North Central College - Naperville, IL

North Central College students "go green" with community garden

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North Central College students will enjoy the fruits of their labor this fall. More precisely, they’ll sample vegetables and herbs grown this summer in a new community garden on campus among the menu items at the College’s dining hall. Abby Hahne, North Central’s sustainability coordinator, and Kris Bagamery-Warren, campus gardener, recruited student volunteers to help cultivate the garden. They started harvesting tomatoes, peas, zucchini, salad greens and other vegetables in July. “We’re all becoming more aware of the emphasis on eating locally grown food because it reduces transportation costs, carbon emissions and other wastes,” Hahne says. “We can educate our students about the impact of locally grown foods with our own campus garden.” Chartwells, the College’s food service vendor, will feature items from the garden.

The College is using rainwater collected in barrels to water the garden plot, and a compost pile is in place. The garden is among many sustainability initiatives at North Central College, incorporating such areas as new construction, renovations, equipment upgrades, programs and day-to-day operations. Efforts range from introducing office recycling bins several years ago. More recently, the College established the Cardinal Red Bike program, which allows students to rent a bike for an annual fee, and implemented shuttles to remote parking lots and to popular shopping and entertainment destinations. Two Zipcars are available that students, faculty and staff can use for a small fee if they don’t have cars on campus. The Residence Hall/Recreation Center that opened in 2009 represents the College’s first effort to construct a large-scale green building with cutting-edge technology. It consumes 17.5 percent less energy compared to traditional construction. The building is being considered for silver standard Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Eliminating food trays from Kaufman Dining Hall has reduced food waste and conserved water used for washing. As a result, the College saved 181,350 gallons of water and 1,674 pounds of chemicals this past year. Students were asked to recycle their discarded room carpets as they moved out, and the class of 2010 graduated in gowns made of recycled plastics.

After Commencement, bottles and water left behind were recycled. Hahne successfully submitted an application to the City of Naperville’s Greener Business Program for a $30,000 matching grant to replace windows in the Student Village residence hall and to install motion detectors over the summer in Old Main, Harold and Eva White Activities Center, Carnegie Hall, Kroehler Science Center and Goldspohn Hall. The detectors automatically shut off the lights in halls and offices when there is no motion for 30 minutes. This follows a campus-wide installation of T8 energy-efficient fluorescent lighting. “Sustainability is such a global concept, it goes way beyond recycling to looking at smart choices for our future,” says Mike Hudson, assistant vice president for business operations. “It’s reducing the waste of resources and looking at smart ways to incorporate new technologies as we replace and upgrade our facilities and systems.” On the academic side, the College created an interdisciplinary minor in environmental studies in 2007 and certain study abroad experiences emphasize environmental awareness Visit to learn more about North Central’s sustainability initiatives.