Thinking Green and Sustainable: NICC Initiatives Preserve Our Environment

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Northeast Iowa has progressed greatly in its embrace of best practices that safeguard our natural world’s beauty, resources, wildlife and environment.

Decades ago, the simple act of recycling in communities seemed novel; now this environmental practice is the norm and was only the beginning for Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC). Throughout the College’s Calmar and Peosta campuses and centers in Cresco, Dubuque, Manchester, Oelwein and Waukon, NICC has implemented green practices and sustainability initiatives that preserve the precious resources we are entrusted to protect.

Alliant Energy-Interstate Power & Light awarded NICC incentive funding for the College’s Student Center construction project, which opened in January 2011 on the Calmar campus. The facility is one of the most “green” construction initiatives the College has ever implemented. NICC installed a geothermal energy system to provide heating and cooling energy for the new structure, and this system alone reduces projected annual energy costs from $35,000 to $12,000.

The College is becoming a paperless educational institution; at each campus and center location, staff members are relying on digitized electronic filing systems to share and store important information, not depending upon conventional and wasteful paper file storage.

Funding through the Iowa’s Living Roadways Project Program helped NICC to integrate native wetland, savanna and prairie plants, as well as sedges and grasses, for the College’s public garden, shelterbelt, bioswale, oak savanna and native prairie areas at the Calmar campus.

NICC is restoring a native ecosystem with the Outdoor Learning Lab, a 28-acre parcel of land immediately east of the Peosta campus. The outdoor lab will teach area students and community members about environmental science, reintroduce varieties of plant and animal species that are native to northeast Iowa, and educate visitors who want to learn more about soil and water conservation.

NICC conservation and sustainability work at the Calmar campus has received Rockwell Collins Green Communities grants and Trees Forever/Alliant Energy Branching Out program funding to support the creation of several environmental and aesthetic improvements, including a native plant butterfly garden that will develop beneficial ecological habitats and reintroduce native plant species to the land.

Additional Rockwell Collins Green Communities grant funding supported the creation of a bioswale and rain garden at the Peosta campus that serve as natural aquifers to reduce flooding, storm water runoff and filter out pollution.

NICC is one of 26 organizations in the Dubuque area participating in The Petal Project, an environmental sustainability and conservation initiative. The College is working to earn Petal Certification by satisfying criteria in these five petals: energy conservation, pollution prevention, staff education, waste reduction and
water conservation.

These environmentally-sound practices protect our environment and natural world, preserve our area’s landscape and serve as educational lessons for our students and the community. This is also teaching by example; at NICC, part of our responsibility as educators is to serve as good stewards of the environment and the district
we serve.


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