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Rowan Canter ’12

A bright approach to sustainability

The light bulb is the universal symbol for a bright idea — but sometimes the light bulb is the bright idea, especially if, as Rowan Canter ’12 can attest, it is an energy-efficient bulb.

The 3rd-generation Owl, who is double-majoring in political science and environmental policy and minoring in energy and water sustainability, is a strong advocate for sound environmental practices, ranging from light bulbs to green roofs and green modes of transportation. As a committee member and co-web master for the Rice Endowment for Sustainable Energy Technology (RESET), Rowan applies knowledge he has gained in the classroom to promote sustainability at Rice. Now, thanks to a fellowship funded by the Rice Annual Fund and organized by the Center for Civic Engagement, he’s making an impact not just on Rice’s campus but on over eighty campuses in one of the nation’s largest school districts.

Rowan is working with Bob Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science, and Gavin Dillingham ’07, HISD’s energy manager and one of Stein’s former graduate students, to design an energy conservation program for the Houston Independent School District. Besides reducing energy consumption, Rowan’s project will put money back into schools — at a time when budgets are especially tight — by allowing energy-conserving campuses to apply their savings toward books, educational programs or more energy-efficient equipment. Even better, students in participating schools will learn about conservation so they can establish good habits and spread them to other people.

Although Rowan’s interest in energy and sustainability was sparked while he was a high school student in Australia, which is known for its sustainability practices, it wasn’t until Rowan came to Rice that he discovered just how important conservation was to him. “At Rice you quickly find what you’re passionate about,” he explained. “I don’t know if that would have been possible had I gone anywhere else.”