GCC Wins National Green Genome Award

Recognition for outstanding college sustainability and workforce efforts

 When community college leaders from across the United States look for an example of an innovative, effective, and sustainable college, they’ll look to Greenfield Community College. As part of an expanding national effort to support environmentally sustainable practices, programs, and job training at the nation’s almost 1,200 community colleges, Greenfield Community College is one of five exemplary community colleges to be presented with an American Association of Community College (AACC) Green Genome Award today.

The Green Genome Awards, created by AACC’s Sustainability Education and Economic Development Center (SEED), are evaluated in four key areas critical to holistic green college transformation: community engagement, governance, program design and delivery, and strategic partnerships. Greenfield Community College is recognized as the Overall winner, demonstrating excellence in all four key areas. That excellence can be seen in GCC’s academic programs in Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency and Farm and Food Systems, on-campus photovoltaic solar panels and permaculture garden, campus-wide composting and recycling, collaborations with many community partners, and campus leadership that considers sustainability in its decision making. Greenfield Community College will be awarded $7,500 plus a set of state-of-the-art Bahco brand Snap-on tools and horticulture equipment. The awards are sponsored by Snap-on.

Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura said, ““As the primary organizing body of community colleges of the United States, AACC knows and understands community colleges across the country. We therefore are most honored and lifted by this recognition. I am so very proud of all of the people in the College and the Community who made it possible for AACC to recognize GCC with this award. It is great to get acknowledged for demonstrating best practices by an organization that is so well informed. What this award also does is encourage us to work harder and aspire to even higher standards.”

Other winners of this prestigious award include:

  • Gateway Technical College, Wisconsin (Strategic Partnerships)
  • Lane Community College, Oregon (Governance)
  • McHenry County College, Illinois (Community Engagement)
  • Moraine Valley Community College, Illinois (Program Design & Delivery)

“AACC is thrilled to recognize colleges like Greenfield Community College that have not only prepared a skilled workforce, but have also become change agents in regional efforts to develop a green and sustainable economy,” said Walter G. Bumphus, AACC President and CEO. “Through the SEED Center, AACC is providing community colleges an important roadmap to connect and integrate campus sustainability practices and clean economy-related education and workforce development.”

“This national award will not only equip GCC with state-of-the-art equipment but also with additional capital to boost their already successful program,” said U.S. Representative Jim McGovern. “This award is further proof that GCC is a national leader in the field of sustainable and renewable energy education and workforce development.”

GCC Faculty/Staff Respond to the Green Genome Award

Teresa Jones, Program Coordinator for GCC’s Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency (RE/EE) Program

As a community college, GCC has been able to serve as facilitator to bring together the remarkable talent and passion from our region and grow sustainable practices from the ground up. Our programs and activities reflect hundreds of hands, minds and hearts. Our work brings together big-picture ideas and the literal nuts-and-bolts of building energy systems, planting food, working side-by-side with different people toward common goals. We know that it’s a perpetual work in progress and we thank our students, especially, for helping us to ‘walk the talk.’ I’m thrilled with this acknowledgement of our collective achievement.

Peter Rosnick, Adjunct Math Faculty and Director of SAGE – Sustainable Agriculture and Green Energy Education Center

The SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture and Green Energy) Education Center at Greenfield Community College – “where science, workforce development, and civic responsibility meet” – bridges the work of the Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency and Farm and Food Systems Programs along with related offerings of GCC’s Department of Workforce Development. Through the work of the SAGE Center, GCC is addressing three of the most compelling issues of our time – climate change, job security, and social justice. We are teaching students how to protect the environment and are helping them get good green jobs. In addition to honoring the work the college does in sustainability, The Green Genome Award very significantly and specifically honors the ninety community businesses and organizations with whom the RE/EE and FFS programs partner.  This award recognizes the entire community.

Montserrat Archbald, Green Campus Committee Chair

So much of the work we do on a daily basis is small and incremental—it’s great to be recognized as part of a much larger movement at GCC and colleges across the country.

