Community Colleges Adding Green to Community Part 6 – Moraine Valley Community College

Tucked in one of Chicago’s southernmost suburbs, Moraine Valley Community College of Palos Hills has embraced sustainability and has integrated this mindsemorrainevalleyt in every aspect of the College.

The College’s Web site states that it’s sustainability efforts are multifaceted:

  • Green Campus – Guides the college’s operational and structural procedures and policies between the environment, our people and future prosperity.Green Careers – Supports green jobs training, awareness of green businesses in the local area, and building the capacity for the community to create a local green economy.Green Curriculum – Supports infusing sustainability across curriculum creating a larger population of the workforce that understands sustainability and how it relates to their work and lives.Green Communities – Serves as a resource to Moraine Valley students, staff, faculty, business members and residents.

The College made its green commitment in 2011 when it joined the Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact. In just a couple of years, the College has achieved:

  • the opening of the Sustainability Center
  • receives the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Bronze Stars
  • adopted sustainability to the general learning outcomes, which set measurable learning outcomes for sustainability outcomes
  • received an innovation award from the Moraine Valley Foundation to install a Bike Fix station
  • adopted sustainability to the general education learning outcomes, specifying measurable learning outcomes for sustainability literacy

A Green Commitment

According to Stephanie Presseller, Sustainability Manager at Moraine Valley, faculty has gotten involved with “greening the campus”. Presseller explains, “Faculty have participated in a ‘greening the curriculum Sustainability Scholars Program that helps them understand how to infuse sustainability into existing curriculum.  Each faculty learns what is sustainability and creates definitions that fit their specific discipline so they can teach it in context of the required content they need to teach. We have faculty from graphic arts, fine arts, biology, chemistry, business, recreation, physics, sociology, psychology, developmental education, heating and air, automotive, history, political science, speech, creative writing and literature… I’m sure I’m missing something. It’s really a diverse representation of faculty and disciplines and very exciting to have such a broad engagement.”

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Part 5, Elgin Community College

The foceccus of our fifth part in our series about Chicago area community colleges sustainability efforts circles back to a more urban environment – Elgin Community College (ECC). Located approximately 25 miles west of Chicago, Elgin is the seventh most populated city in the state of Illinois.

Creating a More Responsive Sustainable Community

According to Ileo N. Lott, Ed.D. Dean of Sustainability, Business, and Career Technologies, unlike other Chicago area community colleges, “The campus [ECC] does not have a master plan for sustainability, but our commitment to sustainability is reflected in ECC’s Strategic Goal #5 to ‘strengthen educational and workforce partnerships to create a more responsive and sustainable community.'”

Lott explains that partnerships to grow sustainability throughout the campus continue to be a main focus. He states that ” Globally, the focus of sustainability is to accomplish the best outcomes while maintaining and, better yet, reducing resources. We are measured by our effectiveness in reducing our resources based upon the investment we make in our educational and workforce partnerships.”

With the creation of the Business and Career Technology Center in 2010, ECC seized its commitment to sustainability. The Energy Business Management Program, which “focuses on preparing students for work as mid-level technicians in the renewable energy industry as technicians in large, commercial facilities in the area of environmental controls and computerized building automation. Many companies…are required to measure their energy management consumption…,” explains Lott.

Sustainable practices is a part of the curriculum for all career and technology programs at the College, demonstrating the importance of sustainability to its students as a best practice for most organizations today.

Showing Green On Campus

ECC's Building A.

ECC’s Building A.

Sustainability is not only a philosophy at ECC, but the campus has started showing its belief in sustainability and green practices too. The College’s Building A; which houses the biology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology and other science and medical classes; was recognized as the 2013 recipient Project of the Year by the Construction Industry Service Corporation (CISCO). According to an ECC press release, “It [Building A]  [received] LEED Silver certification, which underscores the college’s focus on environmental stewardship.

After the decision to incorporate sustainability, ECC became a member of the Illinois Green Economy Network, which led to hands-on opportunities for the campus to adopt sustainable practices.

