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/.

 

 

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.

 

 

Chicago Ban on Plastic Bags – August 2015

We see them strewn on the sides of streets, in parks, in forest preserves and just about everywhere else — plastic bags! They’ve become more of an annoyance instead of a convenience.

After last month’s statewide ban of single-use plastic bags in California, Chicago is set to join California and other major US cities Seattle and Austin in this cause in August 2015. Chain stores which are defined as a group of three or more stores that have the same owner or franchise stores of more than 10,000 square feet, will no longer be allowed to offer plastic bags.

The proposal, which was supported by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, was passed in April 2014 by a vote of 36-10.  Those retailers not compliant to the new law will face fines between $300-$500.

According to a April 30, 2014 Chicago Tribune article, “Environmental advocates said the ban would reduce the number of reusable-bagbags littering parkways, fluttering in trees, bloating landfills and clogging drains. But store owners and plastic bag manufacturers said the paper bags likely to replace plastic pose cause their own share of environmental woes and, because they cost more, will lead to higher prices at city stores.”

Some not-so-fun facts about plastic bags from reusit.com:

  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide. Consider China, a country of 1.3 billion, which consumes 3 billion plastic bags daily, according to China Trade News.
  •  About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags. This costs retailers about $4 billion a year.
  • Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008)
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
  • It is estimated that worldwide plastic bag consumption falls between 500 billion and 1 trillion bags annually. That breaks down to almost 1 million every minute.
  •  In good circumstances, high-density polyethylene will take more than 20 years to degrade. In less ideal circumstances (land fills or as general refuse), a bag will take more than 1,000 years to degrade.
  • Every square mile of the ocean has about 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in it. (UN, 2006)
  • Ten percent of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor, where it will likely never degrade. (UN, 2006)

Of course, not everyone is for this citywide ban, citing economic reasons.

Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said in a statement reported by ABC Chicago. “Driving up expenses for retailers and forcing customers to pay more at the store while not helping the environment flies in the face of the city’s goal to make Chicago one of the nation’s greenest cities and support companies that have invested significantly in Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

Will this ban help one of the greenest cities in the nation be even greener? We still have about 10 months to see what will happen, but Chicagoans can start getting into greener habits in preparation for this ban. Many major chain stores offer reusable bags for sale for as low as 99 cents. There are many Web sites out there for reusable bags and, sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can get these bags for free. In my opinion, reusable bags are better than plastic and even paper too because many times these bags are made from recycled material, they hold more items and can be easily cleaned and reused.

 

 

 

 

Grainger’s New Data Center First LEED Certified Center

Lake Forest, Ill.-based Grainger, the broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating systems, recently announced that its new data center located in Lake Forest, “…is certified as the world’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] facility of this type,” as stated in a recent Grainger press release.

The new data cenGraingerter features an advanced cooling system where the energy used for cooling the facility is controlled by closely monitoring the air flow using outside air to cool the facility. Due to this feature, Grainger expects the new facility to consume up to 50 percent less energy for cooling compared to similar data centers.

According to the press release, “Data centers usually run nonstop, which means these facilities can consume up to 200 times more electricity than typical office spaces. Most of this energy is used to cool the building as temperatures from IT equipment housed in a data center can reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This Grainger data center’s air cooling design is anticipated to have a best-in-class PUE rating of 1.2 at full capacity; the industry average is 2.0.”

“Our goal is always to build the most sustainable facility possible,” said Gail Edgar, vice president of Grainger Real Estate and Facilities Services. “One of the most important components of the project was to realize significant energy savings by maintaining a low Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which measures the energy used beyond the IT load.”

According to Grainger’s Web site, the company is committed to building more buildings up to LEED standards. Grainger became the first industrial distributor to have a LEED-certified facility in 2008. Presently, the company operates 16 LEED-certified buildings in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and construction is underway for its newest facility in Toronto.

The Web site states, “By sharing best practices across facilities, almost all Grainger buildings have adapted some components of LEED certification requirements in areas such as recycling, waste disposal, lighting and cleaning. For example, the company has retrofitted 168 facilities in Canada and the United States with energy efficient lighting, decreasing annual energy consumption by an average of 15 percent per facility.”

The United States Green Building Council’s LEED program “… is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.”

What We Can Do In The Summer to Be Green

Now that it’s summertime, or at least close to summertime (and hopefully feeling like summer soon — by me it feels more like March), there are many things we can do every day to be green.

  1. Pedal Power! If you need to run some errands within a reasonable amount of distance why not get your workout in and your errands completed at the same time and walk or ride your bike to the store or wherever you need to go?
  2. This ties into #1 — when you run your errands use your own bags — don’t use those plastic bags! Even though you can recycle them, it takes energy to recycle those plastic bags.
  3. Another way to be good to the Earth during these warm months is to open the windows — cut down on your air conditioning usage to reduce your carbon footprint.
  4. Eat local. I don’t know about you, but I live where there are four seasons so I love it when the summer farmer’s markets come to town. Support your local farmers and buy locally grown food, which not only reduces your carbon footprint, these foods are usually not treated with any pesticides.
  5. Cheap entertainment — many communities offer free activities, such as concerts during the summer. So, get out and enjoy some free music and entertainment, talk to your neighbors and turn those lights out and get out!
  6. We need to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, so look into an electric or push lawn mower.
  7. Compost
  8. Don’t water your lawn — I know we all want our lawns to look perfect and green, but what a waste of water and energy! Let Mother Nature do the watering for you.
  9. Don’t use any chemicals on your lawn — so what if you have weeds on your front lawn? Think of the chemical runoff and pollution — also many animals eat grass, so you may be harming an animal feeding on your grass.
  10. Spread the word — continue to spread the word about being green.