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Below are the most recent sustainability-related news items throughout the Western Washington University and Bellingham-area. Each item is tagged with corresponding subject(s) relating to a specific topic within our website.


Professor finds virus in mass sea star die-off

December 1, 2014 |
The Western Front
After a year of mass mortality among sea stars along the Pacific coast, a Western biology professor has a new hypothesis for what could be the largest recorded deaths in history of these sea creatures. Western professor Ben Miner co-authored a study published Monday, Nov. 17, that aimed to determine what has been killing sea stars from southern California to southern Alaska. “The best evidence currently found is that it is a virus,” Miner said. “There are other hypotheses that are consistent, but there is definitely a virus involved.”

Miner’s hypothesis is that the presence or absence of the virus, called densovirus, is not what determines whether the sea stars get sick, though it may be weakening their immune systems, Miner said. Many sea stars that have the virus are not sick, he said. Miner started the study over a year ago in collaboration with senior Warren Kohl and Cornell University professors Ian Hewson and Drew Harvell to look at the mass wipe out of a variety of species of sea stars up and down the Pacific coast, Miner said.

Heritage Resources: partners in teaching, learning

November 26, 2014 |
Western Today
The instruction plan for Western Libraries Heritage Resourcesarticulates the goal of ensuring that Western students “are able to find, understand, and interpret a wide variety of research sources in various contexts throughout their lives.” With that in mind, Heritage Resources staff work closely with instructors to meet specific course needs and learning objectives by providing access to a wealth of materials that can enhance, enrich, and enliven research in nearly any subject area.

For example, this past August, a new cohort of Environmental Education graduate students visited Western’s campus and spent time working with archival and primary source materials at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies (CPNWS). As part of the M.Ed Residency program partnershipbetween the North Cascades Institute (NCI)and Western’s Huxley College of the Environment, these students live at the Environmental Learning Center located in the North Cascades National Park for one year, during which time they are able to immerse themselves in place-based pedagogy.

Sustainability Challenge

NW Washington Sustainability Challenge
NW Innovation Resource Center is sponsoring this competition to foster the development of businesses which provide economic impact while contributing to global sustainability. The Challenge creates opportunities for both students and affiliates of the participating colleges to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas in Northwest Washington. Innovation teams are invited to submit their best ideas for products that will create positive environmental impact and show high potential for commercialization. (Applicants will apply as individual teams – not official representatives of the education institutions.)

The competition is open to both student and affiliated business teams (staff/students/faculty/alumni of a participating school) of no less than 3 members. Student teams must contain at least 3 members enrolled at a participating institution. Business Division teams must contain at least one staff, student, faculty, or alumni member from a participating institution. Students are welcome to compete in the Business Division, provided they meet the requirements. (Please note that the teams will not be representing their college in any official capacity.) All team members must reside in or attend school in Snohomish, Skagit, or Whatcom County.

Transformer removal ends decade-long utility upgrade project

November 17, 2014 |
Western Today
A little known but vital piece of Western Washington University's history was removed from campus this past week. The antiquated 4,160-volt transformer at the Steam Plant, once the single power feed from Puget Sound Energy for the entire campus, was lifted by crane and transported to Oregon to be safely disposed of. The beast was manufactured in 1975, weighed nearly 40,000 pounds, contained 1,700 gallons of oil and produced 7,500,000 volt/amps.

Under the North Campus Utility Upgrades project, the existing, more-efficient 12,470-volt system was extended to feed the north end of campus. The effort to replace the old campus distribution system with the new one has taken more than a decade to complete. The removal of the old transformer finishes up the Electrical Utility Campus Master Plan. With the old system, a single failure would disconnect power from the entire north end. The new looped feed configuration allows Western to isolate single buildings to minimize total impact in the event of failure. The last of the buildings on campus to be operating on the 4,160-volt system (Old Main, Edens Hall, Edens North, Higginson, Nash Hall and Mathes Hall) are now hooked up to the new system.

Western environmental groups celebrate sustainability at expo

November 13, 2014 |
The Western Front
Carbon-lite bikes, foraging and recycling clothes were among the four pillars of sustainability discussed at Western’s Sustainability Expo on Thursday, Nov. 13. The expo was put on by Western’s Office of Sustainability, the Green Energy Fee Grant Program and the Environmental and Sustainability Programs with the theme, “the earth is a shared environment.”

“We want to get people engaged in a kind of non-traditional sense with sustainability,” said Victoria Monreal, a Western alumna who helped organize the event. “We wanted to cover the four pillars of [sustainability]: transportation, food, housing and clothing.” The expo included booths on topics such as foraging and trying out carbon-lite bikes. Students also brought their unwanted clothing for a clothing swap.

Western's green energy fee works to make campus sustainable

November 13, 2014 |
The Western Front
Western's Green Energy Grant Program, which allows students and faculty to design and implement their own green projects, is starting the first wave of idea pitches. The $7-per-student green energy fee funds projects such as water bottle refill stations, LED lighting for concert halls and parking lots to encourage energy sustainability on campus. GEF provides small and large grants from their annual budget of about $300,000, according to the GEF website. The GEF also subsidizes clean energy, GEF Education Coordinator Colin Ridgley said. “We’re funding enough clean energy to match the amount of energy that Western uses on campus,” Ridgley said. “That’s why the fee was created.”

The GEF was implemented in 2005 to encourage clean energy and amended in 2010 to fund the grant program. Alyssa MacDonald, the GEF outreach coordinator, said the projects must involve sustainability, reduce energy consumption or the university’s environmental impact and engage the campus community. “We fund small and large grant projects,” MacDonald said. “A small project is anything from $500 to $5,000. Anything above $5,000 up to $250,000 is considered a large grant.” The process begins when a student or faculty member has a project idea. Then, they build a team with a couple of other students and an advisor. Their project is then submitted to a committee for approval.

