De Anza is the first community college to be certified as a Bay Area Green Business.

Da Silva, Aji, Jones-DulinThe program distinguishes organizations that protect, sustain and preserve the environment. The city of Cupertino has also awarded the college with a GreenBiz certification, an offshoot of the Bay Area Green Business program.

"It was a lot of hard work by my staff and the students," said Manny DaSilva, custodial operations manager. "We're excited our efforts will conserve our natural resources for the future."

The college has been working toward certification for two years. The process began when Environmental Studies student Sujata Aji and four others took on a sustainability project with the City of Cupertino for Kristin Sullivan's ES 56 class. Aji, the team lead, worked with city officials to conduct staff interviews and visual assessments to get GreenBiz certification for the Kirsch Center and Auto Tech building. The Auto Tech program has been certified since early 2014.

"In Kristin's class, I was introduced to the idea of sustainability and the concrete application of sustainability projects," said Aji. "More than anything else I was challenging myself. I discovered a passion and really stuck with it for the next two years."

green biz logoAji proposed making an effort to get the whole campus certified instead of approaching the project building by building. The college administration was immediately on board.

"De Anza was already committed to environmental justice and sustainability," said Donna Jones-Dulin, associate vice president of College Operations. "This was an opportunity to build on what we were already doing and to have a lasting impact on the college, the city and the environment."

Aji, new team lead Elizabeth Flores-Lathan and a group of ES 56 students began assessing every building on campus. Aji compiled all the data and photos into spreadsheets, and last June, the city issued the college an assessment report summarizing all the findings and recommended actions. In December, representatives from Santa Clara County toured the campus -- a necessary step in the certification.

"There was an enormous amount of data for each building," Aji added. "But I could see an end goal and I was excited about that end goal."

Cupertino mayor Barry Chang presented Aji, DaSillva and Dulin with a business proclamation recognizing the school's environmental achievements at the City Council meeting on April 19. Cupertino looked to De Anza for best practices when forming its Sustainability Office seven years ago.

"De Anza College has a legacy of environmental leadership that compels students, staff and its broader community to continuously aspire towards new opportunities to achieve greater gains for our shared environment," said Erin Cooke, the city's environmental affairs coordinator. "By embedding sustainable practices across the operational portfolio of the campus, in partnership with De Anza's esteemed and progressive Office of College Operations...the campus is assured that it is not just recognized as an environmental leader, but embeds sustainability into the way it does business."

The Bay Area Green Business Program is a partnership of local environmental agencies and utilities. They verify that participating businesses conserve energy and water, minimize waste, prevent pollution and shrink their carbon footprints. At an interactive sustainability workshop last month, Jones-Dulin and Joe Cooke, grounds supervisor, presented several notable steps the campus has taken toward sustainability and green business certification.

  • The Campus Center uses biodegradable paper products and organic food from local sources.
  • The Campus Center has switched from open dumpsters requiring daily pickup to a composting compactor picked up once a week.
  • The composted material is used on the athletics fields in place of chemical fertilizers.
  • Approximately 90 percent of the campus is on a computerized network connected to the on-campus weather station.
  • The weather station adjusts the rate of irrigation daily based on temperature, humidity and solar radiation.
  • Grounds staff is able to use that information to use the correct amount of water for the various native, drought-tolerant plants on campus.
  • Water bottle filling stations are in various locations across campus to discourage the use of plastic.
  • Low-flow showers are installed in the PE area.

(originally posted on April 21, 2016)

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