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).

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.

Eco Style Fashion Show Presents Sustainable Fashion 2014

by Katrina Lundy

eco-fashion-organic-fashion-fashion-trend-that-eco-friendly-590x600What are you wearing? Youthful, sporty, and ecologically conscious is the look for 2014.

On April 22 from noon-2 p.m., Montgomery County Community College will hold its first fashion show featuring sustainable outfits from Plato’s Closet, Willow Grove, and the Barnes & Noble Campus Bookstore.

Students will strut the runway in the ParkHouse Hall atrium at the College’s Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell as they showcase Eco Style fashions. The event is free and is open to the public.

Sustainable fashion, also called eco fashion, is part of the growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system that can be supported indefinitely in terms of environmentalism and social responsibility. At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles, and 25 percent of the world’s pesticides are used to grow non-organic cotton. This causes irreversible damage to people and the environment.

According to Vogue, sustainable fashion appears to be a long-term trend for any season. In 2014, sustainable fashion is available for all ages in every style.  For example, MCCC’s Campus Bookstore carries a sustainable line of athletic clothing by Champion.  The bookstore will offer a 15 percent discount on the day of the fashion show to anyone who buys sustainable fashion.

Come out and support Earth Day with faculty, staff, students, family and friends to create awareness about Eco Style fashions and the Sustainability Initiative at Montgomery County Community College.

VOTE: ‘Cooking Green Cuisine’ Video National Award Finalist

2014CLAs-380 copyby Alana J. Mauger, Think Green Editor

Montgomery County Community College is a finalist for Second Nature’s 2014 Climate Leadership Award and needs the community’s help!

While the award itself is based on a formal application and supporting data, Second Nature is hosting a supplemental popular vote video contest, for which MCCC is one of 15 contestants nationally, and is the only one from Pennsylvania. Individuals can vote daily (one vote daily per IP address) through April 15. Winning videos will receive national media play throughout the year.

To view and vote for MCCC’s video, visit planetforward.org/idea/cooking-green-cuisine.

NOTE — Please vote from computers and mobile devices that are NOT connected to the College’s wireless network. All votes from the College network will only count as one vote.

MCCC’s video, “Cooking Green Cuisine,” focuses on the Landfill-Free initiative at its new Culinary Arts Institute in Lansdale. The Culinary Arts Institute partners with Sustainable Waste Solutions (SWS), of Souderton, to convert all waste—trash, recycling and food trimmings—into energy or materials.

To learn more about this, and other green initiatives at the College, visit mc3green.wordpress.com.

Honors Program Students Chew on Topic of Sustainable Food

by Paul Goraczko, Think Green Correspondent 

VegetablesAs far as college courses go, ‘The Geography of Food: Fast, Slow, Global, Local, Policies, Politics, Economics, Energy, Sustainability, Culture and You,’ is a full-course meal.

Assistant Professor of Geography Wayne Brew jokes that his Honors Colloquium may very well be the longest course title that Montgomery County Community College has to offer, but he ensures it is for a good reason.

“It’s because the goal of the course was to really focus on the issues around food,” Brew said.

And whether we realize it or not, there are a lot of issues and concerns that arise with the agricultural system: sustainability, environmental degradation, government agriculture subsidies, the explosion of the fast food industry, and even health problems caused by the food we consume (to name a few).

Brew’s desire to discuss these issues with students stemmed from another class that is offered at the College. The class, entitled “Food & Culture,” was co-taught by a nutritionist and a geographer and allowed students to learn about how culture plays a role in the cuisines of various civilizations around the world.

While teaching “Food & Culture,” Brew found himself wanting to discuss the issues of food more and more, but found it deviated from the intent of the “Food & Culture” course.

Thus, when Brew was given the chance to design a one-credit honors colloquium in 2009, he took advantage of the opportunity to develop a course that dealt with the issues surrounding food production.

Brew wanted students to understand that we have a global food system that is probably not sustainable.

“The evidence is pretty clear that what we’re doing right now is not sustainable and we have to figure out ways to make it sustainable,” Brew said.

Brew acknowledged that the transition from a highly industrialized agriculture dependent on large amounts of fossil fuels to a more sustainable system would be difficult, but is wholly necessary.

“One of the unsustainable parts of this agriculture is that it’s so dependent on oil,” Brew said. “Oil drives the whole process. It takes ten calories of oil energy to make one calorie of edible food. As oil becomes more scarce and expensive, how are we going to continue to support systems that are based on oil?”

Students in the colloquium were faced with tough questions like these on a regular basis.

To ensure students remained invested in these discussions, Brew made sure that the course remained student-centered. Therefore, Brew ended the course title with “and You.”

“The last thing I ended it with is ‘you,’ because I have the students keep a food diary throughout the course,” Brew said.

The diary requires students to write down what they eat throughout the day.

Brew ensures students that this diary is not so he can critique them, but so they can have an awareness of what they are eating and can see where their food is coming from.

“I keep a food diary along with them and it’s helpful for me,” Brew said. “Every time I do that, I take something new away from it, based on a pattern I see or something I think I could improve upon.”

At the end course, students were asked to reflect upon their diets in a reaction paper.

The students used resources such as Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, along with many other articles that focused upon food issues, policies, and sustainability to inform their reaction papers.

Brew says these books give students an eye-opening look at food production in the United States.

He also supplemented these readings with the screening of two films.

The first, “Food Inc.,” is a 2008 documentary that examines and critiques corporate farming in America in what Brew describes as a “horror story approach.”

The second, “King Corn,” is a 2007 documentary that spotlights the role government subsidies play in the production of corn in America.

Other highlights of the course include two mapping projects.

The first mapping project requires students to look at how many fast food restaurants and convenience stores there are within the two-mile radius surrounding their house.

Students then read articles on “junk food geography”—meaning very poor urban or rural areas where the access to healthy food is very limited due to limited budgets or geographical restraints—and come to have a greater understanding of the food options offered to their communities.

The second project requires students to map out a supermarket of their choice. They have to document the layout, take pictures, draw a map and answer questions related to the store’s floor plan.

The project helps students to see that supermarkets are tactically designed to lead consumers to make certain decisions.

In the class’ final meeting, students learned more about locally sourced food and shared a meal that was made entirely from locally sourced food suppliers.

Chef David Green, Chef and Food Service Manager with CulinArt at the College’s Central Campus, prepared the food, which consisted of locally sourced chicken and vegetables including carrots, potatoes, and salad greens.

Chef Green led a discussion with the students in which he described the many changes he has made over the years to make the food services at the college more sustainable.

“He does amazing things,” Brew said. “He is a great spokesman for many of the things that I talk about in the course and he’s the person that actually practices these things by trying to buy all his foods locally, which is not cheaper, but is better quality and supports sustainable and organic farms.”

Overall, Brew hopes students who take the course will ultimately question the policies and politics behind food production in America.

To ensure that they start thinking more about these policies, Brew asks students to take one of the problems identified during the course and look into possible solutions for it, including systematic policy changes or economic shifts that would improve our food systems by making them more sustainable.

Brew said these papers are often the highlight of the course for him, because of the realizations, thinking, and ideas that students exhibited.

Click here to learn more about the Honors Program at the College.