Richland College Earns Gold Level Green Business Certification

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Richland College, one of seven colleges in the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), has a long history of embracing sustainability: the school has tracked energy consumption since 1975; earned the Environmental Protection Agency WasteWise Award for University and College Partner of the Year in 2010 and 2011; and in 2016, won the national Recyclemania grand championship.

Last November, Richland College added to their Earth-friendly accolades by becoming the first college or university in the Dallas metroplex area to be awarded the Gold Level Green Business Certification by the city of Dallas Zero Waste Management division (other recipients have been for-profit businesses). The certification was a joint effort by students, faculty, staff and school administration, says Sonia Ford, sustainability project coordinator for DCCCD Richland College.

“We’ve created a student Green Team with about 200 students members, and about 25 of them are in the trenches actively promoting, planning, preparing and implementing recycling projects,” Ford says.

Richland College first learned of the Green Business certification when a representative approached them from Dallas City Hall during the 2017 Earth Day Texas. Ford later contacted the city’s Zero Waste Management Department, which awards the Green Business certification.

Marcos Estrada, coordinator of Dallas Sanitation Services, noted that while Richland College’s gold level certification is the first of its kind for any type of educational facility in Dallas, the standards for Green Business Certification are the same no matter the type business because there is a wide array of green practices that could be implemented in just about any type of business, including recycling, reusing, reducing and composting in their business operations. “What stood out about Richland was how genuinely passionate they are about sustainability and creating a better environment for its students, surrounding community and the planet,” Estrada says.

Jerry Owens, Sr., assistant director of facilities management for DCCCD Richland College, gave the Dallas Zero Waste Management Department representatives a recycling tour for certification assessment. The school had already qualified for gold level in some aspects, by publishing, posting and providing educational materials related to recycling, and employee training.

“One of the big areas in the presentation was our janitorial staff. The custodians are the driving force behind our recycling program at nights and on weekends, since they collect the recycle from offices and key areas on campus,” Owens says. They, in turn, transport the proposed recycled material to the campus main recycle center for bailing and then transport it to the local commercial recycling center for processing.

The college funds their sustainability programs through the money they make from recycling everything they can—common objects like cans, paper, cardboard, glass and plastic to metal, food scraps and e-waste. “Any money we get for sustainability programs comes from our recycling efforts,” Owens says. “There’s no funding from the state or from taxpayers for sustainability, so we have to think outside the box.”

Owens noted that Richland College first started recycling in 1996, when it collected about 10 tons. Last year, they recycled 485 tons of waste. Composting is also a large part of their recycling efforts, and they have partnered with an on-campus Subway sandwich shop and a campus bookstore’s coffee shop to collect used coffee grounds for compost.

Another effort that gave the college a boost toward Green Business Certification was the Student Green Team fundraiser with World Wear Project, a textile recycling organization that ships gently used clothing, household items, toys and shoes to help global businesses and disaster victims. “They bring their bin out here and we collect items,” Ford says. “It’s a win-win, because World Wear Project gets to divert items from the landfill and help global businesses and disaster victims. They weigh all items we donated, and we get 12 cents per pound. They issue a check to Richland to help fund the Green Team students’ educational resources, project materials, cover field trips and recognition award expenses.”

Other Green Business certification scorecard efforts include Cease the Grease, which they collected used cooking oil to prevent it from being washed down drains and ending up in waterways. The grease is picked up by the city of Dallas and recycled into biofuel for school buses. In addition, 46 water coolers will be replaced this fall from a bubbler style to spouts with attachments to fill and count reusable water bottles.

But Ford says the school is not resting on its laurels; they’re now going for Platinum Level certification. Already in the works is a bicycle-sharing program, which will fulfill the transportation category on the platinum level scorecard.

Richland College will host the 2018 DCCCD eighth Sustainability Summit from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. November 9. This year, the theme focus is on the United Nation Sustainable Development Goal #17—Partnerships for the Goals.

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Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.



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