Friday, June 9, 2017

Green Office Program

Starting from the 2017 fall semester, employees at the College of San Mateo, Cañada College, and Skyline College will have the option of helping their offices become certified under the Green Office Program.

The Green Office Program is a District-wide voluntary certification program that incentivizes sustainable practices in campus offices. Offices that achieve certain goals in a variety of areas such as energy savings, waste diversion, and water conservation can get certified as a Green Office.

The program was piloted on all three campuses in the 2017 spring semester. At the College of San Mateo, the Business Office and Math/Science Division participated as pilot offices. Staff in the Business Office have recently been trying to implement paperless initiatives in their operations and decrease the amount of money and resources spent on printing. As a part of the Green Office Program, the Business Office scanned and saved paper forms electronically to facilitate future electronic processes. Staff members also gathered and analyzed data on printing trends so that deans can better understand and manage paper use in their divisions.

The Math/Science Division at CSM piloted Green Office efforts in safe e-waste disposal by conducting a spring e-waste clean-out. For a week in the spring, faculty members were able to drop off their old VHS tapes, DVDs, and CDs, which were picked up by an e-waste upcycling company. The division had a positive impact by decreasing their contribution to toxic emissions due to disposal of e-waste into landfills.

The Enrollment Services Office and the Facilities Maintenance Center at Skyline College also participated in the Green Office Program as pilot offices. Enrollment Services has been striving to centralize printers in order to promote cost savings and sustainable practices. The Green Office Program Associate is working with the office to provide recommendations for greatly decreasing the amount of printers used while maintaining efficiency within the office.
The Facilities Maintenance Center has utilized energy-saving practices such as decreasing the number of printers in the office and utilizing daylighting in lieu of artificial lighting when appropriate. The FMC is on track to be certified as the first pilot office.

A student at Cañada College conducted computer audits in the Learning Center and Library at Cañada College to measure the energy used for computers in different modes, such as sleep mode and turned on. She also monitored the number of students in both locations at different times of the day and week to track times of peak appliance use and minimal appliance use. Using the data gathered, she provided recommendations for better managing the Learning Center and Library computers to provide energy savings while still providing adequate resources for students.    

Thanks to the efforts of the pilot offices to make changes in their offices and persevere through some trial and error, the Green Office Program has been developed and is scheduled to roll out in the Fall 2017 semester. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Health Impacts of Artificial Turf

Artificial tire crumb infill.
Artificial turf fields commonly consist of infill made up of ground-up rubber tires, called tire crumbs. As students, athletes, & facilities members receive direct exposure to the recycled rubber pellets, it is of the utmost importance to understand the health implications, if any, associated with the infill.

Tires and tire crumbs contain various hazardous substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-VOCs, heavy metals, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). However, there is less unanimity towards the exposure potential and associated human risk. Studies that have researched human health risk address three main exposure pathways: dermal, ingestion, inhalation of tire dust.

In a report and study done by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), assuming periodic exposures to turf fields over a 3-5 week period, a hazard index projected acute and cancerous risk[1]. However, three other studies, namely the Pediatric Study of Tire Crumb Use on Playgrounds, Canadian Evaluation of Hazard Assessment of tire crumbs for Use on Public Playgrounds, and The French Study showed no cause for concern of artificial turf fields in outdoor settings.

Other pertinent considerations include the increased heat absorption of artificial turf opposed to natural turf, contributing to heat stress and discomfort to users and spectators[2]. Awareness of groundwater contamination is additionally important. Depending on the soil pH and size of tire crumbs, different chemicals leach from the tire. Overall, leaching rates decrease with larger tire crumbs, pre-washing of tires, and neutral soil and rainwater pH[3]. Those allergic to latex should also take precautionary actions.

Cañada and Skyline both opted for organic infill made of
 coconut fibers and cork in some of their turf fields.
Health concerns have been raised over the safety of tire crumbs in turf fields, but limited research on the actual toxicity is insufficient to form any conclusions. The magnitude of the risks are insignificant or indeterminate for VOCs, heavy metals, or organic contaminants. Based on available information, tire crumbs do not pose as a public health concern[4].

[1] Brown, D. R. (2007). Artificial Turf. North Haven: Environment & Human Health, Inc.

