McHenry County College sets foundation for careers in energy efficiency and sustainability

As the planet faces growing environmental challenges, there is an increased need for trained professionals with the knowledge and skills to address critical issues.

A quick search for jobs in environmental science, sustainability, or energy conservation yields hundreds of results at many different levels and in a wide variety of industries.

Locally, McHenry County College offers many educational opportunities to prepare students for careers in these fields, whether through credit courses, student clubs, noncredit workshops, or the many resources available through the college’s Sustainability Center.

Credit courses

Those interested in studying energy efficiency or sustainability can start with a variety of credit classes, including intro to physical geology, geology of the national parks, energy resources, the global environment, and environmental field biology. Many of the classes transfer if students want to pursue a bachelor’s degree after MCC, and don’t require any pre-requisites to enroll.

“Incorporating these types of courses into college education fosters a sense of responsibility and empowerment among students,” said Kate Kramer, department chair of earth science. “They become more informed citizens capable of making thoughtful decisions that balance economic, environmental, and social considerations. Moreover, these courses prepare students for careers in a variety of fields, from renewable energy and environmental policy to natural resource management and conservation.”

The courses explore the close connections between geology, ecology, and human activities. Students learn about the finite nature of our planet's resources, the impact of energy consumption on the environment, and the importance of developing sustainable practices to ensure the well-being of future generations.

“As we face the challenges of climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation, the knowledge gained from sustainability and energy courses is more important than ever,” Kramer added. “By educating our students in these areas, we are not only enhancing their academic and professional development, but also contributing to the creation of a more sustainable and resilient future for all.”

In addition to scientific careers, many jobs are available to help corporations collect and interpret data to meet Environmental, Social, and Governance standards. MCC also offers foundational courses in economics, business, marketing, math, IT, and data entry and analysis that can be applied to these roles.

For more information, visit

Sustainability Center

The college also offers many educational opportunities through its Sustainability Center, an on-campus resource that inspires the community to live by its example.

The center publishes a Green Guide each spring with local sources and tips for hard-to-recycle items and has held a Green Living Expo with a variety of vendors each fall. The campus itself embraces practices such as daily composting at the MCC Café and a Reuse It Center for surplus office supplies.

The Sustainability Center also helps to run the Environmental Action Club, which meets weekly to discuss opportunities for positive environmental changes in and around McHenry County. It is open to all students.

“We’ve fundraised for a fountain in the Zen Garden on campus, attended the annual Loyola University Climate Change conference and biannual Wild Things Conference, hosted guest speakers from area nonprofits and green businesses, and coordinated with other clubs and departments for experiential opportunities,” said Kim Hankins, director of sustainability.

To learn more about the Sustainability Center, visit

Center for Agrarian Learning

Another newer resource is MCC’s Center for Agrarian Learning, which offers agriculture workshops and events for local businesses, farmers, and others involved in the food economy. Many workshops feature ideas for sustainable growing as well as opportunities to make production more efficient and profitable.

For more on the Center for Agrarian Learning, visit

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