Category Archives: Collaborating

Growing fish and sprouts

Baseball field repurposed for a garden

How many champions does it take to grow a community garden?  Of course it takes more than one focused passionate leader, but at Florissant Valley campus, Dr. Mark Manteuffel is a light to spark growth.  He leads the community garden effort for not only his campus, but his project is the pilot to inspire the other campuses.  A project of this magnitude and responsibility can better address cost and labor when it is infused into curriculum.  Students lend their time, curiosity and solutions at each step. 

Flo Valley Students Interact with Food Sources

Green Teams at each campus expressed desires to have a community garden, especially Meramec with its Horticulture program and Forest Park with its Hospitality program.  One key obstacle for each team was where to place that garden and who would maintain it.  When the district reduced athletic teams and a baseball field became obsolete, Florissant Valley faculty jumped on where their garden could be.  With the help of the groundskeepers, the field was plowed twice and is resting for early spring when deep beds will be shaped.  These beds, composed of organic soil, allow for easy deep root penetration for nutrients and require less watering.

Garden sustainability dimensions feature teaching about local food production as a lab, not just lecture.  As food is grown locally, it has more nutrition.  Crops are fresh without preservatives to maintain shelf-live while they take their long journey from a mega farm to the grocery store.  The strategy to teach about organic farming allows for students and the community to learn about carbon-saving aspects as well as health benefits.  The short trip to the store means less carbon emissions (fuel = carbon), a goal that Florissant Valley’s president, Dr. Marcia Pfeiffer, committed to reducing when she signed the ACUPCC (college presidents climate commitment).

I think one of the coolest parts of this project includes aquaculture.  Two fish tanks were assembled with the help of engineering faculty and students.  Fish waste is very nutritious.  It will be used as part of the nutrients for the garden.  Laura Stevens, Auxiliary Manager, is working with our kitchen composting efforts so that food scraps

Aquaponic fishies arrive

 can also feed the garden’s soil structure.  Flo Valley students can look for a new collection system in the cafe’ allowing for student food scraps as well.

 

Jessica Sippy, Sociology faculty at Forest Park campus, has studied organic farming techniques at Earth Dance (Mueller Farm).  She recently attended a conference for organic farming strategies.  I hope to soon connect Jessica and Mark to share best practices with our college community.  Next, my scheme is to include Rob Hertel in Hospitality at Forest Park and Paul Roberts in Horticulture at Meramec and Mark Weber at Wildwood who assists the Eco-Art festival.  Each of these champions can lend creative directions for the garden.  Garden Landscaping, Art sculptures and a teaching gazebo, and of course edible landscape.

“We planted 150 seeds to sprout!  We got the fish in!  We got the greenhouse rockin’!” said Mark after this last week’s efforts.  We are at the genesis of this pilot.  Inspiration abounds, but the design is surely in the details, and Mark needs our help.  Weekly planning, planting and sharing are underway.  If you are inspired to witness this project grow, you can contact Mark at mmanteuffel@stlcc.edu.  Be a seed.

Saving Sustainability at St. Louis Community College

Spring 2012 semester gallops forward and I am just catching my breath to write.  Twenty students signed up to take my morphed Think Tank capstone featuring greenhouse gas inventory training.  I am teaching this class with Rene Dulle, former Meramec student and intern for the Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the City of St. Louis.  Our students seem jazzed about climate issues and the training that can translate to green career value.

RecycleMania has begun across the district with the Green Team Elves planning “Waste-less Wednesdays” programs like a clothing exchange at Meramec and “Trash Tally” surprise audits and a Recycling Fashion Show  at Cosand Center.  Later in the semester, the college will again offer electronic recycling at no fee.  On Saturday, March 31, 2012, Meramec campus and Midwest Recycling Center will collaborate again with Hands On Kirkwood to collect electronics and appliances.  On Sunday April 22, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., the college joins with St. Louis Earth Day and 15 recycling vendors for the second annual St. Louis Earth Day Recycling Extravaganza held at the Forest Park campus (http://www.stlouisearthday.org/2011/12/earth-day-recycling-extravaganza/).  Start saving your hard-to-recycle items now!

My goal this semester is to keep wonderful programs and alliances in place that raise awareness about waste and recycling.  More than that, I want to leave a legacy when my 3 year position as sustainability coordinator ends this summer.  This past 3 years has shown the region that St Louis Community College (STLCC) is serious and committed to sustainability by advancing green career pathways, infusing systemic thinking into curriculum and greening operations through energy efficiencies, carbon mitigation and reduced paper use.  Fellow schools in the St. Louis Regional Higher Education Sustainability Consortium look to the college as a role-model as we have paved the way in innovation and leadership.

