© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
Second-year energy systems engineering technology students Justin McCarthy, left, and David Little were two of the Green Machine team behind the installation of two water fill stations on Holland College campuses in Charlottetown, which encourage the use of refillable containers.
The Green Machine has become a driving force for environmental education and more at Holland College campuses on Prince Edward Island.
Fuelled by the enthusiasm of a small group of students and staff, this volunteer group has been working to promote sustainability and exemplary environmental stewardship through education, conservation and community engagement.
The Green Machine started early in 2012 as a personal promise of sorts for Holland College staff member Joan Diamond, who was determined to put a stop to the waste of resources that she saw around her.
“I’ve been working at the college for 14 years and I constantly saw things happening that would just drive me crazy, like things not being sorted properly, people leaving lights on, (excessive) running water. So that was my New Year’s resolution that I was going to try to make a change,” she remembers.
Diamond applied for and received innovation funding through the college to start some type of group that would address these issues and more.
Thirty people attended that first Green Machine meeting, and there are currently about a dozen active members on the team.
“The original funding was through the Holland College President’s Innovation Funding, and we have since done some fundraising through some pretty innovative ideas that we’ve come up with. And that’s kept us sustainable as far as being active (with various projects),” Diamond says.
The first big Green Machine breakthrough event was a solar barbecue in early April 2012, which featured local and organic foods, as well as sustainable energy projects from the Energy Systems Engineering Technology program.
“Our class built solar air heaters — all different styles — and a solar cooker, and we put on a demonstration and invited the public,” says David Little, who is a second-year student in the energy systems engineering technology program at Holland College.
The group also partnered with Island Waste Management Corporation (IWMC) and Atlantic Canada Electronics Stewardship (ACES) and did a free roundup of electronic waste from the community for recycling.
It didn’t take long for the Green Machine team to encourage small alterations in typical practices that soon added up to big changes within the college.
One initiative focused on eliminating Styrofoam from food service areas and replacing it with compostable containers at all Holland College food service areas, as this was a common issue members voiced concern over.
“We thought that was one thing we could tackle. To this end, our Green Machine members have been working with food service managers to find sustainable packaging for all our campuses.
“To be honest, we have had great success that way. We expected a bit of resistance, but really we haven’t gotten that. Most of our ideas have been really well accepted,” Diamond adds.
Water, in fact, is one of the key issues that the Green Machine has focused on.
In December, the members introduced the WaterWorks campaign to raise awareness on college campuses and the community about water issues in and around the Charlottetown area.
The Green Machine received funding from the City of Charlottetown through its Inspired City Micro Grant Project for its campaign, which is aimed at educating people about the proliferation of plastic bottle use and the effects of the increasing shortage of water in the Winter River Watershed.
An integral piece of this campaign includes the installation of aerators and low-flow showerheads on all old taps and showers on the Prince of Wales campus and in Glendenning Hall, the college’s Charlottetown residence. Two new water fill stations funded by the Green Machine have also been put into place at the Prince of Wales Campus and the Tourism and Culinary Centre.
“With recycling it’s hard to see the outcome of it; you know it’s a good thing but you don’t see it affecting you,” says first-year energy systems engineering technology student Aaron Hicken. “But one of the things I like about one of the new water (fill stations) at the C.A.S.T. (Centre for Applied Science and Technology) building is that it tells you right there how many bottles of water you are saving by refilling your container or by drinking from the fountain.
“So it’s immediately gratifying, I guess you could say.”
Something as simple as posters reminding students to power down equipment in the computer lab have eliminated the need for alert Green Machine members to constantly be shutting them down at night.
“It’s something that we really had to drive home,” Little says. “It’s something that we noticed at the very beginning when we started the program last year. The first thing that Justin and I mentioned was that the C.A.S.T. Building was supposed to be state-of-the-art, but the computers were always on. You could see the glowing light from the computer room (at all hours), but no one in there . . . .
“We decided to put a couple of posters up and we did notice a difference. You go in now and you might still see one or two on, but they’re almost all off.”
With each incoming rotation of students, the educating process begins anew.
“It’s a re-education campaign every year, so it’s more about finding ways to reach out to the student population at the start of the year. This past year we organized the barbecue for student orientation (day) and we had people man the sorting stations to help the new students know where compost, recyclables and waste went,” says Justin McCarthy, who is a second-year energy systems engineering technology student.
“Most of the students are not from P.E.I., and some provinces sort (garbage) and some don’t . . . ,” Diamond adds.
There have been Random Acts of Greenness and Recycle My Cell campaigns, a lunch and learn series, a movie presentation of the documentary Bottled Life and even a Mug Shots contest where people could post pictures on themselves with their refillable container on Facebook to win a weekly prize.
The Green Machine is also considering putting together an information package including instructional videos, for the next school year to motivate staff and students about the energy conserving, recycling and waste reducing projects on the go at Holland College.
“I think it’s an awareness thing for at least my age group . . . ,” Hicken says. “And this is one of the things we talked about in meetings is getting that awareness out there and making people realize that it’s really important to do things like recycle, even if it takes you an extra minute to stand at a garbage can and empty your food tray.”