Since 2007, Rider has been a model of environmental friendliness and sustainable practices. That year, the university joined the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, an organization made up of colleges and universities across the United States and Canada, all working together to create a sustainable future. In 2010, the Spiezle Architectural Group Inc. conducted a campus-wide study and created a long-term plan for Rider to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Most of us have never heard of a phenomenon called the “Dome Effect.” According to a 2010 study done by Stanford researcher Mark Jacobson, a major flaw in carbon- reducing initiatives is general policy rather than specific location. The Dome Effect is the idea that matter from burned carbon dioxide can blanket the air and cause high concentrations of these molecules to linger and increase the temperature of the area below it. Jacobson found that the domes of increased carbon dioxide concentrations — discovered to form above cities more than a decade ago — cause local temperature increases. This, in turn, increases the amount of local air pollutants and raises concentrations of health-damaging, ground-level ozone as well as particles.
In 2017, there have been studies done looking at the impact of the Dome Effect on solar energy. Mike Bergin of Duke University found that solar panels in urban areas had about a 17 to 25 percent reduction in solar energy outputs. This translates to a loss of about $10 billion per year in U.S. energy costs. He explained that the particulate matter in the air accumulates and the haze that is created can block sunlight from reaching solar panels. If the particles land on the panel’s flat surface, they reduce the area exposed to the sun. Dust can come from natural sources, but most of the pollutants have human-made origins, including cars, factories and power plants.
These results were found in urban areas of China, India and the Arabian Peninsula.
Lawrenceville is a relatively small community with a population of about 3,825, according to the Census Bureau data released last December. Rider installed 2,640 solar panels in 2014 through a partnership with PSE&G under its Solar4All program. While it seems unlikely that we will immediately see the consequences of the Dome Effect, we can never be too careful.
About one-third of all Rider students commute to campus. There are also commuters in larger towns like Princeton, Trenton and Ewing with populations of 16,262, 84,056 and 35,707, respectively.
When asked about his transportation habits, Rider commuter Samuel Garcia said, “I live in Princeton, so I generally take the shuttle or carpool. Knowing my regular routine is helpful toward Rider’s mission is reassuring and feels good.”
While saving the environment is necessary, it does not need to feel like a chore. Things like riding your bike or not letting your car idle in the mornings really make a difference when you have thousands of people doing the same. This school is committed to helping the environment, but it can only do so much by itself. It requires the help of every student to facilitate a shift in energy use, which in turn, helps us reach our carbon neutral goal by 2050.
— Rahul Mehta
Printed in the 10/4/17 issue.