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.”

 

 

 

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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/.

 

 

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.

 

Oak Park Aims to be Destination for Midwest’s Green Film Festival

Oak Park, Ill. has always been known as a fairly progressive, liberal and creative town. Located next door to Chicago, Oak Park boasts the childhood home of Ernest Hemingway and a plethora of other cultural attractions, Oak Park has added “green community” to their list of community positives.

In 2011 the Oak Park/River Forest (suburb next door to Oak Park) area developed PlanItGreen, “[t]he Environmental filmfest-logo-2014-large-303x360Sustainability Plan for Oak Park and River Forest…[it] is a project designed to develop and implement an environmental sustainability plan” which will be discussed in a future blog.

In addition to setting benchmarks and goals to reduce energy and water consumption and just have greener communities, Oak Park has gone one step further and established the well-known green film festival, One Earth Film Festival, which has grown in just three years.

According to the One Earth Film Festival Web site, “[it] is a Chicago area film festival that creates opportunities for understanding climate change, sustainability and the power of human involvement through sustainability-themed films and facilitated discussions…[to] stimulate, energize and activate communities…maximizing citizen reach and expanding the movement.”

“The festival offers a broad coverage of topics – from films about energy, waste and water, but has evolved to cover more metaphysical and philosophical topics as well and how this affects our environment,” states Ana Garcia Doyle, One Earth Film Festival Founder and Team Lead.

Some films the festival has presented in the past include Musicwood, which chronicles three of the world’s most famous guitar makers as they travel to the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska, where Spruce trees are being logged at an alarmingly high rate. Sitka Spruce trees are used to make acoustic guitar soundboards. Another film, Comfort Zone explores “an in-depth look at what happens when global climate climate issues come to our backyards.”

In addition to screening 30-40 films, Doyle emphasizes involvement through getting speakers to discuss the featured films and panel discussions after the film has been filmed which then turn the question back to the audience “what can you do?”.

The 4th Annual One Earth Film Festival is March 6-8, 2015. Check the festival’s Web site for further information.

 

 

Summertime Conservation Tips

energy-efficiencyIt’s summertime – get outside and play! Take advantage of the extra hours of sunlight, warm summer breezes and just the pure happiness that summer brings. If you live just about anywhere in the three-quarters of the United States that experienced the “Polar Vortex” and the winter from
hell – 2014, you’re happy it’s winter and not going to complain even when it gets to 100 degrees and humidity!

But, with summer comes wastefulness of energy and water. Sometimes we think about just flicking a switch or using extra water to cool ourselves down.

The United States Department of Energy has compiled some energy saving tips for consumers to still enjoy their summer, save money and save energy. Some of these tips include:

  • If  you live in a climate where it cools off in the evening, turn off the air conditioning and open the windows while you are sleeping. In the morning shut the windows and close the blinds to capture the cool air.
  • Install window coverings to prevent heat gain.
  • Set the thermostat as high as comfortably possible — the smaller the difference between the indoor temperature and outdoor temperature, the lower your cooling bill.
  • Use fans and ventilation strategies to cool your home and don’t forget to turn off the fans when you leave the room.
  • Don’t heat your home with appliances and lighting — on hot days cook on the stove or grill outside….or just eat cold foods!
  • Wash only full loads of laundry.
  • Take showers instead of baths.

Not only do we waste energy, we waste water too. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates “Depending upon the region homeowners use 30-60% of their water outdoors. Fifty percent of that is wasted, in part, due to overwatering.”

Sure, we like our lawn and garden to look perfect, but there is a proper way to water our grass, flowers and produce.  One thing we can do is water in the early morning and at dusk — this prevents wasteful evaporation of water in the hot summer sun.

The EPA also suggests:

  • Step on the lawn – if the grass springs back, it doesn’t need water.
  • Leave it long – longer grass promotes a more drought-resistant lawn, reduced evaporation and fewer weeds
  • Take a sprinkler break – grass really isn’t meant to be bright green in the summer.
  • Look for the WaterSense label if you’re shopping for a new timer – this can reduce water usage by 15 percent, saving nearly 8,800 gallons of water per year.

 

These are just a few summertime conservation tips — when it comes to saving water and energy and water it boils down to common sense and your specific needs.