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.