These days there’s so much activity buzzing around the Sustainability Center that it may be hard to imagine Cicada Hall as a mostly vacant space as recently as the summer of 2019. There were a couple of offices being used in the farthest corner of the building, but otherwise it was just a place where old furniture, boxes of files, and lots of shelving were piled up, gathering dust.
It may not have looked especially promising to the students, faculty, and staff from Green Mountain College who arrived here that August of that year, but we were so grateful for the opportunity to carry on the legacy of our Vermont campus that we accepted the challenge and, with the help of Provost Paul Burkhardt, began clearing space for what would soon become the Green Mountain Center for Sustainability at Prescott College.
Creating such a center on the corner of Sheldon and Grove Avenue helped ease the transition for 150 students who transferred after the closure of Green Mountain College, which had served many thousands of students over its 185 years of existence. But it also allowed those of us who migrated west from Vermont to integrate lessons from our time living and working in an institution that was a national leader in sustainability education. We brought with us to Prescott a number of academic programs, including the MS in Resilient and Sustainable Communities, the MS in Sustainable Food Systems, the MS in Environmental Studies, the MBA in Sustainability Leadership, and BA and BS degrees in Sustainable Food Systems.
But as faculty and students from Green Mountain College became part of the Prescott College community, we found ourselves working with new colleagues and classmates through the Green Mountain Center for Sustainability. What follows is a list of some of our most memorable achievements over the past three years. We look forward to adding to this in years to come!
The Sustainability Center in Cicada Lounge
Prescott College repurposed an empty building, Cicada hall, as the Green Mountain Center for Sustainability, featuring a popular new common space, the Sustainability Lounge. This space is designated for club meetings, campus events and activities, work stations, recycling demonstration units, a new water-refill station, sewing machines, sign-making and painting supplies, reusable utensils and bowls for community lunches, an E-waste disposal site, and a campus Free Store stocked with donations from students and community members. The Free Store has now evolved into a weekly event called Free Store Friday, where free meals are prepared by students.
Sustainability Coordinator Position
In Fall of 2020, Prescott College developed an AmeriCorps VISTA position to serve as Sustainability Coordinator for Prescott College, which students voted as their top priority among proposed sustainability initiatives. The first person to hold this position was Annie Baker, a GMC transfer student who is currently earning a MS in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Prescott College. Annie was succeeded by Zachary Czuprynski, who has been a leader in improving sustainability on campus and guiding the STARS self-assessment process through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (see below).
Sustainability Club and Prescott College Garden and Compost Work-Study
On-campus groups such as the Sustainability Club (SC) and the Prescott College Garden and Compost (PCGC) work-study crew have utilized the Sustainability Lounge for a variety of activities, including campus meetings to prioritize uses of student sustainability fees and regular gatherings to help direct the efforts of the Green Mountain Center in improving sustainable practices on campus (i.e. composting, recycling, waste audits, etc). Both the SC and PCGC have also made sustainable practices a reality through their work in the community gardens and leading student events and activities.
An early priority was to create a revised and simplified process for awarding grants to students from the campus Sustainability Fund. Successful grants have included bike repair facilities, a chipper to process pine needles for compost, supplies for the community gardens, a chicken run, and a three-bin recycling demonstration station. The SC and PCGC have been working to make these grants more accessible to students with innovative ideas for projects in sustainability on campus, and assignments in some courses actually ask students to craft proposals for these funds.
Since the arrival of Green Mountain College, Prescott College has made huge progress in strengthening the composting systems on campus. This has been made possible by the PCGC work-study crew, which has created an on-campus compost pick-up program. All food waste can now be returned back into the gardens for sustainable food production on campus. More work in this area is being developed by students as senior capstone projects and independent studies. Now food scraps are collected bi-weekly from our on-campus housing complex, as well as our campus dining cafe.
Alongside our improvements in composting, the SC and PCGC have revitalized three community garden spaces across campus, incorporating lessons in Southwest food cultivation and preparation through immersive courses, student volunteer activities, and community gatherings. The veggies from these gardens have provided the community with free meals at campus events, such as Free Store Fridays and the annual Fall Harvest Festival.
Community Building through Events
The Green Mountain Center for Sustainability has been working to foster community and social sustainability by hosting events during the academic year. Some of these events include Earth Week, climate marches, the Fall Harvest Festival, Free Store Fridays, ongoing film and documentary screenings on sustainability topics, clothing swaps, music jams, periodic food pantries, the Prescott College EcoChallenge, and DIY workshops (i.e. mask-making, plant hangers, holiday gift-making, repurposing, etc).
Community Building through Better Communications
Students and staff from the Green Mountain Center for Sustainability have taken the lead in helping build a sustainable sense of community by communicating information, both on the campus and beyond, through a variety of venues. Aside from emails, newsletters, and social media posts from the administration, Prescott College previously offered few opportunities for sharing news about student activities and campus events. Student workers and the Sustainability Coordinator began by creating a Sustainability Guide to Prescott College, and followed up by publishing sustainability updates through a student-initiated website, The Prickly Press. The Green Mountain Center is also responsible for outreach through its own webpage, which features regular Sustainability Spotlights, and through a dedicated Facebook page. Since 2021, the Sustainability Coordinator also sends out monthly emails containing updates and tips, called Sustainability Snippets.
Community Building through Organizing and Networking
As a way of building community beyond the campus, the Green Mountain Center has created alliances with local school groups and a number of community activist organizations, including Prescott Slow Food, Northern Arizona Climate Change Alliance, Prescott Farmers Market, Prescott Community Compost Program, and PROTECT (Planning the Resilience of Our Towns, Environment, Climate, and Tourism). Because the Sustainability Coordinator’s position is funded in part through Americorps VISTA, a part of the coordinator’s role is specifically to encourage outreach and support to other members of the community, especially those in need.
Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating Systems (STARS)
Under the leadership of Zach Czuprynski, our current Sustainability Coordinator, Prescott College has just completed a process of institutional self-assessment and reporting on our progress toward achieving sustainability through the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). In addition to helping demonstrate a public commitment to sustainability, the STARS reporting will help us identify areas of further improvement in the years to come.