Tuesday, November 27, 2007

College Thinks Beyond Green

Rio Salado employee Natalie Sirovy models the college's new recyclable "tote bag" which she researched as part of the college's sustainability initiative.

For Rio Salado College employees, caring about the environment is more than a passing fad; it is becoming a lifestyle change that blends into their daily routines.

The college recently adopted several measures to “think green” and beyond. In fact, Rio Salado is concentrating on the holistic concept of sustainability, defined as “meeting the needs of the present while taking care of the future.”

To better understand sustainability, imagine three intersecting circles representing three major areas of sustainability. They are social, economic, and environmental. All of them are necessary and must work together to form the sweet spot in the center called sustainability. Sustainability reduces waste and therefore leads to increased profitability.

Rio Salado President Linda Thor recently became a charter signer of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. This commitment is an effort by higher education leaders to address global warming by leading their institutions to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, to accelerate research, and to promote educational efforts of higher education that equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.

As part of this commitment, Rio will conduct an emissions inventory, set targets to become climate neutral, integrate sustainability into the curriculum, create an action plan, and report progress to the public. This commitment will help to lower college energy costs as well as demonstrate excellent public stewardship.

A first step is to install clean and green energy-generating technologies where possible, such as photovoltaic solar panels to reduce carbon emissions on one of the newly remodeled buildings at Rio Salado’s Tempe headquarters.

The college has committed to purchasing Energy Star electronic appliances and equipment to save resources. Also, the college will encourage the use of public transportation as part of trip reduction efforts.

It’s a fact that Americans use over 14 billion plastic bags annually. The petroleum in 14 plastic bags could drive a car for one mile. A Rio Salado employee, Natalie Sirovy, researched alternatives to using plastic bags at grocery stores.

As a result, when Rio Salado employees shop for groceries they no longer have to respond “paper” or “plastic.” Instead, they have the option of using 100% recyclable polypropylene tote bags, which the college makes available for $2 each. Proceeds benefit not only the environment but also the Rio Scholarship Fund

Rio Salado has committed to incorporating sustainability into the curriculum as well. This will emphasize not only green thinking but will also introduce the concepts of social and economic sustainability to help Rio's students prepare for future and current challenges.

Sustainability is one more way that Rio Salado College demonstrates its responsiveness to the communities it serves!