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.

Montgomery Celebrates Earth Day with Week of Activities

green_cities_logo3-300x75 copyby Alana J. Mauger, Think Green Editor

Montgomery County Community College will join communities across the world in celebrating Earth Day 2014, the theme of which is “Green Cities.” Launched in fall 2013, the Earth Day Network’s Green Cities campaign focuses on three key elements of sustainability: clean energy, green buildings and transportation.

While Earth Day itself is observed annually on April 22, MCCC will hold a variety of activities on April 21-24. All events are free of charge and are open to the community. More information will be available on the College’s Think Green blog.

On Monday, April 21, the College will dedicate its new wind turbines during a 2 p.m. ceremony at its West Campus in Pottstown. Four 25-foot vertical axis wind turbines were recently installed outside of the College’s Schuylkill Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center at 140 College Drive. The turbines are part of the College’s Guaranteed Energy Services Agreement with Siemens Industry Inc.

Each turbine produces 1,000 watts of energy, for a combined 4,000 watts, which helps to power the LED lighting in the Center’s parking lot. The wind turbines also serve as a teaching and learning tool for the College’s lab science courses, among others.

On Tuesday, April 22, Earth Day, MCCC will hold an Eco Style Fashion Show from noon-2 p.m. in the Parkhouse Hall Atrium at the College’s Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell. Coordinated by Public Relations student Katrina Lundy, the event will feature MCCC students modeling sustainable outfits from Plato’s Closet, Willow Grove, and from the College’s Barnes & Noble Campus Bookstore.

Then, from 1-2 p.m., MCCC will introduce its new “greener” transportation shuttle during a ceremony on the Central Campus quad, outside of the Advanced Technology Center. The new vehicle runs on compressed natural gas as opposed to traditional diesel fuel, which, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, will reduce emissions by 11 tons of carbon dioxide annually based in the vehicle’s 2013 mileage of 28,560.

The College partners with the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association (GVF) to operate the 20-passenger shuttle to help students commute between its Blue Bell and Pottstown campuses. The shuttle makes four round-trips per day, Monday through Friday during the fall and spring semesters; it is free to students and is equipped with wi-fi. Last year, the shuttle program reduced vehicle mileage by more than 520,000 and eliminated emissions of more than 54,500 metric tons of greenhouse gases.

Next, the College will hold its annual Earth Day Block Parties from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23 in the South Hall Lobby at the West Campus, 101 College Drive, and on Thursday, April 24 in the Advanced Technology Center atrium at the Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.

The block parties will showcase sustainability initiatives and activities from programs, classes, departments and individuals from throughout the College. Exhibits include the student Environmental Club; RecycleMania; Green Office Initiative; carbon footprint calculations; SEPTA, Zimride and other transportation options; green merchandise from Barnes & Noble Campus Bookstores; Siemens self-funding energy conservation project; CulinArt Farmers Market; sustainable Economics poster session; composting; health-related information; Culinary Arts Institute Landfill-Free Initiative; spring bike maintenance; and more.

Since signing the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, sustainability has become a core value at Montgomery County Community College and is incorporated into the institution’s strategic plan, core curriculum, and in everyday best practices as they relate to facilities management, campus operations and transportation. Chaired by President Dr. Karen A. Stout, a team of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members comprise the Climate Commitment Advisory Council, which guides sustainability efforts toward attaining carbon neutrality by 2050.

Editor’s Note: Paul Goraczko and Katrina Lundy contributed this this article.

Video courtesy of Earth Day Network

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.

‘Green Cities’ Campaign Announced as Theme for Earth Day 2014 & 2015

green_cities_logo3-300x75 copyIssued by Earth Day Network

Earth Day Network launched the Green Cities campaign in the fall of 2013 to help cities around the world become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. Focused on three key elements – buildings, energy, and transportation – the campaign aims to help cities accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier, and more economically viable future through improvements in efficiency, investments in renewable technology, and regulation reform.

Energy

Most of the world currently relies on outdated electric generation structures that are extremely inefficient and dirty. To help cities become more sustainable, we need to redesign the current system, transition to renewable energy sources, and implement 21st century solutions.

Green Buildings

Buildings account for nearly one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Through simple efficiency and design improvements to buildings we can reduce those emissions drastically. To realize that vision, cities need to update ordinances, switch to performance based building codes, and improve financing options.

Transportation

Transportation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, three quarters of which comes directly from road vehicles. To reduce these emissions and the resulting smog, we need to improve standards, increase public transportation options, invest in alternative transportation, and improve city walkability and bikeability.

Through an informative website and a series of in-depth toolkits, the campaign will educate the public about each element of green cities and spur individuals to take civic action by signing petitions, sending letters, and organizing events.

In addition, Earth Day Network will work with partners on the ground in strategically placed cities and towns to organize grassroots efforts to improve local codes, ordinances, and policies that will help cities become model green cities.

Spanning Earth Day 2014 and 2015, the campaign will work with an international team of partners, including local organizers, non-profits, businesses, and governments to help increase public awareness, mobilize support for appropriate policies, and generate concrete commitments for innovative and replicable initiatives.

To find out how you can get involved in the Green Cities campaign, send us an email: greencities@earthday.org.

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 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.