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Higher Education in Maryland

Integrating Sustainability at Harford Community College

Harford Community College began water and energy conservation measures in earnest in 1995, and has increased and expanded efforts to protect the environment each year. Building on its 14-year history of modeling environmentally sustainable practices, Harford incorporated sustainability into its five-year Strategic Plan in 2007. Over the period of one year, a 20-member campus team comprised of staff, administrators and faculty developed the Board-approved Plan that guides decision making, goal setting and outcomes campus wide. Two themes pledge “to incorporate sustainable practices into teaching and learning” and “to model environmentally sustainable practices” in all operations.

In Sept. 2007 the College retained architectural consultants who reviewed information developed by the College’s facility planners, interviewed a wide spectrum of the College community, worked with the College Advisory Council to hold several open forums to seek input from students and employees, and prepared an independent analysis of future growth. The result was a 20-year Master Facilities Plan which designates 50% of the College’s 340-acre campus as a conservation zone. Specific recommendations are included throughout the Master Facilities Plan to address Harford’s commitment to employ environmentally sustainable practices with all building and land use decisions.

The College has established protocols for green purchasing, green housekeeping, integrated pest management and will strive to produce or purchase at least 15% of electricity consumption from renewable sources, purchase efficient appliances such as those with ENERGY STAR rating and construct all new buildings to at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard or equivalent.

Sustainability projects are guided by HCC’s Sustainability Committee, comprised of College administrators, staff, faculty, students, and community members. The Committee meets monthly and supports the College's efforts to educate students, employees and external community on environmental issues and the steps necessary to preserve the environment. The Committee makes recommendations to the president on appropriate projects in support of sustainability. In January 2008 the president joined more than 500 colleges nationwide in signing the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, a pledge to reduce and ultimately neutralize all campus greenhouse gas emissions. A smaller group from the Committee leads the effort to meet the established goals.

Over the last two years Harford’s Sustainability Committee has provided research, leadership and coordination of projects related to renewable energy, recycling, sustainable landscaping and capital projects. Committee members contribute relevant articles to The Green Scene column in the campus newspaper. Members also work on Green Harford, the sustainability section of the College’s website, available at www.harford.edu/GreenHCC.

Funding for sustainability efforts comes from grants and a budget established by the president’s office. Grant funding has paid for solar heating projects, 3 green roof installations, and rainwater capture and reuse projects.

Organization Affiliations

U.S. Green Building Council
University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (Harford Community College is a signatory to the Talloires Declaration.)
National Wildlife Federation, Campus Ecology Program
The Society for College and University Planning
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

Awards/Recognition - LEED Silver Certification for the expansion and renovation of Joppa Hall, an 80,000 GSF technical arts and classroom building; cited as one of the top 50 green colleges in the nation in the KIWI Green College Report 2007 and again in 2008; and achieved BayWise certification from the University of Maryland and Master Gardeners Association for sustainable landscaping across the campus to protect the Chesapeake Bay.


Harford Community College’s operations are directed with an integrated and holistic approach. The Strategic Plan and Master Facilities Plan continue to guide the campus sustainability initiatives. Based on an energy and lighting audit, campus-wide energy efficiency measures have been implemented in 10 building renovations and new construction since 2000. Joppa Hall’s 2008 LEED Silver renovation has resulted in a 30% energy saving annually.

Other energy-related projects include

  • Variable chillers, air handlers, and air volume units
  • High efficiency condensing boilers
  • Energy efficient lighting and motion sensors
  • Geothermal wells
  • Solar hot water heating on four campus buildings
  • Direct digital control and energy management
  • 1,000-watt wind turbine provides power to aerate the campus pond

    Water Conservation - Harford’s 340-acre campus is served by three wells and septic fields that have been in operation since the campus had 10-12 fewer buildings and enrollment was a fraction of the present annual credit/noncredit enrollment of 24,000. Water saving features include waterless urinals in every building, low flow faucets, dual flush commodes, cisterns for rainwater capture and reuse, bio-retention ponds and raingardens, and low maintenance landscaping to reduce irrigation. In 2008 extensive metering devices were installed to provide comparative data on annual potable and non-potable water usage.

