One of the goals for the 2014-2015 Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program is to introduce our students to efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainability in the United States. These are important issues in the Pacific Northwest and Edmonds Community College, Pierce College and Whatcom Community college all have sustainability initiatives on their campuses. NWCCI Coordinator Charlotte West writes about how we plan to focus on sustainability during the program this year.
The first sustainability-related activity we did this year was to take all 48 students rafting for our first all-consortium event. We met at the Skagit River for a day filled with team-building and outdoor adventure. We were greeted by the guides from Orion River Rafting, the oldest whitewater outfitter in the state of Washington. Owner James Moore started Orion more than 30 years ago as a business plan he created for his final project as a student in the outdoor recreation program at Western Washington University in Bellingham. Veteran guide Nancy Martella, who has worked for Orion for over 20 years, told NWCCI students about how maintaining the natural environment creates not only an enjoyable experience for guests going on the river, but also creates a sustainable business model.
NWCCI students at Whatcom Community College have also been given a Green Living Challenge, a partnership between the NWCCI program and WCC Residence Life with the goal of promoting a green lifestyle and reducing carbon footprints. Every month, the student apartment with the lowest energy bill will receive a prize, and individual students can earn points and prizes by living green through activities such as recycling, using local products, shopping with reusable bags and using eco-friendly cleaning products in their apartments. Whatcom students have also gone on the City Government Green Tour and visited Bellwood Acres Apple Farm, a local apple orchard dedicated to sustainable farming practices.
Students at Edmonds have also already done several sustainability-related activities. Last week, they went on a hike Tiger Mountain led by staff from Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, a non-profit dedicated to conserving and enhancing the landscape from Seattle across the Cascade Mountains to Central Washington. NWCCI students and staff explored a temperate rainforest typical of the Pacific Northwest. Students learned about plant and tree identification and learned about the land conservation and ecological restoration efforts of the Mountains to Sound Greenway organization and its partners. In the upcoming weeks, Edmonds students will also attend a workshop with a speaker from the Climate Reality Project, an environmental initiative founded by former U.S. vice president Al Gore. The “Climate Reality” presentation will introduce NWCCI students to some of the big ideas surrounding climate change and discuss local action to affect change.
During fall quarter, Pierce students will visit a local recycling plant to learn about the process and importance of recycling and will learn about climate change and sustainability at the Point Defiance Zoo. In addition, they will participate in the maintenance of the Pierce College Oak Woodland restoration project by removing invasive species on part of the Pierce College Campus. They will work with and have the opportunity to interact with American students at the University of Washington who are enrolled in an environmental science program.
All NWCCI students will also have many opportunities through the rest of the year to visit local companies with sustainable business models, such as Theo’s Chocolate in Seattle. They will also participate in service learning projects related to environmental education and participate in Earth Week events on their campuses, and some will have the opportunity to work with environmental organizations during their internships.
Last year, for example, Adnan Ali from Pakistan, a program alumnus who studied tourism and hospitality at Whatcom Community College, did an internship with Wild Whatcom, an organization that promotes sustainable living in the Bellingham community.
“I became familiar with all concepts such as ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity. Furthermore, we should try to become aware of the ecological deficit, ecological footprint, environmental justice, environmental scarcity and global issues, such as what occurs when we use resources more quickly than they can be renewed …These environmental practices and concepts are totally absent back in my village. I will definitely try to educate the people there about what I have learned from Wild Whatcom during my internship,” he said.
Our staff members, many of whom are outdoor enthusiasts, are passionate about sustainability and are excited to delve deeper into these issues with our students during the upcoming year.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.