Environmental groups form energy consortium


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Photo by Jennifer Miguel-HelLman |

Joelle Zerillo, left, shares information about a trip to Costa Rica energy plants last night during an environmental discussion at the Douglass Campus Center.


By Aleksi Tzatzev

Associate News Editor

Sustainability and clean energy sources were the focus of the first collaborative meeting last night between five of the University’s environmental organizations.

The groups’ leaders discussed future projects and initiatives they could organize to keep the campus green at the Douglass Campus Center.

“I want us to work together, helping each other, just making Rutgers a beautiful place to live — that is all I want us to do,” said Christopher Licitra, the undergraduate representative for the Rutgers Energy Institute, which sponsored the event.

He invited the four other groups to collaborate in the upcoming months with Rutgers Day approaching.

Melissa Lee and Joelle Zerillo, University alumnae and members of the Global Renewable Energy Education Network, said their organization presented students the opportunity to go to Costa Rica and work for 12 days at five different renewable energy plants, all within driving distance from one another.

Lee said the program was piloted at the University three years ago and also provides international students with the opportunity to come in contact with operations at these plants.

“In the United States, you can’t really touch anything at these plants, but the culture in Costa Rica is different,” she said. “For example, you are learning about thermal [energy] one week … then the next day you are asking all these different questions to workers at the plants.”

Kevin Lyons, the University’s chief procurement officer and associate director of the energy institute, said the group was working on a program that uses social media to track and publish a student’s sustainability initiative through all four years at the University. This would result in a final “sustainability score” at the end of the four years.

“There are a lot of universities in the United States that sort of take our stuff and run with it, and it seems they are doing so much better, and it is because Rutgers has not historically marketed sustainability,” said Lyons, a supply chain management and marketing sciences professor.

He said a lot of projects implemented at other colleges were modeled after University initiatives. But because of financial difficulties, these plans were never fully carried out on campus.

“We’ve consistently been behind the scenes, and now I think it is our time,” Lyons said.

The University founded the first-ever environmental sciences department in the world, according to the department’s website.

Caitlin D’Agostino, president of “Take Back the Tap,” said her group is organizing a panel of six speakers on March 26 who would address the problematic water privatization in South American countries.

She said the panel will include Marcela Olivera, a Bolivian water-rights activist who is working at the Institute for Women’s Leadership.

Her group was responsible for the installation of the water-bottle refilling stations, which count how many bottles students have saved by filling up at the station.

“We want to work together to make a bigger impact,” D’Agostino said.

Allyson Salisbury of the Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Math, Science, and Engineering’s sustainability committee, said the group is working on installing more energy efficient light bulbs in Jameson Hall on Douglass campus.

“And we want to tell people, ‘Yes, we do have energy-efficient light bulbs, but you should still turn off your lights,’” said Salisbury, a University graduate student.

Carla Ralston, also a member of Douglass Sustainability, said the organization is holding their first cleanup on Feb. 11 on the College Avenue campus.

Kelly Nishikawa, a leader at the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group energy service, said they are working on several programs, one of which is teaching school children about energy renewal and efficiency.

“We also go around weatherizing houses and giving off-campus students advice on energy savings,” said Nishikawa, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “We have already done five this semester, and our goal right now is 50.”

She said doing this could cut electricity consumption by 30 percent.

The University Solar Car team, represented by School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Diana Leung and School of Engineering senior Anton Krivosheyev, plans to build a small go-cart with a maximum of 16-percent efficiency by the end of the semester, which is as far as research has gotten in the field.

“Most people don’t realize that it is very hard to increase the efficiency,” Krivosheyev said. “But it is easy to drop the price.”


By Aleksi Tzatzev

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