Rochester Institute of Technology’s Path to Carbon Neutral

Through the Chevrolet Clean Energy Campus Campaign, we are supporting 11 colleges going above and beyond to combat climate change.
Nov 24, 2014 10:25 AM ET


Guest post by Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability advisor, Rochester Institute of Technology

When I was first contacted about participating in Chevy’s Clean Energy Campus Campaign, I was conflicted. Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.  As the senior sustainability advisor to the president it is my job to get us there.  As with many universities, however, financial resources are limited and RIT has to make tough decisions when evaluating projects and programs in which to invest. Selling some of the emissions reductions we have achieved seemed contrary to our stated commitment, yet such a sale would bring in revenue that could be earmarked to fund current and future sustainability projects. As I dug further into the program and learned that Chevy would be retiring the emissions for the planet, I realized that it was an ideal opportunity for RIT to celebrate and reinvest in its sustainability efforts.  It also provides the campus community with a first-hand look at carbon markets and how they can fit into the suite of solutions to address climate change.

In addition to the aggressive energy conservation efforts our university has undertaken over the last two decades, RIT strives to be a living laboratory for sustainability. The most prominent example of this is our new LEED Platinum Golisano Institute for Sustainability, complete with a 400 kW fuel cell, 144 panel solar array, three vertical access wind turbines, and four level 2 EV charging stations that are almost always occupied. We also have a number of degree programs related to sustainability, including environmental science and  management, packaging science, industrial design, public policy, sustainable engineering and a Ph.D. in sustainability to name a few.

In the classroom, our students are learning about sustainability through a systems-thinking approach. Educating for sustainability, however, can be a challenge in this day and age. People expect instant results and answers that are black and white or a simple yes/no. In reality, sustainability is a complex challenge and rarely are the solutions simple. In fact, RIT President Dr. Bill Destler often explores these complicated issues in his regular blog posts for The Huffington Post.

Universities, as small to medium-sized communities, have an opportunity and arguably a responsibility to experiment with technological and operational solutions.  The funding we receive through the sale of three years of emissions reductions as part of Chevy’s Clean Energy Campus Campaign will be used to do just that, by investing in projects that will provide a pay back, enabling us to continually reinvest in new projects. Helping students understand our decision-making process and the financial realities that influence those decisions will enable them to explore more effective sustainability strategies through their research and ultimately implement those strategies in their careers.


Through the Chevrolet Clean Energy Campus Campaign, we are supporting 11 colleges going above and beyond to combat climate change. During the next two weeks, we highlight several dynamic campus leaders who are taking big steps to leave a smaller footprint.

Join the trailblazers from Ball State UniversityValencia CollegePortland State University Spelman CollegeUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoUniversity of Wisconsin – Stevens PointBoston UniversityRochester Institute of TechnologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignGrand Valley State University, and Southern Oregon University in the drive to a clean energy future.

Follow the sustainability conversation at #CleanEnergyU and tell Chevrolet why clean energy is important to you.