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 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.”

 

 

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.

 

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.”

Back to School….Green

So, it’s just about that time again – school back in session! I’m sure these words are music to many parents’ ears, but kids, on the other hand, are dreading waking up and sitting inside for eight hours once again.

What are some things we can do to instill green habits in the next generation of stewards of the Earth?

  • Not every piece of clothing needs to be new. Sure, you want to wear a brand new outfit on that first day of school, but there are many “fashion conscious” thrift stores popping up where kids can find something “new” to wear without breaking the  school_45bff72d1bbank and being better to Mother Earth too.
  • If possible, pack lunches in reusable containers and lunch bags
  • Buy products with minimal packaging
  • Walk, cycle or bus to school
  • Buy Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified paper products – the FSC is  an organization that certifies wood and paper products grown in forests that are responsibly managed.
  • Reuse school supplies that are in good condition — save money and resources by purchasing what’s really needed! If you can’t reuse the supplies, donate them to your local school, daycare or another place that may use them, such as a library.

Outside of the basics, keep kids in touch with nature. Take the kids out for a fun evening walk – catch fireflies, view the constellations.  Instead of sitting in front of the computer or TV for hours after school, get out and stretch your legs and imagination. Weather permitting, schedule some fun outdoor events on the weekend – go for a family bike ride or visit a local nature center.

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.

 

Earth Day Is Every Day

So, Earth Day is Friday, April 22. And like many people you’re probably thinking “So what? I’m just one person I can’t make a difference.” And, borrowing from a well-used slogan, I’m saying “Yes you can!” In fact, if us “little people” then what can be done?

The first thing we need to do is spread the word! Educate people. When I learn something regarding the environment I try to educate my friends and family — social media is great for this. Plus, with social media you aren’t being as pusy or intrusive, but you are still making a difference and, if people don’t want to read your post or blog then they can just ignore it as opposed to if you are actually talking to the person and he or she feels like he has to stand there and listen to what you’re saying even though he just wants to walk away.

Educate yourself — keep on top of environmental news so you know what you’re talking about! Many of the larger newspapers now have special sections dedicated to the environment. The New York Times online has its own environment section, which I follow on Twitter and stay educated — in my opinion, the Times  is still one of the best sources of great journalism out there. But there are plenty of other great resources, especially green blogs, and even books — the genre of green/environmental nonfiction has exploded over the past few years. Ever since the success of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and the idea of global warming becoming accepted by the mainstream public, more books have appeared on the bookshelves because there is an audience for this topic.

The Three R’s — Recycle, Reuse and Reduce. Recycling isn’t just for plastic, glass and paper anymore. Just about anything can be recycled — you just have to do the research. For example, household batteries should not be thrown away with the trash but most people do this. My local village accepts batteries to be recycled — and other place throughout my village accept batteries. You just need to do the research. Also, don’t just trash those old cell phones and laptops — electronics can leak hazardous chemicals into the Earth. There are many places set up just to recycle electronics. Reuse — I try to reuse as much as I can, such as paper I misprinted I’ll use for scratch paper. Books I’ve read and don’t want to keep or clothes I can’t fit into I will donate. Or, many times, I visit thrift stores for clothes myself — you can find some real gems, same with used book stores. Reduce — do you really need to buy bottled water? Sure, plastic can be recycled but recycling plastic uses so much energy and emits carbon into the atmospher that it’s a waste. Why not buy a pitcher and a filter and just drink filtered tap water?

There are so many other things we can do such as cut down on the use of chemicals — make your own household cleaners and detergents. It’s easy and cheap. Don’t use chemicals on your lawn — this seeps into the water supply and also poisons the animals — start a compost pile. Watch your energy and water consumption.

And the list goes on and on, but I believe we need to start with education and awareness.

What The Economy Has Taught Me About Being Green

I’m going to get a little personal in this post, which is unusual for me. But, I have been out of my full-time career for nearly three years, which is a written communications professional. It’s really irritating, but I’m working a “survivor” retail job full-time while working on writing and editing jobs on the side. So, needless to say, I’ve had to learn to become extremely frugal in these past few years, which in a way is another way of “being green”.

One thing I’ve learned is to make some of my own cleaning supplies — good old vinegar and water works just as good for cleaning windows as Windex and it’s cheaper. Sure, it may not smell as good, but who really needs all of those smelly chemicals anyway?

I’ve also rediscovered libraries and used bookstores! Reusing is the ultimate green task. Do you really need that hardcover fiction book sitting on your bookcase collecting dust? Probably not. I don’t know about you, but once I’ve read a fiction book I usually never read it again. But, if it’s a reference book, something I know I’m going to refer back to later on, then I go to a used book store. You can really find some gems at these stores — books or music that is out of print, titles you have been searching for forever, you’d be surprised!

I’m eating simpler now too, which is both easy on your pocketbook and your waistline. Also, I can’t afford to go anywhere, but I at least get out and go for a walk (as long as the weather cooperates — I live in the Midwest United States where winters can be terrible). But right now I get to enjoy the glorious fall that Mother Nature gives us.

Sure, I get down in the dumps and wonder if I’ll ever make decent money again — lots of times. But, when that happens I just go over to the library and check a book on CD out or a funny movie.

I would love to hear from you how you have become more frugal in these tough economic times.

And, if you or anyone you know of needs some written communications work, I do freelance writing and editing. Please contact me at lara@lrjwritingandeditingservices.com or visit my Web site (which needs to be update, sorry) at http://www.lrjwritingandeditingservices.com

« Older entries