There appears to be a general lack of knowledge and communication among members of administration pertaining to Pierce’s negative impact on its surrounding environment.
Despite Pierce’s stated core values of sustainability and accountability, administrators appear to be not as concerned with those ideals as they could be.
Several community colleges across the nation are implementing eco-friendly technology in order to reduce their carbon footprint and overall operating costs. Switching to green technologies can save an average 20 to 40 percent on energy bills over time.
Pierce College may not be able to install a $12 million biomass boiler like Middlebury College, or construct a 15-acre solar farm to convert energy like Stonehill College.
What Pierce can do, however, is take small steps to increase its commitment to protecting the environment – a factor that remains of high importance to many college students.
One step available for Pierce is to switch from energy provided by fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind. Puget Sound Energy, the provider for Pierce College Puyallup, offers these programs.
PSE’s Green Power Program costs more per month but adds more green energy to the electricity grid from local sources such as Swauk Wind in Ellensburg and the LRI landfill in Graham.
The payoff results in a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions. According to PSE, one home can reduce their emissions from 12,420 pounds to just 2.31 pounds through converting to clean energy.
There are various kinds of reductions a campus as large as Pierce could produce. But apparently, no one knows. According to staff members who responded to interview requests, Pierce currently has no plans to make the switch towards clean energy.
Another viable, sustainable option that Pierce could incorporate is reusing greywater, which is wastewater that has not been contaminated and could be repurposed for such things as irrigation.
Various members of the Pierce staff interviewed for this story were also asked about measuring landfill waste, offering composting, measuring electricity and water output. Each staff member addressed referred the questions to someone else, none of whom were able to provide a clear answer.
Pierce’s past indicates that administrators took their professed value of sustainability seriously at some point. Such examples include when Pierce’s Arts and Allied Health building earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
Charlene Wilson, Pierce’s project manager for the AAH, worked with architects to meet the design certification requirements. Some of the implementations that originally earned the award included natural ventilation measures, individual controls for lighting and heating, natural daylight, stormwater management and a rain garden.
Dan Timmons, building and grounds manager, says those last two features are not exactly working in the way they were intended.
According to Timmons, the landscaping surrounding the detaining ponds near the AAH building, as well as the rain garden that resides on the second floor of the building, were not planted with the appropriate vegetation.
The result is that some of the rainwater meant to be first absorbed by the rain garden and then diverted to the detaining pond’s surrounding vegetation is sloughing off and not draining properly.
Wilson says that, as far as she knows, both the ponds and the rain garden were functioning as they were supposed to. She admitted to not visiting campus recently to see if they were being properly tended to.
Maintaining the successful implementation of criteria, which garnered a LEED certification in the first place, is now a requirement in order to keep the status. At the time Pierce earned its certification, there was no such requirement in place, although Pierce does have to provide an annual report showing energy usage for the building.
When asked about future endeavors, Pierce may undertake to address its environmental impact. Wilson said that all remodeling or new construction projects take into consideration a way to reduce energy output.
“It’s better to do better if we can,” said Wilson.
That refrain is echoed from Custodial Services Manager Patrick Carter.
Carter acknowledges that Pierce measures neither its landfill waste nor the amount of waste that could be diverted from landfills and processed for recycling. He says Pierce should try, but didn’t offer suggestions on how this could be done.
When asked if Pierce offers composting, Carter replied that he would not be opposed to testing the practice. He added that it would take assistance from students in order for that program to be successful.
Timmons agrees that students can play a role in shaping the environmental policies on campus. If there is an idea worth talking about in regards to sustainable practices, he encourages students to share those thoughts with administration.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost
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