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The University Magazine

University Magazine - Fall 2008 Image

Campus community moves toward a greener future

RIT tries to practice what it teaches.

“RIT has made a major commitment to lead the global development of intellectual capital and research related to sustainability,” says President Bill Destler. “Our creation of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability is a highly visible public recognition of our commitment to and belief in the need for ever-increasing stewardship of our global resources. We, as a university community, must also demonstrate a commitment to these principles and practices in the operation of the university.”

What’s being done to make RIT greener? Here are a few examples:

Many of these practices date to the 1970s; energy consumption has long been an important financial consideration. More recently, increased concern about global warming and other environmental issues have made such efforts ever more compelling. In 2006, James Watters, senior vice president, Finance and Administration, established an advisory committee to review institutional practices for sustainability in construction of facilities, alternative energy technologies, green technologies and strategic policies for consideration by the university. Members of the Committee for Sustainable Practices include administrators, faculty and students.

"Initially, our goal was to evaluate alternative energy technologies,” says Watters. “Over time, we’ve evolved into a much broader mandate.”

Watters and the group are willing to take a look at any promising idea, but not all prove practical. For example, the committee looked into putting solar panels on the roof of the Hale Andrews Student Life Center. The cost of the project was estimated at $197,000 and a $75,000 state grant was available, bringing RIT’s cost to $122,000.

Using solar power was expected to save $1,600 per year in energy costs.

“The committee thought there were better uses for university dollars,” says Watters. “Some technologies just aren’t yet economically viable.”

Currently, serious consideration is being given to the use of geothermal technology for use in heating the planned Global Village student housing project (see story). Wind power could be feasible for some uses, says Watters.

Meanwhile, more can be done to encourage behavioral changes within the RIT community. Simple practices such as making double-sided copies or cutting down on making print-outs of e-mail are a start. Promoting car-pooling and walking and sponsoring student contests to reduce energy consumption in residences are other ideas.

Watters also believes RIT should strive to recycle more materials. In fiscal year 2006-2007, RIT recycled approximately 27 percent of total waste. Watters would like to reach the 40 percent level.

“To be viewed as a progressive university, you must be more sustainable,” says the senior vice president. “There are a lot of opportunities, and we have to make sure we are doing all we can.”

To learn more about RIT’s efforts to become greener, visit

Kathy Lindsley