To sustain sustainability at the college, I am working to create a strategic plan that colleagues and campus leadership can follow should the college not be able to create a sustainability position past this 3 year pilot.  On Friday January 27, 2012, campus leaders gathered for a “Conversation for Sustainability.” Twenty leaders across the 4 campuses and Cosand, including Presidents Marcia Pfeiffer of Florissant Valley campus and Pam McIntyre of Wildwood campus. I presented a very brief overview of our successes and raised trigger questions to address the challenges ahead(www.stlcc.edu/green/presentations). Everyone generated fantastic strategies and I am synthesizing them into a hopefully “living” document–one that grows and shows sustainability as a journey.  My next blog will develop this work and it is my hope that readers who were not present will add their ideas as well.

Sharing Best Practices

HESC luncheon at Meramec campus

Nine area colleges and universities from the bi-state converged at St. Louis Community College-Meramec on November 29, 2011 to learn more about waste management strategies and to consider and fight for best practices leading up to 2012 RecycleMania from January to March. The St. Louis Regional Higher Education Sustainability Consortium (HESC) invited representatives from Waste Management, Aspen, and Midwest Recycling Center to share their strategies for handling trash, recycling, composting and electronics.  Jeff Macko at St. Louis University (SLU) has negotiated a way to measure their RecycleMania trash and recycling by having Waste Management run their campuses like a wee city–taking the full trucks back for weights.  This works for SLU because of their size.  It is understandably costly to run a truck for one small campus back to the scales, then out again to area businesses.  So another best practice was negotiated with Aspen by Peggy Lauer, Director of Sustainability at Maryville University.  Aspen offers scales on each truck that can capture a weight at each bin and tally those weights onto their invoice.  This practice of tying weights to payment assures Maryville getting their measurement in a timely fashion.

Getting accurate weights was one big frustration by participating schools last year.  At STLCC, I had to calculate volume-to-weights because my recycling hauler does not have the equipment to provide actual pounds.  Another snafoo that occured for my measurements came from my trash hauler who summed our trash with 5 other companies.  That week’s measurement was 5 time larger than the week before!  I called to ask if we were being combined with an anvil company.  What I learned keenly is that participating in RecycleMania is a journey–there is yet no exact science yet in the trash biz.  What I also learned is despite not having true numbers, we are BILLED as if there are true numbers.  As a consortium, we with our numbers, want this to change.

Linda Adams from Solid Waste Management District urges schools to apply for grants

Midwest Recycling Center (featured in many earlier blogs) shared about the collaboration with STLCC to collect 232,767 lbs at no cost to the college and community because of grant support from the St. Louis-Jefferson County Solid Waste Management District (SWMD).  Linda Adams, from the SWMD, urged the HESC schools to follow suit to get supporting monies to make their recycling programs happen. Steve Fishman from the regional EPA urged our consortium schools to sign up for Waste Wise program focuing on composting.

I felt proud to have STLCC host this important regional event. Acting Vice President of Academics, Dr. Vernon Kays, gave a warm welcome and honored our work gathering to share best practices.

Acting Vice President for Academics at Meramec, Dr. Vernon Kays, welcomes the consortium member schools

Our next HESC luncheon will be in January at Maryville University where the discussing and sharing will focus on Green Purchasing.

Harrison Center Collects Unusual Electronics

HEC adds to district electronics collection

On a crisp October 29th 2011, William J. Harrison Center (HEC) in collaboration with Midwest Recycling Center (MRC) collected a respectable 3500 pounds of electronics and appliances.  This event was our seventh and last for the St Louis Community College, pushing our total district amount to 228, 767 lbs diverted from the landfill! All of the electronics and appliances STLCC collected escaped our region’s one landfill, and saved the college over $2000.00– our fee for inhouse CRT (lead glass in monitors) recycling.

HEC’s manager, Kimberley Porter, and green team, led by Alandrea Stewart, came out to volunteer their valuable time for their first ever recycling event for the community.  Being a LEED-Goldfacility, recycling is part of the daily operations for students, faculty and staff. All the volunteers stayed warm laughing and telling stories while watching the really unusal items brought in by the community.

HEC volunteers
Here are a few oddities that caught our attention:

Officer Watson peers into the world's tiniest dishwasher

Oldtime TV!

