By George Harvey
Greenfield Community College (GCC) has a set of sustainability programs. A Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency option prepares students to work in energy and efficiency industries, and leads to an Associate of Arts degree (AA) or to a certificate. An Environmental Science/Natural Resources option can start a student off toward such areas as conservation science and environmental policy and also leads to an AA or to a certificate. A Farm and Food Systems option has courses ranging from Permaculture Design to Four Season Farming and Beekeeping, and leads to an AA.
GCC also has a Sustainable Agriculture and Green Energy Education Center (SAGE). It is associated with both the Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency and Farm and Food Systems, but offers students and the extended community ways in which they can interact for the benefit of everyone involved. It enables contacts between students and potential employees, but it also provides resources for people outside the college who need them.
One thing SAGE does is to provide services for students in local primary and secondary schools. It is also affiliated with a number of other local organizations. For example, the SAGE program teaches organic gardening to women in transition in conjunction with two non-profit organizations in the Greenfield area. It also teaches organic gardening as a possible employment path to prison inmates. Peter Rosnick, the director of SAGE, points out, “Working with the soil is very healing. It is just what many people need to provide peace of mind.”
While it might sound odd to group agriculture with energy efficiency, there is a reason behind it that makes good sense. Sustainability requires a special understanding and mind-set, and there is some overlap in skills among people who work in different disciplines relating to it. A person who has the ability to write a grant proposal for sustainable education is likely to be able to write one for renewable energy, as well. Also the organizations that are interested in supporting one are likely to be interested in the other.
SAGE is continuing to grow, and has different avenues under consideration for development. One is a super-efficient greenhouse. It could get extra winter heat from a solar-thermal system, and it would be super-insulated to maintain that heat. It would make it possible to expand courses in organic gardening.
GCC has more involvement in renewable energy and sustainability than a few educational programs and SAGE. The college has general goals of its own. It has installed solar photovoltaics with a capacity of 81 kilowatts. They generate about 79,800 kilowatt-hours, saving the college over $11,000, each year; they have prevented about 180 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted. The system was installed by Pioneer Valley Photovoltaics.
GCC also has its own energy efficiency program. This has reduced energy expenses for the college by over 40%. The GCC goals are to reduce the carbon emissions, including not only its own emissions but those of other community members as well, and to provide a path to a sustainable future for everyone.
For more information, go to www.gcc.mass.edu/sustainability/programs.