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Rutgers student helps plan NASDAQ Corporate Sustainability Day

The only experience Brett Roberts had with tackling environmental issues prior to this summer was encouraging his parents to recycle. 

But during the summer, the School of Environmental and Biological Science junior interned at NASDAQ’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, where he gained valuable insight while reaching out to companies to attend the “Corporate Sustainability Day” fair.

“The most difficult part was getting multi-million dollar companies to talk to an intern,” said Roberts, who invited 10 organizations, including SunPower, Nissan and Capital Bikeshare. 

During the fair last Friday, SunPower educated NASDAQ employees about the costs and benefits of solar energy, while Nissan gave test drives for their electric car, the Nissan Leaf.

Evan Harvey, managing director of Corporate Sustainability at NASDAQ OMX, said the purpose of the event was to show employees the value of reducing their carbon footprint and to show them the cost savings that come from sustainability.

According to the NASDAQ OMX 2012 Sustainability Report, the Rockville office where Roberts interned was the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building in the company’s property portfolio.

“Rockville is sort of a laboratory to show how you can take a large office with 200 employees and lower the footprint, become more efficient and reach carbon neutrality,” Harvey said. 

During his internship, Roberts implemented several environmentally friendly changes in NASDAQ’s Rockville office to reduce the office’s carbon footprint.

With a budget of $3,000, he oversaw everything from switching to LED light bulbs and adding water-reducing flow to faucets, to defaulting the printers to print double-sided and subsidizing the bike-sharing program for employees.

The chief lesson Roberts learned during the internship was that people are resistant to change. Roberts said the office manager was reluctant to order organically grown fruit instead of non-organically grown fruit for the office because it would cost $2 more per order. 

“There are NASDAQ offices in Rockville, Helsinki, New York, Beijing — it’s a worldwide company,” Roberts said. “Anything we can do to practice sustainability in these offices will have a large impact everywhere in the world.”

Beyond NASDAQ, Roberts hopes to see a sustainability fair at Rutgers in the future to increase student awareness surrounding environmental impact. He envisions exhibitors, such as recycling programs and local organic food markets, at such an event.

“Obviously nobody is going to get solar panels for their dorm at Rutgers, but educating students on how to reduce their carbon footprint is still important,” he said. 

Students on campus could practice sustainability by turning off their lights after leaving their residence halls and not wasting food in the dining halls, Roberts said. 

The University is already contributing to sustainability in many ways, said Clinton Andrews, the director of the Rutgers Center for Green Building.

According to the University Committee for Sustainability website, the first and last Rutgers sustainability report was published in 2007. Although reporting sustainability measures have been slow at Rutgers, the act of implementing them has been growing fast, said Andrews, also a professor and associate dean for Planning and New Initiatives in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

“Reporting sustainability makes our performance visible and easier to judge,” Andrews said. “It turns out that Rutgers has been doing quite well on a lot of sustainability metrics.”

Currently, the Committee for Sustainability is setting up the Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating program, or STAR. This is a reporting mechanism that would allow for clear sustainability comparison between other universities, Andrews said.

The most notable step toward sustainability is on the Livingston campus, where the solar canopies that cover the parking lots capture sunlight to generate energy and reduce the University’s electricity bill. 

A less visible step toward environmental impact is the dozens of geothermal energy wells on Livingston, which tap the heat beneath the earth to heat and cool the buildings, Andrews said.

This sustainability measure reduces the University’s energy bill from 10 to 15 percent, he said. Many of the new buildings across campus are built to the LEED standard, but have not gotten the actual certification, which would cost $50,000 to $75,000, Andrews said.

Sustainability at colleges is especially important for two reasons, Andrews said.

“The first reason is that [sustainability] usually saves money, which means lower tuitions and more efficient operations,” Andrews said. “The second reason is because [sustainability] is an ethical act. Universities are educational institutions and we should walk our talk.”