College Celebrates Campus Sustainability Day Through Art, Essays, Info

by Alana J. Mauger, Think Green Editor

Campus Sustain Day 14

2014 Campus Sustainability Day logo by contest winner Karim Abdelgawad

Montgomery County Community College will join hundreds of colleges and universities across the country to celebrate Campus Sustainability Day 2014 with activities on Oct. 21 and 22, as well as through a collaborate art project and short essay contest.

In its 12th year, Campus Sustainability Day is designed to create awareness and facilitate discussion between students, faculty, staff and the community at large. The 2014 CSD theme is “Empowering Change on Campus and in the Community.”

This year, MCCC will hold two days of CSD activities:  Tuesday, Oct. 21 from 12:15-1:30 p.m. in the South Hall Lobby at the College’s West Campus, 101 College Drive, Pottstown, and Wednesday, Oct. 22 from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in the Advanced Technology Center of the Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell. The Oct. 22 event coincides with a Sustainability Career Day for high school students, presented by Communities in Motion, a foundation of the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association (GVF).

Both events will feature informational and interactive exhibits on a variety of “green” topics, including the Green Office Initiative, RecycleMania, Solar and Wind energy, Shuttle transportation program, Zimride, refillable dry erase markers and much more. The Central Campus event will also feature information on water bottle fill stations and a special exhibit of hybrid and electric vehicles in partnership with Conicelli Auto Group.

To commemorate the College’s 50th Anniversary and to create awareness about reusing and recycling common objects, participants are asked to donate unwanted items for a “found object” art project. These items will be mounted onto a four-foot board in the shape of MCCC’s 50th Anniversary logo. Found object items can include would-be-discarded plastic, metal, wood, cardboard, rubber, fabric and glass; writing instruments; CDs; bottle caps; shoe laces; computer parts; utensils; brushes; photos; jewelry and much more! While the possibilities are almost infinite, items that are perishable, soiled, or otherwise inappropriate will not be included. All individuals donating pieces to the project will be entered into a drawing for a free Think Green sweatshirt. Materials will be collected at both campuses.

Members of the College community are also invited to submit short essays describing a sustainable practice in which they engage and why it’s important to them. The deadline for submission is Oct. 31. All entries will be published on the College’s Think Green blog for a two week voting period. The author of the essay with the most votes will also receive a free Think Green sweatshirt, and the essay will be featured as part of the College’s 2015 Earth Day celebration. Essays should be emailed to communications@mc3.edu.

In addition to green specific activities, individuals are encouraged to donate gently used winter coats to benefit the Cluster Outreach Center in Pottstown and non-perishable breakfast items to benefit the College’s Stock Up for Success food pantry for students in need.

The College is also asking community members to get involved by tweeting ways they are going green with the hash tag #ThinkBigGreen.  Responses tweeted by Oct. 31 with the hashtag will be compiled and posted to the College’s Think Green blog!

Montgomery County Community College Represented at Climate Leadership Summit

press release courtesy of Second Nature

summit-2014-logo-invertMontgomery County Community College’s Associate Vice President for Facilities and Construction Jaime Garrido attended the 2014 Presidential Summit on Climate Leadership in Boston, Mass. Oct. 1-3.  He joined more than  250 college and university leaders across the United States in focusing on ways to strengthen campus climate action and sustainability initiatives, as well as higher education’s leadership role in developing strategic responses to climate and sustainability challenges in community, regional and national contexts. Like Montgomery, most Summit participants represent signatories of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).

Convened by Second Nature, Inc., the supporting organization for the ACUPCC, the Summit reflected the centrality of higher education’s role in preparing new generations to meet the challenges of climate change. The program focused on ways to build on the success of climate action plans and sustainability initiatives on ACUPCC campuses and develop solutions to the most pressing environmental problems facing our communities.

A total of 684 colleges and universities in the U. S. are current ACUPCC signatories, representing all 50 states, Washington D.C., and every category of public and private higher education institution. These signatories are committed to achieving carbon neutrality and represent more than 6.5 million students–one third of all college students in the nation.

