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NCC Monroe Honored as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School

Currently in its 4th year, the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) has this year added a third category to the honorees: the Post-Secondary  Sustainability Award. Northampton Community College’s Monroe Campus was chosen a one of nine post-secondary institutions “that demonstrate promising practices to cut costs, improve health, and ensure that students learn through the most hands-on, engaging means possible.

As Partner-in-Charge of this project for MKSD, Silvia Hoffman was proud to attend the ceremonies last Wednesday, June 24th in Harrisburg where the representatives from NCC were honored.

The following is an excerpt from the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools announcement :

Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, Penn.   An entire campus built to green standards

Located in northeastern Pennsylvania, Northampton Community College (NCC) is a public two-year institution offering over 100 credit and noncredit programs to more than 30,000 students each year.  NCC’s Statement of Values speaks to the school’s “commitment to the long term health of the institution, the community, the economy and the environment.”

NCC’s Monroe campus is the foremost example of this commitment, embodying the school’s focus on reducing environmental costs and impact.  It is the first college campus constructed entirely to meet Silver LEED certification.  Building placement was limited to meadow grass areas, poor soil areas, and rock outcrop.  Excavated rock was processed onsite into stone for base improvements.  Buildings flow with the natural land contours.  Floor-to-ceiling windows made of high-performance glass maximize southern exposure and natural light.  Native vegetation reduces storm water runoff.  The 205,500 square foot campus is four times larger than the NCC’s original site, but incurs energy costs of only $87,000 a year due to geothermal system, high-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems, and a solar canopy that provides about 40 percent of the campus electricity.  A digital metering and monitoring system provides real-time energy performance information.

NCC’s main campus offers further examples of how good environmental stewardship intertwines with improving health and wellness and offering strong sustainability education.  Here, 40 acres of unused, wooded, and grassy land are now a living laboratory.  School leaders have worked to reduce the effect of mowing and grounds maintenance by allowing a portion of the land to go to succession, over time increasing the amount of wooded area on campus.  A community garden known as the East 40 connects gardeners from the college and the community for service learning, sustainable gardening, ecological awareness, and healthy living.  Biology students conduct flora and fauna inventories, and Irish Literature students plant crops to learn about the value of land ownership in the context of 19th century Irish land laws.  Culinary students practice farm-to-table cooking strategies and participate in composting.  Northampton programs empower community members to grow their own food through the availability of individual garden plots and community education; create opportunities for partnerships with area schools, food banks, and nonprofit organizations; promote environmental and spiritual well-being; and maintain the integrity and health of the land.

NCC’s walking trails, outfitted with mileage and directional signage, encourage walkers and runners throughout the year.  Both campuses feature state-of-the-art fitness centers with personal training.  Faculty and staff have free access to credit and noncredit fitness courses.  The Health and Wellness Center provides first aid treatment, health counseling, and programming to students.  A faculty and staff committee dubbed the Wellness Warriors encourages coworkers to adopt healthy lifestyles by sponsoring wellness seminars, cooking demonstrations, and a walking program.

From an academic perspective, the college’s environmental science associate’s degree prepares students for careers in wildlife conservation, resource management, law, and human ecology, and courses inspire students to begin making a difference right away.

Following a lecture on plastic pollution, students began a movement to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the use of disposable plastics in food services.  STEM faculty members have used federal EPA grants to partner with a local community supported agriculture program and an avian research center and to provide experiential learning for Monroe students.  In 2015, NCC’s National Endowment for the Humanities-funded programming, called Agriculture and the American Identity, is exploring how U.S. culture is evolving and food relationships are re-localizing, through an examination of food, who grows it, and how and where it is grown and consumed.  Also new in 2015 are the school’s single-stream recycling, community garden, designated parking spaces for low-emission vehicles, and campuswide reduction of printer-paper use.  In short, environmental education leads to action at Northampton.”

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