Timeline of Sustainability at Western


Institute for Freshwater and Institute for Watershed Studies Founded

Devoted to a wide variety of watershed-related projects, the institute provides opportunities for students, staff, and faculty to conduct research and complete environmental education projects. It is a vital resource to test and study the state of local waters.


Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies Founded

Archival B+W photo of Fairhaven College's campus

Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Western Washington University was founded on the premise of offering students small, interdisciplinary seminars covering the same depth and breadth of subjects offered by Western. Fairhaven students lived on Western's campus and took classes both at Fairhaven and Western, while helping to plan Fairhaven's future.


Huxley College of the Environment Established

Western Washington University founds the Huxley College of the Environment (renamed the College of the Environment in 2021), one of the first and oldest colleges in the nation devoted exclusively to the study of the environment. Since its establishment, the college has added several programs and departments, including the combined majors of Environmental Studies/Journalism (no longer offered) and Environmental Studies/Economics.


First Issue of Huxley Humus Newsletter (Which Would Become The Planet Magazine)

An archival scan of a Huxley Humus newsletter

The Huxley Humus, a student-run and written newsletter publication, is started. Later, the Planet magazine continues the tradition of environmental advocacy through responsible journalism.


Huxley Environmental Reference Bureau (HERB) Started

Renamed the Associated Students Environmental Center in 1979

HERB begins as a college-sponsored, student-run group dedicated to organizing events & making resource materials and staff available for involvement with environmental topics.

Center for Pacific Northwest Studies Established

The Center for Pacific Northwest Studies is formed to foster greater understanding of the region’s past and present through archival collections which document significant developments in the region stretching from Alaska to Northern California, and from the Pacific to the Rocky Mountains, with a particular focus on northwest Washington, the Olympic Peninsula, British Columbia, and Alaska.


Department of Engineering Technology Launches the Vehicle Research Institute

The Department of Engineering Technology develops the Vehicle Research Institute (VRI) to provide sustainable vehicle design, prototype construction, and consultation for government & private industry. VRI has produced dozens of innovative, fuel-efficient cars that have won multiple awards and captured the attention of automobile manufacturers.

Outback Farm & Experiential Learning Site Established

The Outback Farm garden

In coordination with Fairhaven College, a five-acre student-run site is initiated to teach, develop, and implement sustainable growing and land use methods in order to enrich student learning, the university, and the community.

HERB Recycle Center & Associated Students Recycle Center Begin Work

Western Washington University becomes one of the first universities in the U.S. to have a campus-recycling program. Beginning as an HERB program, the Associated Students continues the program. Years later, several other programs and organizations in Whatcom County are modeled and inspired by the program.


Western Inspires Bellingham Community Recycling (BCR), Environmental Resource Services, and RE Sources

Using Western Washington University as an inspiration and model, Bellingham Community Recycing researches, organizes, and lobbies the local government to offer curbside recycling to all city residents. With their success, they transition into being an advocate for sustainable communities as RE Sources and expand this message by creating a business called Re Store in 1993.


City of Bellingham Contracts Sanitary Services Company (SSC) for Curbside Recycling

Modeled on Western Washington University and motivated by the non-profit Bellingham Community Recycling, the City of Bellingham begins offering residents curbside recycling as a third party contract to Sanitary Services Company.


Residence Hall EcoReps Program Started

An EcoReps booth in Red Square with a toilet and sink set up to encourage reducing water waste.

The educator for the Associated Students (AS) Recycle Center starts the EcoReps program in the resident halls. A hall council position educates & promotes more sustainable living to fellow residents.


Learning, Environment, Action, Discovery (LEAD) Program Begins

Student initiated & led, with the sponsorship of the College of the Environment, LEAD creates a link between Western Washington University, Whatcom County schools, environmental organizations, and government agencies to encourage community-based environmental restoration education and service learning for the benefit of the community.


Transportation Management Program & Sustainable Transportation Office Established

As a major part of Western Washington University's commitment in its Institutional Master Plan, the university creates an office to encourage and respond to the needs for alternative transportation information and options for the community.


Academic Custodial Services (ACS) Department Implements Environmental Practices

ACS receives recognition and wins multiple awards by using green cleaning products and practices, increasing staff training, and continually developing better environmentally friendly strategies.


