Environmental studies students redraft the current plan for a green future
Ten Western students are working to create the first Sustainability Action Plan in efforts to improve green efficiency on campus.
The project is part of the course curriculum in Environmental Studies 471, Campus Sustainability Planning Studio, led by Seth Vidaña, the campus sustainability manager.
Western seniors Spencer Ward and Brian Anderson are working on sustainable transportation.
Together they are proposing ideas to increase ridership on busses, decrease single occupancy drivers and pave the C lots on south campus, according to their mid-quarter proposal.
“What we’re talking about is not necessarily proposing new ideas for programs,” Ward said. “We look to identify gaps where we think improvements can be made.”
The campus sustainability committee recognized the need for a plan last summer and put together a template for students to help develop, Vidaña said.
“We’ve had very successful and organic development in certain areas and we’ve been recognized for that,” Vidaña said. “But we don’t have a comprehensive ‘what do we do next’ plan that allows us to know what our strategic goals are in all areas.”
The students are reworking five of the 13 chapters within the plan this quarter. The remaining eight chapters will be created during summer by staff and fall quarter by students during the class, Vidaña said.
Students are not only working on this as a class project; they will be submitting their research and proposals at the end of the quarter to Western administration in hopes of approval and potential funding, Anderson said.
“We could have done the plan with just our in-house staff, but we thought it was important to involve students in creating the action plan,” Vidaña said. “It’s worked out really well because [students] are interested in making Western the sustainable university of the future.”
Students are working in pairs as research assistants for the Office of Sustainability to focus on areas that need improvement within each of the five departments.
Each plan identifies key performance indicators that can be measured to see if progress is being made or not, said Vidaña. The plans are also broken up into goals, objectives and strategies and presented to each department throughout the quarter with the intent that they follow up periodically to show any progress they have made, Vidaña said.
Much of the research is done by speaking with stakeholders and people who have a role in each department to see where they are running into problems on campus, Ward said.
“All of our information and notes are digitized and saved so groups in the future can look back at this to ensure things aren’t done twice and to ensure accuracy,” Anderson said.
The Office of Sustainability has been a hub for campus sustainability efforts since 2007, according to the website.
The office is responsible for green movements across campus including zero waste within the dining halls and installing water bottle refill stations.