Home RU Climate Stewardship


Addressing Climate Change in the Rutgers Community

+ Tracking Rutgers Carbon Footprint

Between November 2009 and June 20, 2016 Rutgers-New Brunswick/Piscataway has managed to reduce its carbon footprint by an estimated 444,509 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MTCO2e) and save an estimated $69,571,964 in operating expenses. In addition, the University is currently a member of the United States Green Building Council, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability, as well an Energy Star and Combined Heat and Power Partner with the EPA.

Overview of Emission Reductions Since November 2009 (metric tons)

Energy Conservation 149,141
Alternative Energy 242,547
Water Conservation 3,900
Solid Waste 46,388
Green Landscaping 380
Transportation 2,153
Total (MTCO2e) 444,509

*MTCO2e = Metric Ton Carbon Dioxide Equivalent


+ Energy Use and Generation


Since 1995 Rutgers has operated a cogeneration energy plant on Busch Campus that provides electricity and heating to both its Livingston and Busch campuses. The plant produces about 300,000 KWH of power daily, enough to meet 90% of the energy demand of Livingston and Busch campuses at the time of construction and was awarded the Combined Heat and Power Certificate of Recognition by the EPA’s EnergyStar program in 2000. The plant has reduced CO2 emissions by 70,000 tons and saved $27,587,668. As of May 2014, the plant produces almost 42 million kWh per year and produces an average of 4 million therms per year for heating on Busch and Livingston. Cogeneration power plants produce two types of energy from a single fuel. The Busch plant burns natural gas to generate electricity via a turbine generator, while the heat generated from burning the natural gas is then used to heat pressurized water that is then pumped into buildings to be used for heating.  Normal power plants tend to operate at about 35-45% efficiency, while cogeneration power plants like the one on Busch operate at about 75% efficiency. Additionally, the piping system that carries the super-heated water from the cogeneration plant to buildings on Busch and Livingston was recently upgraded to provide better insulation and is expected to save the University an additional $2,520,000 in fuel costs and reduce CO2 emissions by 4,570,000 pounds annually. There are also currently plans in the works to expand the facility.

Solar Power

In 2009, Rutgers completed installation of a 1.4 megawatt solar farm that generates approximately 11% of the electrical demand of Livingston Campus, saving the University more than $200,000 per year in energy costs, as well as earning Solar Renewable Energy Certificates. Currently running at 95% efficiency on a good day, the 7-acre solar farm reduces Rutgers’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,300 tons per year and will offset the need to purchase power or draw on the capacity of the University’s cogeneration power plant.

stewardship solar-parking

As of January 2013, Rutgers successfully completed construction of an additional 8.01 megawatts of solar generating capacity by installing solar canopies over 28 acres of parking space on Livingston Campus, making it one of the largest solar canopy arrays in the country. The canopies will be able to power 51% of Livingston Campus and will reduce the University’s CO2 emissions by 6,364 tons per year. Over a 28-year period the project is expected to provide the University with a net savings of $28 million. The combined solar energy capacity on Livingston Campus generates enough power to satisfy 63% of the electrical demand of the campus.

Geothermal Energy

As of September 1, 2013, Rutgers successfully completed a geothermal energy project on Livingston Campus. By using the Earth’s stable core temperature, geothermal energy now offsets energy costs for heating and cooling of the Rutgers School of Business-New Brunswick building. The project consists of 321 wells at a depth of 500 feet to provide 700 tons of thermal energy annually.  It is saving the University 30% in energy over a conventional system.

Energy Conservation

With the help of New Jersey’s Clean Energy rebate program, Rutgers was able to replace existing motors in air handlers, cooling towers, exhaust fans, and circulating pumps with EPAct high efficiency motors, as well as install variable-frequency drives which increase efficiency to an even greater degree. These initiatives occurred in buildings on its New Brunswick/Piscataway, Newark and Camden campuses. As a result the University has been able to save 2.8 million KWH of electricity and 1,500 tons of CO2.  A second phase of lighting and motor upgrades were implemented in 2016 at all campuses.  The overall estimated savings expected is 2,880,850 KWH annually.  This project was done under the Large Energy Users Program through NJ Clean Energy.  This will add another 1,500 tons of CO2 to Rutgers annual CO2 reduction starting this current fiscal year.

Through the use of American Reinvestment Act funds, gas boilers at the Rutgers EcoComplex were retrofitted with new burners that use carbon-neutral landfill gas for 80% of its operating hours, as well as technology that slows the airflow over the burner tips, allowing for complete combustion of the landfill gas. The project is anticipated to save the University $104,600 annually in energy costs.

