2012 RIC Earth Day Celebration highlights sustainability issues, initiatives

The Earth Day festivities at Rhode Island College, held April 17-19, educated students, faculty and community members on the many facets of sustainability on campus, within the state and across the country.

Sustainability options such as composting, driving an electric car, or using products that are environmentally friendly were presented at RIC in celebration of Earth Day.

RIC Green Team co-chairs Jenifer Giroux and Dante Del Giudice, left and right, are joined by Jim Murphy, RIC sustainability coordinator,and Greg Gerritt of the Environmental Council of Rhode Island.
On April 17, Greg Gerritt of the Environmental Council of Rhode Island spoke in the Student Union on “Compost and the Future Prosperity of Rhode Island.” The event, part of RIC’s Urban and Community Farming Initiative, highlighted the importance of growing local produce and composting food scraps.

Gerritt told the audience, “The food that Rhode Islanders consume travels an average of 1,500 miles before it reaches our plate. The transportation of our food has a significant effect on the environment while on the other hand, locally grown food reaches our plate fresher, without preservatives, and without extensive use of fossil fuels needed for long-distance transportation.”

Gerritt also spoke of the need for composting in the state. He cited low and outdated Rhode Island tipping fees for dumping trash as a disincentive for sorting trash and as needing reform, which will encourage greater recycling, composting, and reduction of trash.

As the Rhode Island Landfill gets bigger every day, composting can slow down that growth significantly. By composting food scraps with leaves, grass, and paper, we can produce useful soil for local agriculture.

The movie “Revenge of the Electric Car” was shown in the Fortes Room in Adams Library on April 18. The film was provided by the Sierra Club, and RIC was one of only 200 organizations nationwide to show it for Earth Day celebrations.

The movie started by remembering the 2006 recall of as many as 5,000 electric cars that were destroyed by the companies that built them.

Jim Murphy presents the Green Team Award to George Aguiar, who accepted it on behalf of the Office of Facilities and Operations. From left, Dante Del Giudice, Jenifer Giroux, RIC President Nancy Carriuolo, Aguiar, Murphy, Frank Montanaro and Don Tencher.
Narrated by Tim Robbins, the film goes on to show what is happening today with regard to the electric car. Focusing on the efforts of GM, Nissan and the Silicon Valley start- up Tesla Motors, the film illustrates the expense, development and competition involved with bringing an electric car to market.

There were approximately 40 students who attended the film, many of whom gave it two thumbs up.

At an April 19 reception held in the President’s Dining Room, the annual Green Team Award was presented and I was introduced as the college’s sustainability coordinator.

This year’s award went to Facilities and Operations, better known as RIC’s Physical Plant, in a unanimous vote recognizing their efforts to make the RIC campus more sustainable. George Aguiar and Frank Montanaro accepted the award for their department. Don Tencher was in attendance as interim vice president for administration. Greg Gammell of Physical Plant was also recognized, but unable to attend.

Highlights of Physical Plant accomplishments since 2003 include:
• $60,000 savings in disposal fees due to equipping each building with a recycling collection center.
• Donating e-waste to local non-profits and the reuse of furniture from other public institutions.
• The repair and replacement of the college’s antiquated steam and condensate system. Projected savings could be as high as $500,000 when all repairs are complete.
• Continued use of sustainable materials as it relates to plantings, which save on annual labor and the cost of plants and shrubs.
• Replacement of college vehicles more than 12 years old to more energy efficient vehicles, in many cases with golf cart type vehicles that use very little gas or are powered with electricity.
• Introduction of Genesan cleaning products. Environmentally friendly, Green Certified, and extremely effective in killing germs and bacteria, Genesan products eliminate the need for harmful chemicals used in cleaning the buildings on campus.

Tom Jundt of Brown University lectures on “Earth Day and Environmental History.”
At the reception, RIC President Nancy Carriuolo, Green Team co-chairs Jenifer Giroux and Dante Del Giudice, Physical Plant’s George Aguiar and Frank Montanaro, and I all had an opportunity to speak about RIC’s green and sustainability efforts.

The Earth Day festivities concluded that night with the Sustainable Communities Initiative Speaker Series in Clark Science. Tom Jundt, a visiting lecturer in American Studies from Brown University spoke on “Earth Day and Environmental History.”

His lecture covered the origins of American environmental movement, how the first Earth Day came to be the largest public demonstration in American history, and what Earth Day has become since 1970. His lecture also examined the political and social movements that have helped shape the environmental movement in the United States since the mid-20th century.