For example, the … Energy Management students conducted an energy audit for light usage in the manufacturing building that led to more efficient LED bulbs being used throughout the building. Additionally, several water bottle filler stations were installed across the campus to encourage the use of refillable water bottles. Each station keeps a tally on how many plastic water bottles have been saved.”

Lott states, ” Future plans at ECC [include] to continue to make sustainability a campus and community effort. There is a campus-wide sustainability committee and, most recently, a student-led club, Student Organization for Sustainability (SOS). Additionally, other student led clubs such as the CEO club have  embraced sustainability in sponsoring of Earth Day Events and promoting the entrepreneurial mindset.”

 

 

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Part 4, College of Lake County

Located in the Chicago area’s northernmost county, the College of Lake County has established a Sustainability Plan which, according to David Husemoller, CLC sustainability manager and adjunct horticulture instructor, “… is a three-year plan with goals and action items to be reviewed annually. Goals are organized in three areas: Greening Our Campus, Greening Our Curriculum and Greening Our Community.”

Broken down to a series of goals, the Sustainability Plan states that “Greening Our Campus  involves integration of sustainability principles and practices into all college operations including administrative decision-making, social responsibility, employee education, and physical facility management.”

Greening Our Campus includes:

 Buildings and Energy – minimize building energy consumption through conservation, efficiency and improvement measures. An example of this goal includes expanding the use of renewable the exploration and a feasibility analysis of logo-largesuch projects as the integration of geothermal heat and cooling sources and the conversion of the aging heat air handlers to solar-assisted systems. Another example is “…to provide physical and virtual access to energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to be used as models for community and curriculum demonstrations.”

One such project is the geothermal system scheduled for the main campus at Grayslake, which will consist of a shared field and loop circling the campus. This geothermal system eventually will be used to heat and cool all the buildings on campus. As of this blog posting, drilling is completed and the pressure testing of wells is next.

According to Husemoller “We [CLC] expect to see 50% savings on water heating for buildings with solar thermal panels installed last year. We are experiencing savings in energy as we convert from metal halide and fluorescent lighting to LED fixtures, but those energy figures are difficult to highlight as they are confounded by changes in IT systems.”

According to the CLC Sustainability Plan “Greening Our Curriculum involves engaging faculty, staff and students in incorporating a foundation of understanding of sustainability context in all educational experiences offered by the institution. Through participation in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), the College of Lake County developed Student Learning Objectives in Sustainability and a set of definitions for identifying courses in sustainability offered by the College.

An example of Green Our Curriculum is  Student Engagement, which will offer unique opportunities for CLC students “to influence, participate, and learn from sustainability efforts on campus and in the community.”

Included in this student engagement is:

  • Communicate information and updates to all college students on institutional sustainability commitments and performance including materials in New Student Orientation, and opportunities to provide feedback and suggestions.
  • Work with offices and departments that coordinate student services and student leadership to integrate sustainable practices and activities into existing student life.
  •  Coordinate peer-to-peer sustainability outreach for students to receive training and support in representing and promoting sustainability resources and events to the student body.
  • Create partnerships within the community and on campus to offer extra-curricular experiences for students to be exposed to sustainability concepts as they impact their education, lifestyle and future.

Further Thoughts

Community Colleges are their own animal – these colleges truly reach into the community to not only educate community members, but much more. These colleges pose their own unique challenges as far as sustainability is concerned.

Husemoller notes “It can be a challenge keeping folks engaged across three campuses [Grayslake, Waukegan and Vernon Hills], but we had some success recently with a shoe and clothing/textile recycling drive with significant involvement across the board. Community colleges generate a significant amount of their carbon emissions from commuters. We have events highlighting alternative options for transportation. CLC serves a hub for the county bus transit system. CLC is installing more bike paths, connecting with the regional path system.”

Other accolades CLC can be proud of include:

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Part 3, McHenry Community College

Part three of this ongoing series about Chicago area community colleges and their sustainability efforts explores the most rural area of this huge area — McHenry County College (MCC).

