Greening conference discusses sustainability efforts, encourages students

The fourth annual Greening Virginia Universities and Colleges Conference on Oct. 22, which was hosted by VCU, discussed topics including campus green-initiative operations and the most efficient green design practices.

Rice Center Director Leonard Smock welcomed the 130 representatives of colleges and universities who attended the conference along with architectural firms from Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C. and North Carolina.

Smock said he is responsible for everyday operations of the Rice Center, while implementing research and teaching the center’s mission.

The center’s Walter L. Rice Education Building, located on the James River, is Virginia’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum-certified building. The LEED is a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“My hope is that students will have come away from the conference with a better understanding of the possibilities and difficulties in building and operating ‘green’ on college campuses,” Smock stated in an e-mail. “And with insight into what students can do in their daily college life to further day-to-day greening of our campuses.”

Walter Simpson, a certified energy manager and LEED accredited professional in green building design, was a speaker at the conference and discussed climate preservation.

Simpson is an environmental consultant who retired in 2008 from the University of Buffalo where he was the campus energy officer for 26 years and the director of UB’s green office.

“New buildings can and should be designed to minimize adverse environmental impacts,” Simpson stated on the Campus Sustainability Perspective Blog. “The first rule of green design is this: The greenest building is one not built.”

Jacek Ghosh, VCU’s director of sustainability, was an integral part of the conference, Smock said.

Ghosh’s panel titled “The Sustainability Initiative at Virginia Commonwealth University” lead a discussion on the sustainability plan being developed at VCU.

There were exhibitors who set up booths sharing information about green products and services. Attendees could participate in virtual tours of either the Rice Center or VCU student recreation sports projects.

Attendees were informed of green initiatives in curriculums leading to green jobs and climate action plans being developed at Virginia’s universities and colleges.

Virginia Sustainable Building Network sponsored and organized the conference. VSBN promotes environmentally sound-building practices and sustainable development for Virginia, according to the VSBN Web site.

Promoting Awareness

There are a number of student organizations and offices that work to promote environmental awareness. Here are a few of the efforts being made by VCU according to its Year of the Environment Web site:

Green Unity for VCU is an active student organization that works with the Center for Environmental Studies as well as student groups and local organizers. Green Unity will be hosting VCU’s Year of the Environment Student Kick-Off on Nov. 18 in the University Student Commons Plaza.

The MCV Student Government Association and Monroe Park Student Government Association are the governing bodies of the MCV and Monroe Park Campuses of VCU. They organize plans for social and community service events, advocate for students, and voice concerns and provide funding for programming done by other student groups.

Students in VCU fraternities and sororities volunteered during student move-in to collect cardboard and plastic bottles for recycling. Participating organizations included Collegiate Panhellenic Council, Sigma Gamma Rho, Phi Sigma Sigma, Alpha Kappa Lambda, Delta Chi, Lambda Phi Epsilon, Lambda Upsilon Lambda and Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

VCU Dining Services partners with Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology, for an awareness campaign called Waste Week. During this week, students are challenged to reduce the amount of food wasted at Market 810 in Shafer Court Dining Center.

In partnership with the Facilities Management Division and the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Office of Residential Life and Housing at VCU is promoting green living by making changes to campus residence halls.

Other offices include the VCU Center for Environmental Studies, the VCU Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences and the VCU Sustainability Committee.

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