OCC developing sustainability-focused curriculum

Tightly packed recyclables ready for shipment out of the OCC Recycling Center in Dec. 2022.

Sustainability is a trend making waves of change around the world. More than one-third of global consumers have begun to realize the importance of sustainability and feel a sense of responsibility to the planet. The awareness of climate change, deforestation, pollution and other environmental issues has given people the extra push to change their ways.

Orange Coast College is no stranger to the sustainability trend and has made many efforts to minimize its carbon footprint. In 2018, the school placed solar panels over the Adams Avenue parking lot. These panels save the college money and provide electricity to power half the campus. 

OCC is home to one of the oldest college recycling centers in the country. It currently has three sustainability certifications.

The Recycling Center worked with the Associated Students of Orange Coast College on sustainability initiatives on campus. They added refillable water bottle stations around campus and also have transportation initiatives. Around campus there are many skateboard racks where skateboards can be locked up, as well as bicycle repair stations. The Recycling Center plans to add more initiatives in the future. 

“Sustainability is a matter of justice,” said Leo Stiles, head of the OCC Recycling Center. “It’s justice not just with the people that are living now and all over the world but also future generations.”

The team that initiates these proactive changes is the Sustainability Committee. Its goal is to make the campus better for current and future students.

OCC is in the process of developing a new sustainability curriculum, set to roll out in the next few years. The Sustainability Committee is currently collaborating with staff and faculty from multiple departments to establish a curriculum that meets sustainable standards. 

The new curriculum would focus on ways of incorporating sustainable practices into different subjects in a variety of majors. Students would learn how to be sustainable from experts on topics including making eco-friendly clothing and preventing food waste. With this program, students will be able to take classes to eventually obtain a sustainability certificate from a range of different majors like fashion, chemistry, horticulture, culinary arts and more. 

The program piques the interest of students like Chelsey Barrera.

“I think that would be great if that was a class and students could take it for units for a degree or transfer and it would help us practice sustainability, so in the next generation we are more knowledgeable about the effects we have on our planet,” Barrera said. 

There is no official date for when this new curriculum will be available to students, but it is currently being discussed and planned between the Sustainability Committee and CCCD Board of Trustees.

In the meantime, there are other opportunities for students to get involved with sustainability on campus.

OCC is planning to host Green Coast Day, a sustainability event that occurs every year and will be returning this spring. OCC staff, faculty and students show interest in continuing to improve sustainability standards campus wide. 

John Fawcett, instructional lab coordinator and member of the Sustainability Committee, explained what students can do to get started in sustainability.

“Get involved, become more aware, take some personal steps to make your movement in the world more sustainable,” Fawcett said. 

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