Sustaining environmental success: Rider committed to going green

By Rob Leitner

 

Sustainability manager Melissa Greenberg participates in a solar project at Rider.
Sustainability manager Melissa Greenberg participates in a solar project at Rider.

Rider University was included on a list of 361 colleges that are seen as the most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S., according to The Princeton Review, for the seventh straight year.  

The green college guide is based on The Princeton Review’s collection of surveys from hundreds of four-year colleges with questions regarding the universities’ commitment to sustainability and the environment.

Since Rider University’s former president Mordechai Rozanski signed The Carbon Commitment in 2007, Rider University has been striving to reduce its environmental impact. Melissa Greenberg, Rider’s sustainability manager since 2008, employs 10 Eco Reps. Eco Reps are paid student workers who advocate for the environment and sustainability on campus, and help with educational events that are based on raising students’ awareness of environmental issues and informing them on how to get involved.

Greenberg has worked on a number of projects to make Rider a “green campus.” These include the construction of two academic buildings and a residence hall, all of which received LEED certifications for sustainable features and environmentally- friendly construction practices.  She also keeps track of the university’s greenhouse gas emissions and has a carbon neutrality plan.

“I complete a greenhouse gas emissions inventory every other year, and we are able to measure the before and after of the various projects.  For instance, this past year we had a drop of 8.6 percent off our carbon,” said Greenberg.

There has been a change in student involvement since 2008, according to Greenberg. At first, it was harder to find students to participate as Eco Reps.  Now, more students seem to be aware of the importance of sustainability, and it is even a talking point for admissions tours.

“We have a green campus tour that people can go on using their smartphones,” said Greenberg. “There are 13 stops around campus where you can learn about different green initiatives.”

Jillian Spratt graduated from Rider with an undergraduate degree in environmental science and was an Eco Rep during her four years as an undergraduate.  She was always interested in sustainability but it wasn’t until her involvement as an Eco Rep that she wanted to base her career on this subject.

“I wanted to talk to

people and raise awareness,” said Spratt, who is now a graduate assistant to

Greenberg.  “I don’t expect people to change their whole lives and become environmentalists but you would be surprised. Through the little things people learn, they end up caring.”

Looking forward, Greenberg plans to get Rider’s existing buildings LEED certified, and she will continue to raise awareness on environmental issues and sustainability.   And Spratt, who used to volunteer at her local environmental center, continues to raise awareness for sustainability through managing the school’s Eco Reps.

“If you are thinking about sustainability, you are thinking about long-term solutions,” said Spratt. “Sustainability means we are fighting for a world that our future family and grandchildren will live in.  It’s not just for science majors.  Sustainability is for everyone.”

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