To say the Johnson County Community College Center for Sustainability is doing their part environmentally would be an understatement. Between their 2,000 square foot warehouse, compost shed, first-ever satellite rain catcher and 2.5 acre farm, the Center for Sustainability has made a positive impact on not only JCCC but the wider community as well.
Krystal Anton, Recycling and Waste Minimization Coordinator, along with her five interns, take care of the day-to-day tasks of this program. Recycling receptacles are situated across the campus to collect a variety of materials. Along with the receptacles across campus, Krystal and her interns manage the Warehouse, south yard, compost shed and farm which makes up the rest of the program’s efforts.
The Warehouse, located in the northwest corner of campus, houses a great deal of JCCC’s sustainability efforts. While a variety of recyclable materials are collected and delivered to the Warehouse, the most commonly collected item is electronic waste. Each building on campus has a receptacle for E-waste, making it easier for employees, students and even the general public to properly dispose of their outdated electronics. JCCC partners with MRC, an E-waste company in Kansas City, to properly recycle and dispose of the materials.
The Warehouse is just the beginning of the integrated waste reduction and recycling system at JCCC. The compost shed is not far from the Warehouse and is easy to find – due to the smell! JCCC’s interns claim that one can get used to it after spending extensive amounts of time in it. Interns collect food scraps from kitchens and compost bins on campus.
In order to pick up the composting, the interns drive a small electric truck. Sydney, one of the interns, says this is the most fun part of doing compost rounds. Interns deliver the compost to the shed and then put the waste in a mixer. Adding saw dust from a local cabinet company and wood chips from trees that have been cut down on campus, the mixer dries the waste and adds carbon. This mixture then transitions through the only in-vessel composter (about 15 feet in length) in Kansas. The compostable materials spend about 10 days going from one end of the vessel to the other. When it emerges, it is, according to Krystal, “pretty much dirt with lemon peels in it”, given lemon peels do not compost very well. The dirt mixture is hardly recognizable as what was formerly food.
Just pass the compost shed, the JCCC farm can be spotted up on the hill, close to College Boulevard. The farm includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, plants and even a full size hoop house (think green house). The Center for Sustainability is responsible for harvesting, pulling weeds and whatever else is needed to maintain the garden.
The most notable object residing in the garden is the satellite rain catcher, which Krystal proudly believes to be the first of its kind. The satellite rain catcher collects and directs rain water into the garden. It is constructed from a large satellite disk, wood from old campus bleachers and a large square plastic container which used to belong to Coca Cola. Dan, one of the interns, designed and built the structure.
The Center for Sustainability has also launched a new and innovative way to involve the JCCC community through an auction. Employees sign up to attend bi-monthly auctions where they can bid on old office furniture. The furniture that is not sold is donated to Surplus Exchange.
It is apparent there is a sizable amount of curiosity present within the team of interns and those involved in the Center for Sustainability at JCCC. They are always thinking of ways to be more efficient and to more effectively reach their program goals. Quality control is an important component. Josh is one of the summer interns and said he enjoys doing waste audits more than anything else on the job. “I love getting a clipboard and seeing how effective our transition points are,” Josh said. Krystal taught him how to effectively analyze the materials in the trash that is collected.
“If you do a really dirty job, you get some sick satisfaction out of it. Nobody does this but us, and it’s kind of weird,” Dan said with a smile on his face. “You start to look at garbage differently.”
There are many more questions for this team to answer and many more opportunities for them to expand their already thorough program. In the meantime, the team continues to put an abundant amount of time and energy into bettering both their immediate and the wider community, doing so to an impressive degree.