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Lee Early College students learn Earth-friendly practices

Click to enlarge Lee Early College students learn Earth-friendly practices

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Lee Early College freshman Jamie Guillergan shows off her project during teacher Mallory Nickel's ... (more)

Click to enlarge Lee Early College students learn Earth-friendly practices

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Lee Early College freshmen Ginevra Walker and Elizabeth Sanger evaluate the sustainability projects ... (more)

01.22.2014College & CommunityCollege GeneralStudents/Graduates

SANFORD - Students in Lee Early College's Earth and Environmental Science class took on the challenge of learning the importance of sustaining the environment. They culminated their studies with a sustainability fair and by making personal decisions to leave a smaller carbon footprint on the Earth.

"Living a sustainable life means to live with the impact of your actions on the environment in mind," commented one of the students in the anonymous survey of student opinion taken at the end of the course. "You actively try to reduce your negative impact on the environment by changing your unhealthy habits."

Instructor Mallory Nickel said that when people talk about sustainability, they tend to think in terms of not cutting down trees or killing sea turtles.

"Sustainability is more complex than that," she said. "The students experienced the complexity of sustainability and making sustainable choices. They learned that sustainability is to make something last and be functional indefinitely, based on the 'triple bottom line': cultural sustainability, economic sustainability, and environmental sustainability."

Students brainstormed scenarios to show the importance of meeting the triple bottom line, such as, "Is it culturally sustainable to wear the same clothes everyday and never wash them to save water and resources? Is it economically sustainable to have a surf shop in the mountains? Is it environmentally sustainable to chop down forests to make a Target in every town?"

They discussed the different reasons people value the environment, ranging from hunting to aesthetics, habitats, and resources. They then took an ecological footprint quiz to see how many Earths would be needed if everyone lived as they did. With those results, each chose three habits to change for two weeks, tracking how those changes impacted the environment.

"To live sustainably, I now keep my lights out when I do my homework," another student commented in the survey. "I light candles and stuff because I like them and it provides enough light for me to do my work. I also cut the water off when brushing my teeth and I make my own DIY products like body scrubs, and facial masks."

The class also explored sustainability in the Sanford community and in their families through observations, such as counting SUVs on the road and reusable bags at the grocery stores, and completing surveys with family members.

The students chose a product to create that met the three parts of the triple bottom line and presented them at a sustainability fair. The products included Google Maps showing how to minimize driving time, children's stories about sustainability, gifts, and bath and body products.

"This project has made me realize that it's not hard to be sustainable," a student wrote in the survey. "I now know that there are many different ways to help the world that are inexpensive. This project changed my actions by giving me ideas on how I can help the Earth without trying too hard."

Lee Early College, a partnership between Central Carolina Community College and Lee County Schools, currently enrolls 283 students. It is located on the college's Lee County Campus. Students enroll as ninth graders and, within five years, can earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree. The education is free because they are enrolled as public school students. Upon graduation, students can transfer to four-year institutions with junior standing.

For more information about Lee Early College, visit For more information about sustainability programs at CCCC, visit