Sustaining SMC for the years ahead

Over the past couple of years, sustainability has become a popular movement at Santa Monica College. Students have been seeing more recycling posters and recycling cans instead of trashcans, and compost bins set up at each event hosted by the Associated Students. The question remains, is what we see what we get, or is there more going on with sustainability with which we're unaware?

Genevieve Bertone, SMC's Project Manager for Sustainability, plays a large role in the campus' sustainable efforts. Simply put, Bertone gets things done and makes sure that everyone knows what to do.

"My role is just to make sure that everybody knows what everyone is doing and to help coordinate and provide a point of contact so that I can facilitate environmental progress on campus," Bertone said.

Bertone may have the faculty spoken for, but when it comes to the students, Natasha Gorodnitski, 2009-2010 director of sustainability for the Associated Students, has been the driving force at SMC.

"We are progressing so quickly at the college in terms of sustainability," Gorodnitski said, "and it will be fascinating to watch how we reach our goal of climate neutrality."

Gorodnitski has worked hard this semester to implement sustainable policies and programs such as the Zero Waste program. According to Gorodnitski, Zero Waste "means diverting 90 percent of all waste [at SMC] from the landfill…either to be recycled or composted."

Some students, however, may question this program's effectiveness when so many trashcans on campus are seen filled to the brim with compost as well as trash. A large portion of trash is sorted behind the scenes through a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF). It's called a Dirty MRF because it can have every kind of trash in it.

"Even compost gets recycled. All of that commingled [trash] gets recycled and very little of it goes to trash," said Bertone.

The $15,000 vermitech, a large high-tech, air-conditioned compost bin, also helps reduce waste on the main campus. Starting out with 300,000 red wriggler worms, it is now up to an estimate of 700,000. Each pound of worms is capable of "eating" about half a pound of food every 24 hours. Most food scraps from the cafeteria are "recycled" into the vermitech.

One of the most important things the campus has done, according to Bertone, is to complete an Environmental Audit in 2006. "What gets measured gets done, and data is very important in moving policy forward," said Bertone. The audit maps what SMC has done and also suggests improvements for the future.

In 2009, SMC finished its first ever Green House Gas Inventory for the 2007-2008 school year. This inventory brought together one year of data gathering and analysis using the Cool Air Clean Planet Carbon Calculator.

This inventory estimates the emissions amount to approximately 30 thousand metric tons (MT) of carbon-dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. That would mean 1.2 MT of CO2e per full-time equivalent student. Both the audit and the inventory can be found at the Sustainable Works office on Pearl Street.

With the inventory and the audit complete, Bertone and Gorodnitski hope to see a completed campus Climate Acton Plan in the near future.

"I would say SMC is really progressive," said Bertone. "We have a lot of innovative programs in place, such as the Sustainable Works Student Green Program. These are things that are incredibly cutting edge, that other schools aren't doing."