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U. reduces carbon footprint with environmental agreement

The University is stepping up its efforts to go green by signing an agreement to conserve energy.

The agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency outlines steps to reduce air pollution from vehicles, increase recycling and improve water and energy use across the school's three campuses, according to the EPA Web site.

The memorandum of understanding between the University and the EPA, which began last February, was established Friday and is a five-year agreement, said Andrew Bellina, senior policy adviser for EPA Region 2. The University will be reporting every six months on the status of the activities listed on the agreement.

So far, the University is the largest institution of higher education that made this kind of agreement with the EPA, Bellina said.

"It's been a whole host of items that we've discussed and the University has committed to almost every major program that we have as far as reducing its activity in reducing its carbon footprint," he said.

Director of Facilities Joseph Witkowski said this agreement marks the University's role as a leader.

"This makes [the University] part of a larger organization that specializes in sustainability and energy conservation," Witkowski said. "I think the thing with that is we are trying to be leaders in that group and that gives us some credibility, not just at Rutgers but in the entire United States."

The University will be joining two of the EPA flagship programs of Energy Star, which will assist in performing a full energy audit of all the campuses and then look at how the University can further conserve energy, Bellina said.

"Through programs like RecycleMania, the University recycled 62 percent of the solid waste," Witkowski said. "From a university perspective or any perspective, that is an outstanding number."

During the 2008 RecycleMania competition, the University won six awards and placed third in the Grand Champion category, said Jennifer May from the Department of Region 2 Public Affairs for the EPA.

"[Rutgers] is definitely a leader in going green and sustainability," Bellina said.

Although some consider the University to be a leader in conservation, the EPA will not provide a grant to cover any necessary costs, he said. Instead, the University plans to partly fund and receive funding from various other resources.

The University received money available for those entities that want to pursue alternative power, including the state, the Department of Energy and the New Jersey Utilities Association, Bellina said.

"By participating with the EPA, we're going to be applying for a fairly large grant for buying heat and power," Witkowski said. "This helps us through the process because the EPA does give out grants, and by participating in this program, it gives them a good feeling that we're not just asking for money but we're walking the talk."

School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior Erika Zeleze said this agreement is a real step forward for the University.

"I currently volunteer with [New Jersey Public Interest Research Group] and we actually try to encourage people to save energy with community workshops," Zeleze said. "One thing I hope to see with the agreement is people being more educated."

The University currently does this through programs such as RecycleMania and educating entering students during the student orientation, Witkowski said.

"We incorporated athletics into our campus competition and what they're doing now at football games and basketball games, and most of their major events is publicizing the need for energy conservation," he said.

The biggest problem right now with students conserving energy is simple things such as not turning off lights, taking shorter showers and unplugging devices when not in use, Zeleze said.

"The best advice to us all is to conserve and give thought to everything we do, because its not just the power, its where do you throw that piece of paper, that bubble gum wrapper, whatever it might be," Witkowski said. "Everything affects the environment in some way, shape or form, and just to be conscious of it is key."


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