Campus & Sustainability

RIC student working in Greenhouse

Rhode Island College implements several “green” initiatives that raise awareness of sustainable behaviors and support a sustainable campus environment.

A federally-recognized Green Ribbon School, RIC is committed to becoming a model campus for sustainable practices and programs. From decreasing energy usage to beekeeping to sourcing locally grown foods, we are actively demonstrating our commitment to the environment today for a sustainable future tomorrow.

Green Campus Initiatives

RIC's Community Garden Blooms

There are a number of benefits to consuming locally grown produce, said Jim Murphy, Rhode Island College's first ever sustainability coordinator, and since more farmers markets are popping up as the summer months approach, consumers are encouraged to take advantage of these benefits.

Murphy says one of the best advantages to purchasing locally grown produce is that it travels a shorter distance from where it was grown to where it will be sold, eliminating the need for preservatives to keep food fresh while in transit. As a result, the produce is more fresh and healthy.

Local produce travels 50 miles at most, added Murphy, as opposed to the 1,500 miles it could take to travel across the country to a mass or chain grocery store. Shorter travel distances from the farm to the retailer also reduce transportation costs, resulting in cheaper pricing for produce.

Murphy said, "By eliminating the use of planes, ships and large trailer trucks to transport produce, there is a decrease in the amount of pollution released into the Earth's atmosphere, thereby hindering global warming."

Money spent on local produce and other foods helps the economy by aiding nearby agricultural communities and creating jobs, he said.

RIC will be hosting the annual Fruit Hill Farmers Market every Thursday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. from Aug. 2 to Oct. 4. Local produce grown by RIC students, faculty and staff from the college's community garden will be sold at this market.

RIC reaches higher degree of green with new line of graduation wear

This commencement season, Rhode Island College enhanced its sustainability efforts by introducing eco-friendly caps and gowns made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles. While the caps and gowns themselves are in the traditional color black, this latest RIC initiative is definitely green! 

The Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts

The Nazarian Center has recently completed a LED lamp conversion in the Lobby of Sapinsley Hall. We changed over and installed 28 LED lamps in the Lobby which effectively lowers electrical consumption by almost 80%. We had been using (since the building opened in 2000) 90w incandescent lamps and have switched to 18w LED lamps. College officials worked with representatives from National Grid so that the LED bulbs only cost the college (after a rebate) little more than what we would have paid to go to CFL lamps. CFL lamps would have provided a 75% reduction but the life expectancy is only half the amount of time the LED lamps are projected to last. We piloted several test lamps in different locations last semester and the LED provided a quality of light that was so close to the incandescent that most people could not tell the difference. The project is complete and we are working on replacing the fixtures that do not have direct replacement options with alternatives in the coming year. We will also be piloting these lamps in different parts of the Nazarian Center North Wing (the older part of the building known as Roberts Hall) during this semester to see if we can achieve the same quality of light while using the existing fixtures. We have also added programmable switches to the front entry to control the lighting where the Nazarian Bust resides, and in the Forman box office to control the Forman Marquee lighting.

Donovan Dining Center

The Dining Center has partnered with Newport Biodiesel for over a year now in Fueling a Greener Rhode Island. The cooking oil from Rhode Island College is being converted into clean burning Biodiesel to heat homes and power vehicles throughout Rhode Island. Biodiesel is a renewable, non-toxic, locally produced fuel that can be used in any diesel engine or oil furnace. By participating in this program we will help prevent over 4 million pounds of CO2 emissions this year. This is just one example of our commitment to preserving the environment.

  • Rhode Island College recently signed a 5-year contract with ENERNOC, an energy solutions provider, to participate in a demand response program. RIC will voluntarily reduce electric demand during power events called by ISO-New England (the regional electricity manager) and in exchange receive quarterly payments.
  • RIC will reduce demand by utilizing our building management system to adjust heating, ventilation, and cooling in buildings throughout the campus.
  • The program benefits ISO-New England by freeing up capacity in the electrical grid and reducing the possibility of brown outs, and at the same time benefits RIC by allowing us to better understand and manage our energy consumption, as well as receive payments for doing so! Since RIC began participating in ENERNOC in January 2010, RIC has received $36,209.29 (through February 2012) for participation in this program.
  • RIC has been applying environmentally-friendly cleaning agents for eight years
  • All of the current chemicals utilized by the college are green certified, as they are high performing cleaning agents while also being environmentally responsible.
  • The New Residence Hall has green certified paper towels, toilet paper, and soap
  • RIC uses green certified microfiber wet/dry mops
  • The college incorporates 99% HEPA filters for vacuums and shampoo machines
  • 95% green chemical soap scrubbing as opposed to less "friendly" stripping
  • RIC uses Green certified soap and paper towels throughout campus
  • Green certified trash bags that have been tested to break down 50% faster at the landfill)
  • All cleaning equipment used is green certified
  • No harsh chemicals are ever used anywhere on the campus by the RIC custodial department (no bleach, ammonia, etc).
  • Recycling containers are strategically located throughout campus.
  • Physical plant also compacts and recycles cardboard
  • Reuse of boxes - offices reuse boxes for storage rather than purchasing new ones.
  • Reuse of furniture from other public institutions
    • Includes desks, chairs, sofas, tables, and other office, lounge, and classroom furniture.
    • RIC can therefore avoid paying for new furniture by using the resources that are already available while preventing the further use of resources and generation of pollution related to the production of new furniture.

