Earth Day reminds campus of responsibility

The Leadership Development Team will host a tree planting in honor of Earth Day to foster campus cooperation, but Aaron Managhan, communications consultant for South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC), would like to see students start a club around the issue of sustainability. That would open up funding and help the campus to take more responsibility for its environmental impact, said Managhan.

“There are only a couple hundred staff and faculty across the campus, but thousands of students.” said Managhan.

Both Managhan and Nausheen Kasmani, SPSCC graphic communications manager, said the campus needs to makea “jump” in order to gain critical mass around campus environmental issues. Kasmani would like to see more things like themed events and festivals.

Managhan named Kasmani as an inspiration for spearheading the Green Fee Project as a student at Western Washington University (WWU). Kasmani and her associates found a way to get the university to purchase renewable energy for 100 percent of their operations. The project continues to have an impact even after she has left.

Kasmani said that, though she found a lot of support, she didn’t have to be coached. “I just saw and did,” she said, which began a ripple effect with other major schools in the state adopting similar measures.

It was like a big party at WWU and she’d like to see more of that at SPSCC. “We need a fire to ignite,” she said.

Michael Leigh, environmental science instructor, said the instructors of his department intentionally include sustainability issues in the curriculum to help students recognize the personal and societal impacts on the environment. Students look at their choices and methods to dealing with the social impacts on the environment.

According to Leigh his dad was someone who left the camp spot cleaner than when he arrived, a philosophy that has stuck with Leigh.

José Gutierrez Jr., program coordinator for the Diversity and Equity Center and humanities instructor, said, “Every day is Earth Day … People have to be actively aware, actively taking responsibility, because we’re leaving crap for the generations.”

Gutierrez said that after centuries of oppression of indigenous peoples and abuse of the planet, our culture needs to look to the way first peoples have honored the earth.

Managhan said the school’s Environmental and Sustainability Committee (ESC) is the number one way the school takes responsibility for the environment.

Students, faculty and staff volunteers make up the ESC. They recently partnered with Intercity Transit on a commute trip reduction program and a carpool fair to connect students, staff and faculty to others commuting to the school. The committee has talked of putting on a student alternative transportation fair, according to Leigh, who has sat in the board meetings.

On April 14, SPSCC hosted the Sustainability Summit, focused on gaining independence from oil.

On March 30, SPSCC hosted the 2012 State Energy Strategy meeting. Event organizers aimed to keep energy prices competitive, foster a clean energy economy and jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Managhan said that another important piece of the school’s approach to environmental care is at the operations level—everything from how the cafeteria makes its compost bins visible to how buildings use energy.

He commended Penny Koal, dean of capital facilities, who recently oversaw a campus cleanup project and has found ways to reduce the use of space heaters, which use much more energy than necessary.

Koal is currently working with Puget Sound Energy to install additional power meters around campus for more accurate readings to target areas for improvement.