Sustainability Action Plan
Western’s Sustainability Action Plan is the University’s roadmap for creating a healthier, more sustainable campus community.
Sustainability Committee Charter
University Sustainability Advisory Committee Charter
ARTICLE I – MISSION
The mission of the University Sustainability Advisory Committee (Advisory Committee) is to promote sustainability throughout the University – in planning, development, and operation of the campus environment and facilities, as well as in curriculum innovation, faculty, staff, and student research, and outreach to the greater community. Through these efforts, Western endeavors to become a national leader in sustainability.
ARTICLE II – GOALS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The Plan will enable Western to become a sustainable campus through three primary activities:
- Build awareness, understanding, and a culture of sustainability on campus;
- Promote and coordinate the integration of sustainability between campus operations and academic programs, including teaching, research, and service; and,
- Report annually to the President and the President’s Cabinet on the ongoing measurement of progress toward the long-term goal of sustainability. The report should also contain recommendations for course corrections and Plan adjustments.
In order to align with budget planning timelines, the Plan should be delivered by the end of November 2014. The Advisory Committee will circulate and publish proposed recommendations in order to provide the campus community opportunities to comment and to offer feedback. It is expected that the Advisory Committee will provide updates in the interim.
ARTICLE III – GUIDING PRINCIPLES
The Advisory Committee will promote integration of sustainability across campus by seeking to incorporate sustainability into the areas of academics and operations.
Among other items, the Plan should seek to address the following:
- Integration of sustainability into campus operations and long-range planning;
- Reduce resource use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and waste generation, seeking cost-savings wherever possible;
- The use of state-of-the-art planning tools and indicators of sustainability that enable assessment of performance; and,
- The development of an action plan for reducing Western’s carbon footprint as required by State law and as per our Climate Action Plan.
- Infuse sustainability into curricula throughout the University to prepare our students to engage global challenges and opportunities;
- Promote the application of the University’s expertise to solve complex sustainability challenges;
- Assist and support departments, programs and colleges in the creation and development of courses, curriculum, and interdisciplinary majors and minors related to sustainability;
- Advance and publicize sustainability-related research within and between disciplines;
- Help connect students with faculty, research projects, local organizations, and other resources related to sustainability;
- Encourage innovative organizational structures that facilitate education for sustainability; and,
- Use the campus as a learning laboratory to teach sustainable practices to the campus community.
- Encourage faculty/students to include sustainability efforts in their service learning program;
- Foster collaborations among departments, colleges, and among academic, planning, and operational functions of the University;
- Increase awareness of sustainability principles throughout the campus and the broader community;
- Promote a climate of innovation related to sustainability;
- Recognize, support, and reward initiatives that promote sustainability; and,
- Work with the Northwest Higher Education Coalition to share information on sustainability efforts.
ARTICLE IV – MEMBERSHIP
The normal term of service is two academic years, except for students who may serve for a single academic year. A member may continue to serve multiple terms. The appointing entity should stagger the terms, so the initial committee appointment may include one-year terms.Section 2: Composition
To promote cross-campus collaboration, the Advisory Committee will be comprised of representatives from both the academic and operational areas of the University, including the Sustainability Institute, the Office of Sustainability, and others.
- Dean, Huxley College of the Environment
- Director, Facilities Management
- Director, Environmental Health and Safety
- Director, University Residences
- Director, Office of Communications and Marketing
- Manager, Office of Sustainability
- Director, Student Activities
- Director, Sustainability Institute Initiative
- Selected by the Faculty Senate, up to four faculty representatives.
Students(one-year term, renewable)
- Selected by the Associated Students, four at-large student representatives from relevant and interested activities including colleges, majors, student clubs, and organizations.
- Program Manager, Sustainable Transportation
- WWU Foundation Representative
ARTICLE V – MEETINGS
The Advisory Committee shall meet at least once per quarter. The time and location shall be determined by consensus of the Advisory Committee, and all members shall be notified in advance.Minutes of meetings will be distributed and posted on the Western Sustainability website.
