At UAlbany Sustainability is a Group Effort

In the spring of 2015, the University at Albany took a huge step towards a sustainable future…they put new trash and recycling bins on the first floor of the University Library! Now, many may find this a small drop in a big bucket, but actions like these are what it means to go green – evaluating current practices and making changes that embrace a sustainable future. According to Mary Ellen Mallia, Director of Sustainability, students and library staff have been instrumental in getting pilot programs launched. The Recycling Redo that took place at University Library was a collaboration between the Sustainability office, a crew of student workers, and library staff interested in sustainability. Workers went so far as to take part in a “waste audit” that would determine how items in library bins were being disposed of in high traffic areas. They grabbed some gloves and a tarp, and sorted bags of trash, to determine where paper, plastic, and compost were going.

After a thorough (and probably messy) investigation, it was decided that the library needed containers that met the following requirements: pair bins together, color code them, and put signage directly on the bin, rather than on posts or walls. In the February 2016 Sustainability Bulletin, Green Scene, library workers are featured using the new containers. Also featured is an explanation of the single stream recycling system.

The Office of Environmental Sustainability, created in 2008, was started because of a broad goal set forth by President Kermit Hall, in 2006:

"As a public higher education institution, the University at Albany has both an obligation and an opportunity to be a leader in environmental sustainability. Our institution can and should set an example as an environmentally responsible citizen—a model for other colleges and universities as well as a model for our own students and the community in everyday life.”

With this in mind, Mary Ellen Mallia, and her team, work with a multitude of individuals and organizations to ensure the UAlbany community embraces best practices that are environmentally sound, economically feasible, and socially equitable [Triple-bottom line] “around the CORE” – Curriculum, Operations, Research, Engagement. The University Library embraces the practice through continued collaboration on displays and events that take place in the library, including the annual Energy Campaign and Trashion Fashion. By utilizing the spaces available in the library, the Office of Sustainability ensures that students see the excellent work they are doing, and pledging to do, to stay green on campus.

Fore more info, visit the University at Albany's Office of Sustainability site, or contact Mary Ellen Mallia, PhD, Director of Environmental Sustainability University at Albany Business Administration at 309 518-442-2601 or


University of Albany Trash Audit.

Universtiy of Albany Recycle Mania Tournament banner, featuring photocollage of bear mascots and students recycling.



The Sustainability Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights community-driven, environmentally sound, and economically responsible programs and projects in libraries and other organizations. You can find more projects in the Sustainability Spotlight Archive or visit NYLA's Sustainability Initiative to learn more about how you can get started with sustainability in your library.