SMC Befriends the Environment

Earth Day means taking stock of the planet around you and recognizing the problems inherit in our way of life, changing what we can and making concessions so that our children may have a sustainable earth, and working towards this in the small stuff. We only need to do this once.
Santa Monica College and the City of Santa Monica have made many efforts along these lines, incorporating environmental practices and planning for the future. From gardens and solar panels to educational programs and building standards, the school moves into the 21st century.
"Students and the community are interested in providing environmentally friendly projects," said Greg Brown, director of facilities and planning.
With beverage recycling containers everywhere, separate trashcans for paper, even slots for recycling the Corsair newspaper, SMC's recycling program takes everything from batteries to food waste and finds a home for it, even giving students jobs by having them collect and sort the paper and beverage containers.
Collecting over 85 percent of the total tonnage generated (9,024.340 out of 10,616.680) of recyclables around campus, Tom Corpus, head of grounds, said, "We have been doing it since 1992-'93. We used to do it informally before the school had a policy, so we have been doing it awhile."
Ernie Belcher, SMC maintenance and metalworker, created a sorting table for the students who collect the recycling. It has three slots where the students sort the recycling. The recycling also includes the vermaculture compost bin for food.
"We are considered one of the best recycling programs in California for community colleges," said Madeline Brodie, SMC's recycling coordinator.
For new building projects, such as the Science Building finished in 1999, all of the buildings will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. They are a new generation of buildings that deliver high-powered performance inside and out.
Special features of a LEED building include whole building cleaning and maintenance issues, including chemical use; ongoing indoor air quality efficiency; energy efficiency; water efficiency; recycling programs and facilities; exterior maintenance programs; and systems upgrades to meet green building energy, water, indoor air quality and lighting performance.
"Also we have in the Measure S bond an energy upgrade program where we will be converting to renewable and more efficient energy sources for our buildings," said Brown. "We will use co-generation, where the exhaust from micro-turbines supplies energy, heating and air-conditionings for the buildings."
Student clubs or those interested in working for the campus can also beautify the school through such things as planting flowers or other plants in available space. The only requirement is that you fall under the school's insurance policy, so you must be in a club to qualify.
SMC also houses its own Center for Environmental and Urban Studies (CEUS) office.
The office incorporates the Eco-Action Club, the Environmental Affairs committee that is open to everybody, and SMC's environmental curriculum with field courses and internships. The office, in conjunction with the school, will offer a degree in environmental studies.
You can go to the Environmental Issues Lecture series that the center sponsors and learn of such things as a sustainable L.A. and building "smart cities," or more efficient urban planning.
Another part of the CEUS is the Sustainable Works program with the city of Santa Monica. Students enter the program and for eight weeks (six weeks for city residents) they learn how they may tailor their lifestyle in an environmentally friendly way.
"Each person is capable of making a huge impact on the environment and whether that impact is good or bad depends on the choices we make. Sustainable Works helps people make informed decisions," said Maryam Hall, student program coordinator.
Another thing that the center does is promote a program called Garden / Garden, a two garden program, one a "native" garden and the other a "traditional" garden, where they demonstrate the advantages of supporting a "native" garden.
Though construction costs are higher for the native garden, with features such as a water-efficient drip system and California-native plants, you save in maintenance and water costs on a weekly basis, proving the advantages of a native garden.
The CEUS is also equipped with solar panels on the roof providing energy for the building. Brown mentioned that the newer buildings should incorporate solar panels.
"There are things to be done," said Brown. "For instance more solar panels in the long run would be a great thing to have."