KINGSTON, R.I. — The Princeton Review has named the University of Rhode Island a Green College for the 10th consecutive year, calling it one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible institutions.
The Princeton Review bestowed the designation on URI in its Guide to Green Colleges, which is based on information collected from administrators at hundreds of four-year colleges about their commitment to sustainability.
“We salute — and strongly recommend — the University of Rhode Island to the many environmentally minded students who want to study and live at a green college,” Princeton Review Editor-in-chief Rob Franek said.
The profile of URI shows that the Kingston campus reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent since 2005, even as the campus grew from 3.85 million square feet in buildings and facilities to a little more than 5 million square feet.
URI Vice President for Administration and Finance Abigail Rider congratulated the school for the accomplishment.
“As we expanded our campus, adding state-of-the art science, pharmacy, engineering and residential facilities, we reduced our GHG emissions,” Rider said. “Through our teaching, research and outstanding campus initiatives, we are inspiring our community members and serving as a model for the state, nation and world through our collective actions. I am deeply grateful to our community for coming together to make URI more beautiful and sustainable for generations to come.”
The university in recent years has increased its energy conservation efforts through projects and programs such as a new car pooling option for commuter students, developing and opening a bike path and major infrastructure upgrades.
The work has resulted in a reduction of 89 billion BTUs in steam heat each year and 11 million kilowatt hours of electricity saved annually according to Marsha Garcia, campus sustainability officer.
Dave Lamb, assistant director of facilities operations, said the majority of reductions have happened because of URI’s comprehensive energy conservation efforts.
“Few universities have been as proactive and successful as we have in this area,” Lamb said.
URI also has taken advantage of incentive programs available for energy efficiency improvements. In 2019, the university received more than $1.8 million in negotiated energy conservation incentives as part of its comprehensive interior and exterior campus-wide LED lighting conservation projects.
The university has followed its Strategic Plan for Campus Sustainability and Climate Action. The plan’s mission statement calls on all members of the community to pursue “practices and principles leading to a healthy environment, a sustainable economy, and environmental and social equity.”
In decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions, URI has targeted transportation, building energy (steam, electricity) and waste. In 2005, the school produced 94,429 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, but in 2018, the level dropped to 71,994 metric tons.
URI claims its emission reductions are equivalent to planting 5,811 trees and removing 3,251 cars from the road.
The university also has partnered with South Kingstown and Narragansett to create the South Kingstown Solar Consortium. Its mission is to develop a solar power project that will generate economic benefits for all three while boosting the amount of renewable energy flowing into the state’s electric grid.
In the works for more than three years and announced in November 2018, the project is among the largest solar power initiatives in New England, covering 267 acres — in West Kingston, South Kingstown and West Greenwich. The campus site in West Kingston and the South Kingstown site at the Rose Hill landfill began producing power in November 2018. Through November 2019, the local sites have produced 6 million kilowatts of electricity, with projected annual revenues to URI of $817,160.
The university also has 11 LEED (Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design) certified buildings. The certification process by the U.S. Green Building Council granted gold certification to four URI buildings and silver to another four.
The council has recognized URI for building structures with energy-saving heating and ventilation systems, environmentally sound stormwater runoff systems, bike racks, solar panels and recycled construction materials. LEED certifications are pending for the Higgins Welcome Center, the Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering and Brookside residence hall.
The “green” initiatives also extend to food.
URI’s Dining and Catering Services uses locally caught, under-used fish for its Catch of the Month program and obtains around 25 percent of its produce from local farms, including from URI’s agronomy farm. Waste cooking oil is also picked up by Newport Biodiesel to use as fuel.
Campus outreach efforts encourage community members to save electricity by shutting off lights, television sets and computers when not in use, save water by taking shorter showers, use cold water for washing clothes and use reusable water bottles.