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Sustainable Efforts at Shasta College

02/24/2015 12:48AM ● By Laura Christman

Green Space

March 2015
By Laura Christman

Wandering chickens, reflective rooftops, self-dimming lights, solar collectors and a large compost pile are part of the sustainability push at Shasta College in Redding.

“We have a committed campus community,” says Randy Reed, earth science instructor and Shasta College Sustainability Committee co-chair. The committee came into play in 2009 and ties in with the college, joining the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment with goals of sustainability and climate neutrality. “The fundamental mantra is: Take no more from the environment than the environment can replenish,” Reed says.

“As an educational institution, we want to be an example of how to be good stewards,” says Joe Wyse, Shasta College president and the other committee chair.

The effort to recycle, reuse and reduce has pluses both environmentally and fiscally, Wyse notes. “It’s a synergistic approach. It’s good for the environment, but it’s also good for the budget.”

The college generates about 36 percent of its energy from a field of solar collectors on the north edge of campus. The 1-megawatt solar array began producing power in spring of 2010 and has saved the college more than $300,000, according to Wyse.

To improve energy efficiency, the college upgraded its aged heating and air-conditioning units several years ago to a high-efficiency, variable-drive system that allows temperature flexibility and cuts electricity use. Another change was adding a light-colored, reflective coating to roofs so classrooms and other buildings don’t require so much energy to cool.

The college recently tapped into California Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39) funds to replace lights along pathways and in parking lots with efficient LED lighting. Instead of staying at full power through the night, they dim to 20 percent brightness but fully brighten when sensors detect the motion of a person or vehicle.

Recycling is encouraged throughout campus. And the college has two chilled, filtered-water stations, provided by Healthy Shasta, to encourage use of refillable water bottles over plastic throwaways.

On the college farm, sustainability is a strong theme. “We grow about 85 percent of everything we feed on the farm,” notes agriculture instructor Trena Kimler- Richards. That cuts not only costs, but also the farm’s carbon footprint because of the reduction in transporting hay and grains.

Leftover fryer grease from the cafeteria goes to the farm and is added to hay to give cattle and goats a protein boost. “A coffee-can-size of fryer grease goes on a couple bales of hay. It’s run through a chopper so it all gets chopped together,” Kimler-Richards explains.

Peelings and other vegetable discards from the cafeteria also end up on the farm. They are composted along with manure from the barn animals. The finished compost enriches agricultural fields.

Chickens do their part via a traveling chicken coop. A horse trailer modified by welding students has solar panels on top and timer-operated doors that keep chickens inside and safe at night, then open in the morning so the free-ranging fowl can roam pastures where cattle have been.

“They scratch up manure piles, and that breaks up the parasite cycle and reduces the fly load,” Kimler-Richards says.

Sustainability on the farm also includes using goats instead of herbicides to keep some weeds in check and taking advantage of gray water from the college’s wastewater treatment facility to irrigate fields for nonfood crops.

The college added a sustainable agricultural degree six years ago. Kimler-Richards says the program is hands-on and encourages critical thinking. Students map out plans for crop rotation, conduct soil tests and get practice with a unique no-till drill that avoids the soil compaction and erosion associated with traditional disking and plowing. Shasta College’s sustainability efforts show up not just in instruction and campus operations, but also in outreach to the community.

“We’re a center of education,” Reed says. “Just being a portal of information about such things is a responsibility.” The Sustainability Committee plans an Earth Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 22 on the campus quad. It won’t be a guilt-tripping, “Why aren’t you a responsible earthling?” type of event, Reed promises. The goal is education, inspiration – and fun.

“It will be a throwback to the late ’60s in terms of being mellow and enjoying the day,” he says.