South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium

South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium

Three Decades of Higher Education Excellence Through Collaboration

2014 Sustainability Summit Hosted by JJC


Joliet Junior College hosted a sustainability conference for the South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium (SMHEC) in September, and for the first time in the conference’s history, community members, businesses and organizations were invited to attend. The conference featured local speakers and allowed attendees to share sustainability practices with each other.

 According to JJC Professor and Sustainability Activist Maria Anna Rafac, since JJC is well connected and an integral part of the surrounding community, it was only natural to invite local organizations and other interested parties to the conference.

 “In addition to what we already do at the conference, this event was more about community outreach,” Rafac said. “This conference was a great platform for bringing up these larger conversations about sustainability and how colleges, universities, and community organizations fit in.”       

 Genny Boesen, SMHEC executive director, said the conference had about 120 attendees who participated, with nearly a half representing outside organizations.

 “The schools involved in SMHEC have a big network of sustainability resources, including architects, landscapers, conservation workers, and those who work in the energy field. This conference was a way for us to refer some of those resources to the community,” she said.

Another highlight at the conference was the lunch menu, which included a sustainable meal prepared by JJC Food Services staff. Selections such as roasted parsnip and pear soup, rotini primavera, roasted butternut squash, and quinoa veggie salad, were all made with local, healthy ingredients from area farmers.

Sustainability, which balances environmental, economic, and social health, has always been important to JJC. Six of the college’s most sustainable and energy efficient buildings are LEED certified, with its two newest buildings, the Health Professions Center and Campus Center, certified gold.

JJC has also incorporated sustainability into its three-year goal plan that includes one goal about expanding the use of sustainability practices and technology at the college, and another about incorporating sustainability education in the classroom. There are currently six sustainability courses at JJC, with more in the works for the future thanks to a National Science Foundation grant the college received earlier this year.

Other sustainable practices at the college include hosting a yearly Farmers Market in the summer, incorporating a program that rewards students for recycling beverage containers, and encouraging employees and students to save money by bringing in their cars for maintenance checks at the student automotive lab.

 Most recently, JJC’s Sustainability Committee is working on applying for AASHE STARS accreditation. This accreditation, given by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), is a prestigious accomplishment that only 330 colleges and universities have achieved worldwide.  

 For more information about sustainability at JJC, visit To view a timeline about the history of sustainability at JJC, visit