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CC Spokane launches new Sustainability Center to promote environmental, wellness practices, programs

Nov. 26, 2021 Updated Fri., Nov. 26, 2021 at 7:57 p.m.

Monica Stenzel is the director of Spokane Falls Community College's new Sustainability Center.  (Courtesy of Spokane Falls Community College)
Monica Stenzel is the director of Spokane Falls Community College's new Sustainability Center. (Courtesy of Spokane Falls Community College)

Getting rid of bottled water on the Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College campuses could save a lot of plastic, history professor Monica Stenzel said.

Getting to that point, however, would require replacing traditional water fountains with models that have fill stations for reusable water bottles across each of the campuses. It’s a project Stenzel said she is working on as part of a new pilot program launched this semester.

Stenzel is the director of SFCC’s new Sustainability Center, an office envisioned to be something of a one-stop shop for activities and programs centered not only on environmentalism, but also wellness. The office is funded as a one-year concept pilot.

An open house Monday showcased the Sustainability Center, located in SFCC’s Falls Gateway administration building.

“Something that’s near and dear to my heart is there’s a number of faculty who either have environmentally or sustainability themed courses that many of the students don’t know about, especially if they’re outside of the sciences,” Stenzel said. “There’s a lot of people in the various disciplines that are on the same page, but people haven’t collected all of the pages together yet.”

The Sustainability Center arose from a call for proposals earlier this year from the college administration for innovative ideas to help students, Stenzel said.

Stenzel said she worked with Vice President of Learning Jim Brady on the proposal, modeling the idea partly after the ecological and practical learning curriculum at Stirling College in Vermont, as well as the Cascadia Center for Arts and Crafts in Oregon.

“We’ve been fascinated with what has emerged,” Brady said in a statement. “This is truly a unique endeavor in that it creates and coordinates collaborations across the traditional functions at the college and between the college and community, uniting them under a vision of supporting sustainability.”

Although she’s a staff of one with the Sustainability Center, Stenzel’s endeavors with the center and SFCC’s Environmental Club have been supported by Community Colleges of Spokane resource conservation manager Andrew Lemberg.

Stenzel is the faculty adviser for the environmental club.

Other projects approached by the Sustainability Center have included the development of a wellness walking path and the renovation of a campus bioswale. Stenzel said the center will also serve in an advisory capacity, whether it’s to identify volunteering opportunities for students or to help transferring students find four-year universities with programs centered on environmentalism or sustainable thought.

Such areas of study are not all rooted in science, she said.

“Some of my students do want to wade into the river up to their neck, but not all of my students do,” Stenzel said.

“Some of them want to work in health care. Some want to get into politics. We’re really at a point where it’s going to take that effort from every discipline.”

Should the Sustainability Center become a permanent addition to the SFCC campus, Stenzel said she would be interested down the line in exploring certificate programs or degrees based on sustainable practices – the ability to take available resources “and make something more with them.”

“There’s a number of people that really don’t know what to do; how to use candles, or how to layer their clothes or how to monitor for carbon monoxide. If you grew up in Spokane, you just sort of learn that by rote,” she said. “It seemed to me that these were all really valuable skills and that people might want to study them from an academic point of view.”

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