Category Archives: Environmental

Richland College Designated as a Tree Campus USA

Richland College has recently been designated as a Tree Campus USA College by the Arbor Day Foundation. This designation recognizes college and university campuses that effectively maintain campus trees, connect with the community to foster healthy urban forests and strive to engage their students in service learning forestry projects.

There are many benefits to being a Tree Campus USA College. A commitment to trees can greatly reduce the amount of energy the campus needs to generate; planting and maintaining trees on campus reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and green spaces give students and faculty a place to relax with others. The Tree College USA program helps colleges and universities establish and sustain healthy community forests.

“We in facilities services are extremely excited that Richland College has been presented the designation of Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation,” said Ken Dunson, facilities director at Richland College. “With Richland College’s history of participation in Arbor Day events, the practice of honoring 20-year employees by designating existing trees on campus with their name plaques beneath them, the annual practice of planting new trees and the time and care our landscaping services professionals spend with all trees on campus, it was only natural we apply for this great honor. We are pleased to be chosen and will devote the resources and energy necessary to maintain this distinguished designation.”

Richland College had to meet five qualifications to be recognized as a national Arbor Day Foundation Tree Campus USA College. These standards are: establishing a campus tree advisory committee, giving evidence of a campus tree care plan, verifying dedicated annual expenditures on the campus tree plan, hosting an Arbor Day event and implementing a service learning project that is designed to engage students.

Texas has the most Tree Campus USA schools in the nation. Other Dallas Community College District colleges have made this distinguished list in previous years, including Brookhaven College, Eastfield College, North Lake College and Mountain View College.

Tree Campus USA is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation and administered locally by the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS). The Arbor Day Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation and education organization. It has one million members, donors and partners who support its programs to make the world greener and healthier.

Since 1915, TFS has been protecting and sustaining forests, trees and other natural resources. The organization also offers programs and services to help others make the most of their land for future generations.

For more information about the Arbor Day Foundation, visit arborday.org. For more information about the Texas A&M Forest Service, visit tfsweb.tamu.edu.


Richland College Wins Grand Championship in National ‘RecycleMania’ Competition

Recycling bins located on campusRichland College showed its green side with a campus-wide recycling rate of more than 82 percent during the spring semester, earning the grand champion prize in RecycleMania, an annual competition for college and university recycling programs.

Each spring since 2001, colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada report the amount of recycling and trash collected for a period of eight weeks and are ranked in various categories based on which institution recycles the most on a per capita basis, which schools have the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which schools generate the least amount of combined trash and recycling.

The 2016 tournament ran from Feb. 2 through April 7, with 350 schools participating from 48 states in the U.S., the District of Columbia and Canada. During the competition time, participating schools recycled or composted 79.3 million pounds of recyclables and organic materials. This prevented the release of 122,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, or the equivalent of the annual emissions from 24,000 cars.

Historically, Richland College has placed in the top 10 in the overall competition since 2012 and has been the Texas Grand Champion in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.

“After consistently being the best in Texas, it’s so great to be able to win the national award this year for RecycleMania,” said Jerry Owens, Richland College assistant director of facilities services. “The program closely aligns with Richland College’s vision to ‘build sustainable local and world community.’ A lot of effort has gone into recycle awareness and sustainability on our campus, and we are thrilled that it really paid off.”

RecycleMania hopes to motivate students, faculty, staff and the community to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation. It also hopes to increase awareness and support for college recycling programs and encourage colleges and universities to measure, benchmark and expand recycling efforts to help improve their programs over time.

For more information on the competition, visit www.recyclemaniacs.org.


Richland College Facilities Services Department Gives Campus Trees a New ‘Leaf’ on Life by Getting to the Root of the Problem
A large, fallen tree limb is surveyed by workers.

Richland College facilities employees work to secure a damaged tree and safely remove the downed branches.

After an unprecedented stormy, soggy spring in the Dallas area, the Richland College campus was left relatively unscathed, with the exception of several trees that lost limbs in the recent storms. Luckily for the trees, the college’s Facilities Services department was ready to go out on a limb and make sure no stump went unturned in the quest to save the storm’s woody victims.

This year’s storms resulted in several damaged trees, but thankfully only one will have to be taken down.

