Students Learn About Alt Energy with Installation of Solar Panels

by Paul Goraczko, Think Green Correspondent 

In an effort to further its commitment to sustainability, Montgomery County Community College has installed 44 solar panels on its this spring at its Central Campus in Blue Bell.

The panels are installed 500 feet from the intersection of Morris Road and Route 202 at the ATC ‘green lot.’

Located next to the panels is a display that allows students, staff, faculty, and even community members to see how much energy each of the panels is generating in real-time.

Each solar panel produces 285 watts of energy for a combined 12,540 watts. To put that in perspective, the average light bulb produces about 120 watts. Thus, the panels can generate enough electricity to power 104 incandescent light bulbs.

Solar panels, mid-installation. Photo by Alana J. Mauger

Solar panels, mid-installation. Photo by Alana J. Mauger

The solar panels, however, are not the first green fixture of the ATC parking lot; the lot also features charging stations for students, staff, and faculty who drive electric cars.

Thomas Freitag, vice president for finance and administration at MCCC, said the solar panel installation is part of a larger $4 million project with Siemens Industry Inc.

In fact, the installation of the solar panels was fully funded through grant money and was done in collaboration with Siemens.

Not surprisingly, the project has the full support of the township.

Whitpain Township Engineer Jim Blanch said, “We’re happy to see [the College is] working at alternative energy methods. It’s exciting to see these proposals coming through.”

For Blanch and others in the township, sustainable technology is warmly welcomed.

“It’s nice to see new sustainable technology being used,” Blanch said.

“It’s a good example for students. Hopefully they’ll go on to study [similar technologies],” he added.

For Freitag, however, the project is part of a much bigger agenda by the school.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “It fits very nicely with our overall commitment to the environment. It fits with the theme we have put together with the green lot…and it tells a good story to students, visitors, and faculty and staff as well.”

While the panels won’t power major parts of facilities on campus, the demo project will provide real-life teaching and learning opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, while taking the College one step further in its role as a leader in the green movement. 

Learn about solar cells on How Stuff Works

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

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

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.

PHOTOS: ‘Think Green’ St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Check out photos from Philadelphia’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, where the  students and alumni from the College’s Environmental Club and Climate Commitment Advisory Council  joined representatives from Siemens Industry Inc. in showcasing some of the College’s green efforts. Photos by Alana J. Mauger

‘Think Green’ Returns to Philly for St. Patty’s Day

by Alana J. Mauger, Think Green Editor

For the second year, Montgomery County Community College will join Siemens Industry Inc. in bringing its “green” message to the streets of Philadelphia on Sunday, March 16 during the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Members from the College’s student Environmental Club — decked out in “Think Green” hoodies — and the College’s Mustang mascot will join Siemens representatives along side of a “Think Green” float that showcases some of the College’s green efforts.

Check out photos from 2013’s parade

You can check out the parade in person or on CWPhilly (on TV or streaming online) from 1-4 p.m. Encore showings of the parade will air on Sunday, March 16 from 4-7 p.m. on CWPhilly immediately following the live broadcast and again on Monday, March 17 from 9 a.m.-noon on CBS-3.

In 2012, the College entered into a Guaranteed Energy Services Agreement with Siemens Industry Inc. for the implementation of a self-funding energy conservation project. Click on the above link to learn more about the GESA project.

Digital rendering of 'Think Green' float

Digital rendering of ‘Think Green’ float

Schuylkill River Named 2014 River of the Year: Logo Needed

by Paul Goraczko, Think Green Correspondent

Once among Pennsylvania’s most heavily polluted waterways, the Schuylkill River now boasts the title of Pennsylvania’s 2014 River of the Year following a five-week online public voting period spanning from November to December 2013.

Last year, the river, which runs past Montgomery County Community College’s West Campus, placed second in the voting; it lost by less than 200 votes.

However, this year the river walloped the competition, receiving 43 percent of the popular vote in a decisive victory over the Kiski-Conemaugh River (21 percent), the Ohio River (12 percent), the Brodhead Creek Watershed (12 percent) and the West Branch of the Susquehanna River (12 percent).

The designation has been bestowed on rivers since 1983 by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, but it is only the second time that the Schuylkill has clinched the title.

According to a press release from DCNR, the winning applicant in the competition, Schuylkill River Greenway Association, which manages the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, will receive a $10,000 leadership grant to help fund River of the Year activities.

The Schuylkill River Heritage Area is now in need of an original logo to help promote these events and to commemorate the statewide honor.

Download / view the official rules

The winning designer will receive $250 and will be recognized on the Schuylkill River Heritage Area website, in the organization’s newsletter, and on the group’s Facebook page.

The contest is open to artists of all ages and the deadline for submission is March 14, 2014.

The winning logo, which will be chosen by April 1, will be used on all signs, banners, flyers, and programming materials for the year-long slate of activities being planned to celebrate the river’s status.

The logo will also serve as the design for the 2014 Schuylkill River Sojourn T-shirt, which is provided to all sojourn participants.

Submissions should be emailed to by 5 p.m. March 14.

College Gears Up for 2014 RecycleMania Tournament

RM_logo_2013by Alana J. Mauger, Think Green Editor

Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) will once again take part in RecycleMania, a nationwide tournament among colleges and universities designed to increase student awareness of campus recycling and waste minimization.

After finishing second in Pennsylvania in the Waste Minimization category during the 2013 challenge – collecting 15.292 pounds of combined trash and recycling per capita – MCCC expects to maintain momentum in this, its seventh consecutive year of competing.

Pre-season practice weeks are held from Jan. 19-Feb. 1. Then, the official competition kicks off on Feb. 2 and extends eight weeks to March 29.

During the program, campuses compete in different contests to see which institution can collect the largest amount of recyclables per capita, thelargest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita or have the highest recycling rate. Final results will be announced on April 11.

In 2013, 523 colleges comprising 3.5 million staff and students recycled and/or composted 90.8 million pounds of waste.  In addition, Recyclemania 2013 resulted in a reduction of 121,436 metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MTCO2E).  Of the totals, MCCC contributed 34,132 pounds of recycling and averaged 4.252 pounds of recycling per person each week.

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 48 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E), which translates to the energy consumption of four households or the emissions of nine cars.

RecycleMania is made possible through the sponsorship support of Alcoa, SCAThe Coca Cola Company, Keep America Beautiful, and the American Forest & Paper Association. Additional program support is provided by the College and University Recycling Coalition (CURC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise programCampus Conservation Nationals, the United Negro College Fund, and the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology program.

Check out MCCC’s Think Green blog at for RecycleMania stats and updates.

To learn more about the RecycleMania 2014 competition, visit