A top executive from the Bush administration has joined Rochester Institute of Technology to lead its efforts in pollution prevention.
Edwin Pinero, until recently the federal environmental executive, has been named director of the Pollution Prevention Institute at RIT.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer last week announced RIT would be the site for the new institute, designed to coordinate efforts among research universities and government agencies to help manufacturers adopt green practices.
“I am a firm believer that environmental stewardship not only is the right thing for our environment but is an incredible, untapped business opportunity,” Pinero said in an interview Tuesday. “There is actually money to be saved and to be made in environmental stewardship.”
As the federal environmental executive, Pinero oversaw presidential orders that mandated efforts to ensure that the government itself was as environmentally conscious as possible, Pinero said. He was appointed to the post in 2004, after serving as the deputy environmental executive for a year.
Pinero also played a role in international initiatives, including a summit of the United Nations last summer focused on sustainability. It was at that conference he became better acquainted with Nabil Nasr, director of the new Golisano Institute for Sustainability at RIT.
“I’ve been very impressed with the stuff (RIT) is doing,” Pinero said.
Pinero has been tapped to lead partnerships among labs at RIT, Clarkson University and SUNY at Buffalo, each specializing in different areas of reducing waste in manufacturing. The institute also calls for partnerships with regional technology centers and government.
Pinero will lead the development of 16 research and development test beds across the state, officials said. He also will promote research and education at the Golisano Institute, which is developing one of the first doctoral programs in sustainability.
RIT has been involved in work in pollution prevention for many years around New York, Nasr said. The designation by the state last week for the Pollution Prevention Institute-with $6 million pledged by Spitzer-provides a wonderful opportunity to strategically address needs of industry.
Nasr had attended the U.N. conference in Stockholm, Sweden, last summer on a team in sustainable production, in a delegation led by Pinero. The two hit it off immediately, Nasr said.
“He’s done a lot of excellent work in this area,” Nasr said.
RIT is looking to build on its programs helping manufacturers reduce waste, which have included development of remanufacturing processes for toner cartridges that have diverted hundreds of tons of waste from landfills to be reused effectively.
“It’s a win-win from every side, environmentally, economically and scientifically,” Nasr said.
Before joining the federal government, Pinero served as director of the Bureau of Environmental Sustainability and Pollution Prevention in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, as well as Pennsylvania’s energy director.
Pinero also has worked for various environmental consulting firms, promoting best practices in the areas of pollution prevention, environmental management and sustainability. He taught graduate courses in environmental management for Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
“I think this is a wonderful thing,” Nasr said. “When you have someone like Ed who has been active in international committees, the White House-someone who actually has seen a lot of programs around the country, to come to RIT is significant in my mind. It shows that he has a lot of faith and trust in what we’re doing, and he thinks our program is on the right track.
“One of the things we’re trying to do in Rochester, we want to be the best place in the world you go to for answers to the challenges that we’re facing and for our businesses to become sustainable,” Nasr said.
Sustainability is going to be the next frontier for competition among nations in the industrial world, Nasr said. The United States can leverage the infrastructure, resources and talent among its universities to help industry become more competitive and innovative.
“If we leverage all of these capabilities to help industry become more competitive, it would solve a lot of our issues now dealing with what’s impacting the economy,” he said.
Pinero said that while there may be critics of the Bush administration’s environmental policies, the government had been making enormous progress in areas that do not tend to attract a lot of attention.
A top initiative was requiring vendors of any electronic equipment to federal agencies to meet certain environmental standards.
“The federal government has phenomenal purchasing power,” Pinero said.
With the government spending roughly $60 billion a year on information technology, it wields enormous influence on manufacturers, he explained.
“Imaging devices, television, cell phones-we use our market leverage to improve the environmental attribute of a particular product,” he said.
The RIT institute may be a perfect alignment in its commitment from the state and leveraging of technology at the university and its partner organizations to help businesses enhance their environmental performance, Pinero said.
“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” he said. “It’s a cliche, but if you look at what we all can do, the order of magnitude is more effective. My vision for this is that this institute becomes a key resource for New York State industry to tap into.”
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03/07/08 (C) Rochester Business Journal