Abrah Dresdale, Faculty/Coordinator of Farm and Food Systems program

I believe in working at a college that takes a whole systems approach to sustainability, where an institution chooses to leverage its position to demonstrate best practices. At GCC, we have a new bike share program, local food procurement for the dining commons, a green speaker series, and many other examples of sustainability permeating the campus. The Farm and Food Systems program is a liberal arts degree option focused on sustainable agriculture, permaculture, and building resilient regional food systems. We have worked with over 40 community partners, including the Franklin County Jail, where we offer an organic gardening class for incarcerated men; now there is a vegetable garden and fruit trees at the jail! Through a grant from the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts we’re collaborating with grant partners NELCWIT, Montague Catholic Social Ministries, and Seeds of Solidarity to support women in transition to increase their food security and economic independence. The Farm and Food Systems program at GCC teaches about and engages with the interface of sustainability and social justice issues in our community and beyond.

Brian Adams, Professor of Environmental Science

Photovoltaics behind the East Building; a passive solar greenhouse; a permaculture garden; a LEED-certified building renovation; academic programs in Farm and Food Systems and Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency; active and committed faculty and staff. These are some of the reasons why GCC has received this prestigious sustainability award. We have accomplished so much and we have so much more to accomplish.

Christine Copeland, Internship Developer, DOL Transformations Grant and RE/EE Program Assistant

What greater testament is there to the value of our programs than the work of our graduates? They are installing energy systems, diagnosing houses for energy efficiency, creating community gardens – living with quiet passion and conviction as business owners, coop members, employees, interns, volunteers and good citizens. Our graduates express their appreciation for GCC by sitting on advisory boards and inviting students to intern with them. The work builds on itself. They are facing the pressing demands of our future.

About SEED

AACC’s Sustainability Education & Economic Development Initiative, SEED, advances sustainability and green workforce development practices at community colleges by sharing innovative models and free resources to increase the capacity of college leaders, faculty, and staff to build the green economy. The SEED Initiative was created in partnership with ecoAmerica and has received support from the Kresge, Flora Family, and Surdna Foundations and corporate partners Snap-on and Pearson Higher Education. www.theSEEDcenter.org

About the American Association of Community Colleges

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s more than 1,100 community, junior, and technical colleges and their more than 13 million students. Community colleges are the largest and fastest growing sector of higher education. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AACC has been in operation since 1920. For more information about AACC and community colleges see www.aacc.nche.edu

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GCC Improves Recycling

Greenfield Community College received 50 large recycling bins designed specifically for placement alongside the college’s trash receptacles as part of a national recycling bin grant made possible by Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and The Coca-Cola Foundation.

In its 9th year, the Coca-Cola/KAB Recycling Bin Grant Program is providing nearly 4,500 recycling bins to colleges and universities, nonprofits and local governments. Recipients were chosen by Keep America Beautiful based on criteria including the extent of their need, recycling experience and their ability to sustain the program in the future.

“Greenfield Community College is a national leader amongst community colleges in its sustainability/renewable energy programming,” said GCC President Robert Pura, “so this grant opportunity was a perfect fit to help us expand our existing efforts and reinforce our strong values for a sustainable and healthy planet.”

Pura also expressed appreciation for the Keep America Beautiful and Coca-Cola Foundations’ focus on reaching out to community colleges. Coca-Cola has expanded its investment in the bin grant program to include a specific focus on two-year community colleges, with 15 recycling bin grants going to two-year colleges and 28 grants going to traditional four-year colleges and universities.

GCC’s recycling program began a decade ago as a volunteer effort by members of the faculty, staff and student communities (now the GCC Green Campus Committee) who sought to raise awareness of the benefits of sustainable activities and reduce the college’s contribution to the waste stream. Since the time, the Facilities Department, headed by Director Jeffrey Marques, has incorporated recycling into its work activities, effectively institutionalizing the effort. Although a number of large recycling bins have been purchased over the years and are in use, the cost of reaching the goal of having one recycling bin next to every trash receptacle has not been attainable. This grant leaps the college toward success.

