“You need to link your operational
greening with your academic cur-
riculum,” emphasizes Victoria Cooper,
director of environmental technology
at Wilbur Wright College, one of the
City Colleges of Chicago. “You need to
walk the talk. It’s the integration of
operations and education that makes
Wilbur Wright launched its campus
greening program in 1994. The cam-
pus has upgraded lighting and HVAC
systems to be more efficient, installed
solar/thermal panels that heat water in
the science building and cafeterias, and
mounted solar panels on the parking ga-
rage to supply electricity to the campus
grid. The college also created an arbore-
tum and mapped more than 600 trees on
campus. In a unique biology department
program, ex-offenders build beehives.
The honey is used to create beauty and
bath products that are sold to help fund
the program. In addition, the City Col-
leges of Chicago was the lead collabora-
tor in the development of a standard
weatherization curriculum to be used by
all training providers citywide.
Wilbur Wright College and other
local colleges with aspirations for a
greener existence have the support of
Mayor Richard Daley, who has set a
goal of making Chicago “the greenest
city in America.” The city boasts more
than two megawatts of solar generating
power, more than any other U.S. city.
Wilbur Wright also is a founding
member of the Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative, which explores and
identifies employment and job-training
opportunities that prepare low-skilled
workers for emerging green jobs. The
initiative, which focuses on green-collar jobs as a pathway out of poverty,
develops career paths toward family-sustaining careers.
The Illinois Green Economy Network, a consortium of community
colleges across the state, provides training and expertise for the new green
economy. The network shares statewide resources and encourages colleges
to model renewable-energy technologies on their campuses.
Students observe a green roof environmental aboratory on the campus of Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan.
Michigan’s Grand Rapids Community
College (GRCC) is the first college in
the nation to offer a fully certified wind
safety program, developed in collaboration with corporate partners Safety
Technology LLC, Ynfiniti Engineering
Services, and Rockford Bergé. Julie
Parks, director of workforce training at
GRCC, says partnerships with employers are crucial to the school’s green programs. “We have some pioneers in green
here on the west side of the state, and
we are hoping to maximize the relationships with them,” Parks says.
A variety of greening projects are
already yielding benefits on the GRCC
campus. A roof garden on the Applied
Technology Center supplies produce
to a campus restaurant where culinary
students receive training. A porous
parking lot—GRCC was the first college
in the state to install one—helps filter
water back into the water table. An entrepreneurial student group is developing a water-dispensing system that will
enable the college to offset a recent ban
on bottled water.
“The students are with us arm in arm
around greening the campus, around
sustainability issues,” says Moss Ingram, GRCC’s director of sustainability.
The college’s goal of saving $6 million
over six years through behavior modification relies on the commitment of
students—and everyone on campus—
to help reduce energy consumption:
closing doors and windows and shutting
off lights, computers, and power strips.
In the first 18 months of this effort,
GRCC saved $1.5 million.
Sharing resources is crucial in a
state that suffers from one of the
nation’s highest unemployment rates
and is highly dependent upon oil.
The Michigan Community College
Association has built a network focused
on developing green-jobs training
programs and green energy. And the
Western Michigan Higher Education
Consortium—consisting of nine community colleges and four four-year colleges—is coordinating joint curriculum
development, the sharing of equipment
and other resources, and work with
economic developers to recruit busi-nesses in support of energy efficiency
and green jobs.
Many current and future green jobs are
so-called “middle-skill” jobs that require
more than a high school diploma, but
less than a bachelor’s degree. Community colleges are well equipped to
educate diverse populations and provide
opportunities to participate in the
emerging green economy. Forward-thinking institutions are moving ahead,
educating men and women who can fill
today’s jobs and will be prepared to succeed in the green careers of the future.
KEVIN COYLE is vice president of education
and training at the National Wildlife
Federation. MARIA FLYNN is vice president
of building economic opportunity at Jobs
for the Future in Boston.