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JCCC Stories

Sustainability efforts inspire student involvement

February 8, 2018


Students discover their passion by working with the Student Sustainability Committee

Johnson County Community College's award-winning sustainability efforts are integrated into its curriculum and daily operations, transforming the physical campus into a living, learning laboratory that benefits students, the community and beyond.

Students support sustainability

Did you know that since 2012, more than 29,000 students have completed sustainability-enhanced courses at JCCC? Or that the College has avoided $2.8 million in electricity costs since 2008 because of its efficiency projects?

A key driving force behind these successes and more is the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC), a group of students who allocate money in the Sustainability Initiatives Fund toward projects that create a more sustainable campus.

"Projects supported by the SSC improve much of the student experience," said Sustainability Education and Engagement Coordinator Kristy Howell. "From the things our students might not immediately see – such as energy and water savings – to the things they do – like leadership opportunities, paid internships, paper towel composting and curriculum development in our classrooms – JCCC's sustainability work is woven throughout our campus community."

The SSC impact

For students, working with the SSC can be transformative. From turning prospective careers into callings to cultivating lifelong leadership and collaboration skills, JCCC's sustainability initiatives can have a profound effect on the student experience.

"For me, getting involved in sustainability is what continued my college experience. I only planned to get a 12-month certificate, but applied for an internship during my studies, and it ignited a passion for social sustainability. This led me to start pursing an undergraduate-level degree in social advocacy," explained Erin Kruse, Honors delegate for the SSC.

Teddy Tjardes, secretary for the SSC, echoes Erin's sentiment. When Tjardes started at JCCC, he planned on getting his degree in civil engineering. After taking a sustainability tour of campus, he joined the SSC and is now majoring in environmental science.

"Before touring, I didn’t know how amazingly involved in sustainability JCCC was," Tjardes said. "Not only can I make great connections through the SCC, but I can help implement sustainable practices and work toward building a better future." 

No stranger to greatness

JCCC's sustainability efforts continue to earn praise. Most recently, JCCC was named a 2017 Campus Achievement Sustainability Award winner by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for outstanding achievements and progress toward sustainability. AASHE bestows its prestigious award on institutions and individuals that help lead higher education to a sustainable future.

"The AASHE Campus Achievement Sustainability Award recognizes not just this academic year’s SSC, but the near decade of work the committee has done at JCCC," Howell said. "The projects and level of student commitment AASHE recognized last year therefore belongs to nearly 100 SSC members through the years. Our current committee – and our new committee members that we’re recruiting now – all have an outstanding tradition of campus enrichment and improvement to build on in the years ahead."

The work, time and effort JCCC commits to sustainability has been recognized by others as well. From 2015-2017 alone, JCCC was honored with the following accolades:

  • Johnson County Government Certified Green Partner
  • Mid-America Regional Council’s Sustainable Success Stories Award (composting)
  • National Association of College & University Food Service Sustainability Award (bronze for JCCC Dining Services)
  • U.S. Green Building Council’s Climate Leadership Award (best community college)
  • National Recycling Coalition’s Outstanding Recycling Organization Award (all of higher education)
  • 2017 AASHE Campus Achievement Sustainability Award
  • 2017 AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) Silver Certification

Get involved

We have one planet, and it just takes one campus to make a difference. Here are a few of the positive impacts the Center for Sustainability and the SSC plan to make in the coming years:

  • Become a zero-waste-to-landfill campus by 2025
  • Make JCCC a 100 percent renewable-energy campus by 2050, with 15 percent achieved by 2020
  • Reduce JCCC's carbon footprint through energy efficiency, renewable energy deployment, carbon sequestration and effective vehicle fleet management
  • Support continued reduction of energy and water use through conservation

"The SSC carries a lot of weight, and new students should look for ways to be part of it," said Tjardes. "You don’t have to be an environmental science major to join. When students of all backgrounds and interests come together, it helps make the committee more rounded and expands the ways we can help different students."

Learn more about JCCC's sustainability efforts and the SSC, and get involved today!