Posted on: November 12, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Marcus Collins

Moraine Valley provides electric vehicle charging stations on campus as part of its sustainability efforts.

By Mariah Trujillo, News Editor

While the world’s leaders work to solve the climate crisis, Moraine Valley has lost its sustainability manager and has no immediate plans to replace her, and the college may be falling behind on President Sylvia Jenkins’ pledge to become carbon neutral by 2042.

Moraine’s sustainability efforts have been a source of pride for the college for the past two decades. The college has pledged to be carbon neutral through the Climate Action Plan, participated in the Illinois Green Economy Network, and even developed a full-time sustainability manager position to advocate and coordinate progress.

This position was “a major step forward that provided an internal advocate, information broker, and coordinator for the many initiatives undertaken by the college,” said Troy Swanson, president of the Moraine Valley Faculty Association.

Stephenie Presseller, who held the position, resigned in late June and has yet to be replaced. According to Richard Hendricks, vice president of Administrative Services, the college has no plans to fill that position any time soon, as he said other vacant positions take priority.

Are we on track [to being carbon neutral]? I don’t know…Our intent is to comply by 2042, but you and I both keep our fingers crossed that it’ll get done.”

Richard Hendricks, VP of Administrative Services

Meanwhile, world leaders on Saturday gathered to discuss all matters of climate change, including rising ocean levels and drastic temperature changes, eventually settling on an agreement that left many people feeling unsatisfied. The agreement called for urgency on the climate crisis, but by the time action is taken, scientists say it may be too late.

“I came across a news headline that basically said CBS News is reporting the climate summit was a failure, and that’s a shame,” said Hendricks. “It’s a technology issue, I mean you can get a lot of people together and they can talk a lot about climate and sustainability but until the technology gets there, it’s just not going to happen.”

Hendricks called into question whether Moraine Valley will be able to follow through on its promise to become carbon neutral by 2042.

“Are we on track? I don’t know, because I don’t know where the technology is in the industry, we’re dependent on that. I’m not an engineer,” he said. “Until the industries come up with the technology to do that, I quite honestly can’t tell you if we’re on track because I don’t control enough pieces of the puzzle. So, yes, our intent is to comply by 2042, but you and I both keep our fingers crossed that it’ll get done.”

It’s somewhat unclear where Moraine stands in terms of its green efforts, as the sustainability timeline on the college website, a record of yearly progress, hasn’t been updated since 2016.

Without a sustainability manager, efforts could stall further. Hendricks says the position is unlikely to be filled “in the near future.”

“But that has nothing to do with that position in itself,” he said. “It’s basically the effect of the pandemic and the operations of the Administrative Services division. There’s just a lot of COVID [effects] and open positions throughout the division that I’ve been working on.”

Over the past two years, enrollment rates at Moraine Valley have declined, leaving the administration with a tighter budget and even greater restrictions.

Photo by Marcus Collins
Moraine has installed Bring Your Own Bottle Hydration Stations as part of its sustainability efforts.

“The enrollment declines of the past two years have had a negative impact on our budgets, and the college has held off filling many open positions where employees have left for other jobs,” said Swanson. “As we come out of the pandemic, we need to stabilize our budgets and ensure that we can provide services to our students.” 

Swanson said that does not diminish the importance of continuing the college’s commitment to sustainability, however: “In light of the recent climate summit in Europe and the mounting evidence that the climate crisis is going to get worse before it gets better, Moraine Valley needs to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint.”

While sustainability efforts at Moraine have taken a hit, smaller projects in recent years have kept the efforts moving. Some of the greatest changes revolve around replacing neon light bulbs with LED ones and replacing old cooling and heating systems.

Hendricks said work continues, thanks to a grant from the Illinois Green Economy Network.

“We put about $130,000 worth of LED light fixtures in several buildings over the course of this calendar year,” said Hendricks. “In addition, we have been replacing a lot of our heating and cooling plant equipment and that’s been going on for years and years. We don’t have tons of money in the bank so we do a little bit every year so, over the course of 20 years, we can replace everything.”

Another project in the works is the installation of solar panels on the roofs of several buildings. The cost of installation is being covered by the developer, though the project has been stalled until now due to engineering issues, Hendricks said.

 “It’s 5,000 panels that are proposed to provide electricity, in part, to the campus,” he said. “That’s an ongoing project that hopefully in calendar 2022, that work will be done.”

In light of the recent climate summit in Europe and the mounting evidence that the climate crisis is going to get worse before it gets better, Moraine Valley needs to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Troy Swanson, Faculty Association President

All across the world, people are struggling with not only accepting the climate crisis but also finding ways to save our planet.

Jana Svec, a Moraine Valley environmental science professor, lists numerous ways individuals can help address the crisis, including signing up for renewable energy, planting trees and native plants, investing in energy-efficient vehicles, and avoiding single-use products.

And of course, she says we should “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

“We need to communicate much better when it comes to global warming because we see the problem much further away and into the future when in fact, it’s here and now,” said Svec. “Each person can make a difference, no matter how small. It must start somewhere.”