The Summit was designed by a group of 30 college and university presidents with the support of a committee of seven local institutions, and was organized into five tracks: Knowledge and Solutions for a Changing Climate, Higher Education’s Climate Leadership Imperative, Creating a Campus Culture of Sustainability, Investment Strategies and Institutional Risks, and Corporate Partnerships for Climate Leadership–along with a session on the Alliance for Resilient Campuses, Second Nature’s newest initiative focused on climate resilience.

Highlights included keynote addresses by Brian Swett, Chief of Environment and Energy for the City of Boston, and Kate Gordon, Executive Director of The Risky Business Project. Kathy Jacobs, Director of the Center for Climate Change Adaptation Science and Solutions and former Director of the U. S. National Climate Assessment, is speaking about and facilitating discussions about climate resilience throughout the event.

CO2 impact from attendee travel, meeting space, and guest accommodations was offset through purchase by The Revere Hotel of carbon offsets from Native Energy, Inc. Summit sponsors include Xerox, Cenergistic, Altenex, and ecoAmerica.

College Earns GVF Platinum Sustainability Award for Transportation Initiatives

by Alana J. Mauger, Think Green Editor

For the fourth consecutive year, Montgomery County Community College earned a platinum-level sustainability award from the Greater Valley Forge Management Association (GVF) on Sept. 8 during the organization’s annual Sustainability Breakfast. MCCC was one of 32 organizations recognized for sustainability efforts in 2014.

The College partners with GVF to operate a campus shuttle service between its Blue Bell and Pottstown campuses and, for the first time this fall, between its Blue Bell campus and Culinary Arts Institute in Lansdale. Last year, more than 10,400 riders took advantage of the free, 20-passenger shuttle, which is equipped with wi-fi to support student success.

On Earth Day 2014, MCCC and GVF introduced a new vehicle that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG), which, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, will further reduce emissions by 11 tons of carbon dioxide over the next year based on the 28,560 miles driven and 3,483 gallons of diesel fuel used in 2013. Prior to the introduction of the CNG vehicle, the College’s shuttle program helped to eliminate approximately 54,527 metric tons of carbon emissions and reduce vehicle usage by 522,144 miles annually.

In addition to the shuttle program, MCCC also employs Zimride, an industry leading rideshare service that provides a safe and easy way for students and staff to arrange carpooling through college community network that fully integrates with Facebook. Since launching Zimride in 2011, the College’s network has logged 1,461,492 carpool miles.

At the College’s Central Campus in Blue Bell, drivers of electric, hybrid, and conventional vehicles that average 25 MPG or greater, as well as carpoolers and shuttle riders, have the opportunity to park in a designated, convenient 185-space parking lot adjacent to the Advanced Technology Center. Electric vehicle charging stations are available in the Green Lot, as well as in the South Hall parking lot at the West Campus in Pottstown.

Other transportation initiatives include a Segway program for public safety officers in Pottstown, electric and hybrid vehicles for public safety and facilities staff in Blue Bell, and an increased effort to promote bicycle accessibility at all MCCC locations.

Since signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, Montgomery County Community College has put into place policies and procedures to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. As a result of its efforts, MCCC is a two-time recipient of Second Nature’s national Climate Leadership Award. To learn more about MCCC’s sustainability initiative, visit mc3green.wordpress.com.

GVF Assistant Director Maureen Farrell (far right) and Action News Anchor Matt O’Donnell (far left) present (from left) Peggy Lee-Clark, MCCC executive director of government relations, and Dr. Celeste Schwartz, MCCC vice president for information technology and college services, with a platinum level sustainability award. Photo courtesy of GVF

GVF Assistant Director Maureen Farrell (far right) and Action News Anchor Matt O’Donnell (far left) present (from left) Peggy Lee-Clark, MCCC executive director of government relations, and Dr. Celeste Schwartz, MCCC vice president for information technology and college services, with a platinum level sustainability award. Photo courtesy of GVF

New App Allows Students to Track Campus Shuttle

by Paul Goraczko, Think Green Correspondent

Montgomery County Community College recently finished installing a new website in partnership with TransLōc, which will allow students to track the location of the campus shuttle in real-time as it moves along its route from Central Campus in Blue Bell to West Campus in Pottstown.