Subcommittees shall meet as necessary to fulfill their responsibilities to the Advisory Committee and at the discretion of the subcommittee chair. Members of subcommittees need not be designated members of the Advisory Committee.
Directive from Former President Shepard
Western Washington University Former President Bruce Shepard sent the following memo (also attached below) to Steve Hollenhorst and John Furman, co-chairs of the Sustainability Advisory Committee, on Tuesday, Sept. 23:
As noted in my recent blog posting, action by the Western Washington University Foundation has, appropriately I believe, put the University front and center and responsible for meaningful actions to address issues of climate change.
I am confident that the people who are Western – faculty, staff, students, alumni … – join with me in welcoming that responsibility. When it comes to sustainability and climate change, Western has long been a leader. As I put it in the blog, though, that proud past is prologue. What next? The gravity of the issue, the passion of our students, faculty, and staff, and the need not to rest on our laurels demands that we take stock of and then accelerate our efforts.
Western being Western, with decades of commitment to supporting global environmental health, we do not begin from scratch. We were charter signatories to the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment. And, as called for in making that commitment, we developed and adopted a Climate Action Plan.
Commitments and plans are essential first steps. But, progress is paramount. What progress has been made? What more can we be doing?
Western’s University Sustainability Advisory Committee is exactly the body to lead us in pursuing those questions. The committee is broadly representative of the relevant expertise among faculty, students, and staff and comes to the task experienced in the relevant topics. And, you already have on your agenda, it is my understanding, the review and updating of our campus sustainability plans.
So, I am writing to expand that established agenda. I charge the University Sustainability Committee as follows:
Your Charter establishes “sustainability throughout the University” as the committee’s focus. That focus most certainly subsumes the critical issue of human impacts on the environment.
To date, the committee has, understandably and appropriately, focused on steps to reduce Western’s carbon footprint. Thereby, you help us fulfill commitments, sustain a leadership position in walking the talk, and are about making tangible improvements. However, the university also has achievements, responsibilities, and opportunities to address climate change beyond those involving direct resource uses and choices. These other functions are in curricula and instruction, research and scholarship, and as a venue for passionate discussion and debate. In the directions that follow, please include this broader scope of Western’s current and potential involvement.
With regard to both the commitments we made in signing the President’s Climate Commitment and the strategies and actions and objective in the Western Washington University Climate Action Plan,
- For both, critically review and then report on progress made to date on components of the plan and the commitment. Do evaluate the current status of each as exemplary, satisfactory, or deficient and include analysis of reasons for areas of deficiency as well as for areas where progress has been satisfactory or better.
- From our already established commitments and your subsequent findings and analyses, offer the prioritized recommendations that then logically follow: for action steps to fulfill the components of the President’s Climate Commitment and modifications, updates, or extension of Western’s Climate Action Plan. Include recommended action steps required to fulfill that plan along with timeframes for completion and estimated resource implications (e.g., costs, savings).
In so doing, I ask that you involve faculty, staff and students in your efforts through open, transparent, and participatory means.
I further ask that you look for opportunities to engage graduate students and undergraduates (perhaps class projects?) in this work of the committee.
Please consider that you have full and prompt access to my office in any matters where I or the Vice Presidents might be of assistance. I will arrange, at your earliest convenience, an opportunity for the vice presidents and me to meet with you both to provide clarifications, to discuss processes for fulfilling my direction to the committee, to identify support needs to assure high quality and timely results (e.g., support of a graduate research assistant), and to set a timeline for the fulfillment of the charge.
Thank you for your leadership on this important issue for our campus community, for our state, for our world.
Letter from the President
Western has been a leader in many areas of sustainability since it established the nation’s first College of the Environment, Huxley, in 1969. Our students voted to collectively fund the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits in 2005, making Western the first campus in the US to offset 100% of its carbon emissions from electricity usage with a self-imposed student fee. In 2007 Western became one of the first 50 signatories to the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. In 2015 Western established the Institute for Energy Studies, an interdisciplinary program that brings together science, technology, public policy, business and economics to prepare graduates to address the complex issues in sustainable energy. This year, the Sierra Club recognized Western as one of the top 30 sustainable schools in the US. Western continues to innovate through its academic programs, student-led initiatives to bring in local food to the dining halls, and staff enterprises to create innovative solutions to antiquated practices.