[2]Health, N. Y. (2012, August). Fact Sheet: Crumb-Rubber Infilled Synthetic Turf Athletic Fields. Retrieved from Department of Health:

[3] Selbes, M. e. (2015). Leaching of DOC, DN, and Inorganic Constituents From Scrap Tires. Chemosphere, 617-23.

[4] Cheng, H., Hu, Y., & Reinhard, M. (2014). Environmental and health impacts of artificial turf: a review. US National Library of Medicine, 2114-29.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Meeting the Zero Net Energy Challenge

With the rise in anomalous weather events in California and the potential of America pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, climate change is an increasingly hot topic on a local and global scale. San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD), known for its commitment and innovative approach towards operational and academic excellence, has taken the initiative to become a zero net energy (ZNE) district by 2030. This aligns with California’s Energy Action Plan, which has a goal for all new commercial construction in California to be ZNE by 2030.

ZNE occurs when the total amount of energy consumed is less than or equal to the production of on-site energy on an annual basis. SMCCCD’s ZNE strategy, coming in June 2017, outlines past, current, and future projects that will allow all three campuses to collectively reduce their reliance on the grid, save money, and save energy.

Figure 1. Visual interpretation of a zero net energy building where energy consumption equals production.
The first step towards ZNE is designating a baseline formed around the previous year’s energy usage data. The baseline allows for benchmarking activities to monitor and track progress in the future. In SMCCCD’s case, recently installed sub-meters have provided building EUIs and high-resolution natural gas and electricity data to create a baseline using 2016 data. Sub-meters have also demystified the allocation of energy on each campus and functioned as a tool to target and prioritize energy inefficient buildings.   

 Figure 2. Building 5 at the College of San Mateo is certified LEED Silver. Currently, one of SMCCCD’s design standards requires that all new buildings be LEED Gold certified. LEED certification helps to achieve ZNE and encourage sustainability in the built environment. 
Next, to decrease energy consumption, conservation and efficiency measures take priority. These measures are less expensive and have a relatively lower carbon footprint than building on-site renewable energy. However, when energy cannot be further reduced, installation of on-site renewable energy offsets the remaining load. Identification and quantification of such measures are in SMCCCD’s ZNE report.

Becoming a ZNE district will shield SMCCCD against outside economic forces as currently accessible non-renewable energy sources become depleted and/or obsolete, while satisfying the triple bottom line. Moreover, the environmental stewardship and leadership that SMCCCD exemplifies directly benefits students and facilities moving SMCCCD towards becoming a more sustainable organization.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How Native Plants Contribute to Sustainability Both on Campus and at Home


As spring blossoms begin popping up all around us, you have probably noticed the many flowers budding into life on your campus, many of which are natives. These native plants actually offer a variety of benefits to the average home garden, such as water conservation, easy maintenance, and the ability to attract local pollinators and other wildlife. In fact, because of the District's integration of California native plants into their sustainability design standards, many of these benefits are exhibited at all three of SMCCCD's campuses (College of San Mateo, Cañada College, and Skyline College). 
Our landscape provides not only aesthetic beauty, but also habitat for local animal and insect populations. This promotes local biodiversity by attracting native pollinators like birds and beneficial insects that help to reduce mosquito and plant-eating insect populations. At CSM, the large population of native, pollinator-attracting plants has allowed Professor Paul Hankamp to certify the campus as a Bee Campus USA member. 
Native plants also have a natural ability to fight off pests, and are perfectly conditioned to living in the climate and soil conditions that our campuses house. Since they already have the tools to survive here, their need for pesticides and pest management are reduced. Their natural adaptions allow them to flourish with less water and less maintenance such as pruning and fertilizing.      
  These characteristics reduce the amount of landscape maintenance required. Once native plants are established, they frequently require much less fertilizer, irrigation or pruning. CSM landscaper, Rain Kernytsky, said that some areas planted with native plants no longer needed to be irrigated so the water for that area is completely shut off, saving both water and money. 
Incorporating these species into the design standards also helps to restore regional landscapes. Urban development in the Bay Area is shrinking habitats, and when habitats start to disappear, so do their inhabitants. Our campuses can act as islands of useful habitat and provide a much needed wildlife bridge between remaining wildlife areas by offering food and shelter to wildlife in the form of native plants.  
The native plants on SMCCCD campuses are examples of what you can do at your household. If you would like to contribute to this effort in your own garden, the California Native Plant Society has created an easily accessible database of California native plants: It allows people to type in their address or area code and view a list of plants native to that region. Click on a plant species or type, and a description of the plant pops up along with a map of its native locations, propagation instructions/landscaping information, and even nurseries where the plant is available.  
The California Native Plant Society is an organization that is dedicated to the restoration, conservation, awareness-spreading of the many complex botanical ecosystems that are unique to California. They offer a variety of resources online for those who wish to learn more about their efforts, general native plant information, and they even offer a deluxe gardening guide for those who are interested in creating a wildlife or wildflower garden of their own.  
Below are some examples of native plant species found on the CSM campus that are also ideal for the home garden: 

