Sustainable Community Development Capstone – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Sustainable Community Development Capstone

This spring, a group of Hobart and William Smith students in a “Sustainable Community Development Capstone” course taught by Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robin Lewis and Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Tarah Rowse teamed up with the Town of Geneva to conduct research and offer recommendations to improve solid waste management in the Town.

The students will present their final evidence-based recommendations at a public presentation and forum on Tuesday, May 3. The meeting is scheduled from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Geneva Town Hall, 3750 County Road 6, and will be facilitated by HWS students and faculty.

Through a formal memorandum of understanding with the Town, the students have worked under the guidance of Town of Geneva Supervisor Mark Venuti and Town of Geneva Assistant Supervisor Mark Palmieri as well as other residents and community leaders who serve on a special steering committee overseeing the research.

“We are grateful for the help of Professors Lewis and Rowse and their students, and want to hear from Town residents and business owners, who I’m sure will have comments and ideas we will want to incorporate into our discussions and plans,” Venuti says. “It’s going to take a concerted effort by local government and state and federal policymakers to keep us moving away from a throw-away society, but that’s where we have to go for a brighter future.” 

Earlier this semester, students presented their findings on best practices for solid waste management to the steering committee. The presentation covered a range of solid waste management methods – from backyard composting to “swap shops,” educational tools and legislation -available for Geneva to consider implementing.

Students spent the first half of the semester preparing for the “precedent analysis” portion of the project, in which they researched methods implemented in towns with similar needs as Geneva. The class was split into three topic-based focus groups, including trash and recycling, organics and household hazardous waste and e-waste. 

“The students are working directly with community members to develop the recommendations best suited for the Town’s needs,” Rowse says. “The primary effect of community-based research is that it better engages and motivates the students in terms of outcomes. This increased engagement creates an effective platform for building skills and gaining experience in the process of community-based change.”

Students in the class agree, feeling a heightened connection to the project has advanced their skills and allowed them to leave an impact on the community.

“One of the most important things about the sustainable community development minor is that we do this hands-on research that actually makes a difference,” says Emily Blanchard ’17. “It’s interesting to make a difference within our community, especially with something as important as solid waste management.”

Mac Olson ’16, a member of the Hobart hockey team, says the project gave him and two of his teammates in the class the opportunity to work with the community members who “come out every weekend to our games to support us.”

“It feels great to support them in return,” he says.

Venuti says he’s working to close the county landfill by 2028 when the lease with the operator expires. “It may seem like 2028 is a long way off, but it isn’t,” he says. “By then we can’t be generating a lot of waste that needs to be landfilled or is otherwise not reusable or recyclable.”

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