Offices across campus are making changes to be more energy-reducing and sustainable.
On Nov. 1, the Western Sustainability Office Certification, a program that recognizes campus offices' environmentally friendly choices, was made available to all administration offices on campus. Five administration offices on campus participated in the pilot program over the summer.
Since then, seven more offices have already stepped forward to be involved.
In 2011, Western ranked 17th on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the nation’s top 20 green-energy purchasers in higher education, according to the Office of Sustainability website. Western was the only college or university in Washington to be recognized.
Small changes are the key to the program's success, said Clarissa Mansfield, sustainability certification facilitator for Western Libraries. In her office, they disable computer monitor screen-savers, drink from reusable mugs and turn off power strips at night.
“The cumulative effect of everybody making these little changes is really huge,” Mansfield said.
The offices that participated in the pilot were Wilson Library Circulation, Provost’s Office, Environmental Health and Safety, Financial Aid Department and University Advancement Services.
Carol Berry, Campus Conservation and Sustainable Transportation program manager, works with Western's Office of Sustainability and is in charge of the certification program. Offices can use a checklist she created to document their progress.
“Usually, the items on the checklist are things offices are already doing,” Berry said. “Even if they don’t want to participate in the program, it helps to know where we are.”
Sue Sullivan, safety officer at Environmental Health and Safety, used the techniques she learned from the certification program in her home as well. Sullivan is the sustainability certification facilitator for her office.
Sullivan said her husband initially laughed at her attempts. However, once she began sorting her compost and recycling thoroughly, she said it became routine.
“It takes a little bit to get used to,” she said. “After a few weeks it just becomes habit.”
Sullivan said the changes are not as hard as people might think and many offices have already made several of them without knowing it.
Berry said they have received some feedback from offices that don’t think they can achieve the program's goals.
“We didn’t want to make it impossible, but challenging,” Berry said. “If we are doing the basic functions, we may raise the bar.”
Associated Students Recycling picks up 850 tons of recycling a year from campus, Berry said. Even though that is a large number, 85 percent of Western's garbage could still be recycled.
Western has already made huge improvements with recycling and compost sorting, but there’s still room for improvement if things were sorted properly, she said.
Melinda Assink, the Provost office facilitator for the certification program, has helped her office become certified. The office began using silverware instead of disposable dishes for food, and is working toward a paperless system, where meeting attendees bring laptops, iPads and view documents from a dropbox.
Assink said these changes are important because they not only help reduce energy consumption, but also benefit the environment.
“Students, faculty and staff have said sustainability is important to Western,” Assink said. “We all need to be part of the solution.”
Berry said she has always been interested in the impacts her actions have on the environment. When she was in high school, she participated in the first “Earth Day” where she helped clean up a desert in Nevada. She said people used to drop off appliances in the desert.
Berry’s goal is to someday have every administration office on campus certified through the program.
“That will be a process, and it takes time,” Berry said. “We are just trying for one office at a time.”
Berry predicts they will gain five to 10 administration offices every quarter.