“By providing recycling bins to communities, organizations and universities, we can make a difference in increasing recycling in the U.S. and help overcome a main barrier of recycling – convenience,” said Brenda Pulley, senior vice president, recycling, Keep America Beautiful. “We are truly grateful for Coca-Cola’s continued support and commitment to recycling, and the Recycling Bin Grant Program.”

“Through this program and our more than 50-year partnership with Keep America Beautiful, we are helping to ensure that communities understand the importance of recycling,” said Lori George Billingsley, vice president, community relations, Coca-Cola North America. “Community recycling not only impacts the environment today, but it helps build sustainable communities for the future.”

The Coca-Cola/KAB Recycling Bin Grant Program awards recycling bins directly to recipients and leverages volume buying discounts. Since 2007, the program has placed more than 35,000 recycling bins in over 500 communities across the U.S.

GCC President and REE Professor to testify at Congressional Hearing June 24

On Wednesday, June 18, Congress called Greenfield Community College. Sarah Parker from Representative Peter DeFazio’s office contacted GCC, asking GCC to speak at a hearing on education and American energy jobs being held by the Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. DeFazio is the Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over energy, federal lands, oceans and fisheries, and Native American issues. The subcommittee is particularly interested in education and energy jobs and they have heard about GCC’s programs in Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency. President Bob Pura and Associate Professor Teresa Jones will attend the American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Education hearing in Washington, DC on Tuesday, June 24 and Jones will present GCC’s testimony. Jones is the Program Coordinator for GCC’s Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency program. Pura and Jones will also present a 12-page written report.

Commenting on the request, Pura said, “I am so very happy for the faculty, staff, and students of the RE/EE programs that they are being recognized for their good and hard work. The subcommittee is interested in hearing how to link education with the need for a solar energy workforce. Our local economy is strengthened by the green energy sector and both the community and the college value sustainable energy. One of the reasons GCC’s program in renewable energy and energy efficiency is so strong is that it reflects a deeply held value in the community. Our community really understands the importance of sustainable energy systems and how such systems impact the environment and our economic well-being. Testifying at this hearing is an opportunity to impact national policy. The subcommittee has asked exactly the right program to come to the table. It’s a wonderful statement about our college and community as a whole.”

“There is a great deal of opportunity for economic growth, job creation, and job attainment in the sustainable energy field,” said Jones. “There is a huge potential for domestic jobs in the area of energy efficiency upgrades, but people need knowledge and advanced skills to do those jobs. To participate in this rapidly evolving and technological field, people need to have a solid educational background, especially in science. This field is already very different from five years ago, so businesses and workers need to be able to adapt. The key piece for us is figuring out where the best job opportunities are and, what people need to know to succeed in getting those jobs or starting businesses. We look to our business and other community partners to help guide that process. A critical piece is for all interested people to be able to access the education and training they need. We have been able to make GCC’s RE/EE program accessible because of state funding. Our greatest success putting people to work was during a three-year workforce grant (2007-2010) that subsidized participant courses. These three years coincided with the economic downturn. People came to the program to retrain, upgrade their skills, and add skills so they could get or keep their jobs. The outcomes exceeded our expectations in new hires, promotions, wage increases, and broader business impacts. If we can do this during a recession, think of what we can do during brighter economic times.”

“I am extremely proud that GCC has been called on to testify before this subcommittee. Congress and the nation have a great deal to learn from them,” said U.S. Representative Jim McGovern. “Greenfield Community College’s curriculum is providing students with the skills necessary to support the development and deployment of renewable energy technology across the Commonwealth and the country.”

This is the second time in the past two months that GCC has been recognized by national leaders. On May 9, GCC was recognized for its programs in renewable energy by the White House’s Solar Progress Report: Advancing Toward a Clean Energy Future. The Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources learned about GCC’s Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency programs through other sources, not from the White House report. Pura said, “I am particularly pleased that both the White House and Congress have recognized the students, faculty and staff of this fine program.”

Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency (RE/EE) is a term used for a rapidly growing industry tackling the challenge of energy use and its impact in the built and living environment. Renewable Energy refers to energy sources that cannot be depleted such as solar energy to heat water and buildings, and solar, wind and hydropower to make electricity. Energy Efficiency means reducing energy use and minimizing energy waste – a first step in managing energy use wisely. It also encompasses all aspects of high performance buildings, including design, construction and management. GCC’s RE/EE program offers a wide range of courses that provide the knowledge and skills needed for entry level employment opportunities in the growing RE/EE field. The RE/EE program is designed to address the needs of a variety of people and the diversity of students taking the courses creates a dynamic learning environment offering many opportunities for networking. Those already employed in the trades can learn new skills, such as retrofitting for building contractors or photovoltaics for electricians. Other professionals can enhance existing careers by adding energy skills to their toolbox, or transition into new areas of work. Students planning to pursue a higher degree, such as architecture or landscape design, take these courses to prepare for transferring to a larger institution. Interested home or business owners can learn more about do-it-yourself opportunities.

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Jones receives Green Giant Award from Western Mass Green Building Group

Area green builders know there’s a green giant walking among us, even though that giant isn’t a tall guy wearing green tights. The Massachusetts West Branch of the US Green Building Council recognizes that Teresa Jones, Program Coordinator for GCC’s Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency (RE/EE) program is a giant in the green energy and building field. At their annual meeting in Amherst on December 4, USGBC MA West will present Jones with their Green Giant Educator Award for her work with GCC’s RE/EE program. The Award recognizes educators who “inspire and actively teach the design students, engineers, trades people and citizens who will in their turn advance our green building revolution.” Jones was nominated for the award by Nancy Bair, formerly Director of Workforce Development at GCC, currently Green Jobs Coordinator for Co-op Power, and Chair of the Green Night Committee for Western Mass Green Consortium.

Jones, an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science/Plant Biology, helped create GCC’s RE/EE program. The RE/EE program curriculum develops knowledge and skills leading to expertise in the theory and practice of: building energy efficiency and renewable energy, solar domestic hot water, photovoltaic (solar electric) technology, energy conservation and efficiency, wind energy, insulation retrofits, sustainable design and green building, including landscaping. Jones teaches a key 4-credit science lab course in the program – Sustainable Energy: Theory and Practice.

In nominating Jones, Bair wrote, “Though many of us worked hard and long on the grant that installed GCC’s new RE/EE program, Teresa was truly the guiding light, the academic leader, the force that we all strived to keep up with! To write the amount of exemplary curricula in the first two years of the grant; to attend and help lead partner meetings; to recruit, hire, and guide so many gifted and committed instructors for the program; to shepherd so many new and non-traditional students, shows the intellect and the commitment that she brought to the project. The GCC program is known throughout Massachusetts and beyond for its pioneering creativity, integrity, and success. GCC is very lucky to have Teresa Jones teaching for them.”

Jones graduated from Yale University in New Haven, CT, with a double degree in Environmental Studies and History. She received her master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Plant Biology. She has worked as a science reporter and co-authored a book on asthma. She began teaching at the high school level before coming to GCC in 1999. She currently teaches Botany, Horticulture and Sustainable Energy courses and serves as the Program Coordinator for the Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency (RE/EE) program.

Reflecting on the Award, Jones said, “I am thrilled to have the GCC RE/EE Program recognized by the Massachusetts West Branch of the USGBC. Our program is a testament to what a committed and collaborative team of people can do. We are so fortunate to have a deep talent pool here in this area. Organizations, businesses, professionals, tradespeople, instructors, students and private citizens who have been thinking and doing sustainable building and living for decades. It is this collaboration that constitutes our program and makes it so dynamic and fun. As the Program Coordinator, I often get credit for things that I could not possibly have created on my own. This award is really an acknowledgement of a broad network of people. A diverse and interesting group of students come to us because our instructors are real-world practitioners, our network with local businesses opens doors, and our courses continue to adapt to a continuously changing field. I look forward to the next decade of keeping our program engaged with innovation, opportunity and a positive vision of the future.”

