May 27, 2014

SyracuseFirst’s Chris Fowler Presented with the SUNY Empire State College Excellence in Environmental Sustainability Award

Chris Fowler, center, founder and executive director of SyracuseFirst, is presented with the college's 2014 Excellence in Environmental Sustainability Award by Nikki Shripmton, dean of the college's Central New York Center, and the 2011 award recipient Al Stirpe, (D-Cicero) who represents the people of assembly district 127.

Chris Fowler, center, founder and executive director of SyracuseFirst, is presented with the 2014 SUNY Empire State College Excellence in Environmental Sustainability Award by Nikki Shripmton, dean of the college's Central New York Center, and 2011 award recipient Al Stirpe (D-Cicero), who represents the people of assembly district 127. Photo/Tracy Zappola


(SYRACUSE, N.Y. – May 27, 2014) Chris Fowler, founder and executive director of SyracuseFirst, is the 2014 recipient of the SUNY Empire State College Excellence in Environmental Sustainability Award.

SyracuseFirst is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a sustainable community by encouraging citizens, businesses, government and nonprofit organizations to “think local first.”

“The New Economy Summit,” “Buy Local Month” and “Buy Local Bash,” the signature event of Buy Local Month and the “10% SHIFT” campaign are among the events, initiatives and other ongoing efforts hosted, created, developed, or managed by SyracuseFirst in pursuit of its objectives.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Empire State College for the work we do at SyracuseFirst,” said Fowler. “Receiving the Empire State College sustainability award is confirmation that our community is engaged in the important discussion of how we better connect people, businesses and civic organizations to strengthen our economy and protect our natural resources. By rethinking the vital role we all have in shaping the future, we can better collaborate and create a more sustainable community.”

More than 1,500 people have joined SyracuseFirst’s campaign since its March 25 launch. The campaign encourages area residents to commit to spending 10 percent of their retail dollars with independent, locally owned establishments.

According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, independent businesses in communities with active campaigns like SyracuseFirst’s experienced an average revenue growth of 8.6 percent in 2012. Businesses in communities without a “buy local” campaign reported only a 3.4 percent increase in revenue during the same time period.

“The greater Onondaga County community and economy are better off thanks to the work Chris Fowler does with SyracuseFirst,” said Merodie A. Hancock, president of the college. “Chris’s determination in getting businesses, government and civic organizations to think about and act on sustainable practices advances the economy and protects environment for the benefit of the people who live and work in Onondaga County. I congratulate Chris on receiving the Empire State College Excellence in Sustainability Award.”

“Chris Fowler is most deserving of the college’s Award for Excellence in Environmental Sustainability,” said Nikki Shrimpton, dean of the college’s Central New York Center. “Chris successfully promotes sustainability, collaboration and education at SyracuseFirst through programing, publications and media presence. The impact that he and SyracuseFirst are having on the community is ongoing and substantial.”

Fowler was presented with his award by the 2011 recipient and member of the New York State Assembly, Al Stirpe. Stirpe (D-Cicero), assembly district 127 in Central New York, on Wednesday, May 21, at the college’s East Syracuse office.

Recipients of the award must be influential in developing or otherwise implementing a policy, program or educational campaign that directly led to significant positive change towards environmental and social sustainability in the community.

The award is one of many efforts undertaken by the college’s Environmental Sustainability Committee to promote and achieve greater environmental sustainability with students, faculty and staff and the communities the college serves at its 35 locations across the state.

“At Empire State College we have a commitment to environmental sustainability, both in our operations and in our academic offerings,” said Sadie Ross, director of environmental sustainability for the college. “Operational and academic sustainability are the starting points for our efforts and at Empire State College. We strive to be not only a model for sustainable living, but also to have a positive impact in the communities we serve.”

About Chris Fowler and SyracuseFirst

Fowler created SyracuseFirst in 2009 to address economic development and sustainability issues in Onondaga County. The community-based organization, which follows the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies model, is part of the American Independent Business Alliance network of more than 350 businesses and organizations in Central New York.

AMIBA, a nonprofit organization, works to help communities launch and successfully operate Independent Business Alliance® campaigns and advance pro-local policies and other initiatives to support local entrepreneurs and develop vibrant local economies.

Previously, Fowler worked as the legislative director for a member of the state Assembly, as a legislative assistant for a Maryland congressman and as a government relations associate for a national trade association. He earned a B.A. in organizational communications from Salisbury University, Md., and was a member of the 1999 NCAA Division III National Champion men’s lacrosse team.

In addition to SyracuseFirst, Fowler sits on the Hospice of Central New York board of directors and the Syracuse Real Food Cooperative Market board and is involved with a number of other community organizations.

The recipient of many community awards, Fowler was recognized in 2010 as one of Central New York Business Journal’s “40 under 40” and earned Greening USA's "Greening our Community Advocacy Award" for economic development.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates more than 20,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 35 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35 and graduate students average age 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

Students have the opportunity to enroll five times during the year.

The college’s 70,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977.

Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More information about the college is available at


Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications

518-587-2100, ext. 2918

518-321-7038 (after hours and on weekends)