Tag Archives: sustainability

Celebrate Earth Week at Parkland College

SCC 2016 Sustainabilty CV 1920x1080

Parkland College has celebrated Earth Day, Earth Week, and even Earth Month each April for a number of years, with activities planned and organized by members of the Sustainable Campus Committee. But this year, we celebrate this week with activities planned by Parkland students, in a group so newly formed, they are just undergoing approval for official student club status!

Read on to see how the upcoming Parkland Students for Sustainability Club hit the ground running. Students, staff, and community members are welcome to attend these events, all held in the Student Union, room U142, by the cafeteria stage.

Tuesday, April 19: Focus on Sustainable Transportation

As a commuter campus, a significant portion of Parkland’s carbon footprint is attributed to transportation impacts, primarily from car commuting. Learn about ways to lower your pollution contribution, and how Parkland can plan and build to reduce transportation impacts. Mass transit and bicycling are also good for you; learn about the health benefits of sustainable transportation alternatives.

9am-10am: Join Ben Leroy, associate planner with the City of Champaign, to learn about how Parkland connects to Champaign’s transportation infrastructure and what we can do to support both better connectivity and a larger percentage of bicycle and bus commuters.

11am-1pm:

  • Come provide your ideas and input on how Parkland’s campus can be more connected, accessible, and encouraging of outdoor activity for people of all ages and abilities. We’ll have a big map and idea board.
  • Bike maintenance and cycling safety demonstration with Neutral Cycle (12:30pm start time)
  • Strategies and financial implications of car-free living
  • Mapping out existing and desired campus features for fitness, access to nature, and universal design
  • Resources from CU-MTD to make bus riding to campus easy and economical.

Wednesday, April 20: Eat Local!

11am-1pm:

  • Try samples and browse a pop-up mini grocery store of local foods including produce, bread, cheese, and coffee from Prairie Fruits Farm, Blue Moon Farm, Sola Gratia Farm, Great Harvest Bread, and Columbia Street Roastery.
  • Learn how to make great seasonal meals with pointers and recipes from Community-Supported Agriculture businesses in our region.
  • Find out about the Champaign Farmers Market’s double-your-money purchasing incentive program for individuals and families who qualify for SNAP benefits.
  • Hear how the Wesley Food Pantry helps reduce food insecurity right here in Chambana, and about opportunities to both use this community resource and volunteer to support its mission.
  • Check out the sun using a solar telescope, and learn about the science of the seasons from the Parkland Astronomy Club.

Thursday, April 21: DIY Green

How can you make your day-to-day activities healthier and more environmentally responsible? Join us for a series of activities that will save you money, reduce your exposure to chemicals, and lighten your environmental impact all at the same time.

11am-1pm:

  • Green cleaning: learn about the simple, low-toxic products that can be used instead of commercial cleaning products. They’re effective and safer for family and pets.
  • Natural personal care products: store-bought personal care products and cosmetics can contain chemical toxins and hormone-disruptors. Find out how to make your own personal care products to save both money and the environment!
  • Receive a small dose of toxicology! Learn about the health impacts of home cleaning and personal care products from the Parkland Science Club.
  • Paper or plastic? Neither! Bring a used T-shirt and we’ll help make it into a one-of-a-kind reusable shopping tote!
  • Become water-wise at home: learn how to check your toilet tank for silent leaks that could be costing your household hundreds of dollars a year in unneeded water and sewer charges. And bring home water-saving faucet aerators and shower heads (while supplies last) that will lower your utility bills the minute you install them. We’ll give demonstrations on how to easily install these money- and resource-saving devices.

Attend these events to learn about living more sustainably, and if you are interested in learning more or joining the student club, please email tpeterson@parkland.edu.

 

[Thor Peterson is the sustainability coordinator for Parkland College.]

What’s In a Prairie?

You have heard Illinois called the Prairie State, but do you know what a prairie is? Hint: it’s NOT weeds!

Before the state was settled, 60 percent of Illinois (22 million+ acres) was covered by vast expanses of tallgrass. The deep  prairie plants’ roots (up to 15 feet!) make topsoils incredibly productive, and thus fertile for agriculture.  The invention of the John Deere self-scouring plow in 1837 made it possible to break up the prairie sod and change it into farmland. Many prairies still existed at that time, however, because there was too much water in many soils to farm well. By 1935, enough drain tile had been laid in Illinois to thoroughly drain off the soil water into drainage ditches, allowing the productive soils to be intensely farmed. 

Today, only 2,000 acres of prairie remain in Illinois (that’s .0001 percent).

You might be familiar with big bluestem, Illinois’ official prairie grass, but did you know there are about 150 kinds of grasses native to  prairies, including Indian grass, wild rye, and switchgrass? Native prairie wildflowers (forbs) include coneflowers, compass and cup plants with their bright yellow flowers, and milkweeds–the only plant species that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on. Prairies also provide habitat for hundreds of animal species. Check out the Illinois Plant Information Network database, which lists 851 species of plants native to Illinois prairies. 

Parkland’s prairie restoration, located due east of the Student Union, was started in the 1990s through the efforts of former biology professors Rich Blazier and Earl Creutzberg, along with community members and organizations and Parkland students. Today’s environmental and plant biology students learn about prairie and other ecosystems in Parkland’s natural land areas and regularly participate in prairie workdays, learning how to maintain prairies by collecting seeds, helping with prairie burns, and removing invasive plants.

Parkland’s Sustainable Campus Committee and Physical Plant hope to expand the prairie restoration by about 15 acres, including large tracts behind the Athletics track and small showy native flower beds by the buildings. This could eliminate hours of mowing, lowering the college’s carbon footprint by reducing fuel use. It also means beautiful flowers throughout the growing season. Planting tallgrass prairie costs less than planting turf grass, and requires little maintenance. Tallgrass prairie helps control drainage, prevents erosion, brings important pollinators to the area, and reminds us of our natural heritage.

 

Jonathan from Illinois Soil and Water Conservation
Jonathan from Illinois Soil and Water Conservation District loads prairie seed into the planter.

Parkland biology professor Heidi Leuszler recently worked with Pheasants Forever to establish a new one-acre tallgrass prairie across the Perimeter Drive in front of the union. The seed mix included about 75 species of prairie plants native to east-central soils.

Now that you know about Parkland’s prairie restoration, watch from the big windows in the welcome areaor better yet, walk right out the front door—to see how prairie changes over the seasons, and observe the wildlife that finds a safe home in Parkland’s prairie.