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OC at forefront of sustainability plans

The concept of sustainability is a relatively new idea for people and businesses and it is just now taking center stage in the world of community colleges.

“We are looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Kim McNamara, dean of student development for Olympic College. “With more than 14,000 students on campus at different times, the effect is huge.”

The school currently offers environmental education classes, according to McNamara, but the goal is to transition those classes into education for sustainable development classes. The difference is in the philosophies of each. Where environmentalism is taught as a science class to people interested in science careers, ESD will be taught to all students, regardless of their educational concentration.

“In the near future, students will need to demonstrate knowledge of sustainability concepts as a requirement for graduation,” McNamara said.

The idea of sustainability is to not just take care of the Earth, but to do so in a way that is still profitable for businesses. The sustainability movement teaches the principle of the three P’s: planet, people and profit.

OC is one of very few community colleges in America that has initiated a sustainability plan, according to McNamara.

In 2006, OC President David Mitchell signed a document setting specific goals for the college in creating its plan. It encompasses ways OC can recycle, reduce and reuse, but McNamara said the school also has an obligation to teach sustainability to its students.

“To do that, teachers also need to understand sustainability,” she said. “And we must practice it as a school.”

OC joined the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, a group of colleges and universities that are working to become sustainable.

The college then created a Sustainability Advisory Council, made up of members of each department, administrators and students, and then drafted a Sustainability Plan, but this plan is a “living document,” according to McNamara, and will see changes being made and items being added because the school is learning how to be sustainable as it goes along.

In fact, on June 22 the school added a transportation category when an energy auditor’s report showed transportation to be the largest area of offense.

The school has already put many of these ideas into practice, including the recycling of materials from the destruction of homes between Broadway and Warren Avenues.

“To date, we have recycled more than 186 tons of concrete, 350 tons of building material and 60 tons of vegetation,” said Samantha Powers, administrative services manager for Olympic College Facilities Services Administration. “We estimate by the time the job is completed, we will have recycled 775 tons of concrete, 1,450 tons of building material and 250 tons of vegetation and contaminated dirt.”

The public is not only invited to attend SAC meetings, but the school encourages it.

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