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).

College’s Wind Turbines Now Part of Pottstown Landscape

by Alana J. Mauger, Think Green Editor

Four, 25-foot wind turbines now stand outside of Montgomery County Community College’s Schuylkill Riverfront Academic & Heritage Center. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Four, 25-foot wind turbines now stand outside of Montgomery County Community College’s Schuylkill Riverfront Academic & Heritage Center. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Montgomery County Community College cut a symbolic green ribbon on April 21 to dedicate four brand new wind turbines at its West Campus in Pottstown.

Pa. Rep. Mark Painter, Pottstown Borough Council President Stephen Toroney and Pottstown Mayor Sharon Thomas joined College President Dr. Karen A. Stout and members of MCCC’s Board of Trustees in cutting the ceremonial ribbon.

The 25-foot vertical axis wind turbines were recently installed outside MCCC’s Schuylkill Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center at 140 College Drive, adjacent to Riverfront Park and the Schuylkill River. While the turbines won’t power major facilities on campus, the demo project will provide real-life teaching and learning opportunities for students and faculty.

Each wind turbine produces 1,000 watts of energy, for a combined 4,000 watts, enough energy to power the LED lighting in the Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center parking lot. The lightweight carbon fiber and fiberglass blades have a cut-in speed of 7.83 miles per hour, meaning that winds must be at least eight miles per hour to generate usable electricity.

While the turbines may look big in stature, they are quiet to operate. Each turbine produces about as much noise as a desktop computer—quieter than most air conditioning units. The turbines, which are similar to those found at Lincoln Financial Park in Philadelphia, are endorsed by the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, the National Audubon Society, and by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The new wind turbines are part of the College’s Guaranteed Energy Services Agreement with Siemens Industry Inc., which has enabled MCCC to implement a series of self-funding energy conservation projects. Collectively, these projects will result in 19 percent energy savings—and more than $6 million in cost savings—over the next 15 years.

Other conservation initiatives include converting several buildings from propane to natural gas; retrofitting lighting with energy-efficient units; weatherizing buildings; installing water-conservation commodes; improving heating and cooling units; upgrading building automation and energy management system; and incorporating renewable energy sources—like solar panels at MCCC’s Central Campus, and now wind turbines at MCCC’s West Campus in Pottstown.

To learn more about the College’s Sustainability Initiative, visit mc3green.wordpress.com.

Pictured cutting the ribbon for the wind turbines are (from left) MCCC Trustees Andrew Cantor and Ed Mullin, MCCC Trustee Chairman Michael D’Aniello, Pottstown Borough Mayor Sharon Thomas, MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout, MCCC West Campus Vice President Dr. Steady Moono, Pottstown Borough Council President Stephen Toroney, and Pa. Representative Mark Painter. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Pictured cutting the ribbon for the wind turbines are (from left) MCCC Trustees Andrew Cantor and Ed Mullin, MCCC Trustee Chairman Michael D’Aniello, Pottstown Borough Mayor Sharon Thomas, MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout, MCCC West Campus Vice President Dr. Steady Moono, Pottstown Borough Council President Stephen Toroney, and Pa. Representative Mark Painter. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

PHOTOS: Eco Style Fashion Show

On Tuesday, April 22, Earth Day, Montgomery County Community College Public Relations student Katrina Lundy coordinated an Eco Style Fashion Show in the Parkhouse Hall Atrium at the College’s Central Campus. The event featured students modeling sustainable outfits from Plato’s Closet, Willow Grove, and from the College’s Barnes & Noble Campus Bookstore.

RecycleMania Results: Montgomery Excels in Waste Minimization

RM_logo_2013by Alana J. Mauger, Think Green Editor

Montgomery County Community College  finished the national 2014 RecycleMania competition with some promising numbers.

For the second consecutive year, the College placed second among all higher education institutions in Pennsylvania in the competition’s Waste Minimization category, collecting 17.248 pounds of combined trash and recycling per capita. Nationally, MCCC ranked 11th in Waste Minimization among public two-year colleges and 22nd overall.

In the Per Capita Classic category, MCCC finished ninth among public two-year institutions nationally, with 4.658 pounds of recycling per capita. This positioned the College as 20th in Pennsylvania and 279th overall.

In the Grand Champion category, MCCC scored a 27.002 percent cumulative recycling rate, positioning it eighth in Pennsylvania, 14th among public two-year institutions, and 142nd overall.

Montgomery collected a cumulative 37,390 pounds of recycling—an eight percent increase over 2013, ranking it 11th among public two-year institutions nationally, 14th in Pennsylvania, and 249th overall in the Gorilla Prize category

RecycleMania is an eight-week nationwide competition, held Feb. 2 through March 29, during which colleges and universities competed to see who could reduce, reuse and recycle the most campus waste. MCCC has participated for seven consecutive years.

According to the U.S. EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM), MCCC’s recycling efforts during the competition resulted in a greenhouse gas reduction of 63 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E), which is translates to the energy consumption of five households or the emissions of 12 cars.

MCCC was among the first institutions in the country to sign American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2007. The College’s sustainability efforts are led by a team of faculty, students, administrators, support staff, alumni and community members that comprise the President’s Climate Commitment Advisory Council.

To learn more about the College’s Sustainability Initiative, visit its Think Green blog.

To learn more about RecycleMania or to view the full list of results, visit recyclemaniacs.org.