Reporting from the 3rd Annual Butte College Sustainability Conference

Butte College’s 3rd annual sustainability conference opened with a welcome from the school’s president, Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg. Her speech exhorted attendees to remember that sustainability is as much a national security issue as an environmental one, and that the shift is necessary for society.

Speaking to the 250 conference attendees here in Oroville, California, Dr. Ploeg described her work at Butte, managing a 928-acre campus (80 acres is reserved for farm use, and there is also a wildlife refuge) and serving approximately 20,000 students a year. The college, located on a wildlife refuge, is committed to sustainability – it uses LEED metrics in all building projects, is powered by 50 percent renewable energy, and incorporates sustainable practices into many other areas of the campus. Dr. Ploeg drives a Prius to the office every day.

Dr. Ken Meier, Butte’s Vice President of Student Learning and Economic Development, also presented, and touched on Butte’s culture of change that focuses on three primary aspects: social equity, environmental stewardship, and economic development. He says a fourth needs to be added – community. He says the role of the American community college is to work with and engage the community, and to serve as an example. “Sustainability it not possible without community involvement,” he said.

The first day of the conference featured speakers from Ohlone College, the Los Angeles Community College District, San Mateo Community College, Bakersfield College, and Co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Price Dr. Woodrow W. Clark II was the afternoon keynote speaker, presenting “On Climate Change and the Future.”

One of the favorite presentations came from an Ohlone graduate, currently a student at UC Berkeley, on eco-behavior, hoping to answer the question – what does it take to change people’s behavior? Maria Javier surveyed several groups of students, finding that:

The environment in which a person grows up seems to have a huge impact on how a person lives as an adult. For example, a student surveyed that grew up in Ohio, in a community that had a strong conservation ethic, was a better steward of the environment as an adult than other students surveyed that grew up in communities without a strong conservation ethic.

  • Laziness or perceived threats to “luxury of life” are common reasons why people don’t behave in sustainable ways.
  • If behavior is going to change, education is vital, we need government policies that enforce sustainable practices, and economic incentives or disincentives need to be instituted.
  • Maria also highlighted a site on eco-behavior, Fostering Sustainable Behavior – Community-based Social Marketing, which consists of five resources for those working to foster sustainable behaviors in conservation, energy efficiency, transportation, waste reduction, and water efficiency.

    After a day packed full of presentations, attendees had the opportunity to tour the sustainable fields at Lundberg Family Farms.

    Kristy Jones is reporting from the 3rd Annual Butte College Sustainability Conference, in Oroville, California.