Rider tries to lighten footprint on planet
By Julia Ernst
On a campus where students print out seven-page papers seven times, leave electronic gizmos running all day and drive to the mall to pick up a single item, changes are in the works to “green” things up for the environment.
Dr. Laura Hyatt, of the biology department, is helping lead a new campuswide initiative to make Rider more sustainable. Although still relatively new, many efforts have been made to improve Rider’s “green” status, including a pledge to join other universities in the fight against global warming.
“Operations on this campus generate CO2,” explained Hyatt. “We have committed to making that zero, so that we don’t emit any more carbon than we absorb.”
President Mordechai Rozanski signed Rider on to join the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment on April 12. The pledge will reduce and one day hopefully neutralize greenhouse gas emissions on 414 campuses across the nation.
Rider “will demonstrate leadership on this pressing worldwide issue by serving as a model for minimizing global warming emissions in our community and by educating our students to achieve climate neutrality,” said Rozanski. “This fits squarely with our educational goals and social responsibilities.”
Cathy Carter-Romero, director of University publications, elaborated on the climate pledge.
“It’s about being a responsible, environmentally conscious member of society,” said Carter-Romero. “The Energy and Sustainability Committee has conducted an energy audit and prepared a plan establishing a mission, policies, principles and goals for the University’s programs.”
Hyatt said the University “has earmarked the amount of $300,000 to do everything from changing lighting fixtures to holding sustainability fairs to paying the salary of a person who will work to coordinate these activities on campus.”
Although there is no manager of sustainability at the moment, the University has started the process of hiring someone.
“There is a strong consensus on the committee to help create the position of a Sustainability Coordinator,” said Julie Karns, vice president of Finance.
“The committee has initiated the process of writing a job description and we’ll begin to search for someone externally,” said Hyatt. “Meanwhile, we
are probably going to be hiring a part-time person to get a variety of priority projects underway in the short term.”
For the first time ever, there is a sustainability course here at Rider.
“There are nine students in it,” said Hyatt, who teaches the honors biology class. “We’re looking at where the electricity we use goes, where our food goes and where all the paper recycling goes.”
The cleaning service that Rider uses, UNICCO, is also working toward a “greener” Rider. UNICCO has almost “completely converted” to environmentally friendly cleaning products, according to Hyatt.
“They’ve done a really great job,” she said. “They changed to 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper towels.”
One of the largest efforts in the sustainability campaign so far this year is the switch to recycled letterhead.
“The paper we chose, Neenah Environment, is made of 100 percent post-consumer waste using green energy and responsible forest planning,” said Carter-Romero. “New official University correspondence is now being printed on the environmentally friendly paper.”
But the old stationary will not be discarded, Carter-Romero said.
“We are also trying to reduce the waste created by changing to new letterhead by collecting old letterhead and envelopes and recycling them into notepads and interoffice communications,” she said.
Beyond these efforts, Hyatt mentioned a proposed project being discussed that would have a much greater impact: a LEED-certified “green” residence hall. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating system is “the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Web site.
The plan is to build the next residence hall near Maurer Gym, according to Hyatt. The building, with a target completion date of May 2009, would be Rider’s most environmentally conscious, with waterless urinals and solar shingles. The building would reduce energy costs and water use.
Students voiced mixed opinions about the new sustainability efforts and the impact they will have.
“It makes us more conscientious of our environment,” said sophomore Jess Tack. “When we get out and get our own homes, we are going to be paying these bills. Right now, it’s kind of like a hidden cost, and it doesn’t really affect us upfront. I think this will make us more responsible.”
Sophomore Alex Corini had a different take on things.
“I feel there’s no effort that I’ve seen, with the exception of recycling bins,” said Corini. “I haven’t really heard any environmental projects myself.”
Although there is still a long way to go before Rider will be considered a truly sustainable campus, the efforts that have been initiated mark a change of direction.
“I think it is great that Rider is finally attempting to turn the campus into a more sustainable environment,” said Dr. Barbara Franz, associate professor of political science. “I just hope that this will not end up being a half-hearted effort, but will really turn the campus into a ‘greener’ learning and living environment and also alter the minds of students and faculty alike.”
“It’s important for all of us to be concerned about the environment,” said Carter-Romero. “We can always do more, and we can all make a difference if we start now.”