Position: Campus Sustainability Officer
Department: Campus Planning and Design
Hometown: Providence, RI
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability is a difficult concept to explain because it involves almost every aspect of our lives, from conserving natural resources, to increasing use of public transportation, to making sure businesses we work with are being socially responsible. I like to think of it as a common sense approach to living.
Which URI project or program related to sustainability should we be the most proud of?
I’m proud of URI’s efforts to develop a strategic plan for campus sustainability. There are so many things that URI does, and could do, to infuse practices and principles of sustainability on campus, and it can seem overwhelming. Creating a plan organizes our actions so that they are more thoughtful and deliberate.
How are you involved with campus sustainability at URI?
I manage the University's responsibilities under the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a document signed by former URI President Robert L. Carothers in 2007, which committed the University to dramatically reduce its contribution to global climate change. I also coordinate the URI President’s Council for Sustainability, a group of faculty, staff and students appointed by President David Dooley that provides strategic guidance on campus sustainability initiatives. These initiatives can be anything related to campus operations, our academic plan, and even how we communicate sustainability. Just like the definition of sustainability itself, projects and initiatives are related to almost every aspect of life on campus.
What can URI do to be greener?
As a higher education institution, URI must be confident that all students, of every academic discipline, are prepared to boldly and successfully take on issues of global importance. We need to teach both inside and outside the classroom by modeling the behavior we want our students to embrace in terms of sustainability, and to do this means changing the campus culture. A really challenging and important issue to tackle on this campus is transportation. We have way too many single-occupancy cars driving to and from campus, especially during the academic year. Fixing this problem would make the biggest impression and have the biggest impact.
What do you do in your personal life to be green?
I take public transportation as often as I can. Living 35 miles away in Providence, this means that my door-to-door commute to campus can be almost twice as long as my commute by car. But, to me, it’s not time wasted because instead of driving or sitting in traffic I can read a book (or take a nap!). It’s also less expensive to take public transportation since URI pays for half of my bus pass. Paying $30 a month for unlimited bus rides saves me from having to pay three times that much in gas if I drove to campus every day.
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Natural Resources Science Professor Peter Paton has been in the news a great deal this winter providing expert commentary about an unprecedented invasion of snowy owls from the Arctic into the Northeast and Midwest.