Gregg Heimer, a Senior Network Engineer at the College, was at the helm of the project.

Heimer felt empathy for students who had to wait outside for the shuttle in the cold winter months.

When he left campus each day, Heimer would see students “wasting time peering out the glass window” trying to determine when the shuttle would arrive.

“I knew there were better ways to track such transit vehicles,” Heimer said.

After conducting research and experimenting with demonstrations of various transit-tracking providers, Heimer applied for an internal grant from the College Foundation.

The TransLōc system was installed within 30 days of the grant’s provision.

The new app has instantaneously empowered the shuttle’s riders.

“Students want information at their fingertips,” Heimer said.

TransLōc gives students exactly that. The website uses an automated GPS tracker that allows students to see where the shuttle is located along its route using a map that is powered by Google.

The map above shows the shuttle as it moves along its route.

The map above shows the shuttle as it moves along its route.

The map is updated every second, thus it eliminates the need to sit and peer out the window to determine if the shuttle has arrived on campus.

“Putting myself in the students’ shoes, I would want to utilize as much time as I could on campus and not waste time waiting for transportation,” Heimer said.

Shuttle QR codeStudents can access the website or download the free app for their mobile devices at mccc.transloc.com or by scanning the QR code to the left.

The application is available for iPhones, iPod Touches, iPads, as well as for Android Smartphones and Tablets.

Students who download the application will also be given access to announcements that might impact their ride, including shuttle arrivals and possible shuttle delays and/or cancellations.

The system also includes updates to a digital signage system located at the Advanced Technology Center.

Heimer believes that the new technology will be a welcomed part of students’ commutes.

“Mobile apps are always in demand…and this adds another tool to satisfy that demand,” Heimer said.

Riders without smartphones can also benefit from the text-based arrival predictions by signing up for text alerts. To be notified of estimated arrival times at West Campus (South Hall) riders need only to text “MCCC 074” to 41411. For notification of Central Campus (Advanced Technology Center) arrival times riders need only to text “MCCC 282” to 41411.

The College is not the first higher education institution to partner with TransLōc. The mobile tracking app is implemented at universities such as Yale, The University of Arizona, and The University of Chicago.

Colleges that have previously implemented the app are content with the results.

Ed Bebyn, Manager of Parking and Transit at Yale University, said “TransLōc is easily the biggest factor to [Yale’s transit] system being successful.”

Bebyn even reported that he would rather get rid of other on-vehicle amenities than get rid of TransLōc.

Additionally, transit systems using TransLōc have reported increases in ridership of more than 15%.

It’s unclear how the technology will affect ridership just yet, but Heimer and many others at the College believe that an increase in ridership can only be expected.

If MCCC’s implementation of the tracking technology yields similar results, the shuttle will continue to make not only ecological sense, but also economical sense—as the cost per rider will decrease with the increase in ridership (just as it has done in the past).

Overall, the new technology is just one more way that the College is encouraging its students, faculty, and staff to ‘go green.’

The campus shuttle pictured above can now be tracked using GPS technology.

The campus shuttle pictured above can now be tracked using GPS technology.

Students Tap Into the Water Bottle Dilemma

by Paul Goraczko, Think Green Correspondent

Students' presentation board, "Why Buy Bottled Water?"

Students’ presentation board, “Why Buy Bottled Water?”

Last spring, Jill Beccaris-Pescatore, Assistant Professor of Economics at Montgomery County Community College, asked her students to think about the world in a different way.

The course she taught, entitled “Introduction to Environmental Economics,” asked students to reexamine an everyday object as simple as a plastic water bottle.

Throughout the course, students were exposed to numerous methods for exploring economic issues like the water bottle, including documentaries, hands-on simulations, and collaborative projects.

