Category Archives: Environmental

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.


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

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

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, 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.

Media Alert: Find out why trash is treasure at Richland College

Richland College students have turned trash into a treasure trove of data about recycling and how campus habits can improve environmental sustainability. They also learned interesting lessons in archeological collection and study of modern refuse and trash as they analyzed what people at Richland discarded in trash receptacles across campus.

WHAT: Students in Introduction to Archaeology, taught by Dr. Lesley Daspit, will present findings and recommendations from their ‘garbology’ research project.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 15 at 11 a.m.  *Live garbology demonstration after the presentation*

WHERE: Room P141 in Pecos Hall at Richland College, 12800 Abrams Road in Dallas
Campus Map — park in Lot E on west side of campus

MORE: Read more on the class blog at

Media Contacts: Jenni Gilmer,, 940-641-9182 cell
Anitra Cotton,, 972-693-1712 cell

Richland to host City of Dallas recycling event

Richland College will host the City of Dallas’ 2013 Recycling Spring Round-Up from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on April 27 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. For more information and a complete list of allowed recyclable items, click here.

Earth-friendly lawn care seminar offered

Richland College and the City of Dallas are offering a seminar on the most effective and earth-friendly way to care for your lawn. The event will be from 9-11 a.m. on Feb. 2 at Fannin Hall on the Richland College campus. Subjects covered will include basic care for your lawn, common turf problems, how to water most efficiently and much more. There also will be a question-and-answer session with licensed irrigators on minor sprinkler system repairs and a drawing for bags of Green Sense organic fertilizer donated by Rohde’s Nursery & Nature Store. Reservations required. Register online at or by calling 214-670-3155.

Richland College’s science building earns prestigious education architecture award

Richland College’s Sabine Hall science building has earned another architectural industry recognition. The LEED Platinum-certified building has been named the 2012 recipient of the prestigious Louis I. Kahn Citation by American School & University (AS&U) magazine.


Richland College's Sabine Hall

Each November the magazine honors design excellence in education projects in its Architectural Portfolio issue. Two main architectural awards are given – the Louis I. Kahn Citation for design in higher education and the William W. Caudill Citation for design in pre-K through 12th grade education. This year’s Caudill Citation went to Booker T. Washington STEM Academy in Champaign, Ill. The 2012 Architectural Portfolio recognizes 148 projects from across the United States.

Richland College and architectural firm Perkins+Will were commended for Sabine Hall’s “collision spaces” and campus “living room” that bring together the wider college community in the 118,000-square-foot building that houses science programs, teaching labs, bookstore, coffee bar and conference rooms. The AS&U jury praised Sabine Hall for delivering on four primary goals: providing top-quality modern teaching facilities for biology, chemistry, physics and geosciences education; enhancing the campus master plan; respecting the long-established architectural vernacular; and earning LEED Platinum certification within budget. The jury also recognized Sabine Hall’s deliberate east-west positioning that “promotes ideal solar orientation and a more protected microclimate.”

Sabine Hall received an Honorable Mention in the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Central Texas Balcones Green Schools Design 2011 Awards competition and was named the “Best Green Project-Public” at Dallas Business Journal’s 18th Annual Best Real Estate Deals of the Year awards in 2010.

For more information about Richland College, visit To read more about AS&U’s Architectural Portfolio, visit

Richland College hosts City of Dallas recycling drive, Sept. 29

Richland College, in conjunction with the City of Dallas Department of Sanitation Services Waste Diversion Unit, will host the Fall Recycling Round-Up from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 29 in parking lot E on the northwest corner of the campus, accessible by Walnut Street.

The City of Dallas Waste Diversion Team is encouraging Dallas-area citizens to drop off a variety of recyclable items. Items include:

• appliance, televisions and electronics
• used books
• scrap metal
• used oil, including both cooking and automotive oil
• packing items such as packaging foam and bubble wrap

Hazardous chemicals or paints, building supplies, pharmaceuticals, furniture and mattresses will not be collected.

For more information, call Richland College at 972-238-6194 or the City of Dallas Waste Diversion Hotline at 214-670-4475.

Richland College Takes 1st in Texas in 2012 RecycleMania

For the third consecutive year, Richland College has been named the Grand Champion of Texas in the RecycleMania competition. Richland College ranked ninth nationally out of 266 colleges and universities in the Grand Champion division.

Institutions participating in RecycleMania tracked campus recycling and trash data for eight weeks. RecycleMania organizers then ranked participating institutions according to which institutions: recycled the most materials on a per capita basis; achieved the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste; and generated the least amount of combined trash and recycling.

Other Texas institutions that competed in the Grand Champion division included Lone Star College – Kingswood, Mountain View College, North Lake College and The University of Texas Medical Branch.

RecycleMania’s Grand Champion category is based on a weekly recycling rate. Richland’s recycling rate for the competition was 72.87 percent. American University in Washington, D.C., was the RecycleMania 2012 National Grand Champion with a weekly recycling rate of 85.16 percent.

RecycleMania began in 2001 as a challenge between Ohio University and Miami University to increase recycling in the residence and dining halls on their campuses. RecycleMania’s mission of inspiring environmental and social consciousness fits perfectly with Richland College’s vision to be best place it can be to learn, teach, and build sustainable local and world community. Richland has participated in RecycleMania since 2008.

RecycleMania 2012 organizers said that this year’s competition resulted in the recovery of 92 million pounds of recyclables and organic materials, which prevented the release of nearly 150,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E) into the atmosphere. This reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from more than 25,840 passenger cars; electricity use of more than nearly 16,406 homes; or the burning of nearly 705 railcars’ worth of coal.

For more information about Richland College’s recycling and sustainability initiatives, contact Jerry Owens, assistant director of Facilities Services, at 972-238-6173 or To learn more about RecycleMania and see the full scoreboard of results, visit