California lilac (Ceonothus): Planted around the pool area at CSM near Building 5 and near Building 36, this plant is hardy with its low water and maintenance requirements. Its  blue flowers attracts a variety of insect pollinators and hummingbirds.  


Manzanita (Arctostaphylos): Mazanitas can come in a variety of sizes from groundcovers to tall trees. At CSM they are found in the Beethoven and Olympian parking lot beds as shrubs. They flower in the early spring and late summer with small bell-shaped flowers, attracting hummingbirds, bees, and other beneficial insects. They are evergreen and have a shinny, smooth, red bark.   

Pride of Madeira (Echium Fastuosum): A evergreen shrub that can be found in front of CSM's Building 7 and in the garden near Building 36. They have uniquely large blooms of blue or purple flowers that rise in the spring and summer to attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  

Pride of Madeira

Pride of Madeira

These plants are all long lived perennials, pollinator attractors, low maintenance and drought tolerant. Planting these species in your garden would be an excellent way to invite local wildlife such as hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies into your yard.  

Another interesting article that addresses the problem of plummeting bee populations can be found here 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Solar Panel Undergrowth Under Control Thanks to Sheep at Cañada

Originally published 6/18/15

Two ewes take a lunch break
under the shade of the solar
installation atCañada College
Sheep are currently being used to manage the weeds and grass that have sprung up under the solar farm at Cañada College.  This approach is gaining popularity in the solar industry as an effective and environmentally friendly way to accomplish what is commonly known as “vegetative management.”
The Cañada College Solar Farm is situated on about 3.5 flat acres near the entrance of the campus.  It is the first renewable energy project within San Mateo County Community College District. A project of this size and complexity presents a great degree of collaboration in design, construction and long term care. This project, in particular, took many variables into consideration; primary among them are the safety of students and staff, protection and security of the photovoltaic system, environmental stewardship, and renewable energy production value.
“Utilizing sheep for vegetative management of the solar farm is a truly sustainable solution… we are addressing the key components of ecology, equity and economy by leveraging this innovative technique” notes Joe Fullerton, Energy and Sustainability Manager for the District.  As the sheep continue to work on reducing the weeds and grass undergrowth on the site, the solar field continues to offset more than half of the energy need of the campus.

The approximately 200 South American breed of sheep used for the vegetative management of the solar farm help accomplish these goals in a variety of ways. The sheep are busy mowing down tall grass that poses a fire danger to our campus community as well as to the system.  These same weeds and grasses threaten valuable production if they grow so tall as to shade the panels from the power of the sun.  Sheep are also an environmentally sustainable option and are much preferred to using weed abatement techniques such as plastic tarps or herbicides, which could negatively impact the quantity and quality of storm water flows into local streams and waterways.  Simply mowing the site comes with its own set of human and system safety risks as well as environmental impacts. These too are avoided by utilizing sheep for the operation.

Undergrowth before sheep
Undergrowth after sheep
As the Campus and community benefit from this vegetative management technique, so do the shepherd and his flock under the expert care of Mike Canaday, of Living Systems Land Management. The sheep have access to light at night, are protected by a well-trained dog, can drink as much water as they want and find ample shade. Meanwhile Mike and his Coalinga-based organization earn important business to help thrive and continue to offer this valuable service throughout the state.

