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.

 

 

 

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 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/.