Lined up outside of the Red Mountain Building's Anatomy and Physiology lab are rows of brightly colored, refillable water containers that biology majors have stowed there while they’re in class—a tangible indication of the importance that Truckee Meadows Community College students place on sustainability.
If TMCC’s faculty sustainability advocate, Kreg Mebust, has his way, he’d like to give a shout-out to the entire community about the history of green efforts at the College, and for the progress continually being made.
Mebust is a professor of architecture, landscape architecture and residential design. In July, he’s starting his second year as the College’s sustainability advocate.
“I felt the compelling need to highlight what we’re currently doing,” he said. “There are many people involved, creating many stories that are unfolding at TMCC. I wanted to do my part to help the environment by telling these stories. Sustainability should be visible.”
Green Ribbon School
Mebust is currently completing an application to enter TMCC into the Nevada Green Ribbon Schools Award Program. The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) program recognizes schools for using resources efficiently, for putting forward wellness measures, and teaching concepts of environmental sustainability. “Two years ago, I helped rewrite the application itself at the state level to allow community colleges into the program along with K–12 schools,” Mebust said. “TMCC will be the first community college to join the amended application with the Nevada Department of Education.”
TMCC has had blue recycling bins for many years. In the past academic year, there are containers around campus that more specifically identify bins for the type of recyclable material.
“Will Jones is head of the recycling program,” Mebust said. “He was looking for updated recycling centers, clearly labeled, so that there is no confusion. He locates them in clusters at high traffic areas so that they’re best seen and used. Students and staff want to use them.”
Recycling efforts also go on behind the scenes.“We do a lot of cardboard recycling and have our own cardboard bailer,” he added.
In the summer and fall of 2016, the College installed Brita® Hydration Stations® dispensing filtered water for refillable water bottles. The stations were funded by a TMCC Student Government Association (SGA) donation of $12,000 that was matched by TMCC.
These original units are engraved with the SGA logo, and their contribution is evident. Thirteen stations are now in use among the Dandini Campus, Meadowood Center, William N. Pennington Health Science Center, and the William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center. The units are compliant to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, as well.
A counting feature on the stations shows how many single-use plastic bottles have been saved from the landfill. “It’s huge, we’ve save a lot of water,” Mebust said.
Equity, Inclusion and Sustainability Program Manager, YeVonne Allen, agrees. "Having free, clean, accessible water for our campus community is important,” she said. “Now the College can invest in bottles for water, rather than bottles of water. The water stations also add to our campus goals involving environmental sustainability and resiliency."
TMCC's Facilities Operations and Capital Planning grounds team has for several years eliminated the use of chemical pesticides. How? With inventive and natural methods.
“Annually, about 40,000 ladybugs are released,” Mebust said. “David Murray has a great deal of expertise on this. He targets locations around the campus and sites that are susceptible to insects, like aphids that harm rose bushes. Ladybugs are voracious aphid eaters.”
Other products used on landscaping are organic and dissolve more naturally in the environment.
In November 2016, the College signed a Resilience Commitment with the national non-profit organization Second Nature. Each year TMCC reaches for added targets for increasing the level of sustainable practices.
Currently, TMCC is working towards a Resilience Dimension in Ecosystem Services in natural areas, which utilizes best environmental practices and consistent stewardship. The College has been recognized for significant coordination with the community to protect and restore natural and sensitive areas, as well as a robust knowledge of and education on local climate change impacts. This measurement also targets effective management of invasive species, and analyzes courses and extra curricular activities which responsibly utilize natural areas.
Every four years, TMCC receives an energy use benchmarking report from NV Energy. A report was provided to the College in 2014, and again in 2018.
TMCC continues to do well in conserving energy by using energy-efficient lighting and appliances. When equipment wears out, the College chooses energy-conserving replacements. “From February 2017–January 2018, Truckee Meadows Community College scored an average of 72 out of 100 in EPA portfolio manager at eligible building types (i.e., offices/warehouses), which exceeds the local median for similar buildings in your climate zone (i.e., 44 out of 100), and is more than the baseline model of the benchmarking study (i.e., 30 out of 100),” according to the NV Energy Benchmarking Report.
Also, the College community may view in real time the renewable energy being created by solar panel arrays installed at the Dandini Campus, Meadowood Center, and Pennington Applied Technology Center; and the wind turbines on Dandini Campus.
To reduce the carbon footprint of the College, several projects are in place to conserve energy used for transportation.
- Electric vehicle charging stations, south of the Vista Building, and in the new northeast parking lot
- Discounted bus passes with Regional Transportation Commission (RTC)
- Carpooling bulletin board on the Canvas online learning platform
The Future Looks Straw-free
Mebust would like to organize all of the College community’s information and green stories to a central location, so the efforts of students and staff are the most visible for all. “We are in the process of utilizing Canvas as an online virtual club for the entire TMCC community. It will be a great platform for people to join, discuss relevant topics and to see what is happening,” he said.
He’d also like to make product swaps, when it is easy to do. “We’re looking to ban plastic soda straws and replace them with paper straws, and replace plastic coffee-stirring sticks with wooden ones,” Mebust said.
For more information about sustainability at TMCC, please contact the Equity, Inclusion and Sustainability Office at 775-673-7027.