Project GreenPath

Spotlight on Academics

Berkeley College academic programs promote sustainability in numerous ways. From Liberal Arts, Marketing, and Management courses (such as SCI410 Sustainable Solutions, MKT318 Green Marketing, and MGT316 Sustainable Enterprise Management) to Honors Program seminars, course curricula and projects introduce students to a variety of topics to help them live and work more sustainably.

Project GreenPath Committee members interviewed a few Berkeley College instructors to learn more about how the courses they teach and their own personal practices support the environment.

Diane Maglio, Fashion Faculty, Larry L. Luing School of Business

Diane Maglio studied design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and then went into business. She spent most of her career working in textiles, focusing on the luxury market and natural fibers. She has been on the faculty of the Fashion Department at Berkeley College for about 11 years; at one point she served as Associate Chair. Ms. Maglio shared her thoughts about supporting sustainability at Berkeley and in the community with Jeff Ehalt, Director of Operations, CCA and Interim Director of Sustainability.

What does sustainability mean to you?

It means using natural resources, whatever they are, intelligently and carefully, and limiting chemical uses. It’s about buying less and buying better and keeping things going.

How do you incorporate sustainability in your curriculum?

I discuss the topic when I cover textiles, because it starts at a fiber level. We talk about how the cotton industry is using fewer pesticides and less water to grow the crop.

What do you think is the most important thing for students to learn on this topic? What do you aim to get across to them?

The most important thing to get across is that our resources are limited. We live in a country where if we go through a water shortage for three days, we don’t really see it as a big deal. Students don’t appreciate the fact that these are limited resources and that land is getting depleted. If they understand that what they’re dealing with is not unlimited, they may then think of better ways to work in business and develop better policies. Students are our future, and the ones that are going to have access to fewer natural resources.

What do you see students gaining personally and professionally from your coursework as a result of the sustainability focus?

I think they gain a better understanding of sustainability because some of them are just learning the word for the first time. It helps introduce them to what it is and what it means. They gain the realization that they are working with materials that are not going to be there forever.

Do you ever get the feeling that sustainability is just a trend and may fade with the times?

No, I don’t. I think there are enough people who are committed to saving the earth. I don’t think it’s just a fad, I think it will build.

What are some positive developments that you’ve seen in sustainability in education and the fashion industry?

It doesn’t come across very often in coursework. It isn’t one of our learning outcomes, but it is something we teach within the learning outcome. It’s an interesting topic for different departments to share and see where it fits. In the industry, designers are emphasizing it more in their collections because they see it as an opportunity to make money. There are many designers who have collections based solely on sustainability.

What little things do you do in your everyday life to be sustainable?

I think I was being sustainable before sustainable was even a word. I’m a person who loves what I buy. If I buy something, I love it. I have a coat that I love from the '70s and it still looks good and I wear it. I bought a party dress about 20 years ago and I still wear it! It looks very good! I pick things that I think have a future. I just don’t buy things and then throw them away. There are certain things that I no longer wear, like coolats, but you can wrap them up and give them to charity. You can take an old, raggedy sweater to a charity and it's fine because they sell the clothes by the pound and recycle them.

Melissa Baralt, Math and Sciences Faculty, School of Liberal Arts

A recipient of the Faculty of the Year Award in 2012, Dr. Melissa Baralt teaches various Science courses offered through the School of Liberal Arts, as well as an upper-level Interior Design class. She is also involved with the Berkeley College Honors Program. Dr. Baralt began teaching at Berkeley College in 2010. Previously, she ran a state-of-the-art research lab at Georgetown University, where she studied cellular DNA repair. Dr. Baralt shared her thoughts on sustainability with Dr. Laura Harste, Math and Sciences Faculty, School of Liberal Arts.

How do you incorporate sustainability and going green in your classes?

I incorporate going green in my classes by promoting new ideas and displaying different things others are doing around the world. I emphasize the perks of being proactive with respect to going green.

What do you see as the most important reason for teaching Berkeley College students about sustainability?

