Tri-Saving the Environment One Bottle at a Time

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By Fiona Hughes

“Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment,”  the United States Environmental Protection Agency writes.

“To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”

Environmental issues and sustainability are significant topics in the news, despite the little attention they’re given. Most people may not be very informed about them, on a global scale or a smaller scale, like what their community is doing. Cuyahoga Community College is just one local institution that’s working towards sustainability and helping the environment.

“Sustainability for Tri-C means meeting educational and community goals while reducing impact on the environment and improving social and economic outcomes locally,” says Tri-C’s Sustainability Manager, David November. “My role is to work towards achieving those goals.”

“Dave November does incredible work here,” said Joseph Koch, an assistant professor of biology at Tri-C. “There’s so many faculty events where he presents about different sustainability topics. I’ve never worked at a school that had a SustainabilityManager. It’s great that Tri-C has that type of position.

“Not all schools have a staff member committed to making that school as environmentally-friendly as possible. We should be proud of how much our college cares and what its faculty and staff are doing to make a difference in our community. As an academic institution, we’re educating people to be more aware and make a difference in their communities that hopefully, over time, has a significant impact on the environment,” November said.

“I think people need to be more aware of the environment,” said Christine Phillips, assistant professor of sport and exercise studies, physical education, and health at Tri-C. “If you’re not aware that there’s a problem at all, you’re not going to take any steps towards solving it,” Koch said.  “That’s why it’s really important to raise students’ consciousness about this stuff.”

“These things affect all of us one way or another directly, November said. “Stormwater management affects water quality and Lake Erie, and algae blooms have the potential to affect drinking water. Obviously, having clean water is a very important thing for our survival. It’s relevant for everybody.”

Another reason to be aware of environmental issues is that they can affect your health. There are toxic chemicals all around us that you need to be aware of. The new car smell, for example, is something people ike, but it’s not a healthy thing to be breathing,” November said. He talked about the LEED Green Building Standard (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and all construction at Tri-C now has to satisfy those standards.

“Any new construction is basically going to be more efficient and healthier, using more local materials and taking advantage of daylight,” November said.

This means that, from now on, Tri-C’s buildings will not be using chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are not good for our health or the environment. “That’s going to be an ongoing, long-term benefit to the environment,” Phillips said.

Tri-C has also donated furniture and equipment they don’t need anymore to the Cleveland School District. With the new construction and renovations happening since Issue 61 was passed in the fall, they’re going to see if anything else could be donated and used by other people instead of just throwing it away. That’s another way Tri-C is helping our environment and our community.

“I do think we, as a college, are making a difference,” November said. “We’re making a difference in improving efficiency and creating healthy spaces for people to learn and work. And we’re making a difference in the community as well, by partnering with community organizations that are doing things related to sustainability.”

He went on to say that Tri-C has worked with the City of Cleveland and the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 initiative, “a 10-year initiative that engages everyone to work together to design and develop a thriving and resilient Cleveland that leverages its wealth of assets to build economic, social, and environmental well-being for all,” according to They also collaborate with smaller organizations and nonprofits, November said. For example, they’ve composted food waste with the Rid-All Green Partnership ( and Rust Belt Riders (

Those are just a few ways our college is working towards sustainability. But what can you do to help?

Ride RTA–it’s free! The RTA U-Pass is available to Tri-C students throughout the year (now including summer), so you can ride for free anytime. “It has an economic benefit of lowering the cost of getting to Tri-C by giving you a free option on RTA,” November said.  “Then, in turn, it has a positive social impact by opening us up to more people who might not be able to get here. And it has a positive environmental outcome due to more people riding the bus and fewer people driving cars on their own.”

Use a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled drinks. Tri-C has recently installed water bottle filling stations on most campus locations, November said, so take advantage of that. It will save you money, too. “If students are spending $1.50 or so per bottle of water, that can really add up, especially when it is something they can get for free,” November said. “If a student is on campus two days per week in a semester and buys a bottle of water each day they are on campus, this costs $3 per week. Over a 16-week semester, this is $48 in water.”

Buy energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs. This is another thing that’s good for the environment and your wallet. “When I present to classes, I connect how Tri-C has saved a lot of money on energy efficiency with how energy efficiency is a great opportunity to save money at home as well,” November said. LED and CFL light bulbs are more expensive than regular incandescent bulbs, but they’ll save you money in the long-run. “I think every effort people make, every time they recycle a plastic bottle instead of throwing it away, makes a difference,” Phillips said. “Don’t discount even small things because it all adds up.”

“Our collective actions matter, and everyone needs to contribute to the future they want to see in their community and in the world,” November said. “It is important to think about long-term results of our actions in addition to the short-term results because we all have the ability to make the world a better place.”

To learn more about sustainability at Tri-C, visit

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