Located in Crystal Lake, “McHenry County College has had a long standing, 20-year commitment toward sustainability,” stated Kim Hankins, Director, Sustainability Center at MCC.

McHenryCountyCollegeLogoThis commitment began in 1994 with the the Lou Marchi Total Recycling Institute (LMTRI), which, according to the MCC Web site “… was established through an endowment by a former continuing education instructor and community leader for environmental issues, to promote recycling in the community. The LMTRI has helped establish used paint and athletic shoes recycling programs; co-sponsored electronic and hazardous waste collection events; assisted with green business programming; and hosted Earth Day events and a variety of environmental programs.”

Sustainability Center

MCC’S Sustainability Center focuses on “….three interconnected areas, which creates a holistic approach to sustainability,” as stated on the College’s Web site.

These three areas are:

  1. Green Campus including physical campus and campus operations.
  2. Green Education that includes curriculum development for a green economy and training for employees and students about sustainable practices.
  3. Green Community including how MCC shares with the community resources that improve quality of life.

Aligning with green campus is the installation of  335 solar panels on the Shah Center in McHenry. “In June 2014, the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) awarded MCC a $250,000 grant to go towards a 91 kW solar photovoltaic installation,” as stated on the Web site.

These solar panels account for approximately 50 percent of the necessary power to run the Shah Center, while providing McHenry County residents with an estimated reduction of 75 tons of carbon per year.

MCC offers a variety of credit and noncredit workshops focusing on sustainability and the environment. The credit classes cover many subjects — from Alternate Fuel Vehicles, which discuss vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) , propane (LPG) and bi-fuel vehicles that alternate between gasoline and CNG or LPG to hydroponics, which studies hydroponic systems for growing horticultural crops and plants in indoor environments to a Creative Leadership project, which is part of the Fast Track Business Management program, which focuses on promoting green technology.

Even if a class is not specifically geared toward sustainability, Hankins explained that this sustainability and green thinking is embedded into each curriculum. For example, as part of the lesson on decision making in Introduction to Psychology, the decision whether or not to recycle is used as the example.

Green Community, College

MCC reaches out to the community to promote sustainability. MCC’s Sustainability Center and the LMTRI publish the annual McHenry County Green Guide, which is full of lots of new and reusing information, including a Green Living section on where you can purchase green products locally and online. And, the Sustainability Center provides education for the college and the community about solid waste.

As stated in it’s Sustainability Plan, MCC’s vision is that the College…”will be a premier model of sustainability and environmentalstewardship through campus practices and education for District 528 and the greater McHenry County community. Through leadership and education, McHenry County College will improvethe quality of life for current and future generations.”

 

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community Part 2 — Harper College

So, next in my series about sustainability and Chicago area community colleges is Harper College. Located in Palatine, Harper College holds a special place in my heart and mind because Harperthis was the community college I attended after high school and before I transferred to Northeastern Illinois University. The College has grown and changed — I had difficulty finding where I was supposed to meet someone – didn’t even recognize the campus! But, that’s a good thing! And, I was also very happy to learn about the green efforts the College is making toward sustainability.
In order to move forward with its sustainability efforts, Amy Bandman was hired as Harper’s first Sustainability Coordinator, who has stated that “…the biggest sustainability challenge is community engagement – those at the school have to take ownership of being green and healthy, but it’s hard because Harper is a commuter school.”

Moving Forward

Even though community engagement may be a struggle, there have been many sustainability victories at Harper — the most significant being the drop from 2.18 million gallons of water usage to 1.85 million gallons between May 2014 and May 2014 – that’s a difference of .33 million gallons in one year.

“In just one year we [Harper College] have reduced paper towel consumption by four and a half tons just by switching to hand dryers — this has saved the college over $12,000,” explained Bandman

The College has also made progress achieving the goals set in its 2013 Climate Action Plan. In its January 15, 2015 American College & University President’s Commitment, Bandman reported that “Harper College has achieved its first target set forth in phase one of the climate action plan, achieving 5% reduction in energy use of purchased utilities compared to the base year of 2010 and 15% offset of carbon emissions from purchased utilities via renewable energy certificates.

