As the largest educational institution in Oregon, Portland Community College (PCC) serves almost 90,000 students on four campuses and eight centers, offering traditional degree courses, distance and continuing education, and adult basic skills programs. Founded in 1961 to serve as an adult education component of Portland’s public school system, the college has since its inception been focused on investing in and engaging with the city. That effort includes offering hundreds of non-credit classes for the community annually and acting on a commitment to equity and inclusion and sustainability.
PCC, a signatory of the Climate Leadership Network at Second Nature, is a founding member of the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network, and its environmental ethos is well incoroprated into student life. The school’s online Student Sustainability Hub provides a resource for students to learn and contribute. Those who take at least 16 credits in four different disciplines that contribute to their undersatnding of climate change and sustainability are awarded a Sustainability Focus Award. Student clubs engaged in climate activism and environmental engagement include the Food Recovery Network, the Garden Club, and “Put a Price On It,” which promotes a carbon tax. The student-funded Green Initiative Fund gives grants to projects such as earthen building structures and working to eliminate disposible plastic water bottles from campus.
PCC’s campuses showcase climate-focused innovation, such as the closed-loop Learning Garden on the Rock Creek campus that produces more than 10,000 pounds of produce and processes organic waste on-site. The garden supplies food to the cafeteria, a food pantry, and a weekly campus market; and provides hands-on education about solar-powered irrigation, green roofs, rainwater management, composting, and pollination. PCC was the fourth college to become certified by Bee Campus USA and utilizes its on-campus apiary to educate students about responsible beekeeping. On a policy level, the college recently passed a divestment resolution – prohibiting investments in fossil fuels.
The college is working to reduce its carbon footprint. A commitment to securing LEED Silver certification for all new buildings, resulting in nine LEED-certified buildings, including one that is path-to-net-zero-emissions LEED Platinum. PCC also has three solar installations and has reduced its energy use of 65 percent per square foot of facilities since 2006. The college is part of Oregon’s Strategic Energy Management program and Portland General Electric’s Clean Wind program. Incentives to support alternative transportation among students include subsidized bus passes, free shuttle service, and rideshare and bike-rental programs.
With innovation on sustainabiilty has come accolades: PPC won the 2016 Sustainability Award from APPA: Leadership in Education Facilities and the 2015 Best Case Study from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.