Sustainability is the future! No matter what career path one chooses, sustainability is a pertinent issue. Berkeley College has a variety of programs that focus on sustainability, such as Interior Design. Students who take my class can integrate and often use the ideas or topics discussed. At the end of the course, students are open-minded about the real issues and better solutions for these problems, which is a skill that can ideally be used in any profession.

Your honors course had a hands-on project involving sustainability. Can you tell us more about that?

We had an awesome cohort in the city! It was a class of nine students, and we focused on sustainable efforts that would change current models of geological damage. I had the students construct ideal cities. In this integration they needed to construct what would be the best solutions to the problems discussed in class. It was overwhelmingly successful. As part of the project, they had to make brochures inviting individuals to come visit in an effort to promote ecotourism. We had a great turnout; Dr. Ralph Peters and Dean Kieffer came to view the projects. The projects were a hit and were on display in the Liberal Ats floor in New York City for over six months.

How do you see students benefiting in the future from what they have learned?

The students benefit because they are well-versed in these topics pertaining to the sustainable evolution that will be absolutely necessary for them to make better choices as professionals and citizens. We are preparing scholars for a better tomorrow, and giving them the tools to succeed not only in the classroom, but in life as it changes before their eyes.

What is the coolest thing you have done in class recently?

The coolest thing I have done is show them an awesome clip of Donald Trump's negative reaction to a proposed wind farm by one of his golf courses in Scotland. The students got a kick out of his explanation about why windmills would not be attractive. We had a field day analyzing his speech and purposes for construction.

What ideas have saved you and your students the most money?

We have tried washing clothes in cold water. Also, we have tried to limit the number of lights that are on at any given time. People noticed a change in their monthly bills as a result of these changes.

What ideas do you think your students take with them after your classes?

They definitely can see that the United States is way behind in sustainable efforts on a worldwide scale. They will also learn to evaluate their carbon footprints, and be more aware of their ecological presence. They will also leave with the knowledge that even a little bit of change goes a long way.

Finally, what inspires you in your teaching and in your classes?

What inspires me is the relentless pursuit of teaching students things they do not know. They leave my class refreshed and with ideas that can change the world. This is not just a phase, but rather a lifestyle that can save lives. 

Dr. Melissa Baralt and Berkeley College Honors students

Students in Dr. Melissa Baralt's Honors Program seminar pose with their model of a sustainable city.


Harste's Green Scene

Project GreenPath is proud to introduce Dr. Laura Harste's blog, Harste's Green Scene. Dr. Harste will be writing about all things green, including ways to save time and money by going green, new sustainability trends, local environmental concerns, and more. Visit her blog at Post your comments and questions, and she will be happy to respond.


Alan Horwitz with his Sustainable Design class

Alan Horwitz reviews final student projects in the Sustainable Design class.

Alan Horwitz, Interior Design Faculty, School of Professional Studies

A licensed architect in private practice currently serving as Director of Architecture for G3 Architects, a mid-size regional architecture/interiors/planning consulting firm, Alan Horwitz joined the Berkeley College Interior Design faculty in 2009 and developed the course INT340 Sustainable Design. He also teaches INT250 Studio VI: Commercial I and INT260 Architectural Construction and Methods I. Mr. Horwitz has been involved with sustainable design throughout his career; during graduate school, he lived in a solar energy demonstration house. He was also among the first group of architects in New Jersey to become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accredited. A dedicated cyclist, he can often be seen riding his bicycle to campus.

Mr. Horwitz sat down with Janelle Roth, Senior Director of Web Content, to talk about how the Interior Design program at Berkeley College and the industry have gone green.

Can you share some history about how the interior design industry began paying attention to sustainability issues?

