by Robert Gardner, Think Green Correspondent
Montgomery County Community College hopes to convert all of its offices into “green-houses.” Though the changes will not necessarily be visible from the outside, the College intends to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability via the Green Office Initiative. Six offices have been selected to participate in the pilot program, including MCCC’s Presidents’ Office, Academic Affairs and Information Technology at the Central Campus; Student Leadership & Involvement and the Student Success Center at the West Campus; and CulinArt, the College’s external food vendor.
Executive Assistant to the President Joshua Schwartz and Manager of Procurement Marie Ryan are spearheading the initiative, which focuses on making impactful changes at little or no additional cost. The duo also credits Danielle Siemenski, former executive assistance to the vice president of information technology, for her early role in helping to develop the program.
After researching green office programs at other institutions, including the one at Harvard University, Schwartz presented a four-tier, goal driven system to MCCC’s Climate Council in April 2012.
Each tier in the system is color-coded (shades of green, naturally) and requires certain steps be reached. As an office accomplishes each tier, one section of that office’s MCCC “house” will turn green. It will take approximately 3-6 months for an office to reach each tier.
“We want the [green] office initiative to be seen as an on-campus leader of sustainability awareness,” Schwartz said. “It could also be a leader in the community at-large—locally, state-wide, nationally. This is another way to maintain and push forward the College’s leadership.”
“Our college is challenged in such a way, as are other community colleges, to be cutting-edge educators,” Ryan added. “Cost-effectiveness plays a big role. We want to save taxpayers money.”
Paper and printing account for a large part of the potential runaway costs incurred by the College. As MCCC constantly seeks fresh modes of efficiency—environmental, fiscal, and otherwise—this initiative seeks to bring the College’s offices in line with the efforts of its grounds and facilities departments. Ryan negotiated with suppliers to secure lower-costs on green office products.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. We want to get this going in all areas, from all of our vendors, Ryan said.”
The Committee anticipates that other offices will follow the lead of the pilot six. The program requires that a minimum of 50% of an office’s staff must sign the registration to participate. Each participating office has a primary contact, or internal office mentor, who reports to the Green Office Committee. The mentors also serve as a conduit for goals and news from the Climate Council.
As an innovator in the higher ed green movement, the College understands it must lead first from within. “We serve a lot of coffee in our meetings,” Schwartz quipped. “But the insiders know, bring a reusable mug.”
At the bottom line, the numbers speak for themselves. So far, the costs associated with the Green Office Initiative have dropped 11-12%. The changes are better for the environment and the taxpayers’ wallets.
“Going green costs less,” Schwartz said. “We are saving money.”