By Alia Olmedo
We are lucky that food delivery is so versatile in these days of endless isolation. I recently ordered Chinese food, as anyone would before diving into another movie marathon. I ate my lo mein and spring rolls, leaving just enough room for that always present fortune cookie. I cracked that bad boy open and right there, "it is never too late.” It smacked me right in the face, and made me wonder what those words really mean. I came to the conclusion that it was not too late to write my first blog post! And because Earth Day is just around the corner, I decided to write about the planet we all love so dearly. And maybe, it is also not too late to save it.
I believe it is the job of my generation to give the future a positive outlook and reverse the idea that it is "too late" or that just one person cannot make a difference. Earth will continue to hurt from overusing energy and outputting excess air, water, and noise pollution if we do not try. By contributing to these factors, the planet's ecosystems and biodiversity are in danger. We all belong to different communities that can help these problems, but one we all belong to is our school. Over a decade ago, the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) started with baby steps in its pursuit of sustainability.
There were goals set in place to become a “green school” because CCBC essentially started from the bottom. I wanted to know what the school was doing before their transition so I emailed Professor Shrader. I had taken her Environmental Science class and lab at CCBC, and although I, regrettably, did terrible in that class, Professor Shrader left a great impact on me. I knew she would be the Prof with the answers!
She responded and gave me some great information. Before they took the leap, the CCBC Essex Environmental Club ran a program to collect and recycle plastic bottles and aluminum cans from the cafeteria and vending machines. There was also a program that would retrieve and recycle office paper. This was a good start, but to become a “green school” more steps were needed. The first steps to attaining the new sustainability goals were to create green energy, green buildings, green transportation, and clean recycling. Not easy tasks!
Converting to clean and energy saving practices requires a huge commitment. On CCBC's homepage, you can look up the school's annual sustainability report. CCBC began by pledging to the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC): "aimed at making campuses more sustainable and address global warming garnering institutional commitments to reduce and ultimately neutralize greenhouse gas emission from campus.”
After the pledge was made, changes were implemented such as solar car port installations, energy conservation days, green roofs, energy efficient lighting and water saving fixtures, free shuttle buses between campuses, single stream recycling, along with other sustainable practices. These changes cut back on a lot of waste and pollution. Each CCBC campus has a Sustainability Committee that works towards continuing success in these departments.
In 2010, the Essex Campus Community Garden was started through a student lead collaboration between the Office of Student Life, the Campus Director's Office, and a Learning Roundtable. The garden is communal, sustainable, and chemical free. Professor Shrader runs this garden and anyone is welcome to help, take veggies and fruits home and even earn some extra credit in environmental classes. I admit, I went for the extra credit, but I had a really fun time digging worms out of the compost.
As a community, we have been successful in becoming a “green school” and CCBC has earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)certification for its new buildings. LEED is a green certification program used worldwide. Now it is time to work towards taking bigger steps towards providing sustainable knowledge to the public so that everyone in the community can be educated and propelled to want to reduce, reuse, and recycle. If everyone cares to take that extra step to be more environmentally conscious, then it will eventually become the norm.
How you can help at school:
- Compost paper towels in the designated bins in bathrooms
- Volunteer at the community garden - email email@example.com and tell her you want to volunteer at the community garden and she can add you to the mailing list where you will receive updates and meeting times.
- Join one of the environmental clubs (Garden Club, Environmental Club) - Link to clubs/ organizations with contact info https://www.ccbcmd.edu/Campus-Life-and-Activities/Clubs-and-Organizations/Essex-Clubs.aspx
- Utilize the water refill stations to refill your reusable water bottle
- Recycle clean plastic, paper, glass, and aluminum in the blue recycle bins
- Turn off lights when exiting an empty room
- Turn off computers when finished using them
How you can help at home:
- Collect bottle caps for crafts
- Pick up random trash, especially plastic
- Use reusable grocery bags
- Shorter showers (cut it down to the time of your favorite song)
- Start a garden
- Use natural, chemical free cleaning products - "Nature's Promise" is affordable and natural, found at any grocery store
- Reusable non-plastic water bottle
- Eat whole foods, like vegetables and fruits. Avoid fast food and over processed foods- contributes to ethical and sustainable food production processes
- Unplug phone and laptop charging cables when not in use
Overall, it is the small things that matter, and must not be taken for granted. "We are not only responsible for the earth," says Chemist and Winthrop University Professor, Maria Gelabert, "we're part of it." If everyone pitches in to live clean and reduce their waste, then the earth will begin to heal itself. Caring for the planet is caring about yourself and those around you. Once people connect the dots that humanity and the environment work as one, there can be success.
Each of us can make just one simple change right now at home or at school.