Rider earns ‘C’ despite efforts to go green

By Amber Cox
Students are struggling to carry multiple plates without trays in Daly’s, recycling bins are taking over hallways and classrooms, and the university president has signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

Yet Rider only received a “C” on its 2010 College Sustainability Report Card. The data for the report cards were collected from June to September 2009.

A total of nine categories were averaged to get the overall grade for the report card. “Category grades were calculated based on the total number of points earned for the indicators within the category,” according to the Web site www.greenreportcard.org, which distributed the report cards of each participating school.

Only nine New Jersey schools participated in the report card. Drew University, Princeton University, Ramapo College and Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus all received the grade of “B.” Rider, Rowan University, Stevens Institute of Technology and William Patterson University received “Cs”, and Seton Hall University received a “D.”

Rider’s Sustainability Coordination Manager Melissa Greenberg said that making the campus green is a process that is still in the works, and the university still has a long way to go.

“Sustainability as a priority is in its stages at Rider,” she said. “Although we have made significant progress over the last few years, we have a long way to go. On this survey, there is no accounting for projects started or being planned. Unless we have completed the item in question, we were unable to take credit for any part of that item. There’s no doubt that we need to improve, and it’s going to take cooperation from our faculty, staff and students to do so.”

Rider administrators can be proud that their category was the only one to receive an “A.”  The university has a full-time sustainability coordination manager, Greenberg; an Energy and Sustainability Committee that meets monthly; a sustainability office created in 2008; and President Mordechai Rozanski signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007.

This document states that “the undersigned presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities are deeply concerned about the unprecedented scale and speed of global warming and its potential for large-scale, adverse health, social, economic and ecological effects.”

Dr. Laura Hyatt, associate professor of biology, believes that a lot of faculty on campus feel strongly about the issue and “are just now figuring out how to bring it into the classroom.”

“Food and Recycling” and “Investment Priorities” both received a grade of “B” on the report card.

Rider spends 22 percent of its annual food budget on purchasing local items and cage-free eggs, fair-trade certified coffee and sustainably harvested seafood. Cranberry’s and the Bronc Diner have gotten rid of Styrofoam containers and Daly’s went trayless. All cooking oil used from any of the dining areas is recycled to produce biodiesel fuel. Rider also composts or mulches all of its landscaping waste off site.

“With trays, it’s easier to load up the amount of food taken at any given meal,” Greenberg said. “Without trays, students are more selective and often take only what they intend to eat. It’s reduced the amount of food consumption and waste.”

Rider received a “B” in the “Investment Priorities” category because it is currently exploring, but not invested in, renewable energy funds or related investment vehicles.

The university received the grade of “C” in three areas: “Climate Change and Energy,” “Student Involvement” and “Transportation.”

The low grade for “Climate Change and Energy” is because Rider purchases only 35 percent of electricity from renewable sources. The university has also completed a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and has conducted heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) audits in two buildings. Improvements are needed in a number of buildings and plans are in the works to implement them.

“Student Involvement” evaluated a number of groups on campus. The Energy and Sustainability Steering Committee is open to any student; Sustainable Rider is a student-run group that works to give other students knowledge about the environmental issues on campus; Greeks Go Green raises awareness for campus Greeks about making the community more environmentally friendly, and 10 student Eco-Reps — six on the Lawrenceville campus and four at Westminster — are available to help others with issues involving the environment.

Greenberg said that two questions had to be answered negatively: “Does your group organize any sustainability/competitions for your campus and/or with other colleges?” and “Does your student government include a specific position or committee dedicated to sustainability issues?”  These “nos” are the cause for Rider’s low grade for student involvement.

“Some students still think that they can’t make a difference, which is frustrating,” Hyatt said. “Climate change and the sustainability of the Earth’s systems is the great challenge of the 21st century, and it’s up to your generation to figure out how to tackle it. There are some amazing students who are rising to the challenge, and [although] they warm the cockles of my heart, there’s room for lots more.”

The “Transportation” category looked at university-owned vehicles, including a free shuttle available to students between the Princeton and Lawrenceville campuses and local shopping and dining areas.

“For the 94 institutional vehicles we have, only three are hybrids and five are electric,” Greenberg said.

For “Green Building” Rider received a “D.” This is partly because West Village was not included in the year’s report card.

“West Village is in the process of receiving its LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certification so we were not yet able to count those two buildings for this year’s report card,” Greenberg said. “This project was submitted to the U.S. Green Building Council and we are awaiting certification.”

Hyatt said “the remainder of our buildings are energy hogs that need serious attention.”

The university has also installed occupancy sensors, which turn off lights when there is no movement in a room, in the new residence halls and the Student Recreation Center; low-flow shower heads in Maurer Gym, Alpha Xi Delta sorority house, Switlik and West Village; and energy-efficient washers and dryers in the suites of the new residence halls. All of those items will be standard in future projects.

“Low-flow shower heads allow an average 1.7 gallons of water per minute to flow through while regular shower heads allow an average 2.5 gallons per minute,” Greenberg said. “For every 15-minute shower, we are saving 12 gallons of water.”

The only category Rider failed was “Endowment Transparency.” The university makes a list of external fund managers and investment holdings available only to trustees and senior administrators. Students and faculty don’t know whether or not Rider’s endowment is invested in green organizations.

“We don’t directly manage [our endowment funds], and therefore have little control over how they’re invested,” Hyatt said. “If students are concerned about this, they need to make their voices heard.”

The university could not be graded in the category of “Shareholder Engagement.”

Besides the areas listed on the report card, the university is doing a number of other things in its efforts to continue going green. Rider’s letterhead is now on 100 percent recycled paper; soon all print kiosks will use soy toner instead of oil-based toner, and all used electronics are taken by Supreme Computer & Electronics Recycling.

When Switlik was renovated last summer, all of the used carpet was recycled instead of taken to a landfill.

Green courses have also been added to the Rider curriculum and a sustainability module, which half of the faculty asked for, was added to the Freshman Seminar classes this year.

In 2008, Rider submitted its first Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and, according to Greenberg, the school is “currently working on a Carbon Neutrality plan that will get us to carbon neutral by 2050.”

Hyatt believes that expanding the awareness about the climate situation is extremely important for today’s world.

“We only have one planet,” she said. “There is abundant evidence that we’re outstripping the earth’s resources, and we really don’t have a choice in the matter. It’s a moral and ethical issue as well. Plenty of people are already suffering from lack of resources; clean water and uncontaminated food [are] already becoming severely problematic; and [it’s] not likely to stop there. Finally, as far as we know, we’re the only place for life in this accessible part of the universe and we ought to do our best to help it keep going.”

Students are reminded to participate in the recently e-mailed Student Sustainability Survey, regarding commuting to campus.

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