Once a storm passes, the Facilities Services department assesses the situation and notifies necessary individuals, such as the College Police and senior administration. From there, priority is placed on each damage area, with top priority given to more dangerous situations such as hanging or fallen branches blocking a sidewalk or roadway or leaning against a building. A crew and equipment are deployed not only to remove the debris, but to also try to repair the tree. If the damage isn’t bad, the wounds are painted, cable-bolts are used if necessary and any splits are closed. Exposed wood is treated to protect against disease and insect infestation. Branches are cut up and repurposed as compost to mulch landscaped beds on campus.

With more than 1,000 trees on the Richland College campus, many older than 100 years, the trees do more than provide a tranquil backdrop for the educational environment of students. They provide energy conservation by producing shade, reducing the college’s carbon footprint and serving as a habitat for the myriad of creatures that live on campus. In addition, many trees on campus serve as tributes to Richland College employees, past and present, who have provided 20 years of service to the college.

When a Richland College employee attains 20 years of service, he or she picks an available tree on campus, and at the base of the tree a plaque is placed to honor that person. While no trees with plaques were heavily damaged this year, if it ever happens then either the person who that tree commemorates or his or her relatives are allowed to pick a new tree on campus.

“We would all like to be remembered,” said Dennis Griffin, Richland College’s grounds coordinator. “Being able to see that memory in the form of a living thing can be pretty powerful for the acquaintances, friends and especially the relatives who come on a regular basis to check the health of the tree and the status of the plaque.”


Richland College is Best in Texas in ‘RecycleMania’ Competition

Paper being recycledRichland College showed its green over the spring semester when it took home prizes for first in the state and fifth in the U.S. and Canada in RecycleMania, an annual competition for college and university recycling programs.

Each spring, colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada report the amount of recycling and trash collected for a period of eight weeks and are in turn ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most on a per capita basis, which schools have the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which schools generate the least amount of combined trash and recycling. Richland College was fifth overall in the competition and first in the state of Texas.

“RecycleMania is a great competition, and the program closely aligns with Richland College’s vision to ‘build sustainable local and world community,’” said Lisa Eades, Richland College associate director of facilities support services. “It is really a great benchmarking tool to see how our recycling efforts stack up against other colleges and universities each year.”

Historically, Richland College has placed in the top ten in the overall competition since 2012 and has been the Texas Grand Champion in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

RecycleMania hopes to motivate students, faculty and staff to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation. It also hopes to increase awareness and support for college recycling programs and encourage colleges and universitites to measure, benchmark and expand recycling efforts to help improve their programs over time.

For more information on the event, visit www.recyclemaniacs.org.


Richland College Hosting Spring City of Dallas ‘Recycling Round-Up’ Event

Vector retro labels with ecology signsSpring cleaning is in full swing, and Richland College and the City of Dallas Sanitation Services are encouraging community members to start going through unwanted items and participate in the spring “Recycling Round-up” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18.

Residents can drop off recyclable items, big or small, including but not limited to electronic items, small appliances, used cooking oil, toys, light bulbs, batteries, textiles, medical equipment and tires. People may also drop off as many as five legal boxes of documents for destruction, though boxes must be no larger than 15 inches by 20 inches, and binders will not be accepted. Other items not accepted include household hazardous chemicals or paint, building supplies, pharmaceuticals, furniture or mattresses.

In addition to recyclable items, Dallas Animal Services will be taking material donations to help shelter animals. Items accepted include new or gently used clean towels or blankets, tennis balls, toys for dogs and cats, dry and canned pet food and new or gently used leashes and collars.

“Richland College is so happy once again to be hosting this event with the City of Dallas,” said Lisa Eades, Richland College associate director of facilities support services. “We’re especially excited that we will be able to help the animals of Dallas Animal Services in addition to helping the community recycle their items.”

The spring “Recycling Round-up” will take place on the Richland College campus, 12800 Abrams Road, in parking lot E located on the west side of campus off Abrams Road and Walnut Street. The event will occur rain or shine, and the first 50 cars in line to drop off recyclables will receive a pair of tickets to the Studio Movie Grill.

For more information on the event, contact the City of Dallas Waste Diversion Hotline at 214-670-4475.


Richland College Hosting ‘Fall Recycling Round-Up’ Event

green recycling stampSpring cleaning may be a few months away, but Richland College and the City of Dallas Sanitation Services are encouraging community members to start that cleaning a little early and participate in the “Fall Recycling Round-up” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 15.

