By Emily Landgraf
As the esteemed Kermit the Frog once said, “It’s not easy being green.” However, Rider is making progress in its sustainability efforts, according to Amanda Pinto, graduate assistant for sustainability.
In its second year of participation, Rider earned a B- on the 2011 Green Report Card, an increase of two steps from last year’s C.
“It’s a slow and steady process,” Pinto said. “We’re lucky to have a sustainability coordinator; most schools don’t have one at all, and if they do have one, it’s a volunteer group.”
Other schools in New Jersey that participated include Princeton (A-), Rutgers-New Brunswick (B), Seton Hall University (B-) and Rowan University (D+)
The Sustainable Endowment Institute issues the grades. Participating colleges and universities across the country were judged on nine different categories including Administration, which “examines sustainability policies and commitments by school administrators and trustees,” Student Involvement, which looks at student participation in sustainability initiatives and support for these activities by school administrators” and Food and Recycling, which “evaluates dining services policies, including recycling and composting programs.”
According to Rebecca Caine, a senior research fellow at the institute, the data for the report card is collected through four different surveys. The grades are based on a ranking system, which puts schools in order according to their green efforts.
“We take into account student body size, administration size, building space, endowment and where a school is in relation to every other school,” Caine said.
Rider’s grades in several categories jumped significantly. The University went from a C in Student Involvement in the 2010 report card to an A in 2011.
Junior Amanda Taibe, a transfer student, is new to the Green Report Card and pleased with Rider’s grade.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “I’m really into that kind of stuff, so I’m glad I’m at a university where a green environment matters.”
The jump in the Student Involvement category can be attributed to the Eco-Reps on both the Lawrenceville and Westminster campuses.
On the Lawrenceville campus, the Eco-Reps have inspired several significant changes. A sustainability minor is in the works and sustainability is now an important focus in freshman seminars. Energy meters have also been installed in all residence halls and Rider’s food waste is now turned into organic compost.
Westminster’s Eco-Reps have also been hard at work. They created an energy information table for their campus and have been encouraging students to become more green.
According to Pinto, the increase in student involvement in green efforts on campus is significant.
“It’s great that we’re having such an impact,” she said. “That means we’re doing our job because our number one job is to get awareness out there.”
Rider also went from a D in Green Building in 2010 to a B in 2011, due largely to the completion of West Village.
Junior Keith Warncke lives in West Village this year, and is appreciative of his room’s energy efficiency.
“I really like the room, not only because it’s huge compared to a regular dorm, but because it’s energy efficient,” he said. “My roommate and I have our own washing machine and dryer and they’re great. It takes longer to get clean clothes, but I think it’s worth it.”
According to Pinto, West Village will soon be joined by another LEED-certified building on campus.
“West Village has silver LEED certification,” Pinto said. Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) certification is an internationally recognized system that certifies that a building was constructed using strategies to improve energy consumption, water efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions, among other things.
“The new academic building will be at least silver, but we’re going for gold or platinum,” Pinto said. When undergoing the certification process there are 100 base points, six points for Innovation in Design and four points for Regional Priority that a building can earn. To attain gold LEED certification, a building must accumulate 60-79 points and 80 or more for platinum LEED certification.
Pinto hopes that the addition of another LEED-certified building on campus will help the university to earn a better grade on the report card next year.
The new academic building is not the only thing that Rider is looking into to improve its standing.
“For transportation, we are looking into a bike share program,” Pinto said. “We’re going to try it on the [Westminster] campus first because they’re in a prime location.”
If the program were to be adopted, students would pay a small fee per semester and have unlimited access to green transportation: bikes.
According to Sustainability Coordination Manager Melissa Greenberg, Rider is currently looking into installing solar panels.
“We’ve done a lot of work to initiate a solar project with PSE&G (Public Service Electric and Gas Company) to initiate a solar project on the Lawrenceville campus,” she said.
Greenberg said that the contracts for the project are currently under review. If the project goes through, it should be completed by the end of the 2011 calendar year.
Rider has also finished its Carbon Neutrality Plan, a required commitment for schools whose presidents have signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Rider plans to be carbon neutral by 2050, which counts toward the Administration portion of the grade.
Unfortunately, some of the grades Rider receives in certain categories severely affect the grade, Greenberg said.
“The one section that really brings the grade down is endowment,” she said. “There’s no transparency with it. They don’t release the information to anybody, so it causes a really low score for that section.”
According to Greenberg, the fact that Rider does not have specific funds set up for sustainability projects also hurts the university on the Green Report Card.
“We need to set up a fund where donors can earmark money for sustainability projects,” she said.
However, Greenberg is hopeful that Rider students can make the university a more environmentally friendly place.
“There’s been a noticeable change in student involvement since I got here,” she said. “For this year, we had 50 applications for Eco-Reps and there are only 10 spots for both campuses. Sustainable Rider, which is the student volunteer group, has also been more active.”
Greenberg thinks that students should be on the lookout for all of the information those involved with sustainability put out.
“Join the Facebook groups that the Eco-Reps on both campuses do,” she said. “There’s so much information we’re putting out there, and I really hope students will go looking for it. There are so many things that students can do. The more students get involved, the better.”
Rider was also named one of The Princeton Review’s 286 Green Colleges.
“Recognition like this was a great achievement,” Pinto said.
Pinto encouraged Rider students to be more conscious about their habits and to realize that going green doesn’t mean “living by candlelight.”
“It’s just small steps,” she said. “[Students] just have to realize you’re one person, but one person can make change. Slight changes make a difference.”
Caine was impressed by Rider’s efforts and believes that continued support for sustainability will make a big difference.
“I think [Rider] can definitely raise [its] grade another two steps or more next year,” she said.
Greenberg wants students to be proud of the gains Rider has made in the field of sustainability and going green.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way,” she said.