Community colleges can boost the well-being of their campus community through an active sustainability program.
Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, identified sustainability as a focus in 2004. The goal was to be a good steward of fiscal and physical resources. Today, sustainability is a part of everyday vernacular and is found throughout the college from daily operations to academic programs.
This excerpt is from an article in the current issue of AACC’s Community College Journal.
Here are some ways to harness the power of sustainability.
Incorporate sustainability into your governance structure. Lane declared sustainability a core value in 2006 and has included it in its strategic directions since 2010. These have encouraged and empowered employees and students to implement sustainable initiatives.
Establish a sustainability team with a dedicated coordinator. Lane’s team includes faculty, staff and students. The coordinator convenes the committee and helps implement people’s good ideas. For instance, a green office certification program rewards departments for taking sustainable actions as simple as turning off office equipment at night or using double-sided printing. These small actions save money. Participants are celebrated in staff communications and at events.
Recently, the sustainability team worked to qualify Lane as a certified Bee Campus USA member by introducing native and pollinator-friendly landscaping, holding a planting event and collaborating with other agencies on a pollinator educational event.
Encourage students to use your facilities as a learning laboratory. Lane students train for careers in energy management, water conservation and sustainability management. Their coursework includes working on real projects on campus. For instance, students established a Student Learning Garden so they could learn about and practice organic gardening. It started out as a 200-square-foot plot.
Now, it occupies more than two acres. Hundreds of students volunteer in the garden each year and they get to take home fresh fruits and vegetables. In another example, water conservation students retrofitted old faucets with aerators that reduced water usage from one to two gallons per minute to a half-gallon per minute. This saved the college about $3,000 a year.
Institutionalize sustainability. Lane has policies governing design and construction, energy conservation and recycling. The college’s Facilities Council routinely considers sustainability goals in its work.