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 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/.

 

 

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.

Green Alternatives For Autumn Yard Work

September already! It seems as though we were just peeling off our parkas for the warm summer sun and now we’re digging through our closets searching for those hoodies, jeans and other fall clothes we were so eager to get rid of back in the spring.

For some of us fall also means preparing our yards for the nasty, and sometimes just plain brutal winters, which we leavesexperienced last winter in many parts of the U.S. including the Midwest. But, gardening nowadays means a lot of noise and pollution.In fact, according to an article posted on EarthShare’s Web site, “…one gas-powered leaf blower can emit as much pollution as 80 cars!”  What can modern gardeners do to adequately prepare their gardens for the winter while treating the Earth better?

The number one tip is to choose hand-powered tools over gas-powered tools. Sure, it may take you longer and it may be a bit more strenuous, but think of it as a built-in workout.  Some suggestions include:

  • Choose rakes over leafblowers. Rakes are just as effective. If you really need a leafblower for a difficult spot to reach, choose an electric leafblower, which are quieter, more energy-efficient and do just as good of a job than a gas-powered leafblower.
  • Try electric trimmers instead of energy-intensive garden trimmers.
  • Most lawns are small enough for hand lawn mowers instead of power mowers. If you decide you need a power mower, conduct some research on electric mowers, which make less noise and have less environmental impact.
  • Hire the neighborhood kids to help! Don’t have the time to take care of your lawn or garden?! Hire the neighborhood kids – it’s more affordable and ecological – plus it teaches the kids responsibility.
  • Compost as much as possible. Spread a thin layer of screened compost about a quarter of an inch to a half of an inch thick on the top of your lawn.
  • Final mowing – for the final mow of the season, cut the grass a little shorter than usual to prevent matted grass and snow mold.
  • When fertilizing your lawn try organic alternatives. Start by leaving the grass clippings on your lawn. Plant clover, which is rich in nitrogen. And then you can also leave compost on your lawn once a year.

These are just a few alternatives to prepare your lawn and garden during the fall for the winter months. These gardening tips have been around a lot longer than chemicals and gas-powered machines and work just as well, or even better. Many times, these alternatives may also be less expensive as well.

Chicago Shows Signs of Green Hope

About a month ago I attended the Building Green Chicago Conference & Expo, sponsored by Sustainable Chicago magazine and was happy to be among other agreeing individuals representing many professions from the building industry, city employees and students – a sign of the future.

Deborah Stone, Cook County’s first Sustainability Officer and Director of the Cook County Department of Environmental Control was this year’s keynote speaker.

DSC00057According to Stone, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) by 80 percent by 2050. The June 5, 2013 Report of the Cook County Advisory Council reported that in 2012, 150 structures consumed 247 million kwhs of energy and 13 million therms of natural gas. County government buildings use consume 90 percent of the city’s energy. The top three structures of focus are:

  • Department of Corrections – 35%
  • Stroger Hospital Campus – 26%
  • Various remaining buildings – 11%

Stone also noted that Preckwinkle’s vision is for Chicago to be the most sustainable county it can be.

The Sustainability Advisory Report, which was released in June 3013 states “Building energy is the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 67 percent of the emissions in the County.”

During her presentation, Stone explained that the County is ahead of its reduction of emissions target. The reduction of GHGs is not seen as a project, but is a driving force. GHGs impact five million residents and 130 muncipalities; these emissions cause  climate change in various ways including extreme weather and different health impacts. According to the June 2013 Report, the environmental benefits of reducing GHGs include environmental benefits from efficiencies in the conservation of water, land and other natural resources; reduction of particulates, toxic metals and other pollutants.

Please note – I am always looking for new ideas about green efforts and the environment to blog about – both local (Chicago area), general and global. I’m also very interested in expanding upon these ideas and writing more research-driven articles for publications.  Also, I apologize for the delay on this blog – there was a lot going on and I just could not find the time to write the article until now.  Please contact me if you like – lrjwriteedit@gmail.com.