Institutional Master Plan (IMP) Revised

Western Washington University revises its Institutional Master Plan in accordance with the mandated Washington Growth Management Act. The Campus Planning Studio course participates in the revision process, helping to ensure general sustainability language and specific provisions in the final IMP.


Students Vote to Use Fees to Fund LEED Certified Recreation Center

Wade King Recreation Center

An overwhelming vote by the student body to assess themselves a fee provides the university with the funding to construct the nation’s first Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified recreation center with a pool. The Wade King Student Recreation Center was completed in 2003 and received a LEED Silver rating in 2007.

Green Landscaping Practices Implemented

Western Washington University outdoor maintenance begins practices to end the use of all insecticides, using alternative weed reduction techniques, composting of debris and lawn mulching, organic fertilizers, and continually expanding methods to reduce their environmental impact.


Energy Conservation Taskforce Assembled

Western Washington University President Morse, in coordination with faculty, staff and students, creates a taskforce to evaluate energy consumption and look for ways to conserve energy.


Western Becomes a Charter Member of Sustainable Connections

A non-profit collaboration of Whatcom business owners forms a network with a vision to create a sustainable local economy through various programs serving locally-owned businesses. The organization has various program areas: green building, food and farming, sustainable business development, think local campaigning, and energy conservation. Western is a charter member and provides education and professional support for many of their initiatives.


Sustainable Design Minor Established

The College of the Environment, Fairhaven College and the College of Engineering Technology offer a minor in Sustainable Design, emphasizing planning and design that promotes long-term economic, social, and ecological values and equity. The program enables students to gain complementary skills in environmental studies, urban planning, and design in order to pursue sustainable design careers.


Students Vote for WWU 100% Renewable Energy Fee

The Associated Students club Students for Renewable Energy (SRE) receives an overwhelming vote in support of the Green Power Initiative. With Board of Trustee support, facilities management and SRE negotiates a contract to purchase renewable energy credits, offsetting the campus electricity by 100%.

Western Gathers a Sustainability Advisory Committee

Western Washington University convenes a committee to promote the collaboration of students, staff, and administration to increase sustainability on campus. Through this collaboration, the committee creates the Office of Sustainability and organizes sustainability-oriented actions in coordination with the office.


Woodring College of Education 'Teaching for a Positive Future' Program Begins

Premised on the belief that K-12 teachers will be instrumental in helping to bring about the social, political, economic, and environmental conditions necessary to create a positive and just future, the program aims to have all teachers become sustainability-literate.

Office of Sustainability Founded

Original Office of Sustainability logo

Western establishes an office to help it achieve its strategic goal of sustainability and to promote and coordinate with campus sustainability initiatives. The office becomes a resource and outlet for organizations, projects, and the ideals of implementing sustainable practices. The office develops the Campus Sustainability Report, Resident Resource Awareness Program (ResRAP), building assessment studies, and other projects.


WWU President’s Climate Commitment Signed

President Morse commits the campus to a path toward climate-neutrality. As part of this commitment, a greenhouse gas inventory is implemented and the university begins development of its Climate Action Plan.

Students Vote for Active Transportation Fee

An overwhelming vote by the student body in favor of the fee puts a quarterly Viking Xpress Bus Pass in the hands of every student registered for more than six credits, creates Western's Student Transportation office, and provides for the WWU Late Night Shuttle Service.


Go For the Green Residence Hall Energy Program Launched

The Office of Sustainability establishes a program to promote action and awareness in campus resident halls, challenging residents to reduce their consumption of energy and water, and create less waste.

Sustainability Academy Founded

Faculty and staff convene to form the Sustainability Academy to foster sustainability education at Western Washington University. The academy develops an inventory of existing sustainability classes, consolidates library resources on the topic, hosts bi-monthly brownbag discussions, and designs curriculum proposals toward expanded interdisciplinary studies in sustainability.

Woodring College of Education Prioritizes Sustainability Literacy

Sustainability is identified as a priority in long-term planning and fund development in the College of Education. Teacher education courses begin to include sustainability literacy as a learning outcome. The college establishes the university’s first college-level sustainability committee: Woodring Initiative for Sustainability Education (WISE). A number of faculty establish sustainability-related research programs.


Zero Waste Western Started

Now a part of WWU's Recycling Center, Zero Waste Western works to reduce Western's waste with events like the Coffee Cup Challenge and Move Out Madness.


