Sustainable futures

Envirolution tour introduces students to Reno's eco-friendly career options

During Washoe County School District’s fall break, a group of students from area schools participated in Envirolution’s Sustainability Tour.

During Washoe County School District’s fall break, a group of students from area schools participated in Envirolution’s Sustainability Tour.

PHOTO/Kelsey Fitzgerald

For more information, check out Envirolution at, and Regional Transportation Commission (RTC),

For high school and college students pursuing environmentally friendly careers in the Reno-Sparks region, opportunities may exist in unexpected places. During Washoe County School District’s fall break, local non-profit Envirolution led a group of more than 20 students through a five-day tour of Reno’s sustainable businesses, where they learned about green careers and environmentally friendly practices at locations including Patagonia, River School Farm, Peppermill Reno, Hamilton Solar, Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), Envirohaven and Washoe County Air Quality Management Division.

“We’re really excited about the response we got from the students,” said Envirolution’s Donna Walden. “We’re teaching them about a lot of sustainable career opportunities in Reno, and there really are quite a few.”

Students interested in eco-friendly careers might not think to look for a job at a bus station, for example, but at the RTC, much work goes on behind the scenes to operate sustainably. The Envirolution group visited RTC’s Fourth Street Station, where students toured the facility and learned about the RTC’s many environmentally friendly programs and features.

The station was the first public building in Northern Nevada to receive a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certification. “It is a program where you are able to earn points by implementing energy savings and sustainable practices in your construction,” RTC facilities supervisor Chris McDivit said.

“The newer technology that saves energy does cost more money when you first implement it, but you get that money back within the first 3-to-5 years in energy savings,” he said. “This station is about 5 or 6 years old, so we have already recouped all of that money that we put into the technology.”

To achieve a gold rating (the second-highest possible rating, below platinum), the RTC station incorporated features such as revolving doors to prevent heat exchange from outside to inside, large windows to allow for the passage of natural light, instantaneous hot water heaters produce hot water on demand, and numerous other features.

During a walk through the station, students were introduced to the RTC’s four electric buses, which charge via an overhead connector and can absorb 480 kW of energy during a four-minute charge. Eighteen buses are hybrid electric-diesel vehicles, and 49 smaller RTC Access vehicles are fueled with compressed natural gas. To encourage people to use public transportation, RTC offers bus-pass subsidy program, and carpool and vanpool programs.

The RTC has employed many student interns throughout the years, and currently employs one intern from the University of Nevada, Reno. Walden hopes that the experience has opened students eyes to new possibilities, even if they don’t end up working for one of the businesses featured on the Sustainability Tour.

“I hope that all of them will take sustainability with them wherever they go, either seeking jobs with ’sustainability’ titles or making opportunities on their own, and realizing that whether they’re in the accounting department or doing marketing that they can make a huge difference,” Walden said.