With support from PSE&G’s Direct Install Program, the first phase of a five year project to replace existing light fixtures with higher efficiency ones and add motion sensors was recently completed at its New Brunswick/Piscataway and Newark campuses and is expected to save the University around $1,000,000 per year in electric costs. The estimated energy savings of this first phase is 7 million KWH per year.  When the total audited light fixtures are replaced the total estimated energy savings is expected to be 42 million KWH of electricity per year. Under NJ Clean Energy's Large Energy User Program, new efficient lighting will be installed at the Camden and Newark campuses.

All new buildings and major renovations at Rutgers University are required to be built to LEED Silver Standards which have been shown to provide energy savings of at least 20%.

During holidays and school breaks Rutgers takes steps to conserve energy by reducing heating and lighting in most university buildings on all campuses, as well as turning off computers and other electrical equipment.


The Rutgers Energy Institute (REI) hosts the annual Energy Innovation Contest cash-prize contest which asks undergraduate students to devise innovative and implementable solutions to reducing energy consumption at Rutgers. Participation in this contest has provided students the opportunity to engage with their university environment and the experts around them as they conduct technical, economic, and policy analyses of potential solutions. Several of the student proposals have been implemented by the University, most notably tray-less dining and use of aerobic digesters. Students have also gained internships with corporations that produce the researched technology from their REI contest proposals.

LaunchR - U.S. Department of Energy CleanTech University Prize Innovation Contest.  A Rutgers student-run clean technology startup accelerator team competition funded by USDOE and PSEG, connecting young innovators in the green technology space through mentorship and workshops. 

Each year, the New Brunswick/Piscataway campuses compete in a campus vs. campus electrical energy reduction competition, for the Roving Energy Mizer Trophy.  The campus that reduces the most energy during a specific month as compared to the year before wins a roving trophy provided by PSE&G. For more about energy conservation activities by Rutgers Facilities, see their website.

+ Recycling and Waste Reduction

Recycling and Waste Reduction 

Recycling and waste reduction saves on disposal and energy costs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation, landfilling or thermal combustion.  Additionally, emissions associated with the extraction and processing of new raw materials are reduced through the reuse of materials.  Rutgers New Brunswick/Piscataway campus has recycled since 1972.  In 2015, 71.1 percent of waste generated was recycled and/or diverted from the landfill. By 2020, Rutgers’ goal is to reach and sustain a 90 percent recycling/diversion rate. Further information about the benefits of recycling and waste reduction is provided at this website.

Single Stream Recycling

In 2011, Rutgers New Brunswick/Piscataway instituted single stream recycling, changing more than 12,000 receptacles in offices and hallways. Single stream recycling systems allow for all paper, plastics, metals and other recyclable materials to be mixed together instead of having to be sorted separately at the time of disposal. This reduces costs and increases the participation and efficiency of recycling. 









RecycleMania is a nationwide recycling competition for environmentally friendly colleges and universities that features over 700 entrants. Since 2007 Rutgers has won ten consecutive RecycleMania Gorilla Prizes for highest gross tonnage recycled during the competition. During the eight-week contest in the winter of 2017, the Rutgers community recycled 2,333,670 pounds of material.

Rutgers Day : 0 Waste 

Since its inception in 2012, Rutgers has achieved a perfect zero percent waste to landfill score on Rutgers Day. Though more than 80,000 visitors enjoy a daylong schedule of activities and events on the New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses, no trash is sent to the landfill.

Trash Compaction

With the help of Waste Management of New Jersey, Rutgers installed 10 pairs of smart, solar-powered trash compactors in New Brunswick/Piscataway and Camden. “Big Belly” compactors were installed which produce 35 to 40 pound cubes, five times as much trash as a normal container of its size. These smart compactors alert staff via email when its time for pickup, thereby reducing labor and fuel costs.

Project Move Out

Rutgers partners with the City of New Brunswick in Project Move Out, aimed at off-campus students, to collect unwanted furniture, electronics and appliances at the end of the spring semester In the spring of 2016, Rutgers, in partnership with Waste Management of New Jersey, retrieved 69.37 tons of bulk waste and 3.8 tons of electronics, which were then either recycled or sent to a waste-to-energy plant.

+ Dining Services and Local Produce

Dining Services: Recycling, Reuse, Waste Reduction and Energy Production

Rutgers University Dining Services has food pulping systems in the four dining facilities on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus. All discarded and leftover food is pulverized and water is extracted at an 8:1 ratio; the water waste is then recycled back into the same system. The remaining organic matter in three of the four facilities is picked up by Pinter Farms and is used as pig and cattle feed. Pinter Farms collects on average more than a ton of food scraps per day from three of the four main dining halls on the Rutgers New Brunswick/Piscataway campus. Busch Dining Hall and The New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health both utilize aerobic digesters, which convert food to liquid that goes down the drain, thus avoiding the landfill and the fuel costs of hauling. At Henry's Diner on the Livingston campus, an aerobic digester is also used and shared by Kilmer's Market.

