Practice and Involvement

“Initially, our goal was to evaluate alternative energy technologies. Over time, we’ve evolved into a much broader mandate. … To be viewed as a progressive university, you must be more sustainable. There are a lot of opportunities, and we have to make sure we are doing all we can.”

It is the belief of RIT community members that everyone must work to adopt more environmentally responsible practices and reduce both consumption of nonrenewable resources and production of greenhouse gases. This self-contained community of more than 20,000 faculty, staff, and students has made a commitment to advance sustainability in all areas—in academic programs and research initiatives, in our campus operations and consumption practices, and in efforts to promote social sustainability within the RIT family.

Scores of projects are being carried out by students, faculty, and staff, and just as many are being hatched in classrooms, offices, kitchens, and workshops across campus.

By making the campus more environmentally friendly and by engaging in and learning more about sustainable practices, the RIT community improves the extended environment in real and measurable ways. By doing so, we can take steps now to ensure that the campus, the Rochester area, and the greater world in which we live will be cleaner, healthier, and more livable tomorrow than they are today.

Visible examples of campus commitment are the College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) Engineering Technology Hall and the Student Innovation Center. Both have achieved high levels of LEED certification. Established by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the widely accepted rating system for evaluating sustainable buildings. Both buildings were cited in the College Sustainability Report Card, which commended RIT’s policy requiring all new construction to meet at least LEED Silver certification criteria.

Kevin Surace

Kevin Surace ’85

Alumnus Surace (right) is president and CEO of Serious Materials, a burgeoning green technology company visited by Vice President Joe Biden (left). The White House cited Serious Materials, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., as an example of the benefits of the economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Serious Materials develops and manufactures sustainable building materials that save energy and money, improve comfort, and aggressively address climate change. The expanding company is hiring new employees to help manufacture its highly insulated windows, glass, and drywall material.

Surace was named the 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine.

Habitat Conservation and Restoration

John Waud, professor of environmental sciences, and David Mathiason, professor emeritus, spend many hours at the RIT Bird Observatory located on the edge of campus near the Astronomical Observatory. The Army Corps of Engineers and RIT have agreed that the 32 acres of land around it will not be developed but will be kept as a conservation area for wildlife. It is at the observatory that Waud, Mathiason, and their group of students and volunteers band birds.

In fast urbanizing landscapes, birds’ migratory stopovers are often replaced by the newest mall or parking lot, depriving flocks of the nourishment and rest they need during migration. About 95 percent of mortality in birds occurs during migration. “By banding birds, we are able to track their stopovers during migration and determine the characteristics that make natural stopover habitats effective,” says Waud.