“Utilizing sheep for vegetative management of the solar farm is a truly sustainable solution… we are addressing the key components of ecology, equity and economy by leveraging this innovative technique” notes Joe Fullerton, Energy and Sustainability Manager for the District.

As the sheep continue to work on reducing the undergrowth on the site until June 2015, the solar field continues to offset more than half of the energy need of the campus.

Cañada Celebrates Solar Farm Completion

Originally published 2/2/15

Solar panels at Cañada College
On December 4th, 2014, the San Mateo County Community College District held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the completion of Cañada College’s new photovoltaic installation. 

The $4.5 million solar project marks the first renewable energy effort undertaken by the District and will offset half of Cañada College’s energy consumption.  More than 4,000 highly efficient panels will produce over one million watts of clean,
renewable energy each year for more than 25 years.

The project, approved by the SMCCCD Board of Trustees in January 2014, includes installation of ground-mounted solar panels on a 3.5-acre site located adjacent to the school’s athletic fields and just above the Farm Hill Boulevard entrance to campus. Cañada College was chosen for the site because it has the greatest exposure to the sun year-round, is adjacent to existing electrical systems infrastructure and is the least visually obtrusive to neighbors.
Ideal project timing with Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, allocates revenue to local education agencies to support energy efficiency and alternative energy projects and provided the District $554,000 in funding and the California Solar Initiative will provide about $870,000 in rebates over a five-year period.
While the solar farm was a large investment, it will benefit Cañada College, SMCCCD, and the atmosphere for the long haul. This ability to produce energy will cut Cañada’s energy bill in half for over 25 years and curb greenhouse gas emissions. With the cost of “on the grid” electricity rising, this is a smart financial move. Furthermore, beyond panel production, solar doesn’t require expensive raw materials like coal or oil. This means that solar farms, once built, have significantly lower operating costs than conventional power plants since their energy source, sunlight, is free. Solar energy does not emit any green house gases and leaves a smaller greenhouse gas footprint. 

Ribbon cutting ceremony
The ribbon cutting ceremony included District, County, City, and College personnel as well as many community and industry partners.

SMCCCD and Cañada College are committed to being responsible members of the community and doing their part to reduce their environmental impact. The District’s efforts are aligned with the nation and state initiatives to increase use of renewable energy. On November 5th, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown called for 50%
of the state’s power to come from renewable sources. In October through December of 2014, the US Department of Energy allocated over 100 million dollars towards driving solar innovation up and cutting cost of solar power down.

Farmigo Comes to SMCCCD!

Originally published 1/23/15

What is Farmigo?

It is an exciting, new way to have nutritious, naturally-grown foods from the best local farmers and producers brought to your campus. No waiting in grocery lines or pushing shopping carts. It’s like signing up for a CSA except monthly commitments are not required and you get to choose what is in your box!

Farmigo offers a variety of products such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish as well as pantry items. Current popular items at SMCCCD include the fresh ravioli, blueberry muffins, eggs, and cheese.


SMCCCD started offering this service to the SMCCCD community recently, on 12/03/14. 
If you would like to place an order, you can place it by Sunday before midnight and the delivery to your campus would be the upcoming Wednesday. (See below for pickup location.)


You will need to log into your campus Farmigo website (see below for each campus link) using Google Chrome/ Safari (Internet Explorer is currently not compatible with website). Create an account, place your order each Sunday night before midnight and pay.


  • A great way to support local farmers and offer fresh and healthy produce at SMCCCD.
  • No ongoing commitmentsno minimum order amount and 100% satisfaction guaranteed. So far, each campus averages about 15 participants per week!
  • Get 20% off on your first order! (Enter Promo Code- FRESH20)

If you have any questions, please get in touch with your college’s organizer. Thank you and the organizers for helping make this a successful program!
Cañada College
Organizer: Debby Joy
Pick Up Date and Time: Wednesday 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Where: Building 8 - Reception Area

College of San Mateo and District Office
Organizer: Anahi Agular
Pick Up Date & Time: Wednesday, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Where: District Office front desk

Skyline College
Organizer: Bryan Besnyi
Pick Up Date and Time: Wednesday, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Where: Building 5 - Mailroom