They studied a variety of units that helped them to better understand these issues. Sample units included “The Economics of Garbage;” “Why Buy Bottled Water?” and “Is Economic Growth Bad for the Environment?”

By applying economic tools taught throughout the course to these difficult questions and concepts, enrolled students were able to examine the economic sustainability of plastic water bottles, to apply the principles of scarcity and choice to environmental issues, and to analyze the impact that humans make on the planet.

Beccaris-Pescatore designed the course with the assistance of a grant from the Library of Congress through their Teaching with Primary Sources program; the aim of the course was to make economics and environmental studies more accessible to students.

The course achieved its goal and left students with one resounding message: “Our choices matter.”

“We all need to understand that every choice we [make] has a trade off and that impact is not likely felt immediately,” Beccaris-Pescatore said.

These delayed consequences make it difficult to understand the impact of our decisions immediately, but Beccaris-Pescatore insists that understanding the ecological impact of our economic actions is important.

“The better we get at understanding the chain of events that our immediate decisions set off, the better we will be able to have economic growth and a strong environment,” she said.

The conclusions that Beccaris-Pescatore’s class drew after conducting research on our economic and ecological dilemmas were not always flattering and were often disconcerting to the students.

For example, students discovered that American’s use approximately 50 billion plastic bottles annually, but we only recycle approximately 23% (banthebottle.net).

Students were able to present these staggering findings to members of the college community in the Advanced Technology Center at Central Campus as part of the College’s Earth Week Celebration.

Despite some bleak findings, students did come to find solutions to the water bottle dilemma.

Solutions included replacing disposable water bottles with reusable bottles, using filtered fountains, and buying larger bottles of water that use less plastic.

Beccaris-Pescatore is proud of the progress her students made over the course of the semester.

“I feel the students really made a difference on campus,” she said.

The class’ efforts included a push to make others on campus more aware of the filtered water available throughout the campus buildings and even a letter written to the Climate Commitment Advisory Council addressing on campus environmental concerns.

In an effort to encourage members of the College community to make the switch from disposable water bottles to reusable bottles, students partnered with the Campus Bookstore for a water bottle giveaway.

Beccaris-Pescatore hopes her students have walked away having learned that each dollar they spend can make a difference.

“Each ‘dollar vote’ sends a message to produces about what we value,” Beccaris-Pescatore said.

“Buying that reusable bottle and not the case of water sends a message to the market, in turn helps our economy grow on a more sustainable path,” she concluded.

Beccaris-Pescatore has presented on economics and sustainability at a variety of conferences. Most recently she presented at a conference in St. Louis alongside of Dr. Jessica Schocker of Penn State Berks. In the fall, she will be reuniting with Dr. Schocker at the National Council for Social Studies conference in Boston, MA to present on similar issues.

You can follow Beccaris-Pescatore on Twitter @Econ_Bricabrac.

Eco 117 students present their findings during the College's 2014 Earth Day celebration. Photo by Alana J. Mauger

Eco 117 students present their findings during the College’s 2014 Earth Day celebration. Photo by Alana J. Mauger

Montgomery Earns National Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature

BLOG Second Nature Award

by Alana J. Mauger, Think Green Editor

Montgomery County Community College is among six institutions in the country to receive the 2014 Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature—a national non-profit organization that works to create a healthy just, and sustainable society by transforming higher education.

For the past five years, Climate Leadership Awards have been presented annually to signatory institutions of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) that demonstrate innovative and advanced leadership in education for sustainability and climate mitigation and adaptation.

Montgomery County Community College is a two-time recipient of the award, having also been recognized as a Climate Leader in 2011.

“The commitment, enthusiasm, and leadership of this year’s Climate Leadership Awards winners are undoubtedly leading the way for higher education to address the urgency of climate crisis. These institutions’ innovative approaches and exemplary actions in the pursuit of sustainability, both on campus and in the community, are tremendously exciting, and further strengthen the progress made by the ACUPCC network,” said David Hales, president of Second Nature.

For the 2014 award, institutions were evaluated on a variety of criteria for climate leadership on campus, including student preparedness, climate innovation and creation of opportunities.

