INA, Ill. – Rend Lake College’s Greening the Campus Committee will kick off a week-long series of events in celebration of the 41st birthday of Earth Day on April 22.
First up on Friday, April 15, is a retreat south to Camp Manitowa in Benton where committee members will welcome 55 fourth- and fifth-grade students from Raccoon Middle School in Centralia. The mission is to teach these youth about various topics streamlined with Illinois’ learning standards.
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the students will participate in team-building activities and games at eight different stations, all of which relate to an Earth Week theme like recycling and predator/prey relationships.
“Camp Manitowa has just opened up and they have completely renovated it,” said committee member Greg Hollmann, a science instructor at RLC. “Each station will have a different main learning objective that the students will try to achieve.”
The Greening the Campus Committee’s eight members have targeted water conservation and landfill diversion for its Earth Week theme. From 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, April 18 and Tuesday, April 19, committee members will be distributing environmentally-friendly water bottles students can use, wash and reuse as an alternative to plastic bottles. Also on Monday, an Earth Week display will be unveiled in the Learning Resource Center on campus and rain barrels created by RLC Art Professor Therese Melena and Carrie Gibbs with Cedarhurst Center for the Arts will be put out for display. The rain barrels will be featured in a silent auction from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Wednesday, April 20, will include an unveiling of the committee’s new logo. The winner of the logo design contest will be awarded prize money at 10 a.m. Also on Wednesday, committee members will be looking for students who are carrying around their reusable water bottles. Those who are will receive prizes as part of Earth Week’s B.Y.O.B. feature. Recycled art projects by students will be on display at 10 a.m., and Early Childhood Education majors will be working on their bottle cap project from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Finally on Wednesday, instructor Shannon Green’s students will be reading in the library.
The winner of the recycled art contest will be announced at noon on Thursday, April 21 and committee members will be looking to give away B.Y.O.B. prizes again from 9 a.m.; to 1 p.m.
All events will take place outside the academic building on the RLC Main Campus in Ina, unless noted otherwise.
“With projects like these we hope to show students how they can divert some of the waste that goes to landfills and conserve water by using rainwater for household use,” Hollmann explained. “If you look at the lineup of activities we have put together, we are involving a lot of different people. We’ve got artists from the community painting rain barrels, faculty and staff involvement and a lot of student involvement. Hopefully this will raise awareness and change day-to-day actions in all of those groups. We need to be aware of the long-term implications of our actions and if they are sustainable or not.”
The college has already taken green measures; such as using recycled supplies, installing motion light sensors, placing numerous recycling stations around campus, promoting car-pooling, and saving electricity with timers during evening hours. Hollmann said the committee has researched aggressive initiatives such as solar panels on buildings and a wind turbine – as a couple of examples. However, none have proven to be cost-feasible in the foreseeable future. On the horizon for RLC’s Greening the Campus Committee: It hopes to increase awareness among faculty and staff by presenting at the college’s fall in-service.
“One thing we are doing with faculty is how to green your curriculum by coming up with projects at activities in any class that will relate to sustainability,” said Hollmann. “For instance, [English Instructor] Joe Ervin could assign a project on your lawn so every student would write on their lawn and look at it a little more closely, how the water moves and things of that nature.
“What we try to do is look at things that can be done and raising awareness is a big part of that,” Hollmann added. “If you get five students to change their behavior, that can make quite an impact over a period of time. Where this campus has its heaviest weight in terms of energy use is commuting. And that is the case for any community college campus in the state. The main way you could really reduce your impact would be improvement in car-pooling, transportation, things like that. But that is a difficult thing for this rural of a district.”