Parkland ramps up sustainability awareness

Scott Barnes

Staff Writer

Parkland College is working to raise awareness for its environmental sustainability initiatives through efforts such as classroom lectures, honors programs,

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus Parkland College provides students opportunities to learn more about sustainable practices.

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus
Parkland College provides students opportunities to learn more about sustainable practices.

and working with student organizations,

Sustainability Coordinator Thor Peterson was hired on to fill the new position late last year. Now in his second semester here at Parkland, he has been busy developing and implementing new ways in which students can learn about sustainability.

Peterson explained that sustainability is about much more than just environmental consciousness or conservation, it is a forward way of thinking that will shape the way in which future generations live.

“Businesses, nonprofits and governments will all be learning to operate successfully in a more uncertain and resource-depleted world, and working hard to avoid creating environmental and health messes that they’ll be obliged to clean up down the road,” Peterson said.

Many employers in various professions are looking for employees who are savvy about sustainable practices.

“By learning about sustainability issues now, students will have a leg up on future jobs, and have a base of knowledge that will help them identify whole new career paths as they emerge,” Peterson said. “And ultimately, a good grasp of sustainability issues translates into an ability to identify and solve challenges. Effective problem solving, I believe, is one of the main skill sets just about any employer or angel investor is looking for.”

Peterson is helping create a specialization within the honors program that focuses on sustainability. The honors program was designed to provide opportunities to ambitious students who are interested in enhancing their academic abilities through various projects and community events. Students who are a part of the program are required to complete three projects during their time at Parkland.

At least one of the projects has to be a service learning project, and that is where the concept of sustainability comes into play. Peterson will be on hand to help students who are interested in sustainability develop project ideas for the honors program.

Honors Program Director Marsh Jones explained that students are interested in sustainability and said that students have taken on sustainability projects in the past.

“It’s definitely a popular approach or project for honors students to do across the nation. There’s a lot more people doing sustainability as an option,” Jones said.

Peterson explained that he is also currently involved in a pilot project to introduce sustainability-focused awards—badges and certificates—that can be applied to multiple courses here at Parkland. These badges and certificates will recognize a student’s action to supplement basic course requirements with sustainability-related learning, research and activities.

According to Peterson, in some cases, at the faculty’s discretion, these badges will allow the student to earn extra credit, and the certificates will be both printable and portable into Mozilla Backpack to serve as a long-term record of achievement.

Peterson also encourages students to get involved and share their own ideas.

“I’m hoping to work with existing student clubs to initiate environment and sustainability-focused projects,” Peterson said. “Any student is welcome and encouraged to stop by my office in Student Life to chat about potential projects and ideas to improve Parkland’s sustainability performance.”

Heidi Leuszler is a professor in the natural sciences department at Parkland. She does a myriad of things both in the classroom and around campus to promote and teach sustainability. She explained that learning about sustainable practices in a classroom setting helps students develop comprehensive skills that can be applied to real life situations.

“Looking at real-life situations also helps us to see how complex sustainability can be because many people will have differing views of the situations. That means students will also have differing trade-offs, and differing solutions,” Leuszler said. “Working through such complexities in the classroom will hopefully encourage students to work through the same complexities in the workplace, in their communities, and in the world.”

Students who would like to get involved and are interested in learning more about sustainability can visit Peterson in his office, which is located in student life.