In the area of student preparedness, the College’s core curriculum shapes students’ experiences through 13 learning competencies, one of which is civic responsibility. To meet this competency, several faculty developed sustainability-focused courses in the disciplines of Economics, Geology and Geography, while others incorporate sustainability-themed projects into their existing courses, including Public Relations, Ceramics, and Composition, among others.

Students also benefit from community partners–including Wissahickon Growing Greener, Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area and Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association (GVF)—that help guide sustainability efforts as members of the College’s President’s Climate Commitment Advisory Council. The College’s student-led Environmental Club also forged a partnership with Pennypack Farm and Education Center, where students volunteer monthly while learning about community supported agriculture.”

In the area of climate innovation, the College piloted a four-tier Green Office Initiative in 2013 that encourages departments to adopt sustainable practices and purchase greener supplies in partnership with Office Depot. The six pilot offices reported an average 12 percent decrease in spending while moving to more sustainable supplies and practices. The initiative was brought to scale this spring and has earned awards from the Philadelphia Area Collegiate Cooperative (PACC) and Office Depot.

Montgomery also forged a partnership with Sustainable Waste Solutions to make the Culinary Arts Institute its first landfill-free facility. One hundred percent of the Institute’s trash, cooking grease and food trimmings is recycled or converted into organic agricultural compost or biofuel. To learn about this initiative, watch the College’s “Cooking Green Cuisine” video, produced by Alana J. Mauger and Matt Porter.


Transportation is another key area in which Montgomery excels in climate innovation. To compliment a 20-passenger transportation shuttle—introduced in 2010 to make the 30-mile trip between campuses several times daily—the College also partners with Zimride to facilitate a safe ridesharing program for students, faculty and staff. Combined, the two initiatives reduced vehicle use by almost one million miles and carbon emissions by an estimated 54,644 metric tons. This spring, the College implemented a new compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle that will further reduce carbon emissions by a projected 11 metric tons.

To support its transportation programs, the College opened a green lot in 2012, allowing drivers of electric, hybrid and high-efficiency vehicles, carpoolers, and shuttle riders to access prime parking at the Central Campus. Electric vehicle charging stations are also available at both Central and West campuses. Collectively, the College’s transportation initiatives earned Platinum-Level Sustainability Award from GVF for three consecutive years.

For the final award criteria, creating opportunities, Montgomery partnered with Siemens Inc. to implement a self-funded energy conservation project that will result in more than $6,000,000 (19 percent) in energy savings over 15 years. The project incorporates renewable energy sources from wind turbines at the West Campus and solar panels at the Central Campus, as well as other energy/cost-saving initiatives like transitioning to natural gas, retrofitting lighting, and upgrading HVAC and building automation systems.

To educate and influence the community at large, the College documents all of its work on the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) award-winning “Think Green” blog. The College also invites the community to participate in its annual Earth Week and Campus Sustainability Day activities. To learn more about the College’s sustainability efforts, visit mc3green.wordpress.com.

As a charter signatory of the ACUPCC, Montgomery pledged to neutralize its net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The ACUPCC network is made up of more than 680 colleges and universities, representing nearly 6.6 million students. To date, ACUPCC institutions have achieved a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since the initiative began in 2007. To learn more, visit presidentsclimatecommitment.org.

PHOTOS: Earth Day Block Parties

Montgomery County Community College held its annual Earth Day Block Parties from on April 23 (West Campus) and  April 24 (Central Campus). The block parties showcased sustainability initiatives and activities from programs, classes, departments and individuals from throughout the College.

Exhibits included the student Accounting Club; RecycleMania; Green Office Initiative; carbon footprint calculations; SEPTA, Zimride, and other transportation options; green merchandise from Barnes & Noble Campus Bookstores; Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association (GVF); Siemens self-funding energy conservation project; sustainable Economics poster session; composting; health-related information; Culinary Arts Institute Landfill-Free Initiative; spring bike maintenance; and more.

Check out photo gallery below. Photos by Alana J. Mauger (Central) and Sandi Yanisko (West).