Johnson County Community College
JCCC’s Center for Sustainability leads and supports numerous formal and informal climate-related educational opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and community members. Their Sunflower mini grants to faculty, which fund sustainability-related enrichment across the curriculum, have reached over 7000 students since 2011. Grant recipients have received funding support for courses in every instructional unit of the college, from the humanities to STEM fields, contributing considerably to the normalization of climate-related conversations among the campus community.
In addition to support for curriculum development, campus engagement opportunities have given students the ability to examine the ramifications of climate change. Student internships support the college pursue its Zero Waste by 2025 goal with a 53% current waste diversion rate. Members of the Student Sustainability Committee have piloted and maintained a guide to the environmentally responsible features of campus, complete with surveys and interviews of students, that both chart campus developments and tell the story of the community’s relationship to the work they’ve done through the years. The first iteration of this brochure led to international recognition for the student researchers, who traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia in June 2015 to present their work. The current group of students working on an update are all international students, and will conduct about half of the project’s required interviews in their native languages, allowing JCCC to document different cultural perceptions of their work to address climate change.
Johnson County Community College reaches area high school students in addition to their own students through an annual, free, one-day conference on careers related to sustainability, Epicenter, and host public events for the campus community. For example, in 2016, the Epicenter conference focused on careers in reuse/environmentally friendly design, featuring internationally-recognized leaders Erin Meezan, Chief Sustainability Officer with Interface Floor and Leyla Acaroglu, of the Un-School of Disruptive Design. Local business owner Tim O’Neill of Urban Lumber, a company pioneering the responsible reuse of felled and/or diseased trees from urban settings, joined the event as a regional voice. Public events include: grant-supported campus tree plantings with area employers, monthly free webinars for community college sustainability professionals, annual film screenings on climate related topics with local Sierra Club chapter, public information meetings on timely and pertinent topics such as the Clean Power Plan, and their regional public transportation authority’s plans to expand campus services. Public lectures and performances also explore topics related to climate change, such as Union of Concerned Scientists Dr. Ricardo Salvador’s presentation exploring their national food system. JCCC brings the arts into the conversation through performances like Paul D. Miller’s (DJ Spooky’s) on the impacts of climate change on the Arctic. The Center’s programming encourages exploration of their shared future in a changing climate through food, music, and service, and helps to defuse sensitive topics in ways that invite participation from the widest possible range of community members.
By aggressively investing in energy efficiency work (motors, LED lighting, setpoint changes, scheduling) through JCCC’s branded Power Switch program, the college has reduced its annual average kwh usage by 20% since 2009, which has led to $1.5 million dollars in avoided costs during the same period. JCCC has also converted to all low-flow water fixtures.
The Student Sustainability Committee has committed over one hundred thousand dollars to expanding solar production on campus in conjunction with two hundred thousand dollars of College Foundation funding. This will lead to an additional 126 kw of solar joining the 30kw on campus. By also requesting successful bidders include educational or co-curricular targets in their submissions, the Center is supporting students’ exposure to renewable energy applications on a much larger scale than they would be able to experience in domestic installations. Additionally, the Committee has set aside funding for the purchase of tools to help children at our campus’ childcare center learn more about renewable energy sources. Partnerships with their area utility to provide additional EV charging stations offer some relief to the largest contributor to their GHG inventory – commuter emissions. These efforts plus student-constructed solar charging stations and Big Belly solar trash compactors lead to campus conversations around renewable energy.
By offering four regular public transportation routes that serves the surrounding community, JCCC’s main bus stop brings in riders from outside campus.