With this tradition of environmental leadership, one might ask why Western needs a Sustainability Action Plan. Our vision is for sustainability to be something that all members of the Western community can embrace and put into practice here on campus, as well as in their home lives and communities. As we expand our understanding of the impact of human activities on the world, our perception of what it means to be sustainable grows.
Another reason for Western to adopt a Sustainability Action Plan is to honor the way sustainability is interconnected with our core values around social and economic justice. While living wages and social justice may seem distantly connected to carbon emissions and recycling, a sufficiently global and informed perspective reveals that a truly sustainable world must be as just as it is green.
Western’s path to a sustainable future will be determined by our students, staff, and faculty, and it must be bold. This Sustainability Action Plan is the product of voices from all sectors of the University, and I am grateful for the passion, commitment and hope that they have invested in this comprehensive and aspirational document. It reflects our values and vision, not only for what we hope Western will become, but for the kind of world we want to live in and help create.
Introduction to the Sustainability Action Plan
Western Washington University graduates will be instilled with an appreciation and understanding of the impact of human choices on people around the world and the planet itself. Those graduates will be force multipliers, taking their knowledge and passion to the home and workplace, promoting, influencing, and encouraging responsible, sustainable, and ethical practices in all aspects of their lives.
This Sustainability Action Plan is both a strategic and tactical document that pulls together a number of important initiatives and plans across campus, including Western’s Climate Action Plan, the Sustainability Academy’s White Paper, and Western’s Sustainability Tracking and Rating System (STARS) report. The purview of the SAP includes ten areas of activity that reflect the framework of STARS, the standard for campus sustainability assessment.
In 2014, the Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee was charged by President Shepard to critically review the Presidents’ Climate Commitment and 2010 Climate Action Plan and offer prioritized recommendations to fulfill Western’s obligations with regard to those commitments.
This Sustainability Action Plan addresses the continuing need for programs that improve and enhance Western’s brand of sustainability, sets a vision for growing the intellectual and curricular scope of our influence, while continuing to operate in a budget constrained environment. The plan identifies goals, strategies, metrics, and benchmarks that collectively will keep Western at the forefront of sustainable universities.
To produce the plan, the Committee engaged the entire campus through a series of public meetings, participatory seminars, and ongoing surveys. Students, Faculty and Staff provided over 1800 comments and suggestions that are integrated into both the strategic goals and the recommended actions and metrics that will contribute to realizing those goals. To ensure the broadest involvement in the process, the Committee formed 10 teams focused on nearly every function of the university. Participation was open to volunteers, however efforts to recruit team members also focused on individual expertise, interest, and diversity.
Some of the recommendations within the SAP are immediately actionable, while others will require new technology and/or changes to the economic picture. Many recommendations will have to compete in our resource allocation process and may not be funded in time to meet some of the articulated aspirational goals.
While some would argue that current climate conditions are simply a result of natural climactic cycles, the evidence is irrefutable that human activities directly contribute to the types of emissions that are associated with climate change. Global warming is now recognized as one of the most important threats to ecological sustainability and human civilization. Global surface temperatures are on the rise, snow packs and glaciers are melting, and ocean levels are rising.
These changes are also impacting social equity across the globe, aggravating climate sensitive diseases and inhibiting the abilities of developing nations to enhance the quality of life for their citizens. The strategies included in Western’s Climate Action Plan must not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also meet the needs of low-income communities. Part of sustainability is consideration of economic equity and social justice. Historically, we have seen poor people throughout the world and in our community suffer the most from both the impacts and the suggested mitigations of environmental threats and catastrophes. Our plan must make social justice a priority.
As such, the solutions our community proposes and implements must be sensitive to a broader set of societal concerns. Addressing climate change locally is not only an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also an opportunity to build a positive, community-based movement which results in increased empowerment, civic pride and improved quality of life.