Revisiting Harper College’s Sustainability Efforts

It’s been a few years since I wrote my blog post on Harper College’s sustainability initiative and efforts, so I decided to revisit this issue with the college to discover its progress and if there have been any additional programs added to the initial initiative.

Campus Additions

The campus is in the process of adding sub meters to track energy and water efficiency cost savings. The college has also changed the way it collects data for the carbon commitment progress evaluation. So, at the end of the next academic year, Harper should have more accurate findings to report.

Bringing Sustainability Into the Classroom

The Prairie Observation Deck, which was completed in the fall of 2016, is an outdoor classroom of sorts, where students observe and study the plants, birds, and mammals of natural prairie habitats. According to Amy Bandman, Sustainability Coordinator at Harper College, “The great thing about this new deck is that it is accessible so all students are able to participate, whereas the original deck was only accessible by climbing stairs.”

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Harper’s Prairie Observation Deck, Photo Courtesy: Amy Bandman

According to Craig Stettner, Professor of Mathematics and Science, ” My primary use for our prairie platform has been as an outdoor lecture location.  When I teach BIO 103 (Man and the Environment), my small-group sections are comprised of 16 students, a perfect size for the platforms.  This fall, I will have nine small-group sections, all of whom will have to mount the platform and listen to my banter three or four times during the semester. There is no substitute for speaking about something while gesturing towards the real thing.”

Karen Lustig, Professor of Mathematics and Science, also comments, ” I also use this platform for my classes in a similar manner as Craig has described .  We often meet there or regroup  before spreading out into the prairie, woods, etc.  We also use it as an observation post when we study and record birds and mammals for one of our labs.  In the past students in wheelchairs or on crutches have had to remain on the sidewalk to observe and record for lab-now they can get they can get the real feel of what a prairie is like!”

Green In and Outside of the Office

The College introduced the ReUsit Room , the College’s first office supply exchange space. According to the College’s 2017 Sustainability Annual Report, “The ReUsit Room allows employees to obtain office supplies without purchasing new items. Employees are also encouraged to donate gently-used office supplies they no longer need. This waste reduction initiative continues to result in decreased material sent to the landfill and reduced spending.

The goals of this program included:

  1. Find a solution to move out office waste
  2. Create an ongoing method of reducing waste and operational costs
  3. Increase campus participation in waste reduction intitatives.
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Harper’s ReUsIt Room, where old supplies get a second life. Photo Courtesy: Amy Bandman

According to Amy Bandman, Sustainability Coordinator at Harper College, “During the 2017/2018 academic year, 2,636 items were reused from the ReUseIt Room, translating into a money savings of over $5,600 and eliminating 1001 pounds of material from entering the landfill. Since its beginning, the ReUseIt room has repurposed a total of 6,941 items, saved over $14,900 in avoided office supply expenses and saved over 2,400 pounds of material from entering the landfill.”

The ReUsitRoom has helped shift the way the campus things about waste. The ReUseIt Room continues to be utilized as a true exchange space; donations are constantly made to the ReUseIt Room and office supply items are frequently taken out and given a second life. This initiative has helped shift the way the campus thinks about waste.  Old office supplies are no longer seen as trash.

The second annual RePlantIt Free-For-All ton June 5, 2018, drew over 80 employees who shared their plant bounty and picked up new plants for their office or garden. This free plant exchange showcased several hundred plants for employees to enjoy including outdoor plants, vegetables and herbs, indoor office plants. A mix of exotic plants was donated by Harper’s Biology Department. One of Harper’s adjunct faculty, Jennifer Richardson, a master gardener, volunteered at the event answering any questions employees had relating to plants or gardening. This sustainability engagement event continues to engage Harper Employees in greening our campus and community

New Compost Bins

The Harper College Facilities Management has partnered with Harper’s Chemistry department to build composting test bins on campus this spring.  The new compost bins are located on the east side of campus, on the site of the former construction parking lot. The bins will be used by students in Harper’s chemistry classes to conduct research on composting.  Students will study the chemical make-up of compost, which materials make optimal compost and will observe how different kinds of materials alter its chemical make-up.  This green campus project is starting in the classroom with small scale organic material collection with anticipated growth in the future.

 

 

 

Climate Change…It’s Us: Part II

A panel discussion of various local environmental organizations followed the keynote speech. I was happily surprised to find out that Chicago Public Radio’s (WBEZ) Jerome McDonnell, host of Worldview, was the panel’s moderator.

The panel included representatives from the Northwest Cook County Chapter of the Sierra Club; Barrington, Ill.-based Citizens for Conservation, whose mission is “‘Saving Living Space Through Living Things’ through protection, restoration and stewardship of land, conservation of natural resources and education”; the Illinois Solar Energy Association; Citizens’ Climate Lobby; the Harper College (Palatine, Ill.) Green Committee; and Blacks in Green, which is based in the West Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago whose vision is for “self-sustaining black communities everywhere, and world peace through home economies.”

The representatives were hopeful for future, but cited more needs to be done because there are still many climate change doubters out there – even though there is scientific evidence that global warming truly does exist.

But, it was nice to see this concern for the environment ran the gamut – from a grassroots organization focusing on the restoration of the land to a local chapter of a national organization.

Following the panel discussion were breakout groups, where we, as participants, were given the opportunity to network and exchange ideas according to specific topics. We gathered at various tables – I met otheb08f8ad9f57b133ee76c7b373efc3d29r like-minded individuals at the Climate Refuge table, where we discussed the ramifications the changing climate has on people and how global warming has created Climate Refuges due to these natural disasters — we all agreed there must be plans in place to prepare for these increasing incidences. Then, I met other individuals at the Arts and the Environment table where we discussed how we can incorporate the arts into raising an awareness about global warming by flash mobs/artwork and other ideas — many times art isn’t seen as “in your face” and people are more willing to discuss the issue if told through art.

All in all, this was a very thought-provoking and worthwhile conference where I was happy to be among others who were concerned about the Earth’s future, but were also hopeful. I plan on attending this conference next year. But, in the meantime, I hope to continue learning about this issue and utilizing my communications skills to raise awareness. If interested I would like to connect with you and possibly use my written communications skills in a green way. Please visit my Web site at http://lrjwriteedit.wordpress.com or send me an email at lrjwriteedit@gmail.com.