Campus has renewed push for sustainability

Larry L. Medina
lmedina@hawaii.edu

HonCC is moving forward with efforts to become environmentally aware and supporting positive environmental, economic, and socially sustainable values. Called Sustainability, the campus hopes to model these practices and incorporate them in the classroom and day-to-day college operations.

Cynthia Smith, HonCC Sustainability Coordinator, said that there is an increased emphasis by the UH system as a whole. Smith said HonCC “[needs to become] more sustainable in how we practice, but also integrating [sustainability values and practices] into education so we’re preparing students for a world in which they have to be aware of sustainability issues, threats to the climate, things like that.”

Sustainability first became UH system-wide priority when David Lassner, UH President, along with the UH Board of Regents (BOR) passed a policy in 2015 outlining goals and obligations of the 10-campus system to become sustainable. An Office of Sustainability was formed to rally and promote the policy initiative.

“There’s been a lot of people concerned about this for years,” said Smith. She said it started with the environmental movement in the 1970’s.

HonCC has had a Sustainability Committee for the past three years. With Smith as Sustainability Coordinator, one issue they are moving on is targeting classes to have an “S-Designation.”

An S-designated class means that it is certified as having a sustainability emphasis, with 10% of the class time talking about environmental issues. A class that is sustainability-focused means 60% of that class is devoted to the topic.

“It could be a science class, it could be an English class, Sociology can talk about it; but we even have our technical programs – AMT has a sustainability designation class – but what they’re writing about and researching is environmental topics, because what’s really important in those programs is to understand new and more sustainable practices. If they’re taking a class in Economics or Math, why not have the assignments they’re doing relate not to just abstract numbers, but say, numbers that relate to carbon emissions? [They will] learn about threats and solutions to the environment, and the implications.”

“Why have an S Designation? It’s to integrate a consciousness in no matter what students are taking. When they take a range of [sustainability] classes, they learn more about the environment as part of their general education experience.”

Smith and the committee are also hoping for certificate programs focused on sustainability issues.

“That’s really going to make students more employable in many professions. Students really need to lead with this knowledge [to give them] that advantage.”

Maui College already has a four-year degree Sustainability Management, while UH-West O’ahu has a four- year degree in local agriculture and sustainability.

Another focus on sustainability is how to generate less waste, reduce use, increase recycling. Currently, HonCC has no formal recycling program.

“We don’t recycle anymore because the City took the [recycling collection] bin away,” said Smith. She said the school has a waste contract that doesn’t include collection of recyclables.

“So we either have to pay huge amounts [for a private commercial enterprise to take the recyclables], or work it out in-house on how we are going to gather all the cans and bottles, where’s it’s going to be stored, who’s going to lug it. [Currently] you just take it home and put it in your blue bin at this point, and recycle on your own. But trying to collect it from the cafeteria and these public places where you might get a lot-?”

Smith said she is currently working with David Tanaka, Facilities Manager HonCC. “Derek and our facilities people are very very committed to this, very interested in facilitating, so certainly we want to try to get some recycling. Everyone wants to see a recycle bin.”

“I want to try to get the beginnings of a club and so more people join and get involved and see what those students want to do, whether it’s cleanup projects, whether its campus awareness, whether it’s helping with the recycling,” said Smith. She said there are monies and prizes available for student environmental projects and initiatives.

There are a few service-learning opportunities that students can get involved with right now, including Malama ‘Aina Days, the campus mala, and the campus greenhouse.

“Getting involved, getting your hands dirty in some cases, or working in offices that are promoting sustainability, these are all skills that might get students into professions, inspire them, and certainly make them feel like they are contributing.”