RIC has an electronic building management system in place that is used to control the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in all major buildings on campus. This system allows for energy savings by programming the systems in coordination with classroom and event schedules. The system is managed from a desktop computer and in many buildings temperatures can be controlled down to an individual room level. Room and building temperatures have different set points depending on whether they are occupied and unoccupied.

The college has retrofitted many buildings on campus with energy efficient lighting. These retrofits continue as we renovate buildings or as stand-alone projects. Lighting retrofits are important as it is estimated that lighting makes up 14% of total energy use in buildings on campus.

Many classroom lights on campus use occupancy sensors so that the College saves energy when classes are not in session and the lights were inadvertently left on.

The College is also conducting pilot studies on different lighting controls on campus, such as daylighting controls and occupancy sensors

  • The steam plant produces steam that is used to heat the buildings during the heating season and cool the buildings during the air conditioning season (using steam absorbers).
  • The college has made several modifications to the facility that have resulted in significant energy savings. The replacement of several key valves and a reduction in steam pressure has allowed the college to run on one boiler rather than two to achieve these savings.
  • The steam plant operates well within its emission cap.

Most campus computers have power management software installed that will automatically manage the power the computer uses to reduce energy usage. With approximately 1,700 computers on campus, this will translate into considerable energy reduction and cost savings.

The year-old dorm becomes the largest project and first residence hall in the state to receive LEED® certification. The newest residence hall at Rhode Island College is a mix of colors, but, according to the U.S. Building Council, it is "green" all the way.

In June, it was announced that the 367-bed dorm was awarded the council's LEED certification, which verifies that the building is an environmentally responsible, healthy place to live. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The structure, designed by RGB, an architectural, engineering and interior design firm, becomes Rhode Island's largest LEED certified building and the first LEED certified residence hall in the state to successfully complete the certification process, said RGB in a release.

"The new residence hall at Rhode Island College was conceived, designed and built to provide a high-quality, affordable, living and learning experience for today's generation of students," said RIC in a statement. "As result of this project, the College has incorporated energy, maintenance and operating efficiencies in its newest and largest building."

The 127,500-square-foot residence hall, which opened in September 2007, is the largest building on campus. It provides single- and double-bedroom occupancy apartments and suite-style units housing four students each. The facility also houses student recreation space, study areas and a new student life office suite.

Principle sustainable design features include an air/vapor barrier to seal the building from drafts while making it more energy efficient, and a high-efficiency HVAC system that provides a combined cost saving of over $115,000 per year.


The residence hall's location was based on the LEED reduced-site disturbance requirement of 40-foot maximum clearing setback, to maintain as much natural vegetation as possible. Over 56 percent of the trash from the project was recycled, totaling over 750 tons. A white energy star roof reduces cooling loads on the building, saving energy, while reducing the heat island effect created by black surfaces in urban environments. High-efficiency equipment was installed to save energy, while alternative refrigerants were specified to help reduce depletion of the ozone layer and slow global warming. Exposed colored concrete floors were used for better air quality and improved maintainability without harsh chemicals. Over 27 percent of materials - supplied from within 500 miles of the project - were used to reduce fuel used in transportation. Indoor finishes with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) were used for improved indoor air quality.

A third-party commissioning agent was utilized to ensure the building was as energy efficient as possible. Recycling centers for students are provided within the building. Steven L. Hughes, RGB's senior designer who was Rhode Island's first LEED accredited architect, managed the project.

"Rhode Island College and RGB are to be commended for achieving LEED certification of the new residence hall," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO, founding chair of U.S. Green Building Council.

"The new residence hall will be a showcase for high performance, energy efficiency, health and well being, and an inspiration for others." At the certification ceremony on June 30, an LEED plaque was presented to Frank Caprio, chairman of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education.

Though the residence hall has been designated a "green" building, it has yet to be named, noted RIC President Nancy Carriuolo. "I would be delighted to hear from a potential donor who is interested in naming rights," she said.​


Schedule a Field Trip with Buzz

Buzz, our resident Bee expert, leads tours of our Bee Education Center, RIC Greenhouse and Community Garden. We invite individuals or groups to join us for an enriching, hands-on tour of the college’s green initiatives. Age appropriate sessions can be customized to suit your needs.

Explore Campus & Sustainability

Rhode Island College entrance

Contact Us

James P. Murphy

Mr. James C. Murphy

Sustainability Coordinator