CANTON — When Rajiv Narula moved to the United States from India, he noticed energy use per person was wildly different from what he was used to.
“I was born and raised in India and grew up where having access to electricity was a struggle. I have done homework by the light of a kerosene lamp,” Mr. Narula said. “Coming here and seeing people waste so much ... it breaks my heart.”
Mr. Narula, who is an assistant professor at SUNY Canton, said this inspired him to found the Environmental Change Organization — the campus’s sustainability club.
“There was a need for a green club because we didn’t have one and I took on that responsibility,” Mr. Narula said. “We have a great team made up of really dedicated individuals. I’m glad so many students love the idea and work really hard to make whatever we do a great success.”
Mr. Narula’s classes will often collaborate with the club to work on environmental projects. Last semester in Mr. Narula’s introductory environmental science class, one student thought of building a bee and butterfly garden on campus. According to Mr. Narula, different species of bees and butterflies are declining in number, primarily due to habitat loss and pesticides. Mr. Narula applied for many grants to get the garden built.
“I was thinking of the idea myself, but I was glad to hear it from one of my students,” Mr. Narula said. “The ECO club and the class both helped.”
Mr. Narula said he has applied for two more grants to improve the garden this semester. The club has also been in contact with other campus clubs to potentially make bird baths, sun dials and other enhancements for the garden.
“One of the grants is to pay for setting up educational signage at the garden so it becomes a learning experience,” he said. “The other grant is to make it look nicer because, right now, it’s just plants.”
Another project Mr. Narula and the Environmental Change Organization has been working on is their compost pile, which gets turned into natural fertilizer to be used for flower beds on campus. The compost is made up of leaves and yard waste from village residents and food scraps from SUNY Canton’s Chaney Dining Hall.
The club celebrated their “first dump” of the semester, where leaves and other yard waste were dumped onto the compost pile.
Jessica L. Fischer, an alternative and renewable energy major and member of the Environmental Change Organization, said compost benefits the environment in more ways than one.
“Using the compost as fertilizer is an alternative to using chemical fertilizers,” she said. “And it helps prevent waste from going into the landfill.”
One of Mr. Narula’s long-term goals is to start a tree nursery on campus.
“We’ve mostly gone and identified where we can get saplings next spring. Next semester when I teach the class again, we can all go out and plant them in a dedicated space facilities will give us,” Mr. Narula said. “We can continue these local breeds (of trees) on campus and spread them.”
Mr. Narula said his passion is spreading awareness on how to actively help the planet, and change starts with small steps that “spread like a ripple effect.”
“At the end of the day, it’s a very good feeling,” he said.