The Next Step in the Greening of Rensselaer

Bobbi Chase, Jayne Park, Steve Trowbridge and Steve Breyman

This proposal is for funding to take the next step in the Greening of Rensselaer Initiative (GRI) supported last year by the Strategic Initiatives Steering Committee. We intend to integrate and expand ongoing greening activities into curriculum reform. This is, thus, a proposal for new projects, not for a continuing commitment. We propose projects that will have real programmatic, qualitative and reputational impacts. We plan to build links between relevant courses in all five Schools and the four GRI projects discussed below: water conservation, garden-laboratory, Environmental Education Center, and green purchasing. Rensselaer is developing a national reputation for infrastructure and curriculum greening and for an active student environmental community. These projects will draw further attention to Rensselaer, attention that is likely to increase student satisfaction levels. These projects help fill a hole in current delivery models; they get students out of the classroom and transcend the passive role for students of lecture-based learning. They create sustainable assets that promise to reduce instructional costs through relieving the burden on already over scheduled computer facilities and perhaps even for reducing the need for increasingly expensive computer-centered classrooms. We are pursuing the issues of endorsement and cost sharing with Mr. Thomas Yurkewecz, Vice President for Administration. We are also making contacts with potentially interested faculty and students. We believe this proposal to have "maximal impact" in that it promises to improve the educational experiences of hundreds of students. The projects will achieve and "timely impact" in that they will provide genuine resources-project sites and coordinators-for the conversion of numerous courses to interactive format. And the proposed projects provide an opportunity for "rapid, deep deployment" in that by making connections between curriculum reform and student citizenship, they involve large numbers of faculty and can serve as models for the Institute.

Water Conservation Coordinator

The significant success of the Greening Coordinator position and the thirty-eight percent increase in the price Rensselaer pays the City of Troy for water move us to urge creation of a new full-time student co-op position: the Water Conservation Coordinator. The price increase is expected to cost Rensselaer an additional $165,000 next year. We are confident we can, as we did with recycling, save the Institute considerably more than it costs to fund the position while at the same time creating a "site" for interactive education. The Coordinator, in conjunction with students who take part through various courses, will carry out an education campaign and oversee installation of appropriate water-saving technologies. Students and faculty in STS, BIOL, ENVS, ENVE, ARCH, E&ES, ECON, and M&T should be interested in either the educational and/or the technological projects. The educational campaign will be simple and straightforward: wasting water is like wasting money ("don't leave the water on while brushing teeth." "don't flush urinals," "shower with a friend"). Student research projects will ensure the entire Rensselaer community is made aware of the urgency of the situation. Stickers will be applied in all rest rooms and locker rooms on campus. Notices can be posted repeatedly in campus publications and on listservs, kiosks, and walls. Public service announcements will play on WRPI. New student orientation will include a water conservation presentation and materials. Cheap, simple technologies and some proactive steps have been shown to make a big difference in water conservation. Student-led efforts can ensure that leaks get fixed, sprinklers don't operate in the rain, and landscaping receive less water. Students can research and implement the installation of xeriscaping, the reduction of toilet tank capacity, new low-flush toilets, low flow shower heads, and grey water systems. There is ample room for new technologies designed by students. The position and programs, if successful, will seek continued support from the Vice President of Administration, sponsor of the Greening Coordinator. Success is easily measured by reductions in water use, dollars saved (equivalent to the generation of new revenue), and by the number of courses and student projects involved.

Garden Laboratory

As we write this, our first herbs, flowers, and vegetables are sprouting in the greenhouse on Sunset Terrace, and student interest in getting dirty is growing. The parcel on the corner of Georgian and Detroit on the edge of campus was approved as the permanent site for our garden/greenhouse/orchard complex. We canvassed the neighborhood to inform citizens of our plans and to ask for their participation. We coordinated our work with that of the Capital District Community Gardens. The next step is to procure some materials and equipment we still need and to integrate the garden complex-as-living- laboratory into curriculum reform. Our efforts to procure a complimentary rototiller from Garden Way were unsuccessful. Pilot compost facilities need to be started at the site and in several academic buildings. Faculty time and a URP student are needed to integrate the numerous interactive educational possibilities afforded by the garden into myriad courses in ARTS, STS, BIO, ENVS, ENVE, ARCH, E&ES, ECON, and M&T. These possibilities include soil sampling, compost composition tests, botanical studies, sustainable agriculture research, marketing studies, and many more. Success here is measured by the number of courses and student projects able to affiliate with the garden complex. The garden complex is slated to become a sustainable project over the next several years -- through the sale of fruit, vegetables and flowers -- requiring only the student participation be renewed from one year to the next.

Environmental Education Center

The EEC's presence on campus is growing. Its projects and facilities include the EcoLogic home page (recently designated a Four Star site by Magellan), and office (MRC 310) staffed part-time and outfitted with sofa, coffee maker, computer and donated and purchased educational materials, and telephone with voice mail. We know enough now to understand that the World Wide Web holds great promise for interactive environmental education. Student's working on projects through the EEC can (re)design sites for use in courses, and investigate the web as a resource for building environmental literacy. We request funds for a part-time graduate assistant and a URP student (working with Steve Breyman) to compile sites, examine software, and work with faculty and students in CS, LL&C, ARTS, STS, BIO, ENVS, ENVE, ARCH, E&ES, ECON, and M&T. The work of the EEC will probably be integrated into the pending Sustainable Water Resources Center (for which funding is being sought independently of this proposal) and will surely be of interest to new EMAC students. The metric here is student participation: the more students that use EEC facilities, the greater the educational impact of the project. We have a counter on the web page and will establish a "guest book" to track Center usage.

Green Purchasing Coordinator

Now is the ideal time to connect EcoLogic's green purchasing project with the ongoing effort to reengineer the Purchasing Department and with campus- wide curriculum reform. We request funds for a full-time student co-op position modeled on the Greening and Water Resources Coordinators. The Green Purchasing Coordinator would work with the Purchasing Department and other pertinent campus units to meet a dual criteria: acquire the goods and services needed by the Institute for less money and with reduced environmental impact. We have learned a lot about green purchasing through the visit to Rensselaer of Rutgers' Kevin Lyons (the "father" of green purchasing), through Brad McKitrick's EMAP practicum, and through the environmental audit conducted last semester by students in Environment & Society. Opportunities for interactive education abound: as many investigations of price and environmental impact are necessary as there are goods and services that the Institute purchases. Students can do comparative impact analyses, write product specifications, run test trials, investigate green materials and green design, and develop systems and models. The broad scope of green purchasing projects will attract students from Management, Design, Finance, Accounting, STS, and Microeconomics courses from the Schools of H&SS, Management and Technology, Engineering, and Architecture. Success is easily measured by examining the contracts written and the goods and services greened by the Coordinator and the affiliated student projects. Real savings -- new net revenue -- will accrue from the reduction, reuse, and recycling (core green purchasing principles) associated with greening Institute buying practices. These savings can in future years offset the cost of the position (make it self-supporting), and, we predict, leave money to spare.


We foresee a wide array of faculty and students who will benefit from this proposal. We organize them by course, department, and annual enrollments (many enrollments we simply did not know; those we do provide are estimates).

Science and Technology Studies


Water Conservation Coordinator


Environmental Education Center

Green Purchasing Coordinator