Sunday, July 28, 2013

WWU Makes it into the EPA's Top 20 List for Green Energy

Last week, a headline from "Western Today"  having to do with the EPA's ranking of Green Energy purchasers caught my eye. According to the latest list of "Green Power Partners," WWU ranks 18 out of the top 20 academic institutions committed to supporting renewable energy. What's really cool is to read the Power Partner Profile about WWU, which explains how in 2005, WWU became the first higher education institution in the country to purchase RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates), to apply to 100% of the electricity consumed by the university. (And on a side-note, did you know the city of Bellingham is also a Green Power Community Partner? You can read more about that here.)

This is another example of the positive influence of student initiatives and student clubs here at Western. According to WWU's  Power Partner Profile, Students for Renewable Energy first introduced the plan to purchase green power 10 years ago in 2003. Then in 2004, 85% of the voting student body approved this plan, and final approval from the Board of Trustees was granted in 2005.

In 2010, Western students also approved increasing the Green Energy Fee in order to fund campus sustainability projects and alternative energy production. As you probably know by now, I am a HUGE fan of the Green Energy Fee Grant Program. It offers students, faculty, and staff awesome opportunities to collaborate on exciting educational projects that can positively impact both Western and the world.

Currently, there are a lot of great things happening here at WWU, both with student clubs and also through the ongoing projects sponsored by the Green Energy Fee Grant Program. For example, Project MUG has continued its pilot throughout the summer quarter and has had quite a bit of success. Also, clubs like Students for Renewable Energy are still hard at work exploring Divestment options.

Which just makes me think...when we reflect back upon the last ten years and consider what has already been accomplished, it's kind of exciting to ponder the question: what will the next ten years bring? If we can continue to combine the creative efforts of such an active and engaged student body, with the collaborative energies from the rest of Western's community, the possibilities truly are endless!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Trustworthy, loyal,

The Boy Scouts have a new merit badge for Sustainability.  Thainks to Millard Fillmore's Bathtub for pointing it out.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Of Hummingbirds and Starfish: Impacts of the Seemingly Small

Yesterday I had a great conversation with several people who are involved with sustainability education here at Western. One of the things we talked about was the value of small changes even in the face of large problems, and how participating in programs like the Sustainable Office Certification helps us connect with each other and with the world we inhabit.

 It has been my experience that participation in the SOC (and other sustainability programs) not only empowers and inspires me, but also leads to even more opportunities for finding creative solutions to real-world problems as part of a larger and highly-enjoyable collaborative process. This kind of collaborative experience is incredibly valuable because it can  assist us in restoring a sense of community to our daily work lives as what we do becomes even more meaningful. There is great joy that comes from aligning our values with our actions, which is why when we do something we believe in, "work" does not necessarily feel like "work." (I happen to think that's one of the reasons so many of us are drawn both to Western and to higher education.)

While we were talking yesterday, several of us were reminded of a couple of inspirational stories: One is the story of Wangari Maathai and also the hummingbird story, (as told by Wangari Maathai), and the other is the story of the boy and the starfish. I am sharing the videos that illustrate these stories here with you now in case you are also looking for a little inspiration.

As Wangari Maathai herself demonstrated during her life, individual actions are what pave the way for broader social change. If after watching these videos you are left wanting more, check out Maathai’s memoir Unbowed, (which you can find here at the library on Wilson 5E, call number SB63.M22 A3 2006). Or, if you’d rather stay online a little longer, sneak a peek at WWU’s Office of Sustainability’s website to learn about some of the things happening here at Western and how you can get involved. There are lots of ways that we can all “be like the hummingbird” (or make a difference to a starfish).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Roll with it: Biking in a small university town

A presentation by Jason Cooper , Systems and Emerging Technologies Librarian, University of Montevallo, Carmichael Library, on how his university is moving toward more sustaible practices, including the first bike-share program in Alabama.  Thanks to Greening Your Library for pointing it out.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"Ask Us" Resources and Recycling

One thing that Western Libraries have that I really love is the "Ask Us" feature, which allows you to enter a question  into a search box, and be directed to possible answers. If you do not see your answer and you still have questions, you can also receive answers via email or sometimes chat. Also, your Q &As are then added to the knowledge base so that they can be accessed by others later who may also have the same question. It's a really neat feature that I find myself using fairly often, even though I work here!

Because I am such a fan of this kind of service, I love it when I encounter other similar features on websites elsewhere. For instance, I recently read a book called The Zero-Waste Lifestyle (that I borrowed from the Bellingham Public Library), and it got me thinking about whether or not I could recycle more of my household trash. Gone are the days when we think we can just throw something "away." We now know that this "away" is actually a landfill, and anything we can do to stop our "stuff" from winding up there is a good thing. With this on my mind I did a mini-waste audit of some of my own trash, and then I went to the local Sanitary Service Company website. And guess what I found... An awesome "Ask Us"  page with a section where I could submit my own questions online!

Within several days of submitting my questions, I received some great answers back, and I  learned that I can indeed recycle several items I had been unsure of, such as the blister packs my daily-wear contact lenses come in, or my empty deodorant containers. Call me geeky, but I actually had quite a bit of fun looking through the Sanitary Service Company website--they have some really great information, and I encourage you to check it out if you are wondering whether or not something in your home or office can be recycled. (And likewise, if you have any questions for the library, remember you can always Ask Us!)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Campus sustainability's finest hour?

Interesting article by Dave Newport.  Actually about a lot more than campus sustainability, but a lot of food for thought.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

New Art Exhibit about Climate Change at the Lightcatcher

During Art Walk this past Friday, I was able to enjoy the new Whatcom Lightcatcher Museum exhibit "Nature in the Balance", which uses art to explore questions about climate change and the Earth. The questions they posed are:

What is happening to the Earth?
Why is it happening?
What are your visions of the future?
How can people make a difference?

This exhibit features compelling art explorations from a number of local artists, and will be on display through September 22, 2013. There are some really lovely, amazing, and thought-provoking pieces worth checking out if you have the chance to do so. For more information about the museum, check out their website. Information about hours and admission prices is also listed below:

HOURS: Wednesday - Sunday, noon-5pm;  Thursday until 8pm; open Saturday at 10 am

ADDRESS: 250 Flora Street, Bellingham, WA 98225

Members: Free
General: $10
Students / Military(with valid ID) / Seniors 62+ : $8
Children 2-5 years old: $4.50
Children under 2: Free

Every Thursday is $5 admission! Explore the Lightcatcher after dark; open until 8 PM every Thursday.
Questions? Call 360.778.8930

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sustainable patriotism

Happy Fourth of July!  In honor of the holiday I went looking for thoughts on sustainability being patriotic.  Here is a pretty good piece on the subject by J.R. Sykes.

Monday, July 1, 2013

WWU makes the news: sustainability and water

Gerald and Carolyn, the EOHS GEF Team, (photo from the GEF Facebook page)

I was listening to KPLU this morning as I was getting ready for work when I was happily surprised to hear a story about Western titled: "WWU to become largest public college in U.S. to ban bottled water." The story also featured Carolyn Bowie, from Students for Sustainable Water, who is also part of the Green Energy Fee Grant sponsored  project team that is working on the Environmental Outreach Hydration Station Project that will be located in Wilson Library.

I am continually impressed by the great things our students are doing to make Western and the world at large a better place, and so hearing this story was a really nice way to start the day. Check it out for yourself here. (And, for a great film that explores the multiple negative social, health, and environmental impacts of bottled water, check out Tapped from Western Libraries.)