In addition, all the New Brunswick/Piscataway dining halls, send their used fry oil to a "Vegewatt" machine at Busch Dining Hall where it is converted into electricity and the excess heat is used to warm incoming water.

stewardship shopping






Reusable Canvas Bags

At the start of the 2012 fall semester the University Dining Services gave out reusable canvas bags on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic bags used when serving takeout meals as opposed to the more than 1.5 million plastic bags that were given out during the 2011-2012 school year. After the start of the semester students can purchase the canvas bags for $1. 

Elimination of Trays in Dining Halls

Cafeteria trays are no longer in use at Rutgers-New Brunswick/Piscataway dining halls saving on the cost of food, water, and the sanitizer used to wash dishes. The amount of food that is wasted is also dramatically reduced.  Rutgers has seen a 20% reduction in the amount of food waste students dispose of after they eat as well as saving of $30,000 per week in food costs.  This policy prevents a significant amount of food from ending up in the trash.

Reusable Cups

Beginning in January of 2017, paper cups, straws and lids were removed from all four dining halls take-out program on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus and replaced with reusable stainless steel cups that can be used for both hot and cold beverages.

Dining Services and Local Produce

Indoor Cultivation Initiative (ICI)

Rutgers Dining Services is utilizing greens and herbs grown in the Cook Campus greenhouses in an indoor vertical farming system.

Purchasing From Local Vendors

Rutgers Dining Services in New Brunswick purchases a significant portion of its food from local vendors, including the Rutgers Student Farm.  Purchasing local lowers fuel usage, which reduces the carbon impact food has on the environment. Approximately 40% of all food purchased by Rutgers is locally sourced (within 150 miles or less of campus):100% of milk and dairy products; 100% of all produce; and 90% of meat and poultry are locally sourced.

Farm Markets

Since 2008, the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, in partnership with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station has sponsored the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market at the Rutgers Gardens which provides a variety of products grown and produced locally, such as meat, cheese, vegetables, poultry, and baked goods. Since 2009, Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in partnership with Johnson & Johnson has sponsored the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market. In 2012, the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Governing Council with assistance from the Rutgers Administration and the New Brunswick Farmers Market established a seasonal Jersey Fresh Farmers Market behind the bookstore on Cook Campus during the fall. Each of these markets provides access to local products for members of the Rutgers community, as well as our neighbors, reducing our collective carbon footprint. The market also serves as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization by creating opportunities for Rutgers students and faculty to interact with the community. It also provides an opportunity for low-income people to access fresh, local food.

Rutgers Student Farm also donates more than 25% of its produce to Elijah’s Promise.

+ Transportation

Electric Charging

The University is working on a prototype recharging network for electric cars powered by the Busch cogeneration plant and Livingston solar arrays. There are currently a number of ChargePoint America recharging systems for electric cars at Rutgers; two at the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation on Busch Campus.  There are also four charging stations on the Livingston campus, one behind Martin Hall on Cook Campus and one at the Rutgers EcoComplex.

stewardship chargepoint

The charging stations are part of a Rutgers Energy Institute (REI) initiative called the Rutgers Solar-to-Vehicle Project which aims at collecting data in order to analyze trends pertaining to electric car usage and the viability of using solar energy to power such vehicles. 

Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Emissions from natural gas vehicles are much lower than gasoline or diesel powered vehicles and a Rutgers EcoComplex demonstration project has shown the viability of utilizing cleaned landfill gas in transportation applications similar to natural gas.









Additionally, in 2011 the University began utilizing a blend of biodiesel in its bus fleet. The Rutgers bus system is the largest campus bus system nationally and second largest in New Jersey behind NJ Transit; it is operated by First Transit.

Bike Rental Program

The University Department of Transportation in conjunction with the Rutgers Green Purchasing Program and the Rutgers Energy Institute maintains 150 bikes available for student rental at central locations throughout the New Brunswick Campus. Once users register they may access the automated bike rental system and check out bikes for $10 per month or $25 per semester.

+ Acknowledgements

Thank you to the following Rutgers University faculty and staff for their review and update of the information herein:  Beatrice Birrer, Rutgers Energy Institute; Dunbar Birnie, Materials Science and Engineering; Joseph Charette, Rutgers Dining Services; David DeHart, Environmental Services; Michael Kornitas, Operations and Services; Laura Lawson, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences; Jack Molenaar, Department of Transportation Services.

Last Revised: April 2017

Connect with Rutgers

Climate Web Sites

Contact Us

c/o Department of Environmental Sciences
Rutgers University
Environmental and Natural Resources Sciences Building
14 College Farm Road
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8551