College sustainability efforts grow

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Community colleges’ focus on the environment is making news.

New Jersey’s Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) recently announced that it’s the first two-year institution of higher education in the country to reach a significant environmental milestone: carbon neutrality.

That means the college has minimized its carbon footprint to the point that it has no net emissions.

“For over a decade, the college has been working to reduce its carbon footprint and increase its energy efficiency. We are excited to reach this milestone in protecting our campus environment and will continue to pursue programs and policies that enable us to maintain a leadership role in sustainability,” RVCC President Michael J. McDonough said in a release.

But RVCC is not alone in its practices. More colleges are making headlines — and getting investments — for their eco-friendly efforts.

North Carolina’s Rowan-Cabarrus Community College embarked on a solar energy project after receiving a $1 million donation. The donors, Fred and Alice Stanback, have donated another $2.68 million to expand that project. When construction is finished on a nearly one-megawatt ground-mounted array and rooftop solar systems, nearly 2-million kWh of clean energy will be generated per year. These systems will provide energy equivalent to power 200 homes for a year, and avoid the introduction of roughly 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

It’ll generate a nice income for the college, too – an estimated $100,000 that can go toward student scholarships and other sustainability investments.

“This is more than a sustainable solar voltaic system. Once connected, the income from the energy produced will create an income stream for the college’s foundation that will provide professional development and student scholarship funding for years to come,” President Carol Spalding said. “This is truly the gift that will keep on giving.”

Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC) in Minnesota is working to help students prepare for environmental careers and to inspire the community to get involved in environmental issues. LLTC will integrate traditional ecological knowledge in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curricula and will support students and faculty engaged in place-based environmental research.

The work is supported by a $100,000 grant from the American Indian College Fund (AICF) Scholarly Emergence for Environmental Design and Stewardship (SEEDS) program.

Does your college have sustainability practices? Sound off at LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.