Sunday, October 30, 2011

Clean Green Moving Machines

So Rutgers signs this big contract, right? But have they acted on it? Well, it turns out that they have.

In July of 2011, students at Rutgers began riding new buses. Some people were angry about it, namely Academy Bus, Rutgers' old bus service. But the EPA were probably really proud. You see, according to one of the stipulations in the Memorandum of Understanding, Rutgers agreed to take part in the EPA's National Clean Diesel campaign. Academy Bus lost the bid to Rutgers' new bus service, First Transit, who took over operations at the university in July.

The National Clean Diesel Campaign demands that Rutgers "cooperatively promote and implement measures to effectively reduce emissions from vehicles". By switching from Academy Bus to First Transit, Rutgers' was able to meet this standard of the MOU. First Transit provides Rutgers with 50 buses that run on 20% biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel is diesel fuel that has been mixed with an organic substance. It burns cleaner than conventional fuel, and because it is mixed with organic products, such as kitchen wastes, it is also more renewable and cost-efficient than conventional diesel. According to the MOU, "Rutgers University will consider converting kitchen waste to bio-diesel fuel for use on campus."

Another emissions saver that Rutgers adopted recently is the CNG Program. Rutgers has now got six nifty cars and two nifty pickup trucks that operate at it's facilities using compressed natural gas, or CNG. CNG vehicles are much cleaner burning than conventional vehicles. Their emissions are even lower than hybrid cars.
Rutgers has it's own filling stations for these vehicles on campus and plans to expand the program in the future.

Rutgers has also initiated a pilot bike rental program. The program encourages students to rent one of the 150 bikes available at the university at 10$ a month or 25$ for the full semester. The program is designed to reduce emissions from students who would otherwise commute to classes.

The Clean Diesel Campaign also asks that Rutgers promote an anti-idling policy. Rutgers encourages faculty, staff, students, and it's transportation services (including First Transit) not to idle. They did so with a no idling policy, requiring that vehicles not remain on for more than 90 seconds while parked.

While certainly there are more stipulations that Rutgers can meet to adhere to the Clean Diesel Campaign, it seems that they have wasted no time in the past two years adopting the changes suggested in the MOU by the EPA.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Five Year Plan to Make U Green!

In my last post, I mentioned that Rutgers signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Rutgers on November 3rd of 2009. That sounds really great, you know? Rutgers signed a contract to be more green. But I got to thinking. What does Rutgers have to gain from signing a five-year-long contract with the U.S. EPA? Why commit themselves to going green?

Rutgers must have known that an undertaking like this would be costly. Green appliances, green technology, etc. etc. They probably considered that maybe not everyone would like the changes they made or will make in the five year contract. And what's the benefit for Rutgers? They wouldn't take on a goal so massive for no reason, right? What does the university (and its students) get for agreeing to be greener five years from now (besides some good PR)?

Well, according to Andrew Bellina, the Senior Policy Advisor at the EPA of the memorandum with Rutgers, the university doesn't get anything at all but advice. The EPA gives the university some tips, and it's up to Rutgers to act on them or not.

In an interview, I asked Bellina to answer some of the questions I just asked you, reader. He said that while there are no direct and tangible benefits of signing the MOU, meaning Rutgers isn't paying the EPA to help them become green and the EPA doesn't give the university anything besides advice, the sustained benefits socially, economically, and most of all environmentally from having greener campuses are the goal here.

Heres how it works. Some analysts from the EPA come to Rutgers and assess for free the greenliness of the university in a number of areas. They call them "campaigns" or "programs" and they are formulated by the EPA to minimize as much as possible the carbon footprint the university has on the Earth. They include The National Clean Diesel Campaign, The Clean Construction USA campaign, Transportation and Commuter Programs, The EPA Waste Wise Program and Recycling Achievements, the LEED Silver program, a cleaner cleaning products campaign, an Energy Efficient Equipment and Energy Star Program, an Alternative Energy Program, new storm water and turf management practices, new industrial material reuse practices, and aPest Management program.

EPA analysts come to the univeristy and leave behind a set of instructions. Rutgers can choose whether or not they want to abide by those instruction. According to Bellina, "We provide a baseline assessment of energy output. They determine the base load of where energy generation occurs. The assessments help determine how to reduce this output and how energy generation and use can be done more efficiently." Six months pass and Rutgers submits a report to the EPA, and analysts at the EPA can then determine a total carbon footprint of the university. Another six months go by, and the univesity reports again. This way, the EPA keeps ontop of the accomplishments Rutgers has made and can encourage them to take more steps to reducing their footprint on the Earth.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Rutgers, are you really going green?

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, pledged to its students and to the public that it would become a green university. On November 3, 2009, Rutgers University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and partnered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency in order to do just that. In the years following the signing of the MOU, the university says they have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint. They’ve announced plans to reduce energy consumption and to increase energy efficiency. They’ve installed solar panels around their campuses, including a solar panel “farm” on Livingston Campus in New Brunswick designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. They’ve begun a five-year Facilities Energy Conservation Program they claim “will reduce energy consumption by 42,500,000 kWh”. They’ve announced plans to reduce waste, to recycle, and to in general improve the “greenliness” of the university as a whole.

But is all this stuff effective? Is it working? Has Rutgers University really gone green? In the three years following Rutgers’ promise to become an environmental example for universities and cities across the world, has Rutgers really reduced its heavy footprint on our environment?

My name is Gabrielle Flora. I am a student at Rutgers University studying Environmental Journalism through the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences in New Brunswick. My major focus and my background in environmental sciences make me alert to the environmental news that Rutgers releases. I’m an interested and concerned citizen of Rutgers, New Brunswick, and I want to know how well Rutgers has done at going green.

It is my goal in this blog to answer the question I ask to Rutgers University: R U Green, Rutgers?


***Image Credit: Zazzle Designs