Keeping It Green at Oakton

Your source for the most current sustainability news from Oakton Community College


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Results of Lake Oakton Fish Survey

We were thrilled to have members from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) on campus last week to conduct a fish survey on Lake Oakton as part of Campus Sustainability Month. This series of events on college and university campuses across the nation are held in conjunction with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Not only were were thrilled to learn that our Lake is healthy, but we were impressed by the number of species found living here!

Led by District Fisheries Biologist, Frank Jakubicek, two dozen students, several employees, and community members learned  about biodiversity assessment on campus and had a chance to engage in recording data about the findings. Frank was impressed by the health and vitality of our largemouth bass population–a secret that is already out among a small group of avid fisherfolk who visit our campus regularly. Other species included bluegill, gizzard shad, pumpkinseed sunfish, white sucker and warmouth. This proved to be an amazing learning opportunity for so many, particularly those students involved in our Environmental Studies Concentration. Registration is open NOW for Spring Semester. Sign up for your ESC courses today!

Check out the full report: Oakton Community College Pond Supplemental Survey Report 2017

Photos courtesy of Paul Gulezian:

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October is Campus Sustainability Month!

As a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Oakton is proud to celebrate our efforts through Campus Sustainability Month! All events are free and open to the public, no rsvp required. The events below are offered in part by the Sustainability Center, Green Committee, Environmental Studies Concentration, Peace and Social Justice Studies, and Honors Program. We hope you will join us!

October 7: Solar Energy Tour at Skokie Campus 10am-3pm

October 17: IDNR Fish Survey at Des Plaines Campus 2:30pm-4:30pm

October 17: My Trip to the Amazon – A Great Adventure, Life Science instructor David Arieti at Des Plaines Campus, Lee Center Room 210 and streaming live in C240, Skokie Campus from 5:30pm to 7:00pm

October 23: Merchants of Doubt Film Screening at Skokie Campus, 2:00pm to 4:00pm, C133

October 25: Factory Farming Awareness Coalition—Hungry for Knowledge? Presentation at Des Plaines Campus, 12:30pm to 1:45pm in Room 2139 2139 (We hope to live stream this presentation—check the Keepin’ It Green blog or Green Committee Facebook page for details!)

October 26: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Film Screening at Des Plaines Campus with Live Stream Q&A from former Vice President Al Gore, 5:45pm to 8:30pm in Room 1606

October 30: Merchants of Doubt Merchants of Doubt Film Screening at Des Plaines Campus, 2:00pm to 4:00pm, Room 1608

November 2: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Film Screening at Skokie Campus, 11:00am to 1:00pm in Room C250

Full details for each event are listed below!

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Eclipse 2017: Check it out on campus!

On Monday, August 21, 2017 we will have the awesome opportunity to observe a solar eclipse. What an amazing way to celebrate the first day of classes for Fall semester! Though our area is not in the path of totality (where the moon completely covers the sun), we will be able to see about 86% coverage.  If you plan to be on campus that day, please join us in viewing this awe-inspiring sight.

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(image copyright bigstockphoto.com/Solarseven)

In our area, the eclipse will begin around 11:53am and end around 2:41 pm with maximum coverage around 1:19pm. Members of Oakton faculty and staff will be available with approved safety solar eclipse glasses** on both campuses from 12:45pm through 2:00pm.

Des Plaines Campus: Walkway between the Lee Center and the Enrollment Center entrance of the main building.

Skokie Campus: Near the flagpole on the Mulford side of the building.

We hope you’ll join us for this amazing experience! If you cannot make it, you can check out a live stream of the eclipse from Astronomy Magazine here. And you’ll also be able to note a drop in our energy generation from our solar panels on campus!

**Please remember that looking directly at the sun even when it is is 86% covered is NOT safe and you could suffer long-term vision damage if you do not take proper precautions. Only use ISO 12312-2 certified glasses from reputable vendors for viewing the eclipse or utilize indirect methods such as pinhole viewers to observe the changing shadows instead. Pinhole viewers, regular sunglasses, or film are not suitable for direct viewing of the sun! This short video from the American Astrological Society (AAS) is super helpful for understanding the eclipse and associated safety precautions. **


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New Solar Array on Skokie’s Campus and Opportunity to Learn about Solar Energy!