Also, per the climate action plan, all newly constructed buildings at Harper must meet LEED Silver status.

Landscaping at the College is not untouched; Harper  has planted more native plants and now grow these plants in house in the greenhouse in peet pots, thus, reducing the waste of plastic pots. Also, vegetated swales can be seen in the north parking lot and near the new parking garage.

Harper’s Welding Technology department has even become involved in sustainability efforts. The Welding department build two new bicycle racks which hold seven bikes — these racks, which are placed in front of the new buildings promote both welding and bicycling.

According to the College, “The [welding] class will work each semester to fabricate two bike racks and Physical Plant staff will continue to install the bike racks on campus. This is a great opportunity to showcase student work on campus while helping to contribute to Harper’s green efforts. Instructor Adam Phan shares his excitement for “spotlighting our program and giving the students such a great opportunity to have a long lasting, positive impact on campus; this is really something we can all be proud of.”

Harper is also moving toward stream recycling where all items that can be recycled can be thrown in the same bin instead of having to separate items, making it easier for those on campus to participate in recycling efforts. Also, those water bottle filling stations located throughout campus have eliminated 718,000 one-use bottles, according to Bandman.

Involvement

In addition to Harper’s Environmental Club, the Sustainability Department is offering a Sustainability Series with various programs. The next program is Whole Home Efficiency: Ways To Save Energy and Money on Tuesday, July 21 — free lunch will be provided. For more information about this and upcoming events check out http://goforward.harpercollege.edu/about/consumerinfo/sustainability/.

 

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Oakton Community College

Community colleges – they’re at the root of many communities. These community colleges are just that – they serve the community and by doing so these colleges try to reach out to people with diverse interests. Sustainability is one of these interests. Being green and good to the Earth and more sustainable isn’t just a trend or an “in thing” anymore, it’s real – oakton_headerpeople from many backgrounds are interested in chipping in and preserving and beautifying the Earth and their surroundings – their community. I wanted to learn more about what the community colleges in my area (Chicago, Ill.) are doing to be more ecofriendly. So, I’m reaching out to these colleges to learn more. This is the first of a series of blogs which I will post when I have received the information.

Oakton Community College – Des Plaines, Ill.

Listed below are questions and answers I posed to Oakton’s Sustainability Specialist, Debra Kutska:

Q: What are some of the sustainability measures Oakton has taken which the college is most proud of and why?

A: A great piece of pride for the College is our 147 acre Des Plaines campus. We are located in a beautiful stretch of land alongside the Des Plaines River, Kloempken Prairie and a stretch of the Cook County Forest Preserve.  The College works hard on maintaining natural habitats for native plant and animal species. Our naturalist, Ken Schaefer, heads up such initiatives. We perform in regular habitat restoration endeavors including removal of invasive species such as buckthorn and garlic mustard, use native plants in our landscaping, compost lawn clippings and plant trimmings, avoid pesticides and herbicides whenever possible and have an extensive prairie restoration project in process including regular prescribed burns.  These efforts have resulted in recognition from the US EPA and Chicago Wilderness in the form of a 2010 Conservation and Native Landscaping Award and by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Another great endeavor is the opening of our new Margaret Burke Lee Science and Health Careers Center, our first building erected under LEED certification.  You can read more about that here: https://oaktongreenteam.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/margaret-burke-lee-science-and-health-careers-center-is-open/.

Q: How has the College reduced energy?

A: Reducing our electricity consumption is an ongoing process, particularly since our main campus buildings are older. Some of the things we have done include replacing parts in our HVAC equipment to those that are more energy-efficient, switching out to CFLs and LED lights in phases (we recently replaced all of our Halogen bulbs in the gymnasium with LED lighting), utilizing occupancy sensors and timers throughout buildings to turn out lights when not in use, choosing Energy Star appliances where possible and high-efficiency technology equipment, using solar heating for water at the Des Plaines campus, and installing a 23.6 kw solar array on the new Lee Center.

Q: Has the College reduced its water consumption?

