Year of Sustainability: Healing Our World

A small globe rests on a patch of soil as the sun shines down on it.
Jared Libby

The sustainability initiatives that TMCC has planned for this year would honestly make even Wizard the Lizard blush. For several years, students and faculty have been actively participating in sustainable practices, and our campus is all the better for it. You can feel it when you lay down on the velvety tufts of grass sown within the grounds, and gaze at the sea of cascading clouds overhead. There’s just something magical about it. Lucky for us, our community is overflowing with individuals who genuinely care about our environment, and this year, we’re highlighting those passions.

A Green Revolution

When you look around TMCC’s main campus, what do you see? Sustainable infrastructure is assembled all around us. Adopting solar and wind energy has been an essential element in the evolution of a greener campus. Water systems have been designed for less usage, and hydration stations lie dormant until you arrive to bring them to life. Public transportation is also available, along with electrical charging stations for cars. Perhaps the most stimulating application of sustainability is something as simple as riding your bike. You know that feeling. When a blast of wind brushes your cheeks as the winding avenues twist and bend before you. Nothing quite like it.

Dr. Cecilia Vigil, Biology Professor, and Tommie Guy, Professional Development Manager both shared their thoughts on this generous planet and on the need to be dependable stewards of its ecosystem.

“We must endeavor as stewards of this planet to be sustainable,” Vigil said passionately. “This leads to a well-balanced and healthy planet; therefore, it improves the quality of our lives, and by protecting and preserving the natural resources that this planet offers all living things, we are then guaranteeing that future generations can enjoy, survive, and continue protecting these limited resources and the life forms that inhabit this earth.”

Advocating for an environmentally responsible way of living is sometimes easier said than done, as we tend to get complacent in routines of reactive awareness opposing proactive behavior. With that said, environmental protection, economic development, and social equity are the mainstays of human sustainability. How do we act upon these principles? By rationally fulfilling our human needs without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same.

“(Education Professor) Micaela Rubalcava refers to sustainability as intergenerational; being aware of previous generations and customs. It was a way I had never seen sustainability before,” said Guy.

Expanding students’ knowledge concerning sustainable issues and practices is a fantastic way in which the TMCC community has decidedly placed this message at the forefront this year. Instructors are implementing these discussions into their course structure, and as a result, students will be able to share what they’ve learned with their family, friends, and colleagues. Hopefully, they’ll soak it up like an eco-friendly, biodegradable sponge, and apply these lessons to every facet of their lives.

“Most importantly, they will become the leaders in their communities via civic, social, and professional practices. They will be the ones that develop new sustainable practices and technologies, and who will propose and vote for sustainable legal actions,” said Dr. Vigil.

Hands to Serve, Hearts to Love

When we picture a more sustainable habitat for us all, what do we envision? Acts of caretaking demonstrate the respect we preserve for our planet. Imagine this: Mulch and moisture trickle through your fingers as you uncover a piece of earth you believe would be the perfect home for this baby acorn you hold in your palm. You kneel down, and nestle it into the smooth soil. You’ve just planted a tree, and just like humans, they breathe. This sapling will grow up, supporting us with oxygen and a lifespan far greater than any person reading this.

Vigil notes that five qualities for sustainability include kindness, understanding, respectfulness, fact checking, and possibilities.

“We need to be kind to one another and every living and non-living thing on this planet. We need to be understanding and respectful of our differences. We need to base our decisions and beliefs on facts. We need to believe change is possible, and we need to work together to create that change,” Vigil remarked.

Nature’s conservation and the procurement of water, food, and energy for a growing world are two sides of the same coin, revealing the path to a future where humans and nature can thrive collectively. Safeguarding and revitalizing nature by encouraging people and committing to a healthier environment generate truly equitable communities. At the heart of sustainability, each voice beats as one.

“Hearing about it in other places, other conversations, to me that means that people are aware of it and it’s at the forefront of their mind,” Guy observed.

Sustainability champions, with the support of the TMCC community, have assembled a multitude of activities and programs for students to engage in this year. If you’re intrigued about the welfare of our planet, then here are a few things Dr. Vigil shared that you should probably know:

  • From the Kick-Off workshop on Aug. 12, favorable sustainability activities were generated, such as: "science for sustainable desert living," "water-cycle homeostasis," "mindful nature campus walks," "sustainable real estate," "harvest walk," "sustainable assignment rubrics," "wellbeing check-ins," "gratitude gotten and given," "kindness ceramics," "chemical purge," and "dumpster dive management."
  • More sustainability ventures will be created from the upcoming virtual version of the Sustainability Big Think workshop, again being taught by Dr. Rubalcava and Dr. Vigil on Aug. 24, 10–11 a.m. on Zoom. Join the Zoom event. This event is open to all students, faculty, and staff to explain how to be involved in the 2022–2023 Year of Sustainability. Participants will design fun sustainability activities for courses, programs, and committees.
  • Candace Garlock, Visual Arts professor, and Dr. Rubalcava are assembling Manzanita Art to display the Year of Sustainability activities on feedback cards throughout the year.
  • Juliana Urtubey, 2021 National Teacher of the Year, AKA Ms. Earth, is a keynote speaker that Dr. Rubalcava wrote a grant for to come to TMCC. Urtubey will speak in the Student Center on Oct. 6, 3:30–4:30 p.m. about culturally relevant sustainability education.
  • Programs and certificates that have a sustainable perspective are now being offered; for example, the new architecture baccalaureate degree.
  • Courses and curriculums are also being offered; for example, backyard bee is being offered again (previously in 2018) through our EPIC program. Introduction to entomology will be offered for the first time in Fall 2022.
  • A new pollinator garden is located at the Dandini Campus; development of related undergraduate research is in the works.
  • Sustainability is being emphasized by FREE, Biodiversity Day, Earth Day, and the Distinguished Speaker Series.
  • Discussions of how to incorporate sustainable practices via Faculty and Staff Development are underway.
  • Our campus culture is being influenced by innovative initiatives like the “Turn It Off” campaign; our food services have more sustainable offerings; less paper copying due to COVID-19, which we are trying to sustain.
  • The SGA and Recognized Student Organizations, like the Garden Club, are getting involved.
  • Wizard's Warehouse offers LED lights, for example, which will reduce electrical costs and are more sustainable.

We’re all on the same side for this one, so let’s work together.

“There is a quote that I love... ‘To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded,’” Dr. Vigil recalled.

For more information about the Year of Sustainability, contact the Equity, Inclusion and Sustainability Office.