KINGSTON, R.I. — Jan. 22, 2020 — Whether developing a solar project with two local towns and private partners, strengthening its commitment to public transportation or reducing its greenhouse gas emissions through major infrastructure improvements, the University of Rhode Island has been cited again by the Princeton Review for its commitment to sustainability.
For the 10th consecutive year, the college guide has named URI a Green College, calling it one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible institutions.
In the fall, the Princeton Review announced the 413 schools it profiles in its Guide to Green Colleges. The guide is based on information collected from administrators at hundreds of four-year colleges about their commitment to sustainability.
“We salute–and strongly recommend– the University of Rhode Island to the many environmentally minded students who want to study and live at a green college,” said Rob Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief.
Franek noted that among the 11,900 teens and parents surveyed earlier in 2019 for its College Hopes & Worries Survey, 64% said having information about a college’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend a school.
The University has made remarkable progress in its efforts to save energy and reduce its impact on the environment. In 2005, the University’s Kingston Campus consisted of 3.85 million square feet in buildings and facilities, and now that total is a little more than 5 million square feet.
But even with that growth, greenhouse gas emissions from the Kingston Campus have been reduced by 25%.
“I congratulate everyone at the University for this outstanding accomplishment,” said Abigail Rider, vice president for Administration and Finance. “As we expanded our campus, adding state-of-the art science, pharmacy, engineering and residential facilities, we reduced our GHG emissions. Through our teaching, research, and outstanding campus initiatives, we are inspiring our community members and serving as a model for the state, nation, and world through our collective actions. I am deeply grateful to our community for coming together to make URI more beautiful and sustainable for generations to come.”
“We have so much to be proud of, including a new car pooling option for commuter students, developing and opening a bike path, major infrastructure improvements and energy conservation efforts that have resulted in a reduction of 89 billion BTUs in steam heat each year and 11 million kilowatt hours of electricity saved annually,” said Marsha Garcia, campus sustainability officer.
Garcia said the Green College designation is a tribute to every segment of the University community, but particularly the Facilities Group, which is made up of Planning and Real Estate Development, Capital Projects, Small Projects and Facilities Operations.
Dave Lamb, assistant director of Facilities Operations, said the University should be proud of the greenhouse gas reductions that it has achieved. The majority of reductions have come about because of URI’s comprehensive energy conservation efforts. Over the past 14 years, “Few universities have been as proactive and successful as we have in this area,” Lamb said.
Also, we have taken advantage of and maximized the incentive programs available for energy efficiency improvements. In 2019 alone, the University has received over $1.8 million in negotiated energy conservation incentives as part of its comprehensive interior and exterior campus wide LED lighting conservation projects.
In addition, the University’s Strategic Plan for Campus Sustainability and Climate Action has been the foundation on which the University’s multiple initiatives have been built. The plan’s mission statement calls on all members of the community to pursue “practices and principles leading to a healthy environment, a sustainable economy, and environmental and social equity.”
Much of URI’s success can be linked to its infrastructure work and capital projects.
In decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions, the University targets transportation, building energy (steam, electricity) and waste. In 2005, URI produced 94,429 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, but in 2018, the level dropped to 71,994 metric tons.
URI’s emission reductions are equivalent to planting 5,811 trees and removing 3,251 cars from the road.
In one of its most innovative and far reaching sustainability efforts, the University partnered with the towns of South Kingstown and Narragansett to create the South Kingstown Solar Consortium to develop an ambitious solar power project that will generate economic benefits for all three partners while boosting the amount of renewable energy flowing into the state’s electric grid.
In the works for more than three years and announced in November 2018, the project is among the largest solar power initiatives in New England, covering 267 acres — in West Kingston, South Kingstown and West Greenwich. The campus site in West Kingston and the South Kingstown site at the Rose Hill landfill began producing power in November 2018. Through November 2019, the local sites have produced 6 million kilowatts of electricity, with projected annual revenues to URI of $817,160.
The West Greenwich site to be activated within the year is slated to generate 48 million kilowatt hours of electricity, with projected annual net revenues of $1.4 million.
The University also has 11 LEED (Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design) Certified Buildings. The certification process by the U.S. Green Building Council granted gold certification to four URI buildings and silver to another four. The Council has recognized the University for building structures with energy-saving heating and ventilation systems, environmentally sound stormwater runoff systems, bike racks, solar panels and recycled construction materials. LEED certifications are pending for The Higgins Welcome Center, The Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering and Brookside (residence) Hall.
URI’s Dining and Catering Services uses locally caught, under-used fish for its Catch of the Month program and obtains around 25 percent of its produce from local farms, including from URI’s agronomy farm. Waste cooking oil is also picked up by Newport Biodiesel to use as fuel.
Campus outreach/ efforts encourage community members to save electricity by shutting off lights, television sets and computers when not in use, save water by taking shorter showers (a 10-minute shower uses 80 gallons of water), use cold water for washing clothes and use reusable water bottles
For additional information on the University’s sustainability efforts, or to get involved, visit: https://web.uri.edu/sustainability/.