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From reducing garbage to sustainable gardening, RIC takes steps to preserve planet



The mantra emanating from the office of the president and repeated across campus is “reduce, reuse, recycle.” For the past three years, under the leadership of RIC President Nancy Carriuolo, significant steps have been taken to meet that imperative.

The consensus among RIC administrators is that no other office has done more to reduce, reuse and recycle (the three R’s of green advocates) than the Office of Physical Plant, beginning with the handling of RIC’s trash.

There’s been a 60 percent drop in the amount of trash RIC produces, and subsequently a 60 percent drop in the amount RIC pays to have trash hauled to the landfill. As a result, Physical Plant has reduced the number of dumpsters, decreased the size of dumpsters and cut the frequency of trash pick-up in half.

Physical Plant also reported major gains in recycling. The office purchased 253 recycle bins, with receptacles placed in every main building on campus.

According to George Aguiar, assistant director of Facilities, Operations, and Custodial Services and supervisor of RIC’s recycling program, there’s been a decrease in recycled plastics, bottles and cans in recent years.

“In 2009 blue bin recyclables totaled 42,000 pounds. In 2010 the total was 37,000 pounds. That’s down 5,000 pounds,” he said.

And that may be a good thing.

Though we help the environment by recycling our plastic water bottles, cans and glass bottles, green advocates say it’s even better if we purchase reusable containers that reduce or completely eliminate the need for disposables.

Green bin recyclables –paper waste – is also on the decline at RIC. Aguiar said that in 2009 the college recycled 95,000 pounds of paper. In 2010 that number dropped to 81,900 pounds – a decrease of almost 13,000 pounds of paper.

He pointed to the fact that, early in her presidency, Carriuolo made a campus-wide call for paper reduction. Today the culture on campus is to communicate digitally rather than use paper. Whenever possible, emails are sent rather than letters in envelopes, files are kept on computers rather than in file cabinets and documents are reviewed on screen rather than printed out. A more digitized campus produces less recycled paper.

Green energy


RIC is also making concessions to conserve energy. It’s not uncommon to enter a RIC office where only the light of the computer screen illuminates the face of the occupant. Office workers have been asked to shut off lights in spaces that are unoccupied; unplug printers, scanners, and other peripherals until they’re needed; set computers to energy-saving settings; and shut down all electronics at the end of the day (electronics that sleep on a “standby” setting continue to pull a current even when not “turned off”).

RIC is also installing the latest energy-saving steam and condensate pipes, upgrading the boiler room for energy efficiency, and targeting the most energy efficient methods in building.


Green curriculum

In 2010 a survey was completed on existing RIC courses that had green/sustainability content. In 2011 RIC’s Green Team used the data to begin the development of a green curriculum.

Currently the college offers, through the Outreach Program, ”Green Business Certification,” taught by Glenn Bachmann; ”The Teaching and Practice of Environmental Sustainability for K–12 Educators,” taught by Mark DeMoranville; and the new ”Certificate of Continuing Study in Green Enterprise Management,” also taught by Bachmann, to be launched in October 2011.

Under development is the ”Certificate of Undergraduate Study in Sustainability Studies” led by Charles McLaughlin, RIC professor of educational studies. Course content will be based on a 2012 speaker series “Sustainable Communities Initiative” hosted by the Green Team. This certificate program is expected to be launched in 2012.

Green commuters

RIC is encouraging staff and students to bike it to campus. Bike racks and stands have been installed and a bicycle-friendly campus policy instituted. RIC support staff are also making use of golf carts rather than gasoline-powered vehicles to get around campus.

Gardening


RIC’s groundkeepers have begun a new policy of planting perennials over annuals to beautify the campus. This will reduce the purchase of new flowers and contribute to a sustainable environment. RIC has also invested in pruning its trees to ensure long life and health, again with an eye toward sustainability.

As a site for the Farmer’s Market, RIC is a big supporter of local farmers. The college knows that buying from local farmers reduces food miles for shoppers, keeps resources circulating in the community and is a great way for RIC to get to know its neighbors.

Green events

Look for the following green events at RIC:

The second annual Green-Up, Clean-Up Day will be held on September 17, 2011. RIC staff, students and area neighbors are asked to volunteer to pick up litter around the campus.

The Green Team will host the “Sustainable Communities Initiative” from January to April 2012. Developed by Jed Greenburg, this 14-week speaker series will feature local and regional experts and practitioners of sustainability.

Earth Day at RIC will again be held in the spring of 2012. Earth Day has occurred throughout the nation for the past 41 years. Though Earth Day programs have grown and changed over time, the message remains: Celebrate the planet. We can all make a difference.

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For outstanding leadership and support of RIC’s green efforts, RIC president Nancy Carriuolo was presented with the Green Team Award at the college’s first Earth Day celebration in April 2011. Later she commemorated the award with the planting of a Giant Sequoia tree located south and east of Roberts Hall on “Pine Island.” The tree will become a campus landmark identified on the Campus Tree Tour.

“Green initiatives on campus are unbelievably exciting,” said Jenifer Giroux, member of the Green Team and director of Outreach Programs. “Involvement has increased among faculty, staff and students. Students sit in on Green Team meetings and send comments to green@ric.edu. Last year we had students from community government, sports teams and the dorms volunteer for Green Up, Clean Up Day.”

Dante Del Giudice, also a member of the Green Team and director of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, hopes to get even more RIC staff and students involved in the green discussion, particularly students. He said he’d like to see them formally organize themselves around environmental issues.

Giroux agreed. ”We did have at one time a student organization on campus called the Environmental Club. I’d like to see that club reborn.”

To learn more about the Green Team, go to: ric-greenteam-thoughts.blogspot.com