July 23, 2019 | 71° F

Rutgers holds 1st annual sustainable symposium

Photo by Manqi Yang |

Rutgers hosted its first annual Sustainability Symposium yesterday to explore the school’s investment in clean energy to date, as well as discuss future issues.

To showcase its current efforts and support for sustainability, the University held the RU Sustainable Symposium early Thursday.

University President Robert L. Barchi praised solar power as he opened the symposium with a speech discussing Rutgers' sustainability efforts.

"We are heavily into solar. All the the solar panels over the parking lots generates about 9.5 megawatts of power," he said. "Our co-generation plant generates about 3.5 megawatts of power. We recycle about 75 percent of our waste."

The University's current construction projects' worth totals at $1.1 billion, Barchi said. All of Rutgers' new buildings are constructed to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's silver certification.

LEED certifications award points based on a number of categories, including water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and transportation impact, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

The silver certification is the second of four ratings on the scale, coming in below the gold and platinum certifications in efficiency.

Leith Sharp, director of Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership at the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, was the keynote speaker at the event. 

Sustainability is a difficult goal to accomplish because of the number of groups that are required to participate in achieving that goal, she said. Even if one person or group believes in the cause, another will not.

This lack of cooperation between groups makes it difficult to move forward on change, she said.

Following the speeches, seven members of the Rutgers University Committee for Sustainability came on stage and offered insight into a variety of topics in a lightning guest panel.

Among other topics, there were brief talks on energy competition and sustainable transportation at Rutgers.

Many of the topics covered at the symposium were based of off the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Ashley Sidhu, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior and the event's student organizer, worked closely with members of the Committee for Sustainability to organize the symposium.

Although Rutgers has done a lot in regards of sustainable development, many students and staff are unaware of the work being done, Sidhu said.

“It’s important for these initiatives and projects that Rutgers has done to be pushed to the front because students don’t know about it, and students tend to get discouraged,” she said.

The annual symposium is a way to highlight all that Rutgers has done, she said.

“This is to encourage students that Rutgers isn’t just there consuming and not giving back to the environment," she said. "Sustainable development is here — it just has to be acknowledged to the community.”

Toward the end of the symposium, there was a session for posters and tabling. Many students presented their work and ideas related to sustainable development.

Kevin Marceski, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, was one of many students presenting posters. His poster focused on highlighting how sustainability is integrated into different Rutgers courses.

“We’ve been working on a course catalog of courses at Rutgers that exhibit sustainability in some way, shape or form," he said. "We’re encouraging passersby to look through our database of courses and find a course they’ve taken, and that way we can go across all the different schools. We can see where sustainability is already present in the Rutgers curriculum and where perhaps we can add it in."

Marceski said they are trying to prove University administration is already taking steps toward sustainability. Now, they just need some sort of unifying factor to tie it together and make it into a cohesive curriculum outside of the established sustainability minor, he said.

Kevin Thomson, a Rutgers Business School sophomore, was interested in sustainability and wanted to learn more. He did just that at the symposium.

“I would recommend that everybody come next year and experience it,” he said. "I got a better overall view of what sustainability is and why it’s so important for us to know about it."

Madhuri Bhupathiraju is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @madhuri448 for more.

Madhuri Bhupathiraju

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