A: Using native plants on campus results in less water usage for irrigating the grounds. We have switched to water efficient fixtures in restrooms (low flow toilets, faucets) and are in the process of remodeling our locker rooms which will also contain water-saving features.

Q: What has been the faculty and student reaction to the College’s green efforts?

A: Informally, folks are excited. My position is new to the College and I just started in July. I have received lots of great feedback from staff and faculty who are excited about opportunities to be more sustainable in our operations and lots of suggestions are coming in for how we can make this happen. It is great to see individuals from multiple departments, across disciplines come together with ideas.  Of course, there are many out there who are not interested or who do not see the value in green efforts, so we just have to work to frame projects in ways that will be more appealing to them. Maybe it is the cost-savings, maybe it involves the benefits our students can receive, or the way we represent ourselves as leaders in the community.  Every day is a chance to help people think about their behaviors.

Q: Is composting in the future?

A: Yes, we hope! We currently have a task force assigned with evaluating the waste we produce on both campuses. How it is produced, what is produced, how we can reduce our usage or better divert waste from landfills. Composting is high up on the list of conversation. We are currently evaluating opportunities and costs associated with onsite composting versus third-party composting.

Q: Future plans?

A: Looking at data to evaluate baselines for water and energy consumption, reducing our waste so that we send far less to the landfill, refining recycling opportunities and educational campaigns for all users of our campuses, reducing our paper usage and increasing digital technology for operational procedures.

Lara R. Jackson is a writer/editor based in the Chicago available for full-time, part-time or freelance opportunities. Visit www.lrjwriteedit.wordpress.com or contact her at lrjwriteedit@gmail.com.

Climate Action 411 – Learn & Collaborate

During the Dan Huntsha’s keynote speech at this year’s Climate Action 411: Inspiring Hope Through Action the keywords heard were share, listen and collaborate — this represents the need to move from AND to OR — which is more hopeful than AND.

Huntsha emphasized that we need the change the conversation from whether or not climate change is real to what we can do about it. Climate change IS real; there is clear-cut scientific evidence to prove that climate change is happening now. But, we need to define the problems our communities face and work on tangible actions to tackle these problems.

Since the old ways haven’t worked, Huntsha suggests we try something new — what has worked and what hasn’t worked? Let’s travel on this journey together for the good of everyone not just you or me.

Entitled Inspired Hope Through Action, I left the conference with a sense of hope that there are people out there who are concerned about the future of our Earth and more people ready to take action ready to change the course — many from the grassroots level.

What can I do to protect what I love? Respond after the problem occurs and adapt, but then work on prevention – what can be done? This is a difficult step, but the results are much higher.

Share, listen and collaborate.

Wild Film Fest, Climate Action 411 Kick Off Earth Month

Climate Action 411 Logo_V9Live in the Chicago area? Have a passion for the environment but not sure what you can do? The first Wild & Scenic Film Festival and second annual climate change conference, this year titled Climate Action 411 will be held Friday, April 9 and Saturday, April 10. The film fest kicks off the earth-friendly weekend from 6:30-9:30 on Friday. The conference follows the next day from 9 am – 4 pm. Both events are held at the Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist in Palatine.

Friday’s Wild Film Fest features over 12 films — from two minutes to 30 minutes in length — not only showcasing films about the latest sustainability crisis, but also hopeful films about innovative ideas and people making a difference caring about the environment. Some of the films which will be showcased include Backyard, which focuses on five very different people from four states at odds with natural gas extraction occurring around them; Harnessing the Sun to Keep the Lights on in India, a firsthand account about how solar power is providing clean, solar energy to Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state (and poorest too); and Monarchs & Milkweed, a journey of how monarch butterflies are dependent upon milkweed for survival.  Tickets are $5. For more information call 847- 767-0993 or visit https://wildandscenicfilmfestival.eventbrite.com.

For those who really want to learn about the different issues facing our environment, especially the Chicago area, reserve your spot at the Climate Action 411 symposium the following day, Saturday, April 10.

