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 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.”

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.

 

Some Good Green News For Illinois

Illinois is not usually known for “being green” – Chicago’s towering skyscrapers and congested traffic emitting pollution is usually the first image that comes to mind when people think of Illinois. But, Chicago has made many efforts toward helping out Mother Earth, starting with former Mayor Richard J. Daley and continuing with present Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But, for those of use who are native Illinoisans, there is much more to the state than just Chicago – beautiful Lake County to the north of the city and to Southern Illinois with its rolling hills and grand green pastures.

DePaul University's Theatre Building.

DePaul University’s Theatre Building.

Illinois garnered the number one slot with 171 projects at 24.5 million square feet in 2013. Some of the LEED buildings of note include Powell Elementary School, the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the DePaul Theatre School, which was recently awarded LEED Gold certification.

According to a recent USGBC article, “The list of the Top 10 States for LEED is a continuing indicator of the widespread recognition of our national imperative to create healthier, high-performing buildings that are better for the environment as well as the people who use them every day,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

Also noted in the USGBC article, Governor Quinn stated, “Both the public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in the 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment…Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader.”

 

 

Chicago Businesses Go Green – Part II

Recently, the Delta Institute announced that it had achieved LEED platinum certification, which, considering the Institute’s mission, makes perfect sense.

According to the Delta Institute’s Web site it [Delta Institute] “…works in partnership with business, government and communities in the Great Lakes region to create and implement innovative, market-driven solutions that build environmental resilience, economic vitality and healthy communities.

On SeptemberHome 4 it was announced that the Delta Institute (located in the historic Jeweler’s Building at 35 Wacker Drive in the heart of Chicago’s Loop) achieved US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification — making it one of only nine Chicago buildings with LEED platinum distinction.

According to a September 4 Delta Institute press release some of the enhancements made for LEED certification  include:

  • Water use reduction – Delta reduced its water use by 40 percent via the installation of low-flow kitchen fixtures and the collaboration with building maintenance to replace all bathroom fixtures for the floor with low-flow fixtures
  • Energy use reduction -Delta reduced its energy use by 30 percent with the installation of LED lighting and high-efficiency T-5 fluorescent lights with daylight photo sensors
  • Materials recycling – Delta recycled 98 percent the debris generated from the office build-out and used paints, sealants, furniture, and flooring composed of low volatile organic emitting materials.

 

Rush University Medical Center, Chicago – Now Green

So, over the past few years, Rush University Medical Center, located on the near northwest side of Chicago, has transformed itself into a ecofriendly medical center.  First, the Medical Center established its “Green Team”, which according the its Web site, “…was formed by a group of interested Rush faculty, staff and students who volunteer their time to foster sustainability efforts at the Center.”

The Medical Center has also decreased its amount of paper used by converting to an electronic health record system, the implementation of sensor-activated paper towel dispensers in the washrooms, napkin dispensers that dispense one napkin at a time and cutlery dispenser units in the cafeteria that dispense forks, knives and spoons without the extra plastic packaging. For more information, visit this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB4PPf65xlw.

But, the “crown jewel” of Rush’s sustainability program is the Tower, which opened in January 2012 and was awarded LEED Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Located at 1620 W. Harrison Street, Rush is the only full-service green hospital in the city. View this video to learn more about the Medical Center’s green efforts: http://rushnews.rush.edu/2012/04/19/tower-sets-green-milestone-with-leed-designation/.

Rush earned high marks for its green design, construction and operation and gained the LEED Gold Certification for energy use, lighting, water, material use and establishing sustainable strategies.

Some of the characteristics of the new building which helped it “go gold” include:

  • green roofs
  • comprehensive recycling program
  • the building’s “butterfly” allows natural light into the building, reducing the need for electric lighting
  • twenty percent of materials used during construction were recycled
  • more than 70 percent of wooden doors made with materials harvested from certified sustainable forests

Kill Styrofoam

I love ordering out as much as the next person, but I try to make a conscious effort not to order out from restaurants that use Styrofoam (a trademark of Dow) containers, which makes it difficult. Sometimes I can’t help it, but I try to make the effort at least. But, there is hope for those of us who like to treat ourselves and buy take out once in a while…at least here in Chicago.

The worst part about Styrofoam is that it is not biodegradable! So, the Chinese takeout container you threw away six months ago is still sitting in a landfill somewhere. Also, most municipal recycling programs don’t recycle styrofoam because it is weightless and is worthless as scrap. And then there’s the toxic health issues — Styrofoam is manufactered by using hydroflurocarbons, or HFCs, which has negative impacts on the ozone layer and global warming. According to the United Kingdom Environmental Agency, “The main impact of HFCs on the environment is as greenhouse gases, leading to global warming.”

Also recently the brominated flame retardants used in styrofoam is of concern because some research suggests that these chemicals may have negative environmental and health effects.

In February 2010, City of Chicago Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke , proposed a citywide ban on Styrofoam and other “polystyrene foams” after learning that the Chicago Public Schools throw away more than 35 tons of Styrofoam lunch trays each year. According to a February 10, 2010 Chicago Sun Times article, ” If the City Council approves the ban, violators would face fines ranging of up to $300 for the first offense to $500 for subsequent violations. City Hall would be free to grant exemptions, only if there is “no alternative that is both affordable and ‘compostable.'”

The best suggestion is to reduce and reuse and not use Styrofoam. It may look strange, but take your own “to go” container when going to a restaurant this way you would reduce your carbon footprint and reuse your own containers. The safest and best alternative is to use reusable glass, cermaic or stoneware products, which are washable, definately reusable and do not leach chemicals into your food. If you do need to package your food “to go” there are more alternatives out there now, such as products derived from corn and sugar and paper products. Sure, you may have to pay extra money and make an extra trip to a speciality store such as Whole Foods or order something from online, but, doesn’t it pay off in the long run?

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