As climate change continues to affect the world with rising temperatures, increasing sea levels, and unusual heat waves, PCC looks to reduce their carbon footprint and increase methods of sustainability, but their print remains.
The momentum for sustainability at PCC is present with recent efforts in green building, water conservation, and promoting canteen use over plastic. Though top in the state in transfers, Pasadena City College hasn’t seen an award for sustainability in the last five years.
Second Nature awarded PCC climate leadership in 2010 for water conservation efforts that reduced use by 28% and for PCC’s partnership with LA Metro to provide low income students with semester passes. Also, the Center for the Arts building, constructed in 2012 with Measure P funds, represents what sustainable minded planning looks like. Their environmentally friendly features earned the LEED Gold Status from the U.S. Green Building Council.
PCC is legally required to divert 50% of debris away from landfills as per AB95. According to energy and sustainability supervisor Sarah Flores in an email, the campus has maintained 86% since 2010, surpassing the 50% requirement.
However, students are not behaving like a campus that exceeds sustainability expectations.
Alfred Ramirez, a PCC custodian for 14 years, has found careless items like keys, reusable water bottles, and sunglasses in the trash during post-collection. Not only are students leaving their canteens in the trash, but they are neglecting to check which bin they are throwing their trash into.
“Everyone is in a rush and if there is not a recycling dispenser at hands length then it goes in the trash. Another reason [for recycling apathy] can be lack of sustainability education and some people really just do not recycle,” Flores wrote. “Each time they are emptied [as needed everyday], there is about a 50/50 percentage of trash and recycling. This causes an additional 15 to 30 minutes per container [of sorting] depending on the size of the container.”
The sustainability committee now wants to bring Brita water filters to the Science Village to further reduce the use of plastic on campus. PCC’s effort to reducing plastic began two years ago with the first installments of more than seven Brita filters around campus, including the library and the C Building.
“If you’re in the science village, you don’t want to walk to the arts building to get water,” Vice President of Sustainability of Associated Students Natalie Batista said. “The individual filters inside the Brita filters are costly and make it difficult [to add filters in the science village].”
The average American consumes on average about 58 gallons of water a year according to a study reported by The Atlantic. With that statistic, PCC has a student body of over 30,000 with access to the fountains, not including faculty and visitors which is undeterminable.
This would assume the student body consumes up to 1,740,000 gallons per year. The Brita filters are suggested by the company to be changed every 44 gallons which would be 39,545 times a year. The average filter costs around $7 based on web research, totaling to $276,815 a year for the filters alone if the filters were changed the suggested frequency.
“Since the science village is outside, we can’t control who uses it. That’s our main concern because we do have the flow of homeless people coming in to try to bathe themselves [with the filters],” she continued. “It is [also] difficult to control who will access the filters during the weekend.”
It was reported in December 2016 that this Spring semester would be the last for the U-PASS at PCC, as the cost could be put to better use in other areas like combating homelessness. PCC has recently granted access for students who are without a home to use the showers in the gym.
Batista hopes to transition the next Vice President of Sustainability by filling them in on her long term goals, such as more recycling bins around campus and working with the UPASS committee to put aside a small portion of building space for a recycling center. The campus brings in only $400 for bottles and cans according to Flores, and that’s only from what is reached in post-collection.
“Yes, another parking lot would be nice and more classrooms. But if a small chunk could go to recycling I think that would be awesome,” Batista said.
Sustainability Week kicks off Monday, April 24 and lasts till April 27. According to Batista, there will be opportunities to win water bottles, donate perishable food to Lancer Pantry, and information booths on how students can live more sustainably.