Sustainability initiative targets residence halls

Students in 1940 are being challenged to go green by national standards.

Beginning last month, students in the 1940 residence hall have the chance to prove they live eco-friendly. In a partnership with the Office of Sustainability, residential advisers in 1940 are offering a Green Rooms Rating System for residents to adjust their living habits to abide by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

LEED is a globally recognized program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000. LEED certification judges the ecological impact of buildings from construction to demolition. LEED 2012 is in development.

Safya O’Rourke, a peer mentor for the Sustainability Living and Learning Community, first introduced the rating system to people on her floor in 1940.

“Right now, we’re just starting it with students that have already shown a desire, like a moral desire, to want to live in a more sustainable way,” O’Rourke, a junior environmental studies and political science major, said. “Hopefully, they’ll demonstrate the importance of it to their peers so that we can expand.”

Sustainability Coordinator Kathleen Grady, who developed the system, explained that students can reach silver, gold or platinum certification for their room depending on the number of points accumulated.

“Residents will be provided with a certificate that announces their level of certification,” Grady said in an email. “This way students will be able to announce publicly their commitment to sustainability.”

Points are awarded to students who take energy-conscious measures with kitchen appliances, laundry methods, lighting, transportation, air conditioning and heating units, water usage, electronic usage and waste management.

“Every room has a recycling bin…one of the questions is, ‘Do you recycle?’ and [students would] perk up and say, ‘Yeah that’s my recycling bin over there,’” O’Rourke said.

She acknowledged that one measure, a warm compost area, is currently “not feasible” for residents in university housing, but suggested it may become a possibility, as awareness grows.

The program does not offer any academic or financial incentives to students who become certified.

“I think it’s just getting some recognition for what they’re already doing,” O’Rourke said. “A lot of times when you’re learning about the environmental problems of the world, it’s done with kind of a guilt-tripping feel, you know, ‘change the way you’re living your life because the world’s going to end.’ But, we’re trying to use positive reinforcement.”

O’Rourke is a part of the EPA OnCampus ecoAmbassadors Program.

Some students do not consider incentives a factor in living “green.”

“I don’t think I would do it any differently if I had motivation,” Alison Giannone, a freshman fine arts major, said.

“I think about it, but because someone’s not there, like, ‘Hey, do this every day,’ because it’s not one, sometimes you just don’t think to do it,” Jess Ruggierio, a freshman in Tyler School of Art, said. Ruggierio lives in 1940.

Others see incentives as a valid reason for participating.

“The best way to motivate anybody to do something is usually by an award system,” Brandon Schramm, a freshman history major, said.

The proposed list of measures students can take does not change according to how many people live in a suite. O’Rouke said the system is implemented flexibly.

“One of the things we take into account is the amount of sharing that goes on…The idea is that they work together to lessen their impact,” she said.

O’Rourke said she would not revoke a certification from any student that neglected to maintain LEED standards in their dorm. Meanwhile, the office plans to use LEED certified rooms as part of campus tours to promote Temple’s environmentally friendly efforts.

“That makes them look good,” O’Rourke said. “It would probably have a very economically beneficial [effect] on the school.”

Amelia Brust can be reached at

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