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New Living Lab Trail leads CLC’s list of latest green achievements

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Nov 13, 2019

A hiking trail highlighting green practices and wellness tips, a renovated Japanese garden and a campus café receiving a national environmental rating are among the College of Lake County’s sustainable achievements this fall.

At CLC’s Grayslake Campus, community members are able to explore green or environmentally sustainable features as well as learn health and wellness tips, thanks to a new Living Lab Trail that opened in late September.

The Trail leads visitors past outdoor and indoor features, with a sign at each stop explaining a CLC green practice, the difference a person can make locally and how efforts help address global environmental challenges. The outdoor portion follows much Photo of group touring a hallway in the Science & Engineering Buildingof the existing hiking path, with stops including the restored prairie, campus apiary (managed bee colony) and campus farm. The outdoor trail also explains parking lot bioswales—ditches planted with native grasses and wildflowers that filter stormwater runoff—and highlights Willow Lake’s shoreline restored with colorful native plants such as purple coneflower.

Photo (from left): David Husemoller, CLC sustainability manager, points to one of the new Living Lab Trail signs inside the Science & Engineering Building.

Indoors, the trail explains sustainable features including the Science & Engineering Building, which opened in 2018 and has been certified LEED platinum from the U.S. Green Building Council. Among its green technologies are solar photovoltaic panels, a green roof and harvested rainwater used for flushing toilets. The building, designed by Legat Architects and Brubaker Design, became the sole winner in the Sustainable Design category of the American Institute of Architects’ Northeast Illinois Chapter’s 2019 Design Awards in October.

In addition to sustainability, the trail’s signage explores wellness opportunities that go beyond the traditional body/mind/spirit model to include 10 dimensions. Developed by Dr. Francis Ardito, CLC health and wellness professor, the dimensions include physical, spiritual, emotional, environmental, intellectual, nutritional, protectoral, social, occupational and financial.

“With the Living Lab Trail, our goal is to provide the community with a lens not only to interpret the college’s sustainable features, but also inspire students to connect with those features,” said David Husemoller, CLC sustainability manager. “For example, trail signs in Café Willow explain how some of the food in the salad bar comes from the campus farm. It also helps you to connect further so when you’re done eating, your food scraps can be turned into compost, which returns nutrients to our soil. We’re closing the loop and really tightening the connection between living and the Earth around us.”

Another goal of the trail, Husemoller said, is to inspire students to explore educational and career opportunities related to sustainability and wellness. CLC offers two-year or certificate programs in sustainability, horticulture as well as health-and-wellness promotion. For details, visit

The trail has earned a thumbs-up from community leaders. With this new trail, CLC has done something extraordinary,” said John Wasik, Lake County Board member. “The college really inspired us at the county to do the right thing for sustainability with the launch of our new energy and environment committee.”

For a map and more information on the trail, visit

Besides the Living Lab Trail, CLC also unveiled a renovation project in the Japanese garden beginning this fall on the Grayslake Campus. Located in a courtyard adjacent to the library atrium, the garden’s new features include a red torii gate to mark the entrance and a contemplative rock garden (kare sansui) representing water and landmass. Visitors are encouraged to use a dedicated rake to create patterns in the garden imitating ripples. New shrubs and trees include native honeysuckle and red bud. Among the new grasses are Japanese “Silver Scepter” sedge, and flowers include marsh milkweed, blue flag iris, coneflower and more.

The renovation of the garden results from a multi-departmental effort designed to make the garden reflect more traditional Japanese values such as serenity, symmetry and the perfect balance found in nature, according to Shannon Bassi. An administrative assistant in the dual credit/college readiness program, and a master’s student in sustainable management, she spearheaded the consensus-building, redesign and worked with Husemoller to coordinate the renovation.

Students have found the new-look garden to be a peaceful place to gather. “With the added rocks, trees and plants, plus the existing water feature, you can tell the authenticity is coming into play in the new design,” said Asia Dawidowski, a psychology major who visits the garden regularly. “Coming out here helps me focus and relax.”

Besides the trail and garden, the college’s Café Willow has received a 3-Star Certification by the Boston-based Green Restaurant Association. The ranking, with four stars as the highest, is based on eight criteria, from energy to food to waste management and education. Among the practices earning high marks are the use of campus-grown vegetables, compostable bowls and environmentally friendly dishwasher detergent, said Pat Argoudelis, CLC director of auxiliary services.

Recognizing CLC’s efforts, the Chronicle of Higher Education in September included CLC in its 2019 list of Top Institutions for Sustainability. Among “associate institutions,” CLC ranks seventh in North America, sixth in the U.S. and second in the Midwest. The list is based on the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s 2019 Sustainable Campus Index, which “recognizes top-performing colleges in 17 distinct aspects of sustainability and overall.”

For details on CLC’s sustainable efforts, visit


 About College of Lake County:

The College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college that delivers high-quality, accessible learning opportunities to advance student success and strengthen the diverse communities served in the northeastern suburbs of Chicago. The flagship campus is located in Grayslake, with additional campuses in Waukegan (Lakeshore) and Vernon Hills (Southlake). The college also offers online courses. For details on CLC, visit