Peep warmer (it had a cord!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Louis County Health Department is kicking off their “Recycling Becomes Me” campaign today, November 15th for America Recycles Day.  This clever campaign grabs attention as people “wear” recycling bins in various fashions–all meant to raise awareness and increase recycling efforts. The program shows that folks from all lifestyles recycle.  The County Health Department’s goal is to increase recycling by only 5 percent this coming year.  Just that small amount can fill the Edward Jones Dome 3 feet high 25 times!  And though St. Louis County has done a great job recycling, we still throw away enough to fill a quarter million dump trucks!  According to John Haasis, Program Manager for the St. Louis County Department of Health, “if each household in the county recycles just one extra aluminum can each week, that’s the equivalent of taking 720 cars off the road in a year. Imagine how much gasoline that saves from being used!” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct 24, 2011).   Show your own creativity by posting your “becomes me” photo at their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RecyclingBecomesMe  And if you are in the Clayton area today (Nov 15th) join the fun as they kick off this attention-grabbing program!

Recycling becomes STLCC–what about you?

AASHE Conference Inspires Florissant Valley Student

 

Evelyn Parker at AASHE Conference

Education outside the classroom can open new horizons.  For Evelyn Parker, Florissant Valley Communication major, education about sustainability crossed the country to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference.  Student Development funds from Dr. Pfeiffer, FV President, helped pay Evelyn’s way.  Yesterday, Evelyn presented her experience via powerpoint to the Flo Valley Green Team.  I was quite taken by what struck her as inspirational because I was attending different workshops on strategic planning, transportation, carbon footprinting and “trashformation.”  Evelyn was inspired by the key note speakers, workshop presenters, but more, by the whole experience of this much sharing of ideas and passion in the realm of sustainability.  Her powerpoint will be posted at www.stlcc.edu/green/presentations soon.

We ate local food in compostable containers in the spacious, daylit LEED Platinum convention center.  Attendees morphed organically attracted to their own school colleagues sharing away from the demands of work, and flowed out to absorb the ideas and best practices from around the nation and other countries.  AASHE conferences are by all means nourishing and over-stimulating.  The conference even had a “quiet” meditation room to integrate ideas from a full 3 days.

Webster U, Maryville U and STLCC share sustainability passions

In the evenings, pods from the regional Higher Education Sustainability Consortium (HESC) met for dinner and debriefed the day, sharing what they were taking back to their schools for action.  Cruising around the town where I went to graduate school was a blast from the past.  I visited my former campus to find Duquesne University had greened itself quite well.  They had co-generation for heating building and great signage sharing other green building features. 

One of the key insights I brought back came from Leith Sharp (former sustainability director from Harvard)–just DO something, even if only on a small-scale.  She reminded me to never forget the core value that there is URGENT global action needed, and to act gutsier.  Look out STLCC–gutsy is my plan for my last 6 months in this sustainability role!

Community Collaboration is the Key

A well-oiled MRC team--ready to take electronics DOWN

STLCC is truly taking trash DOWN!  At present, we are well over 200,000 lbs collected and diverted from the landfill. I am humbled by the momentum of these electronic collection numbers.  Last Saturday at the Meramec campus, over 800 cars rolled through the two well-oiled lanes of Midwest Recycling guys unloading 3 cars at a time.  No one waited more than a minute or two.  And even during that short time, participants were pleasantly greeted by guys who love what they are doing for a living.  Several members of the public have emailed me to praise how the event was managed.  Not only were folks able to recycle electronics for FREE, they didn’t have to wait to do the right thing and responsibly divert dusty, some toxic, items from their homes and offices.

There has been such a win-win on these events.  More than saving folks in the community money and protecting Ma Earth, there is a true element of social justice operating.  Next week will show this justice clearly at our last event at the William J. Harrison Education Center in underserved north city. Two key just developments are ongoing in the Jeffvanderlou neighborhood: a brand new LEED-Gold campus of St Louis Community College, and dozens of LEED-Platinum homes built by Habitat for Humanity and the owners.  Research shows these shining examples of green architecture INSPIRE occupants to dream big.  Not only do these buildings save energy–money that can be reallocated into educational goals–but residents are healthier.

International studies from India show that urban poor are more than motivated to recycle given the opportunity and means to do so (Wahid Murad & Chamhuri Siwar, 2007). In fact, community co-ops find a living wage re-using and re-manufacturing waste, but need policy to protect them from commodies pimps who force labor at horrid health consequences. “It is no exaggeration to say that, throughout the world, the poorest people are forced to live in, on, and from the waste produced by the rest of us” (Leonard, 2010).  Education remains a key for resource management and way to improve quality of life in underserved areas.

