Year of Sustainability: Impacting Our Community

Juliana Urtubey with TMCC President Dr. Karin Hilgersom and Professor Micaela Rubalcava.
Jared Libby

In Truckee Meadows Community College’s self-proclaimed “Year of Sustainability,” there’s been no shortage of fantastic sustainable activities taking place across our four locations. The momentum continues to rise, reaching classrooms, events and office spaces with a swell of wholesome practices benefiting our ecosystem and natural resources. Getting involved has never been easier, or felt more rewarding! So, let’s take a look at the faculty, students and departments actively making the College a better place.

Juliana Urtubey’s Message of Sustainability in Education

On Thursday, Oct. 6, TMCC had the privilege of hosting Juliana Urtubey, 2021 National Teacher of the Year and “Ms. Earth.” Sponsored by the Faculty for Radical Empowerment and Enlightenment (FREE), the anticipation leading up to her arrival was unmistakable! Her speeches have been hallmarks of joyous and just sustainability education, and our community has discovered ways in which to introduce some of these conscientious exercises into their courses.

Beginning her educational sojourn in Las Vegas, Urtubey cultivated teaching approaches that she believed would make a difference in the Silver State. Her time at Kermit R. Booker, Sr. Innovative Elementary School brimmed with opportunities to support her students in this way; polishing her skills as an instructional strategist in special education, and meeting students’ differing academic, social-emotional and behavioral needs.

Urtubey found her calling in illuminating and affirming her students’ strengths and achievements, helping them serve their communities and encouraging them to be proud of their identities and families. In her vision for a “joyous and just education for all,” the joyous brings a sense of belonging, and the just ensures that we recognize and dismantle barriers.

“Joyous and just happens in the way that we design our educational spaces,” Urtubey said. “Create a future you will love. That’s accessible. That’s innovative. That’s full of opportunities. Sometimes we forget how magical little moments in our classroom can truly be.”

She’s the personification of the College’s five characteristics for sustainability: kindness, understanding, respectfulness, fact checking and possibilities. Both Urtubey and the College’s sustainability champions wish to safeguard the cultural aspects of sustainability. Diverse viewpoints can bring about change in local communities, fostering sustainability efforts at the center of a community by its own members.

“I’m inspired by other people’s work because the work that we do, whether in sustainability or in education, is work that we do together,” Urtubey remarked. “Each person plays a vital role in our communities. Sometimes we think changing the world is so complicated, but it’s not. It’s really about many people, in many places, doing what they can.”

Faculty and Staff Sustainability Grants Awarded to Lucky Four

Congratulations are in order to the recipients of the 2022 Faculty and Staff Sustainability Grants, funded by the TMCC Foundation. Their proposals will enrich the Year of Sustainability culture here even further, emanating from the sustainable practices found throughout campus life and in our classrooms. 

A $1,000 grant was awarded to the TMCC Native Pollinator Garden Plants, proposed by biology professors Dr. Cecilia Vigil and Dr. Megan Lahti, which provides direct support for the TMCC Native Pollinator Garden by funding the purchase of 50 native plants, as well as anti-herbivory wire cages. The Pollinator Garden indirectly has the benefits of TMCC's Bee Campus USA designation, curriculum for several biology courses, undergraduate research, and a tranquil garden for those who visit.

A second proposal by Suzanne Malek, Librarian of the Elizabeth Sturm Library, was awarded $500 for the purchase of TMCC Learning Commons Family History Research Books. These books will offer an equitable representation of families from Mexico, Central and South America; contributing to our sustainability spirit by encouraging us to achieve our goal of equity, diversity and social cohesion.

Sustainable lunch containers were suggested by Maria Sandra Jimenez, TRIO Student Support Services Director and Vice President of Student Services and Diversity, teaming up with Veterans Upward Bound and the TMCC Health and Wellness Committee. A $1,000 award was given to them for BPA-free (a chemical used to make certain plastics) seal-tight lunch containers, purchased and distributed at the National First-Generation College Celebration Day event on Nov. 8. They aim to instill healthier lunch or snack options, and cut down on waste to keep trash out of the landfill.

Last, but certainly not least, a $1,000 sustainability field trip to Idlewild Park was sought and obtained by Dr. Julie Kauffman and Dr. Micaela Rubalcava. A collaborative project involving TMCC students, Washoe County School District (WCSD) classes, and the Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful (KTMB) non-profit organization, TMCC students will have the opportunity to develop their field experience alongside the WCSD courses by engaging in a local field trip hosted by KTMB that highlights sustainability.

“We teach by example, and TMCC is rocking in this department! Not only by the application to grants and what these entail. We are seeing curricula changes, lesson plans created, digitizing of documents and so much more,” Vigil said.

Think Globally, Act Locally

Sustainability is treating ourselves and our environment as if we’re going to live on this earth forever. How do we make this dream become our reality? Turns out, life is jumping right out of the pages of TMCC’s history book and telling our story through all the enchanting illustrations of sustainable activities that have taken place this year. The rest is still unwritten.

TRIO team members posing with Mighty the Lizard for First Generation College Celebration Day.

Sustainability mug made by Professor Candace Garlock that she gives as sustainable swag for TMCC employees of the month.

“TMCC in the Year of Sustainability is looking within, holding itself accountable for its actions, creating changes that will impact our and our students’ lives, and this is how we’re going to protect the Earth,” Vigil said.

One of the most promising developments in TMCC’s framework lies within our very own Cafe Verde. Cafe Verde is actively working to acquire the Green Dining Nevada Certification, taking the pledge towards community sustainability, and implanting more responsible and sustainable practices. Sustainable dining, responsibly served. To assist this initiative, we can:

  • Opt out of taking unnecessary plastic cutlery, condiment packets, straws, and napkins.
  • Order dishes made up of ingredients that are in season.
  • Try plant-based dishes.
  • Order only what you can finish.
  • Opt out of printing your receipts whenever possible.
  • Share resources you find and educate your friends about sustainable dining.
  • Recycle and separate your waste in their proper bins.
  • Bring your reusable utensils and tumblers.

Cafe Manager Christopher Schiavone has backed this endeavor, getting rid of all the sugar packets, plastic half-and-half containers and plastic stir straws. Sugars are now packed within glass bottles, half-and-half in hydro flasks, and biodegradable wooden stir sticks are available to handily round out the trio.

Looking Ahead

The Sustainability Champions have also been working to advance other initiatives college-wide and will continue to move the needle on these efforts. The “Turn It Off” campaign has been fundamental for energy conservation at the College. Assuring that computers and office equipment are turned off throughout campus before leaving is a practical, and simple, sustainable solution. Digitizing assignments has also been hugely beneficial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable swag has been added to our roster of materials, producing another tangible transformation. Looking for an eco-friendly bag? Look no further than our very own bookstore.

The Sustainability Champions will also be sponsoring our very own TMCC Earth Day, scheduled for April 20, 9:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. It’s the perfect occasion to learn about sustainable practices in our community, TMCC’s renewable energy efforts, pollinator garden, research efforts, and much more! You won’t want to miss this.

As 2023 begins, be sure to remind yourself of the dedication our community has committed to being a sustainable, green campus, and what you can do to help keep it so! Let’s preserve this momentum, and begin the new year with sustainable habits already in our hearts. TMCC Earth Day is sure to be a culmination of our Year of Sustainability efforts, but even more so, the love we feel for our planet! 2023 will be a sustainable one. Mark your calendar for April 20, and watch for more details.

For more information about TMCC’s Year of Sustainability, please visit our Sustainability website.