According to Climate Action 411, ” We’re shifting the conversation from “Is climate change real to “How do we work together on solutions ensuring climate justice for everyone?” Highlights include a panel discussion hosted by Jerome McDonnell, host of WBEZ’s Worldview and workshops focused on a variety of sustainability concerns and topics. Featured local sustainability leaders who will be attending include Barbara Hill, Sierra Club; Illinois State Representative Elaine Nekritz and Rebecca Stanfield of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Tickets are $10. If you register for both events, tickets are $12.

For more information about these events please visit the Northwest Cook County Group of the Sierra Clubs events page at http://www.sierraclub.org/illinois/northwest-cook-county/events-programs.

Sustainable Chicago 2015

Chicago has set the ambitious goal of being the first sustainable city in the US and the Sustainable Chicago 2015 plan, is already underway with 24 goals and 100 key actions. Named the 2014 National Earth Hour Capitol, Chicago is the first city with a climate smart policy.

According to a September 18, 2015 article on its Web site, the World Wildlife Foundation noted, chicagoflag“Sustainable Chicago is a broad action plan that covers seven themes: economic development and job creation; energy efficiency and clean energy; transportation options; water and wastewater and waste and recycling; parks, open space and healthy food; and climate change.”

The seven categories of Sustainable Chicago 2015 “…are related and reinforce each other…”:

  1. Economic development and job creation
  2. Energy efficiency and clean energy
  3. Transportation options
  4. Water and wastewater
  5. Parks, open space and healthy food
  6. Waste and recycling
  7. Climate change

Some of the 2014 achievements touched all seven categories and include:

  • Greencorps Chicago Youth Program provides high school students summer learning and workforce training in horticulture and bicycling.
  • Chicago became the first city to include online energy disclosure in residential home sale listings.
  • Launched Drive Electric Chicago, a one-stop shop Web site for residents to gather information about electric vehicles, including charge station installation guidelines for multiunit buildings.
  • The Space to Grow partnership built green infrastructure projects on the Chicago Public School campuses.
  • The Large Lots Program offered city-owned vacant lots to local residents, block clubs and community organizations for $1.
  • The city and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District agreed to partner in reusing tree waste in water treatment, and compost wastewater treatment byproduct to fertilize Chicago Park District open spaces.
  • City council passed a plastic bag ban in large retail stores (goes into effect August 2015)
  • Coal-free power acquired for all municipal facilities

According to the report, “In the third and final year of Sustainable Chicago 2015 we, [the City of Chicago] look forward to continue our progress and lay the groundwork for Chicago’s leadership in sustainability in 2016 and beyond.”

For more detailed information on Sustainable Chicago 2015 including goals visit http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/progs/env/SCYear2Report.pdf.

 

 

Christmas Is Over – What To Do With That Tree?

The holidays and you have to get back to “life as normal”, which means packing away all of those Christmas decorations and cleaning up including getting rid of that dried up old Christmas tree. Don’t want to throw your Christmas tree and have it end up in a landfill? The best thing to do is recycle that tree! Many villages offer free recycling services where you can take your tree to be turned into the mulch and they’ll give the mulch back to you so you can use it for compost, or you can just donate the mulch. If you’re unsure about these services contact your city hall for this information.

But, if you’re looking for some more unusual uses for that old tree, here are some suggestions:

  1. Planters – trunks and larger branches of Christmas trees should support large planters or possibly be the base for a compost pile.
  2. Bird feeder – spread small branches with margarine or peanut butter and dip it in bird seed. If you already have a bird feeder it may take a few days for the birds to find this xmastreefeeder so don’t fret!
  3. Winter Season Garden Cover – pine boughs are an excellent, natural garden cover for those cold, harsh winter months.
  4. Wildlife habitat – Even if you live on a small property, place your old Christmas tree at the edge of your yard, which makes a great, small winter wildlife habitat for squirrels, rabbits and birds. Some may even build nests in the tree.
  5. Sachet – if you’re feeling crafty and love that fresh Christmas tree scent all year long make a sachet using the tree’s pine needles. Best places throughout the home for these scented treats are bathrooms and the kitchen.

 

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