Also honored by USGBC MA West with a Green Giant award was Sean Jeffords, an early employer to work with GCC’s RE/EE program in the Sustainable Practices in Construction grant for which Jones was the program coordinator and academic leader. Jeffords, a construction contractor and President of Beyond Green Construction, took his construction company seriously green years ago and changed the name of his company to Beyond Green Construction in 2008. He exemplifies sustainable practice by continuously seeking new information and techniques for himself, his crew, the subcontractors he works with as well as his clients and other colleagues. Sean welcomed interns from GCC and other educational programs so they could get essential hands-on experience putting classroom learning into practice and has hired graduates of the RE/EE program.

The Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Certificate and Associate Degree Option at Greenfield Community College was established through support from a Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund grant named Sustainable Practices in Construction (SPC).

Jones can be reached at (413) 775-1462 and at jones@gcc.mass.edu.

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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Joshua Freund Connects GCC with Stone Soup Café

Joshua Freund doesn’t list “Matchmaker” on his resume, but he should. Joshua made the match between Greenfield Community College and Stone Soup Café, a weekly “pay-what-you-can” community café that provides wholesome meals and supportive community to a diverse group of 60-110 people every Saturday at All Souls Church in Greenfield. Increasing accessibility to local food, Joshua created an internship at the Café for himself as a GCC Farm and Food Systems student. Following Joshua, another student completed the internship. Now, other departments are exploring internships at Stone Soup through GCC’s Civic Engagement Initiative.

What’s really included on Joshua’s resume? Student, carpenter, educator, and writer.  Joshua lived and worked at the Zen Peacemakers’ farm in Montague, where the Peacemakers prototyped the Stone Soup Café in 2010. He fell in love with the Café’s emphasis on relationships and befriended Ari Pliskin, who lived and worked there as well. When Ari started the Stone Soup Café in Greenfield in 2012, Joshua helped get the program off the ground. 

Joshua, now 29 and living with Ari in Greenfield, dropped out of high school where he grew up in Kansas City. Conversations with GCC Farm and Food Systems program coordinator Abrah Dresdale inspired Joshua to study for his GED and then toward an Associate degree in Farm and Food Systems. Joshua is thriving at GCC and has been on the Dean’s List for three semesters. GCC’s supportive faculty and staff helped shift Joshua’s story from “college isn’t available to me” to “I am a successful college student.”

Interning at Stone Soup in spring 2013 was life-changing for Joshua. He still helps out at the Café and is an after-school teacher at Greenfield High School teaching nature awareness, creative writing, and permaculture. After finishing an Associate degree at GCC, Joshua plans to study for a bachelor’s degree and work as an educator.

Currently serving as Stone Soup’s Development Director, Ari explained, “As a grassroots organization, reliable interns make a big difference for us. The Stone Soup folktale – about a stranger who comes to town, starts a pot of soup with water and a stone and invites everyone to put something in the soup until the community has come together around a tasty, nutritious meal – is an analogy for how we operate. We mix ingredients from everyone involved, including people who pay, those who donate food and volunteers who work. GCC has been a living “stone soup” for many years. There is a strong similarity in our values and way of being community together.”

Judy Raper, GCC Director of Student Development, recognizes Stone Soup’s benefit to GCC. She said, “GCC wants to enhance and develop new relationships with community partners and encourage our students to engage with the community. Our students must graduate (or transfer) appreciating what it means to be contributing citizens and understanding how to use their knowledge to improve the lives of themselves and others. We have a very service-oriented student body who have responded enthusiastically to engaging with our community. A group of GCC students, faculty, and staff joined Joshua in volunteering at Stone Soup Café on November 16.”

Joshua encourages others to get involved, saying, “Some people come to Stone Soup hungry for food, some come hungry for connection. I go for both the good food and to get filled with social action and love. The people who provide that connection are often people who go to the Café hungry for food. At Stone Soup, we don’t see people as homeless or as wealthy.  There is so much opportunity for people to make a difference in our community and lives. Now’s the time! The resources are available. This is a great opportunity for young people to get involved.”

To watch a short video on Stone Soup, including Joshua and others visit: www.stonesoupgreenfield.org

To learn more about GCC’s Civic Engagement Initiative, contact Judy Raper at 413-775-1819 or raperj@gcc.mass.edu.

Mary McClintock, ’82