For the seventh consecutive year, the Princeton Review, a well-respected college admissions service company, recognized the University of Rhode Island as one of the nation’s top green college campuses.
According to Marsha Garcia, the University’s Sustainability Officer, “it is a rigorous evaluation, that is done by a long survey that takes days to complete because of the metrics needed.” She adds that: “They only allow schools that score over 85, out of 100, and we have consecutively scored over 90. Which makes us the only other Rhode Island school, besides Brown, to achieve this recognition in the state.”
The evaluation takes into account everything from the amount of offered course in sustainability to the campus’ energy consumption.
David Lavallee, the University’s Assistant Director of External Relations and Communications praises Garcia’s work and says, “Prior to Ms. Garcia’s arrival, we never had someone keeping an eye on issues of sustainability, just her presence here after seven years shows that the University is making steps in the right direction. “
Furthermore, Garcia highlights the University’s building policy standard that requires that residential halls and academic centers be at least LEED Silver. She emphases the policy has helped to create, a new culture of sustainability and “strong momentum…more so than it has been in the last few years. This is something many people on this campus have been working towards.”
The University has over 11 LEED certified buildings, totaling over 1 million square feet of sustainable space.
Additionally, with the creation of Garcia’s position, the University has implemented new transportation policies that attempt to lower emissions and avoid removing green space to build new parking lots.
Garcia also suggests that the University and the town of South Kingston have a plan to extend the William C. O’Neill Bike Path into the campus to encourage students and members of the community to use the bike path and to make transportation more sustainable and, “help promote an active lifestyle.” An extended bike path might, according to Garcia, encourage the University to start a bike-sharing system and reach its goal of, “reducing the number of single occupancy cars, in the next ten to fifteen years.”
Garcia and Lavallee confirmed that The University plans to work alongside the State of Rhode Island’s Office of Energy Resources to construct a solar farm on a reclaimed landfill site on Plains Road behind the intramural sports field.
Officials from the Office of Energy Resources did not return for comment.
However, URI students from the Students for a Fossil-Free URI, a student organization whose mission is to, in the words of co-founder Nick Bush, “connect students with local environmental activist groups, and to create social change here on campus” are dissatisfied with the incremental pace of the University’s efforts to be more sustainable. As co-founder Sarah Le Tulipe says, “they are trying to move in the right direction, but they aren’t there yet.”
Nevertheless, the University is moving in the direction towards becoming a sustainable campus and becoming a leader in the global effort to curb climate change.