First Climate Action Plan Approved

Western's Board of Trustees approves a Climate Action Plan that outlines a strategy for Western to become climate neutral by 2050, later reviewed and revised into the Sustainability Action Plan.


Institute for Energy Studies Founded

The Institute for Energy Studies is founded in response to the growing demand for education and training related to the technology, policy and business aspects of human production and use of energy. To meet this critical need, the IES develops interdisciplinary programs that combine the fields of science, technology and engineering with economics, business management, public policy, and sustainability.

Miller Hall Renovation is LEED Gold Certified

The green roof of Miller Hall

The renovation of historic Miller Hall at Western Washington University has been awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. Especially notable is a “green roof” that crowns a new student gathering place and saves heating and cooling costs, insulates sound and reduces stormwater runoff.


WWU Hosts Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference

The Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference (WAHESC), a regionally focused opportunity for those teaching, working, or studying within higher education to come together and learn about sustainability in academics, operations, and research, is held on Western's campus.

Woodring's Victor Nolet Attends UN World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development

Western Washington University professor Victor Nolet was part of the U.S. delegation that attended the 2014 UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Nagoya, Japan, Nov. 10 to 12. Participants from 200 countries gathered in Japan for the world conference, which focused on the role education can play in preparing the world’s youth for a sustainable future as the planet is set to face growing economic, social and environmental challenges. Participation in the World Conference was by invitation only and invitees were nominated by their countries.

WWU Hosts Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

Held at and co-hosted by Western Washington University. The purpose of the conference is to assemble scientists, First Nations and tribal government representatives, resource managers, community and business leaders, policy makers, educators, and students to present the latest scientific research on the state of the ecosystem, and to guide future actions for protecting and restoring the Salish Sea ecosystem.


Sustainable Cities Partnership Program Launched

The Sustainable Communities Partnership, later the Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) program focuses the energy and ideas of faculty and students upon the issues that communities face as our society transitions to a more sustainable future, facilitating a program in which Western students complete community-engaged learning projects to address problems identified by the partner.

Salish Sea Institute Established

Map of the Salish Sea

The Salish Sea Institute is created to foster responsible stewardship of the Salish Sea, inspiring and informing its protection for the benefit of current and future generations.

Sustainability Action Plan Process Initiated

President Shepard charges the Sustainability Advisory Committee 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. The Sustainability Action Plan addresses the continuing need for programs that improve and enhance Western’s sustainability and sets a vision for growing the intellectual and curricular scope of influence.


Community Engagement Fellows Founded

Community Engagement Fellows is started to empower educators and community leaders in northwestern Washington to nurture engaged citizens, serve the public, and improve our bioregion and the planet. This community of practice facilitates the growth of effective, durable learning and community development systems.


Green Direct Renewable Energy Program Begins

Bird's eye view of the Skookumchuck wind facility, from which Western offsets its electricity carbon emissions

Western Washington University joined Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) Green Direct Renewable Energy Program. The program, a collaboration of governmental and commercial organizations and institutions throughout the region, constructed a new renewable generating facility that now provides members with renewable energy from the largest wind project in Western Washington—the Skookumchuck Wind Facility.

Sustainability Action Plan Completed and Approved

The Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) was initiated by President Bruce Shepard in 2014. Over three years, a dedicated committee of faculty, staff, and students collaborated with individuals throughout the Western community to craft a comprehensive twenty-year map to a more sustainable university. The SAP was approved by Western’s Board of Trustees in 2017 and is currently being implemented.

EV Charging Stations Installed

An electric vehicle charging station on campus

Two Western students, Spiro Pappas and Whit Jamieson, brought stakeholders across campus together and received a $100,000 grant from the Sustainability, Equity, & Justice Fund to purchase and install the university’s first Electric Vehicle Charging Stations near Fairhaven College.


Climate Leadership Certificate Program Launched

Climate Leadership Certificate Logo

The Climate Leadership Certificate program accepts its first cohort. Throughout the 1.5-year program, students engage in curriculum targeted at sustainability literacy, planning, and leadership, while also participating in hands-on practicum work with sustainability organizations in Whatcom County and the Methow Valley.


The Office of Sustainability Becomes the Sustainability Engagement Institute

Sustainability Engagement Institute Logo with the tagline "Coming Together for Climate Action"

Incorporating academics into its mission of Coming Together for Climate Action, the Office of Sustainability is now the Sustainability Engagement Institute.