    Green Purchasing - Environmentally preferred products, from furniture to equipment to supplies, are given first consideration and purchased when costs permit.

    Green Housekeeping Program specifies the preferred use of Green Seal-approved cleaning products, recycled plastic and paper products, and describes cleaning performance standards that promote high quality indoor air.

    Green Landscaping/Grounds Maintenance Program utilizes the principles of sustainable landscaping; maintains natural areas—woods, meadows, wetlands, nature trail, pond, outdoor amphitheatre and extensive flower, butterfly and rain gardens; and uses chemicals only in very limited applications.

    Green Building Occupant Programs teach employees and students occupying a sustainably designed building about the building’s energy use, waste generation, and improved indoor air quality.

    Recycling Efforts - Sites throughout campus collect the following recyclable materials:
    Clean paper and cardboard, aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, rechargeable batteries, film containers and cell phones. Fluorescent lights, computers, yard waste, printer cartridges, construction waste, and medical supplies are recycled as part of campus operations.

    Informative Signage is positioned near new projects such as graywater collection systems, green roofs, the butterfly garden, bioswales and in the buildings throughout campus.

    Food and Dining Services eliminated use of Styrofoam cups and plates and uses biodegradable products made from cornstarch; sells reusable mugs at cost to the campus community; uses recycled paper products; and serves Fair Trade organic coffee and locally grown produce, beef, and dairy products. The College also grows its own organic vegetables and herbs for consumption for Dining Services and the campus community.

    Curriculum and Research

    Harford Community College offers two degrees and a certificate option in Environmental Science with the following credit hour requirements:
    Associate of Sciences (A.S.) degree in Environmental Science, 67 credit hours
    Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Environmental Technology, 63 credit hours
    Certificate in Environmental Technology, 29 credit hours.

    For students seeking a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, Harford maintains a dual admission program with the University of Maryland. By partnering with other area colleges, Harford is able to offer students A.A.S. degree options in horticulture, agribusiness, equine, turf grass, golf course and landscape management.

    In accordance with Harford’s Strategic Plan, College division deans vigorously support opportunities for student learning outside of the classroom. For example, STEM students joined faculty, staff, key off-campus partners and a team of engineers to conduct a campus energy audit. Over a four-day period they learned about lighting and energy efficiencies, HVAC systems, sustainability principles and goals. Other sustainability-related activities include partnering with a neighboring community college on regional projects related to green energy curriculum and collaborating with Harford County government to present a green manufacturing conference in fall 2008.

    Credit courses with a sustainability focus include Environmental Health, English Composition and Literature, Environmental Ethics, Environmental Law, Fundamentals of Biology, and an Honors Biology course which uses the campus grounds and buildings to teach sustainable design. Environmental Ethics and English Composition are taught as a learning community with a focus on holistic health and sustainable living.

    Noncredit course offerings include Greening Your Business, Earth Day Awareness, Basic Compositing, and Creating a Healthy Home.

    To promote sustainability across all disciplines, the 2008 Faculty Professional Development Day included a presentation on integrating sustainability into the curriculum and using the outdoor classroom. Faculty have attended national conferences on integrating sustainability into the curriculum. In an effort to share sustainability oriented curriculum efforts, Harford faculty have made several presentations at local, regional, and national conferences.

    The College continues to maintain data on energy and water conservation measures. Students have assisted in monitoring runoff from green roof systems, calculating carbon footprint for ACUPCC, and energy audits of campus buildings. Students monitor the health and biodiversity of the campus natural resources, including stream and pond biota, water quality, forest resources, and wetland areas.

    Campus Culture

    The campus culture promotes sustainability through annual Earth Day activities involving employees and students in such activities as planting trees, rain gardens and butterfly gardens. The Sustainability Committee includes individuals from all areas of the campus. Students participate in poster contests for Earth Day and Energy Conservation. Employees are challenged to achieve BayWise certification for their private residences. Graphic posters are displayed in lobbies and hallways with interesting facts concerning sustainability as well as campus recycling locations.

