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holyoke community college

Holykoke Community College

In late February I had the opportunity to attend the Toward Zero Net Energy (TZNE) Retrofit Program “Charrette” ‒ a collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem ‒ at Holyoke Community College (HCC). The purpose of this charrette was to look at how to create a more sustainable campus at HCC and dramatically reduce campus energy use. As a sustainability student, this charrette was both exciting and informative as I was able to witness how decisions are made at the school as well as recognize how passionate participants are about energy efficiency and renewable energy.

In a world where sustainability has yet to become a major concern for the average person, I am inspired to see what HCC has planned for its future. Last semester, my class worked on sustainability targets for HCC and was successful in convincing the Sustainability Committee to ban plastic water bottles, retrofit water refill stations, use compostable tableware, and upgrade the composting system. At this charrette, I was pleased to learn that HCC has gone even further to include projects such as rainwater harvesting, hybrid solar thermal, real-time energy management, lighting upgrades, electrical phantom power reduction, external insulation, plumbing fixture upgrades, and a solar dehumidifier for the exercise room.

I also learned that HCC has aggressive clean energy goals for 2020, including a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 30% renewable energy target of total campus electric consumption. HCC is one of 700 state sites that will undergo energy efficiency retrofits through the Commonwealth’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), clearly demonstrating the state’s intent to “lead by example” and show what state facilities can accomplish.

charrette meeting

Charrette brainstorm

Participation from faculty, staff, students, and state representatives was critical to an effective brainstorming session. Everyone quickly agreed that a transformation of the human mindset is imperative for a sustainable future. We discussed the need to incorporate education about energy use and efficiency as a way to get the entire campus community involved and excited about sustainability efforts, hopefully inspiring individual lifestyle changes as well. Ideas we considered:

  • Create an interactive dashboard where people are able to see clean energy being generated as well as energy being saved.
  • Integrate sustainability projects into every field of study at HCC: English students writing papers about the projects and photography students journaling projects through pictures.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless while constantly learning about the negative effects people are having on the earth. Issues like climate change, water shortages and overflowing landfills are all problems our generation will have to address. Despite these and other concerns, I felt empowered to participate in such a meaningful discussion and am excited to be a student at a school that cares this much about the future of the earth and my education. I look forward to seeing some of the ideas from the charrette turned into reality as they will be a fantastic learning tool for future students and an eye-opener for the many people who are still in the dark about sustainability and its importance. Overall, I think HCC is up to great things and I am proud to be an involved HCC student.

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Sadie Higgins was born and raised in Wellfleet, Cape Cod. She moved to Amherst in the summer of 2014 and began attending Holyoke Community College as a sustainable agriculture major. Sadie’s major passion is traveling and she hopes to visit all seven continents in her lifetime. She loves being outdoors, especially hiking and swimming, and when not in school, she loves to read. Sadie is an active member of the HCC Sustainability Club, helping to promote sustainable practices on campus and throughout the community.

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