Rider recognized for sustainability

By Shanna O’Mara

Senior secondary education major Veronika Geiger wears plastic bags at an Eco-Reps event to show how many shopping bags consumers go through in a year. Rider ranked among the Princeton Review’s most environmentally responsible colleges for the eighth year in a row.

Walking through campus, it is common to stumble upon a marine science student testing the water of Centennial Lake, an Eco-Rep hosting an informative event in a dorm and students filling up reusable water bottles in the academic halls.

Rider has many opportunities to be green, and as a result, the university was recognized as an environmentally responsible campus by Princeton Review’s Green College Guide for the eighth consecutive year.

“Rider is following through on its commitment to be a sustainable campus and lowering its impact on the environment,” said sustainability manager Melissa Greenberg. “Small schools face the same challenges as large schools in energy, water and waste management. I’m happy that we continue to show progress in all of these areas, and that is reflected in the Princeton Review annual survey.”

The Princeton Review uses data provided by four-year colleges to determine which schools rank above others in terms of eco-friendliness.

The Office of Sustainability fosters the effort to keep Rider sustainable by promoting the “Broncs Go Green” initiative which focuses on reducing waste, reusing materials, recycling on both campuses and refusing to purchase non-sustainable goods.

Lauren Margel, a junior environmental science major and Lawrenceville Eco-Rep, said a reusable box in the dining hall fares better than a paper, albeit biodegradable, takeout container from Cranberry’s. Other campus projects are more widespread.

“It goes from little things like the green boxes in Daly’s to the solar ray we have in our TriGeneration Plant on campus,” she said. “[Broncs Go Green] is a way to inform students and faculty alike about what’s going on on our campus in terms of sustainability movements.”

There are many steps being taken at Rider to reduce the university’s carbon footprint.

Rider began installing reusable water bottle fill stations in buildings across both campuses in 2009. More are added each year, the most recent built in Sweigart Hall. Margel — who, at the start of the semester, was tasked with counting up the amounts displayed on the machines — said more than 3 million standard-sized plastic water bottles have been saved due to the stations’ use.

About 35 percent of Rider’s energy use is offset by supporting energy production from USA wind.

Rider’s Green Acres is an organic garden located behind the Van Cleve House. A variety of herbs as well as cabbage, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are grown here and given out each Thursday starting in mid-summer.

In 2014, a bio-digester was installed behind Daly’s which can process up to 400 pounds of food waste daily and turn it into grey water.

“Using microorganisms, this food waste is decomposed into a liquid form that can then be sent down the drain where it is eventually further treated by a wastewater treatment plant,” Daniel Druckenbrod, director of sustainability, said. “A bio-digester prevents food waste from being transported to a landfill, which is costly both financially and environmentally.”

According to Robert Franek, senior vice president of The Princeton Review, more graduating high school seniors are looking at schools’ efforts to be green and basing their decision partly on that.

“Among more than 10,000 teens and parents who participated in our 2017 College Hopes & Worries Survey, 64 percent told us that having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the college,” Franek said in a Sept. 25 press release.

Margel said she took concerns about the environment into account when she toured Rider’s campus three years ago.

“I really wanted an environmentally savvy school, and I wanted them to know what they were talking about and to implement that with what they’re doing on campus,” she said.

Technological communication has played a key role in spreading information about climate change and ways to help the earth, according to Margel.

“[Environmental issues] are always in the news and on social media,” she said. “Climate change isn’t on the back burner anymore; it’s here and now, especially when people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore are pushing for green initiatives. It’s helping make the efforts stronger.”

She saw this growing interest firsthand while speaking with high school seniors during the Sept. 23 Open House.

“Several students had questions about our green efforts,” she said. “It’s so exciting that freshmen and prospective students are curious about that. Who knows what that means for the future.”

Greenberg said students should “stay informed about global events and get involved locally.”

“[They] should understand that every one person has an impact on the environment and can make choices to lower theirs,” she said. “At Rider, they can join the volunteer Green Team to further our efforts in making Rider green.”

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