It could be argued that interior design has always paid attention to issues of sustainability, going back to ancient times when having knowledge of controlling the sun for daylight and controlling natural ventilation for air circulation was part and parcel to providing comfortable living and working conditions in buildings. In more modern times, say around the mid-1970s, awareness of sick building syndrome became prominent and caused designers to start thinking about building components that might be causing illness or detracting from a satisfying experience inside buildings. The Clean Air Act passed in 1970, lead-based paint was banned in 1977; interior designs needed to focus on reducing exposure or contact with toxic products.

Interior design is not just about making sure the color palettes are pleasing to the eye; it’s more about making sure that an interior space can be used for its prescribed purpose and for the full satisfaction of the users/occupants. Sustainability is not just about saving energy. It’s also about waste reduction and making healthy environments. We know more today about environmental illness and how even the most seemingly benign contact with certain building products and finish materials can impact people in a negative way. As designers we are responsible for protecting the public health and welfare in the buildings and spaces we create. 

What are some of the most exciting/interesting sustainability trends in interior design today?

Some are related to technology, such as using daylight harvesting systems, which adjust the level of artificial light based on the amount of natural daylight coming into the space. There are also innovations in building products, such as paints that actually clean the air and remove pollutants, building insulation made from recycled blue jeans, and wall coverings and fabrics made from plant-based materials.

Every day we learn more about how to turn something old into something new. William McDonough’s notion of “Cradle to Cradle" design is starting to gain more traction in the general public.

The concept of transparency is also gaining momentum. People have a right to know what materials they are interacting with. Imagine if buildings and interiors came with “nutrition labels” so we could all see exactly what went into them. The industry is moving in that direction.

What are some ways the Berkeley College Interior Design program is incorporating sustainability awareness and education in the curriculum?

INT340 Sustainable Design was offered for the first time in the 2012 spring quarter. I designed the course to provide an overview of the environmental challenges we face today that have been caused by the environmental negligence of the past, to give an understanding of techniques and materials that are in use today to combat these problems, and to give students an opportunity to flex their creative design muscles and work on a project that focuses on creating a sustainable interior space. It is now a required course in the B.F.A. curriculum. 

All of the professors in our program have a good understanding of the issues and general design strategies that are incorporated in sustainable design projects. These are regularly discussed in our design studio courses. Students are encouraged to embrace and incorporate this approach in their own design work

In what ways are you finding that students are engaged in supporting sustainability?

Students know we have crossed a tipping point in terms of their need to know about issues related to sustainable design. It is no longer specialty or “niche” information. It is very present in the awareness of the general public. The students in last year’s Sustainable Design course all produced designs that demonstrated a strong knowledge of the materials and proper design techniques for sustainability. Several projects utilized rapidly renewable materials, including bamboo flooring and cabinetry made from wheatboard.

I tell the students that the expectation for them as design professionals is to be more knowledgeable about this topic than a layperson. Students seem to embrace that understanding and are excited by the challenge of creating beautiful and functional spaces that are also healthy and use materials wisely.

They also see that it is an edge for future employment. Demand for designers with this skill set is only going to increase, and students don’t want to go through the intense professional training of a B.F.A. program and find they can’t compete for jobs with other students who have learned this material.

What are some ways you have incorporated sustainability in your own interior design projects?

It is a consideration in every project we do, regardless of whether it’s a building design, a renovation, or an interior fit out. We’re currently designing the corporate headquarters of a recycling company, and every interior finish material is being selected with a high degree of recycled components. I want our client to be able to walk his clients through the space and say, “Everything you see and touch here was something else in its previous life.”

What suggestions do you have for the Berkeley community to incorporate sustainability in their homes and work?

REDUCE-REUSE-RECYCLE. That is the mantra of the sustainability movement. The first homework assignment my students do is to calculate their carbon footprint. This causes them to look at their individual lifestyle choices and think about the impact on the environment each of them has. It may seem like a small thing to turn off the water in the sink while you’re brushing your teeth, but if eight million people do that, think of how much water can be saved.

The more we can all think about not abusing natural resources and living our lives in a manner that preserves resources for future generations, the greater chance we have of protecting our environment. This is not somebody else’s job. It’s a job for all of us.