Residents can drop off recyclable items, big or small, including but not limited to electronic items, small appliances, used cooking oil, toys, light bulbs, batteries, textiles, medical equipment and tires. People may also drop off up to five legal boxes of documents for destruction, though boxes must be no larger than 15 inches by 20 inches, and binders will not be accepted. Other items not accepted include household hazardous chemicals or paint, building supplies, pharmaceuticals, furniture or mattresses.

“Richland College is looking forward once again to partnering with the City of Dallas Sanitation Services,” said Lisa Eades, Richland College assistant director of facilities support services. “This is an all-day, fun event that allows the community to safely and conveniently recycle items they no longer need.”

The “Fall Recycling Round-up” will take place on the Richland College campus, 12800 Abrams Road, in parking lot E located on the west side of campus off Abrams Road and Walnut Street. The event will occur rain or shine, and the first 50 cars in line to drop off recyclables will receive a pair of tickets to the Studio Movie Grill.

For more information on the event, contact the City of Dallas Waste Diversion Hotline at 214-670-4475.


Speaker to explore water harvesting, cisterns

It’s still a desert out there in North Texas. Lake levels are shockingly low. Water restrictions have become even more stringent. That’s what a drought is all about.

nate2-3-iab-rect-pop-240-400

Nate Downey

Caught in the grip of a four-year drought which blankets the entire north Texas region and beyond, the current water crisis is rated “severe” to “exceptional.”  Without enough water, Texas and its residents face a bleak future agriculturally, economically and ecologically. Even with a few recent soaking rains, area residents, businesses and cities are facing the fact that water is a scarce and precious resource.

How can individuals fight a drought when they face extreme temperatures, water restrictions, empty lakes and brown grass everywhere they look?  The idea of using active water harvesting and cisterns is a philosophy that author and permaculture expert Nate Downey of New Mexico will share with audience members during two programs he will present in June – the final feature presentation in the Dallas County Community College District’s 2013-2014 Clean Economy Series. Downey kicked off the series last September when Texas was struggling with a drought; unfortunately, he returns to the same situation nine months later.

Active water harvesting involves a number of principles that Downey will explore as he explains a system based on storage tanks that enable users to conserve water. A longtime permaculture/landscape designer, Downey studied under Bill Mollison and is the award-winning author of two books, including Harvest the Rain: How to Enrich Your Life by Seeing Every Storm as a Resource.

Downey’s first presentation on Friday, June 27, is titled “Water Is the New Solar.” The program will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in Room SH118 of Sabine Hall at Richland College, located at 12800 Abrams Rd. in Dallas; the cost to attend is $10 per person. Downey will discuss the fact that the water-harvesting industry soon will join solar energy as an economic engine that will drive the country toward real sustainability. The number of individuals and companies that provide harvested roof water and rain water will serve a large, growing market.  Managing and regulating this new industry will provide additional challenges as well.

The following day (Saturday, June 28), Downey will present a one-day workshop about “The Bold New American Landscape, Part 2: Active Water Harvesting with Cisterns,” which begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., also in Room SH118 of Sabine Hall. During the all-day program, he will focus on harvesting rain water in storage tanks. Downey, who has been designing and installing cistern systems for two decades, will talk about the components of a successful system that can turn storm water into an actual resource. The cost of the workshop is $99; participants can register in advance at www.dcccd.edu/cleaneconomyseries.

This all-day program will feature a hands-on, live demonstration which will help Richland College harvest rain water. Rain Harvesting Supplies, one of the event’s sponsors, will donate a cistern. Richland College is providing the additional parts needed so that the class can help install a working cistern on campus. Additional sponsors include Ann’s Health Food Center and Market, Dallas Water Utilities, Earth Day Texas, Garden Inspirations, Greenling, Green Source DFW, Growing Food Closer to Home, Natural Awakenings, NYLO Hotel, Urban Acres, Arete Consulting and Eat Your Yard.

For more than a decade, Downey has spoken, taught and written about permaculture practices. He owns Santa Fe PermaDesign, a landscape-design firm whose projects emphasize beauty, function and ecology. He is a frequent guest on public radio and writes a popular column called “Permaculture in Practice” for The Santa Fe New Mexican.

At home and in the workplace (regionally, nationally and internationally), Downey’s work addresses what he calls ‘”changescapes,” “permapatterns” and “permaDesign” — methods that provide practical and visionary ways to be productive and add value to people’s lives, homes, communities and the environment.

Downey said that enough rain falls to provide ample water for everyone. As a result, “We simply have to collect, store, distribute and reuse a small percentage of that which falls from the sky. Fortunately, this way of saving the world comes with perks such as increasing your property’s value, lowering your utility bills or simply creating a comfortable oasis for conversation just outside the kitchen door,” he added.

