Sustainability Communications & Integration Manager
  • Sarah Zemanick    Cornell University    Director, Campus Sustainability Office
  • Lisa Kilgore    Cornell University    Communications Project Assistant

State of New York Sustainability Leadership Awards

Lauren StebbinsLauren Stebbins, Union College 
2020 Student Sustainability Leadership Award

Lauren is a very active student leader in sustainability on campus. She has worked very hard during the pandemic to preserve and initiate old and new sustainability projects. As the co-chair of our main Sustainability organization, U-Sustain, she led two successful projects this term. These included distributing re-usable tote bags to campus, even with all the restrictions due to the pandemic. She also facilitated the construction of a new display case to educate the campus about the dangers of Fast Fashion. She has also completed a grant this term to install new signage along our stream on campus to prevent pollution. Lauren is also the House Manager of Union's sustainability theme house, and organized campus clean ups this term with proper social distancing measures.

Through the organizations she is either a leader or a member of, Lauren is working hard to organize a multi-university virtual conference in the Spring of 2021 in order to connect students interested in sustainability and environmental activism around New York state. Additionally, her senior thesis project in Political Science and Biology has allowed her to interact with and learn from the greater community in the capitol region. She has been interviewing ecologists, activists and the general public and researching the human and natural threats to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Lauren is also working on law school applications, as she would like to pursue a career in environmental law after graduation from Union.

Ryan McPhersonRyan McPherson, University at Buffalo, Chief Sustainability Officer
2020 Staff Sustainability Leadership Award

Ryan has exhibited superior professional achievement through his service as current Chair of the NYCSHE steering committee and past chair of the SUNY Sustainability Coalition(SCC). His accomplishments are many so I will highlight a few of the more impactful actions. His leadership at University at Buffalo has garnered a million dollar grant to catalyze 100 megawatts of new clean energy through an innovative community partnership. Ryan is a high impact writer and presenter, not stopping at operational achievements but rather seeking to expand the intellectual vibrancy of the field. In addition to leading both the SSC and NYCSHE, he was the chief author and organizer of "A Framework for a more Sustainable SUNY", which received high praise and enthusiasm from both the public and private institutions and is currently helping to shape the approach to global learning at SUNY.

Ryan consistently fosters the public good by using internal and external collaborations. He was instrumental in community engagement work that launched the Western NY Sustainable Business Roundtable and he sits on their board. Additionally, Ryan serves on the boards of the Nature Conservancy, GoBike Buffalo and the Western Environmental Alliance. Ryan truly embodies the characteristics and achievements of an innovative change agent and is very deserving of NYCSHE's leadership award.