Events & Media
Alumna Enid Cardinal '04 advises RIT President on Sustainability
Master's degree in environmental policy from Bard College, Bachelor's in biology and history from SUNY Binghamton, Enid Cardinal is senior sustainability adviser to Rochester Institute of Technology President Bill Destler.
Check out the article below, reposted from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Read online and view a video of Enid here.
As a little girl, Enid Cardinal watched her father climb the trees in her backyard and shake branches until the apples fell. Then the family would pile into their station wagon — along with the apples and empty milk jugs — to head to a processing plant, which pressed the apples into cider that lasted through the winter.
She picked strawberries from her best friend's farm, tapped trees for maple syrup and ate meals made from scratch.
So Cardinal feels right at home as senior sustainability adviser to Rochester Institute of Technology President Bill Destler.
Focusing on climate neutrality and a reduction in greenhouse gases, Cardinal aims to help RIT become an international model for campus sustainability practices.
"We are now on our way in our goal to become a carbon-neutral campus by 2030," said Destler, who himself drives an electric car and often rides an electric bike to campus.
"Sustainability is this big, nebulous title," Cardinal said. "Everybody thinks it's about being green, but it's about more than using an iconic polar bear to save the trees. It goes to the heart of basic human rights. We really need to get people to recognize that there is a significant difference between the haves and the have-nots."
For instance, as the population grows — it has quadrupled since the 1960s — and continues to move into previously underdeveloped areas, an increasing number of challenges arise with fresh water, food, timber and other resources, she said. Add to that the ethical complications from putting landfills and coal-fired plants in poor neighborhoods, where property values are low, asthma and obesity rates are high, and the opportunities to buy fresh food are few to none.
"We all want to stay healthy and have a good world for our families," she said. "But if we don't look at ways to address all these changes holistically, we're going to be Cardinal, 33, is a LEED-accredited professional with a background in socially responsible investing and environmental policy. She became a vegetarian at age 11.
Destler notes that Cardinal is "absolutely passionate" about sustainability and "leads by example in her personal life as well."
She has demonstrated more than once that she has the drive and stamina to effect change, perhaps most notably when she successfully helped fight a developer who wanted to turn a wetland into a housing development.
She tries to make a difference in smaller ways, too — using refillable water bottles, reusable shopping bags, and fair trade, organic coffee (she just polished off the two bags she'd brought home from a backpacking trip through Peru this summer). And she makes it clear that she doesn't appreciate plastic bottles being pitched into the trash can.
"I try very hard not to judge," she said, "but when it's an easy choice and the recycling bin is right there, I get a little irked."
Alyssa Sargent, an advertising and public relations major graduating from RIT in the spring, has been working with Cardinal for nearly two months to help spread the word about campus sustainability initiatives.
"Enid puts a greatdeal of effort into learning the campus because she wants to give us the best she has," she said. "She is a lways smiling and we are always laughing in our meetings, even though she is insanely busy getting into the swing of
things. It seems she naturally enjoys her crazy schedule ... because sustainability is clearly her passion."
To those who are skeptical that a few people coming together can make a tremendous impact, Cardinal points to a quote by famed anthropologist Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Though the tasks at hand may be daunting, she is confident they can be mastered: "It takes a lot of elbow grease, a little bit of money, and a lot of willpower. I think people sometimes get hamstrung when they look at the weight of what's in front of
us. We're at a critical point right now, but I've seen innovation happen, and we have a great opportunity to take action.
"I tend to be the forever optimist, I suppose. I couldn't do my job if I wasn't."
Flanigan is a Rochester-area freelance writer.
IMAGE CREDIT: Annette Lein/staff photographer.
Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability adviser to RIT President Bill Destler, shows the permeable sidewalk that was installed on campus to help with drainage.
This event was last updated on 12-02-2011