Campus Sustainability Program Enters its Second ‘Green’ Year

Judy Del Castillo

Though GCC is in the second year of its “Going Green” program, concerned students and faculty are hoping to push the issue forward into the hands of the administration to establish a permanent environmentally friendly campus.

The program was launched two years ago, with history Professor Hazel Ramos serving as the first sustainability coordinator.

“Hazel Ramos worked on this stuff for a year, and I’m the second person,” said Michael Reed, geography professor and current sustainability coordinator at GCC.

“That’s it. We have a big campus, and the only official person in charge of environmental stewardship at all – and I don’t work for the administration, I work for the faculty – is me. So it’s a really minor commitment, and it needs to be bigger.”

Reed said the only official policy on campus regarding anything eco-friendly is the school’s commitment in 2003 to construct new buildings to LEED standards – a certification system of buildings made with environmental awareness in mind, such as energy savings and water efficiency – set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council.

A new building on the Garfield campus is currently undergoing the process, but he said that’s not enough.

“I’ve been to the San Rafael building all times of the day and night, and the lights are always on,” said Reed. “That’s every [building] all over campus with the lights on except for the new buildings. We should now be retrofitting these [older] buildings too.”

Reed said that the school is under a contract with a company called Southland Disposable, in compliance with the Integrated Waste Management Act in California.

“[Southland Disposable] sorts through all trash cans and takes out all recyclables and will attempt to get 51 percent of all the trash and recycle it one way or another.”

GCC also currently offers three alternative transportation options for faculty and staff employees to discourage the use of cars: those walking or bicycling to school are rewarded $10 per month; those who spend at least $100 on a monthly bus pass are reimbursed by 50 percent; and van pools are available for long commutes if there is enough demand from employees, although it isn’t known if any cities were requested.

In regards to water usage, toilets in new buildings and about 90 percent of the landscaping on campus are watered with reclaimed water. In addition, all buildings use waterless urinals.
Still, the campus is behind what Reed and his team of environmentalists dream the campus to be.

For example, the purchasing department is a big contributor that has environmental implications.
However, there is no current policy on what and how the department should purchase materials for the school, said Reed. The Green Team has encouraged the purchase of environmentally safe materials that include Energy Star appliances, recycled paper products and minimize the use of Styrofoam and plastic.

Other campuses have moved to more organic, more locally owned fair-trade foods, like coffee. He suggested that the school purchase foods from locally produced markets in the U.S., rather than overseas.

While there is a Greentech vocational program underway on campus that will focus on preparing students with the skills necessary in careers on green technology, Reed believes an environmental studies major should be added to the curriculum.

“We have a mission statement and our focus is about educating students,” said Reed. “I just think that part of that official mission statement really should be environmental stewardship. What comes down to the point of all this is that we’re educators. Teachers can act as role models about getting your work done, being respectful, about resolving conflict. and I even say, about not only treating your fellow citizens well, but treating the planet well.”

The Green Team, a group devoted entirely to the program, is composed of faculty members, staff employees and students who meet on a monthly basis to generate green ideas for the campus.

The GCC Environmental Club is another organization that focuses on environmental strategies, not just on campus but on the environment as well. The club, which has recently set up a petition to ban smoking on campus, also attends the Green Team meetings. By joining the Environmental Club, members are also kept up-to-date on the Green Team’s agenda.

Sandy Sosa, 21, an accounting major, said she joined the Environmental Club because it’s about taking care of the environment that we live in.

Eric Garcia, 24, a biology student, said, “I’ve been here for two years now and have never heard of any measures taken by the school to become green. I’m all about saving the environment here but unless word gets out, the whole school and the students will be silenced until we all join together to achieve that goal [of becoming an environmentally friendly campus].”

“If the board of trustees were to [approve] the appropriate policies, then [all departments on campus] would have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the students, the community and future generations. That’s what it comes down to,” said Reed.

To join the Green Team or get involved in other ways, e-mail Reed at [email protected] for more information.