    Leadership and support for a broad range of student activities is provided by the Associate Vice President for Student Development. With the guidance of the Student Activities Coordinator, students participated in food and clothing drives on campus and a Hunger Banquet highlighting the disproportionate levels of food supply in the world. Additionally, students participated in service-learning site clean up projects with a sustainability focus during Alternative Spring Breaks in the Everglades; at Kingdom for Kids in Austin, TX, where they also helped to build a playground; wetlands clean up and maintenance at Fort McHenry; invasive plant removal in Chevy Chase and the Jones Falls Watershed; and as cabin leaders for Camp Campbell Outdoor Science School in Boulder Creek, CA, where they helped 5th and 6th grade students to develop awareness of their role in the environment and appreciation of nature.

    International travel funded through the College’s Foundation offered students need-based grants to study with Denmark’s sustainable energy program and conduct research in Costa Rican rain forests. In 2009, students will travel to Costa Rica to investigate ecotourism impacts on biodiversity and compare environmental policies with the U.S.

    The College promotes sustainability through student clubs and activities. The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society students hosted a guest speaker on alternative energy to kick off their sustainability theme; the Interior Designers Club won Best of Show for their green holiday trees designed with recycled and natural products; the Student Government Association assists in promoting the Campus Carpool program; and the Environmental Action Coalition is a student advocacy group that deals with environmental concerns and provides programs, speakers, and activities.
    Since 2005, each graduating class has purchased a tree to plant in an area on campus designated as Graduate Grove.

    Community Service and Outreach

    The goals of the College’s sustainability outreach efforts are to help individuals understand the underlying principles of sustainability, be well informed of the progress being made, understand their role in supporting this progress, and be afforded opportunities to be actively involved in sustainability initiatives.

    To meet these goals, Harford Community College hosted The Mid Atlantic Renewable Energy Expo in April 2007. The Expo featured exhibits and workshops on topics such as energy efficient vehicles, photovoltaic panels, wind power, sustainable design, and recycled products. Other activities included children's events and films and discussions. The event hosted several hundred Harford County Public School students and over 1,000 community members.

    College personnel routinely visit area colleges, groups, schools, and Scout troops to present Harford’s experience with implementing sustainability. Visitors to the College are offered tours of the campus and especially Joppa Hall to see the practical uses of green design. Joppa Hall tours have been offered to organizations such as the MD Green Building Network, Watershed Alliance of York County (PA), International Facilities Managers, and area county governments. Since 2006 more than 500 visitors have toured the building. Informing the campus and broader community of the green aspects of Joppa Hall has been accomplished by the installation of a Green Touchscreen in the lobby. This interactive web-based sign informs and educates visitors about the building: http://harford.greentouchscreen.com/kiosk_resolution.asp

    Since 2007 the College has collaborated with the newly formed Maryland Office for a Sustainable Future in information sharing sessions with statewide organizations, colleges, county governments and municipalities of Maryland. College staff and faculty have presented at statewide conferences: 2008 Maryland Academic Leadership and 2007 Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educators.

    The community has participated in the annual 5K Eco Run & Nature Hike since 2003. Proceeds from the Eco Run fund sustainability efforts. In College-sponsored Earth Day events, the community makes a strong showing as vendors and presenters. With donations of mature trees from a private landowner, a developer and in collaboration with the County, the College successfully reforested campus areas disturbed by construction and established a nursery for future use. This collaboration averted the destruction of nearly 100 trees.

    College printed materials such as the catalog, course schedules, and theater programs consistently contain messages about sustainability efforts as they educate on environmental topics, such as riparian buffers, green roofs and carbon sequestration. Additionally, marketing staff request print vendors use recycled content paper and soy inks in College publications.

    Information: Katherine McGuire, 443-412-2102 or Sheila Terry, 443-412-2242
    January 27, 2009

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