Western plows ahead in sustainability efforts

Western Washington University is on its way to becoming an environmentally sustainable campus. In a presentation earlier this month, Campus Sustainability Manager Seth Vidaña presented to students and faculty the steps taken by Western since the creation of the Office of Sustainability.

Vidaña has been helping the campus become more sustainable through various programs, including those that brought more local foods to campus and encouraging students to take the buses rather than drive to campus.

“Sustainability is the last word in the WWU Strategic Action Plan, so we’re holding on [at the university-level],” he said during his presentation.

Western emits 12.5 Kingdomes worth of carbon dioxide annually, he said. While there have been drops of 4 and 5 percent in emissions generated by students and by campus buildings, respectively, since 2007, overall emissions have not been reduced due to the renovations and construction projects needed to help the university reach its zero-emissions goal by 2050.

Yet while the university has yet to reduce its emissions, steps are under way to reduce the campus carbon footprint. Thanks to the Green Energy Fee program, solar panels have been placed on the Environmental Studies building and an LED retrofit is in the works for the parking lots on south campus. The program recently completed its water bottle refilling station project, installing three stations at busy locations on campus.

Vidaña hopes that Western will soon develop a campus-wide energy policy but said they are in the stages of creating a minor program on energy policy within Huxley College of the Environment.

“We’re playing little league right now [with our sustainability], but we want to be in the majors,” he said. “We want to try to make sustainability fun in order to reach our students.”

In the meantime, the Office of Sustainability is hoping to reduce utility consumption on campus by 10 percent by the end of 2012. Those interested in getting involved in helping make Western a more sustainable university may contact the Office of Sustainability at (360) 650-2491 or sustain@wwu.edu, or visit them in Viking Commons 25.