This whole quest to collaborate with the community on these recycling events began with one elderly man trying to dispose of 3 televisions and not having the $45.00 to do so.  He left dejected and unserved with his TVs. Tony Krieg (MRC Co-Owner) and I could only wonder what would happen to those units.  Hopefully they ended up at Goodwill who still accepts TVs without charge.  But what if they ended up by a stream all because of fees? We knew that to really succeed, we needed the help of the surrounding communities to get the word out.  And that is exactly how these events have grown and succeeded. Many are faced with economic challenges, but none more so than those without employment and living below the poverty line.  The grand idea was to help across the board–financially for those monetarily challenged; environmentally for those with too much STUFF; and socially for those who live with trash as a part of their landscape.

Kudos to Mayor Richard Detweiller who got the word out to his staff and community; to Hands On Kirkwood, a consortium of churches volunteering their labor of love and time; to Dr. Emily Neal and her Meramec Green Team (including Toni Oplt in Community Relations); the Kirkwood Community Newspaper; and Kristen Cornett at KMOV Ch 4 TV who all got the word out to bring in a guestimated 85,000 lbs of electronic and appliances.  And of course to Tony and MRC–together we all have made a true difference.

The conspiring duo, Peggy Moody and Tony Krieg

References

Leonard, A. (2010). The Story of Stuff. Retrieved on 24 Oct 11 from storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/what-you-can…/demand-fair-recycling/

Wahid, M. & Chamhuri, S. (2007, Feb.). Waste Management Resources, Vol. 25, 1: pp. 3-13.

Let’s talk TRASH–diversion, I mean.

MRC tech assessing value

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley’s electronic collection was the 3rd of 7 recycling events.  Saturday October 1st was the quintessential fall day–cool morning temperatures, a light breeze, cloudless blue sky and warm sun.  Working with Midwest Recycling crew, I admitted to Tony Krieg, co-owner, that I had “collection anxiety.”  This was our 4th year together at Flo Valley.  For the past 3 years, the Environmental Quality Commission in the City of Florissant organized the electronic recycling events at Flo Valley.  The first year we collected 37,000 lbs of electronics and appliances.  The second year, the numbers dropped to 17,000 and the 3rd year to only 10,000 lbs.  I couldn’t understand why the numbers dropped–was it poor signage?  Not enough advertising? Was it procrastination? “Oh, I’ll just catch the next event.”

So this time I engaged community relations and all my green team leaders to reach out.  We decided to do 7 events for those procrastinators to catch up.  And indeed this year my “collection anxiety” has been soothed by all the awesome participation on the part of college employees, students and community neighbors.

I decided to challenge each campus to out-do the others.  Cosand Center collected 5737 lbs on a rainy day.  The second event at Forest Park collected 10,030 lbs!  Yahoo!  I’m still waiting on the numbers for Flo Valley, but know they will be high!  It took 4 large box trucks to take all they collected to their warehouse where they sort, count, weigh, and send off to the appropriate final processing places like Doe Run who process the toxic materials in the cathode ray tubes (CRTs).  Other materials are locally processed too.  Steal is processed a short 3 miles from the warehouse in Crystal City to Farmington; plastic is processed in Quincy, Illinois, and the various metals like copper are processed through a broker in Illinois as well.  For those really unique odd-ball items, his crew singles out and posts them on Ebay.  Tony said they have shipped these treasures all over the US and even to Russia!

Diversion is the main goal of any recycling.  It is important to keep this waste out of the landfill and away from leaching into our water table. Even more important is to get the toxic lead, zinc, mercury processed here in the US rather than shipping to Asia where materials are burned to extract gold and copper resulting in horrid lung and cancer health problems.

Call me Retro, but I am most interested in reusing.  When items can be rebuilt and put back into use, no new materials are needed to create it.  No mining.  No mixing of petroleum to form plastic casings. There is something COOL about styles of an earlier time.

STLCC Student Maddison Crooke stands with Wildwood Mayor Tim Woerther.

This past weekend, Wildwood campus was busy too.  They collaborated with Cintas and the City of Wildwood to collect and shred 30,000 lbs (15 tons) of paper and some plastic! Tiny Wildwood is a diversion giant, and next they are taking down electronics.

This weekend, Sept 8th, South County Center will have its first collection on Meramec Bottoms Rd off Rt 55 south.  And if you are one of those procrastinators out there, help keep my “collection anxiety” at bay by pitching in at Wildwood on the 15th, or Meramec on the 22nd or lastly at Harrison Center in north city on Oct 29th.  Let’s keep taking trash!