The seven colleges in DCCCD are sponsoring the 2014 Clean Economy Series, which concludes with Downey’s presentation on cisterns and water conservation. Volume ticket discounts are available for the full-day workshop but must be paid in advance.

The Clean Economy Series offers hands-on workshops that provide attendees with practical knowledge about how to live and conduct business in a more sustainable way that supports people, the plant and profits. Conducted by nationally-known leaders in their areas of expertise, the workshops have touched, educated, inspired and moved participants to take action. The series began in Santa Fe and is produced by the New Mexico non-profit organization Carbon Economy Series.

For more information, visit www.dcccd.edu/CleanEconomySeries.


Richland College 1st in Texas, 3rd nationally in 2014 RecycleMania competition

RM_logo_2014Richland College was named the 2014 RecycleMania Grand Champion of Texas and ranked third nationally out of 461 participating colleges and universities.

RecycleMania’s mission of inspiring environmental and social consciousness fits perfectly with Richland College’s vision to build sustainable local and world community. Richland has participated in RecycleMania since 2009, taking the Texas Grand Champion title in 2014, 2012, 2011 and 2010.

RecycleMania’s Grand Champion category is based on a weekly recycling rate. Richland’s recycling rate for the competition was 75.1 percent. Antioch University Seattle was the 2014 RecycleMania National Grand Champion with a weekly recycling rate of 93.13 percent. University of Missouri-Kansas City finished second with 81.05 percent.

During 2014 RecycleMania, participating institutions collectively recycled or composted 89.1 million pounds of recyclables and organic materials, preventing the release of 126,597 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere – equal to the annual emissions from 24,823 cars.

According to RecycleMania, Richland College’s activities during this year’s competition prevented the release of 335 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or the same reduction in greenhouse gases as removing 66 passenger cars from the road.

RecycleMania started in 2001 as a friendly challenge between Ohio University and Miami University to increase recycling on their campuses. The competition has expanded from two schools in 2001 to 461 colleges and universities in 2014 spanning all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

Complete results for all 11 competition categories can be found on recyclemania.org, including a breakdown showing how schools performed by athletic conference, institution size, state and other groupings.


Fall Recycling Round-Up held at Richland

2013-Fall-Roundup-PosterRichland College is a host site for the City of Dallas’ 2013 Fall Recycling Round-Up, held from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sept. 21 in Parking Lot E on the Richland campus.

Residents are invited to drop off a variety of items including pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, electronic items, paper, textiles, used cooking oil, scrap metal, tires, batteries, plastic and styrofoam. Household chemicals or paint, building supplies, and furniture or mattresses will not be accepted.

Richland College is located at 12800 Abrams Road in Dallas. The Recycling Round-Up will be held rain or shine.


Richland College students turn rubbish into recycling research
From left: Misael Sandoval, Iris Gomez, Elliot Stapleton and Professor Lesley Daspit sort trash.

From left: Misael Sandoval, Iris Gomez, Elliot Stapleton and Professor Lesley Daspit sort trash.

This spring, a team of Richland College anthropology students found more than just banana peels, empty coffee cups and plastic bottles in the trash on campus – they found a treasure trove of data.

Professor Lesley Daspit’s anthropology students uncovered interesting patterns in recycling behaviors on campus that give Richland College leaders valuable insight into how to improve current sustainability practices.

The group of students – known as “garbologists” – also noticed after digging through almost 600 pounds of trash that recycling rates at Richland College would improve if recycling receptacles were placed in the outlying areas of campus, such as the soccer fields and parking lots.

“It was a dirty job,” Dr. Daspit said with a smile. “I am very proud of my students; they have worked hard on this research project.”

Before they riffled through the refuse, Dr. Daspit taught her Introduction to Archeology students the proper anthropological techniques for how to study artifacts and gain insight into the people to whom they belonged.

“Garbology is the study of modern refuse and trash,” Dr. Daspit said. “Archeology used to just deal with people in the past, but garbology has taken us into new venues such as landfills and college campuses.”

One student, Gigi Lofland, said she learned that analyzing a community’s garbage is nothing new to anthropology or archeology.

“Studying trash is legitimate archeology,” she said. “We learned about trash middens, or trash heaps. Archeologists have been learning about societies and understanding cultures through middens for years.”