When President Joianne Smith signed the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge in December 2015, Oakton Community College joined over 200 higher education institutions committed to climate action.  One of Oakton’s commitments as part of that pledge was recently realized with the addition of a 25kW photovoltaic array at its Skokie campus.  Installation of the roof-mounted system, consisting of approximately 80 solar panels, was completed on June 20.

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Since the system has been operational, it has generated 5.27MWh of energy, enough to power more than 15,000 light bulbs for one day. This helps to prevent roughly 3,700 kilograms of carbon dioxide being released into the environment, equivalent to planting 201 trees. Incorporating renewable energy is one important way of reducing the college’s impact on the environment, but it is also something that is of high value to our students, who regularly tell us this is an area they hope the college continues to pursue.

For students interested in learning more about the technology involved in arrays like this one, Oakton is offering a Fundamentals of Solar Energy Systems course (ELT 154) on Wednesday evenings this Fall. Registration for this course is open until September 6, 2017. In addition to the new solar array, the Skokie campus is home to a test system that is easily accessible for enrolled students and provides them with hands-on experience working with solar panels. This course can be used to meet requirements for the Environmental Studies Concentration.

Live data from the solar array will soon be incorporated into the college’s existing Energy Dashboard which can be found on Oakton’s website. For now though, the data can be found here: https://monitoringpublic.solaredge.com/solaredge-web/p/site/public?name=Oakton Community College Skokie Campus#/dashboard

We hope you’ll check it out!

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Register NOW! Principles and Practice of Ecological Restoration

Here at Oakton, we are thrilled about our new Environmental Studies Concentration and the academic growth, hands-on experiences, and broadened horizons it will bring to our students and our campus. This spring, we are excited to share a brand new course: Principles and Practice of Ecological Restoration (Listed in the catalog as: Topics in Biology: Principles and Practice of Ecological Restoration – 31773 – BIO 290 – 001).

This immersive and hands-on course will educate students on the history and importance of ecological restoration practices and allow them to put classroom knowledge to the test with hands-on restoration projects on campus. This is excellent training for individuals who may be interested in careers related to ecology, restoration, natural resources, forestry, environmental science, or related work areas. However, it is also a great experience for anyone who cares about the natural world and wants to spend time learning about and protecting our local wild spaces.

Held on Tuesdays from 2:00pm to 6:10pm on our Des Plaines Campus, the 3-credit course runs September 19 through December 12. If you are not currently an Oakton student, but would like to sign up for this class, we invite you to apply for admission now!

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Banning the Bottle at Oakton

On November 1, 2016, Oakton Community College’s “ban the bottle” campaign became official. Bottled water will no longer be sold in our cafeterias, vending machines, or at catered events. This initiative, powered by students in an Honors course and carried on by Students for Social Justice, is a clear example of the broad impact our students can have on their surroundings when they work with dedication, passion, and research. To learn more about their role in making this initiative happen, please check out this Chicago Tribune article from April 2016.

The purpose of the initiative is to draw awareness to the social implications and environmental impacts of the bottling process. Among the many concerns:

  • Privatizing water sources drains wells and aquifers, hurting farmers, communities, and ecosystems.
  • Bottling companies are not subjected to the same regulatory and health testing as municipal water sources, so it is hard to determne the safety of the water.
  • Often, bottling companies are bottling filtered tap water and selling it back to you for 240 to over 10,000 times the cost.
  • Three liters of water are required to produce one liter of bottled water and only 27 percent of bottles are properly recycled, ending up in oceans and landfills instead.

To find out more, please visit www.banthebottle.net.

Refill your re-usable bottles with filtered water at our hydration stations in the cafeteria and other sites throughout campus. It is important to note that both Des Plaines and Skokie provide clean, safe drinking water which is subjected to intensive regulatory testing on an annual basis. Please check out their respective websites to download the most recent water quality reports.

Village of Skokie, Public Works Department, Water and Sewer Division

Des Plaines, Water System Division

As a proactive step in verifying health and safety of drinking water on campus, we worked with a contractor to sample our water fountains and fill stations. The results indicate high water quality on both campuses. Read the full water testing reportFollow up water testing was conducted for points that showed slightly elevated levels of copper, which were eliminated/reduced by flushing the system. It is now part of our regular maintenance schedule to flush to our fountains in order to maintain high water quality.

During the month of October, we also held a water taste test on both campuses to raise awareness of the ban and see if individuals really did have a preference for bottled water. We were pleased to discover that water from our filtered hydration stations on campus came in at the top!

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For questions and concerns, please contact greenteam@oakton.edu.