Visit to Truman State

Student, John Nolan, Peggy and Dr. Michael Kelrick

On March 1st, 2011, I was invited to give a presentation to Truman State University students, faculty and local Kirksville small businesses on how to go green. I was invited by SIFE, a group of international mostly business students, who work to make their education real by interfacing their learning with community projects. This year, this group learned more about sustainability and its benefits to business practices from a fellow student, John Nolan. John, who was my co-presenter, serves on Truman State’s President’s Sustainability Initiative, as well as on student government helping them infuse more environmental practices in student activities.

A collaborative effort, as the name describes!

Before the presentation, Dr. Michael Kelrick, Truman’s sustainability guru for 23 years, gave me a tour of their greening efforts. We visited the “Communiversity” Garden in the center of campus where students are developing a plot of ground to grow food. Not only is this project a social endeavor among clubs and negotiating with administration, but they are converting water intensive sod into a learning lab for teaching about local organic food production and composting. Next, we visited their farm where Michael built a composting site being used to research the ideal composition of green to brown organic matter. Last, we visited Truman’s recycling center. They collect the usual paper and containers, but also help process the surplus for the university as well. I learned that Truman State won RecycleMania several years ago! I plan to stay in touch to pick his brain so our school could improve our waste management strategies. I also didn’t get a chance to tour the Bulldog’s Biodiesel program.

The small businesses gained excellent tips from John on why going green makes economic, environmental and social sense. His passionate information was grounded in his own small landscaping (xeriscaping) business as well as his interdisciplinary major combining sustainability and public policy. What a dynamo. Not coincidentally, John is Dr. Kelrick’s student! John was a hard act to follow! I shared about both STLCC’s successes moving towards sustainable practices, as well as from my experience working with the city of Florissant on the Environmental Quality Commission. The Chamber of Commerce took away several new strategies for their city, such as the “Cool City Business” program that uses a small survey to recruit companies who are practicing energy efficiency.

Peggy, John and Brigit Han

Special thanks to Brigit Han from SIFE for inviting me. I loved mingling with Truman folks as well as the local enthusiastic business owners. Not only was I able to share from my own passion, but learned a great deal from their own practices. I hope to return the favor when they visit St. Louis. Sharing stories is how we all can move forward.

Getting Ready for RecycleMania

The New Year came in with bright, cold, but sunny days.  In all that brightness, I thought about ideas for this semester’s upcoming challenge–RecycleMania.  Aside from being the Sustainability Coordinator for the district, I am a co-chair of the Initiative Incubator Subcommittee for our regions Higher Education Sustainability Consortium (HESC).  Our goal is as bright as the first days of the year–100% participation in RecycleMania.  This means 19 colleges in the region would sign on to a national event to raise awareness about waste management and recycling in particular.  Washington University in St Louis has participated at the competition level for several years.  At our last General Assembly of HESC, they presented their efforts and accomplishments.  It was quite impressive.  They opted to focus on employees rather than student groups figuring they would have more buy-in from folks who work there.  So far, the HESC has encouraged 14 schools to join in.  We have 2 weeks before we begin the 10 week challenge of minimizing our waste.  I personally want to see student participation because after all, they are our future.

All 4 campuses in the STLCC district are taking the challenge.  We are entering at the Benchmark division.  This allows us to raise awareness and get our feet wet (watching for ice!) in this endeavor.  Florissant Valley and Meramec have committed to this challenge as part of their Presidents’ Climate Commitment.  Wildwood and Forest Park wanted to join in as well.  Getting in the spirit, the national website: www.recyclemania.org, has amazing activities to raise awareness and have fun challenging each other to reduce waste.  For the region, we are hoping to minimally get  members to do a waste audit (baseline) and then one other ending measure.  The Missouri Botanical Garden’s EarthWays Center will provide a waste audit without charge.  Imagine the region knowing just where it stands in the heap of waste!?  I believe that it is from knowledge that action can spring.  Our next general assembly will be held on February 2nd from 2-4 pm at our William J. Harrison Center.  We will brainstorm how to take on this challenge.  Knowing that we are all in this together (the campuses and the colleges) will make the journey into this craziness much more fun.  Let’s get zany!

Starting new blogspace

I am playing with my new blog space, and will soon post about my collaborative experiences of the past month.  I attended 2 conferences–AASHE (sustainability in higher education) and Connecting Children in Nature (international gathering of advocates for outdoor learning spaces for kids).  Another blog I will share in the near future is my transition from PC to Macintach computer at home.  Please stay tuned!!