Dr. Daspit’s class started the garbology research project by surveying fellow students about their recycling habits at home and on campus and their awareness of Richland College’s recycling initiatives.

The garbologists found that of the 88 students surveyed, 47 percent recycle at home, 77 percent recycle on campus, but only 14 percent were aware that Richland College was participating this spring in Recyclemania, a national contest among colleges and universities. Richland College won top state honors in 2010, 2011 and 2012 in Recyclemania and consistently ranks in the top 10 nationally.

Tales from the Trash
Dr. Daspit’s students also got their hands dirty. They collected 599 pounds of garbage from 18 collections sites on Richland College’s 243-acre campus. The team studied trash receptacles from inside and outside campus buildings.

From the rubbish, the garbology team sorted out 1,368 items that could have been recycled. The majority of the recyclables found were plastic bottles (56 percent), followed by plastic bags (27 percent), cans (12 percent) and glass items (5 percent).

Garbology Reseach Project MapPracticing good anthropological technique, the students also included observation as part of their research. They spent a total of eight hours watching what people threw in the waste bins at various locations on campus.

The garbologists discovered that 52 percent of the 79 people they observed threw away items that could have been recycled. The students think placing recycling bins closer to waste receptacles and simply adding more recycling bins on campus would encourage more recycling.

Students said they were amazed by the amount of food and beverage waste they found, which included many half-full drink bottles, an unopened six-pack of Gatorade, a full box of peanut butter crackers, unopened granola bars, whole coconuts and an unopened jar of tomato sauce.

That wasn’t the only surprise the students discovered in the garbage.

“We found a bundle of perfectly good iPod cords,” said student Isaak Lee. “We couldn’t figure that one out.”

Global Garbage
Not surprisingly, the class found items from across the globe in the waste bins. Richland College’s student body of some 20,000 college credit students and another 5,000 continuing education students is internationally and ethnically diverse, speaking more than 79 first languages.

“I knew we had a really diverse community at Richland College but it was really neat to see that show up in the trash,” Gigi said.

Among the international refuse were chips from Korea, soymilk from Malaysia, fruit drinks from Mexico and Belgium, dates from China, a natural toothbrush from Pakistan and a calling card to call Ethiopia.

The garbology team recorded more of their observations and adventures on the Richland College Garbology Blog.

Ideas for the Future
At the end of their project, Dr. Daspit and the class presented their findings and recommendations to college leaders, which included:

  • installing recycling bins in the campus parking lots and athletic fields
  • placing recycling and waste bins in closer proximity
  • standardizing the look of recycling bins
  • posting signage atop the bins indicating what can go in respective recycling bins
  • increasing student and employee awareness and participation in recycling on campus
  • expanding the study to include offices and classrooms
  • exploring partnerships with food vendors on campus to reduce plastic packaging waste and
  • further studying food and beverage waste on campus.

The students hope that garbology won’t be a one-time class project at Richland College.

“We definitely should keep it going. It needs to be studied year round,” Isaak said. “I’ll definitely recycle more after what I’ve seen. There’s still a lot to work on.”

Seeing the change in students’ awareness and attitudes about environmental sustainability is gratifying, Dr. Daspit said.

“That’s what I love about the project – something so simple as a waste audit can have a cascading effect across campus and into our lives,” Dr. Daspit said.

Jerry Owens, Richland College’s assistant director of Facilities Services, who leads the college’s energy conservation and sustainability efforts, said the garbology project provides important information for sustainability initiatives.

“Their project was very helpful to us,” he said. “We already knew that there was an opportunity for more recycling in the parking lots and outer areas, but the project gave us some good data. One of the best things about this is that students are getting more involved and aware.”

Mr. Owens said that Facilities Services has been working not only with Dr. Daspit’s students but also with other Service Learning groups on campus.

“We are happy to partner with students and we hope to work more closely with them in the future,” he said.

The garbology project ties into Richland College’s active commitment to the triple-bottom line of social equity and justice, economic viability and environmental vitality. Richland provides educational programs, services, processes and practices to empower students to achieve their educational goals and become lifelong learners and responsible global citizens, building sustainable local and world community.

Richland College has received awards and recognitions for its commitment to environmental sustainability from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Dallas Business Journal, the Community College Journal, the Rocky Mountain Institute and the North Texas Corporate Recycling Association. The U.S. Green Building Council awarded LEED Platinum certification for Richland College’s Sabine Hall science building and LEED Gold certification for the Richland College Garland Campus.