Calling All Majors: Sparking Clean Energy Interest from Students in Washington

November 6, 2014 |
Energy is everywhere. From the food we eat, to the plants we grow, to our daily exercise routines—energy is at the root of all of these processes. That is why Western Washington University (WWU) developed its Institute for Energy Studies, which prepares students to shape our clean energy economy with a comprehensive understanding of how energy fits into our lives.

The Institute for Energy Studies at the University offers undergraduate programs that incorporate multiple disciplines into the study of energy, focusing on four essential components to address national energy security and global climate-disruption challenges: science, technology, policy, and business. Specifically, students have the option to minor in energy policy or to pursue an energy concentration within the electrical engineering program. Over the next year, the University will also develop programs for a Bachelor of Arts and a minor in energy science.

NW Colleges Showcase Innovations In Campus Sustainability

November 6, 2014 |
Oregon Public Broadcasting
In the Reuse Room at Portland State University, everything is free and the door is always open. Students and staff can walk into the converted mailroom anytime to donate or take supplies, ranging from three-ring binders to iPods. Though the tiny space may not look impressive, the program is a point of pride for PSU as an innovation in waste reduction. Last year the Reuse Room turned over $45,000 worth of supplies and diverted more than 10,000 pounds of trash from going to the landfill.

Like PSU, colleges across the country are trying out new approaches for making their campuses more sustainable. This means educating students and others in higher ed about the impact they are having on the planet and its resources as well as finding ways to reduce that impact.

Sustainability expo Nov. 13 to feature local food, clothing swap, bike tests

November 5, 2014 |
Western Today
"Survival Skills for a Small Planet," a sustainability expo set to take place Nov. 13 on the Western Washington University campus, will showcase sustainable options for food, clothing, shelter and transportation.

Free local food samples: 10 a.m. to noon. Demonstrations and displays will include cooking sustainably on a budget, canning and preserving, and farming...

Students create pet products in 'ReMade' challenge

October 30, 2014 |
Western Today
Western Washington University’s junior Industrial Design students will showcase “upcycled” pet products they created using unique eco-strategies from reclaimed materials in the annual design challenge “ReMade” from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7 at Ideal: Carefully Curated Goods, 1227 Cornwall Ave, in downtown Bellingham.

The students applied design methodologies to recycle, repurpose and transform discarded materials otherwise headed for waste streams into commercially viable and environmentally responsible pet products for sale.

Chamber announces Nonprofit and Green Business of the Year

October 29, 2014 |
The Bellingham Business Journal
The Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry announced its Nonprofit and Green Business of the Year, as well as nominees for the its Small and Large Business of the Year awards. Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center is the Chamber’s 2014 Nonprofit of the Year for “its dedication to going above and beyond its mission of providing conflict prevention and intervention service for businesses and individuals in the community,” according to the press release

Western Washington University is the Chamber’s 2014 Green Business of the Year for “its success in elimating bottled water sales on its campus, based on an initiative started by its students.” Also, Western has three LEED certified buildings and encourages green practices on campus through its Office of Sustainability, according to the news release.

WTA test drives electric bus, not ready to transition

October 20, 2014 |
The Western Front
The Whatcom Transit Authority tested an all-electric bus last week, but is not considering purchasing one for county use. Build Your Dreams Motors Inc. has been traveling around the state, offering transit agencies an opportunity to test the electric buses. BYD approached WTA with the same opportunity, said Maureen McCarthy, WTA’s community relations and marketing manager.

For one week, the public was open to ride one of these all-electric buses with no charge, according to a WTA press release. This gave WTA the opportunity to test what BYD is promoting as the first environmentally-friendly bus technology. “Environmentally speaking, these are a whole lot cleaner than anything that burns diesel,” McCarthy said. “[However], it’s much more expensive to purchase. ... It definitely costs a lot more than a standard diesel bus.”

Joel Swisher hired as director of WWU Institute for Energy Studies

October 13, 2014 |
Western Today
Joel Swisher has been hired as director of Western Washington University’s Institute for Energy Studies. “Dr. Swisher brings a wealth of insight and experience in the energy field to Western. He is the right person to build on the outstanding foundation we have in the Institute for Energy Studies. His work in private industry, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and Stanford University all will inform our next steps to help students in this critical field,” said Brian Burton, associate vice president for Academic Affairs at Western.

Swisher, who starts at Western on Nov. 3, was hired following a national search. He succeeds Institute for Energy Studies founding director Andy Bunn, associate professor of Environmental Science at Western. “I want to thank Andy Bunn for taking the lead in developing the Institute and the energy curriculum. His energy, enthusiasm, and expertise have been and will continue to be important in the Institute’s work,” Burton said.

Students continue to push for the WWU Foundation to divest from fossil fuel

October 11, 2014 |
The Bellingham Herald
The Western Washington University Foundation announced in September it would not end investments in fossil fuel companies, but some students at the university are not willing to accept that stance. Responding to a request made by Western’s student government in May to freeze investments in fossil fuel companies and commit to divestment within five years, the foundation announced Sept. 16 that it would not change its investment policy. Leaders did, however, create a climate-friendly investment fund in their portfolio as an option for donors.

Students for Renewable Energy, a student government club at the university, released a statement Oct. 6 denouncing the foundation’s answer to their May request. “To invest funds on behalf of an institution into a reckless and unsustainable business strategy is not consistent with any fiduciary duty,” read the statement from the Students for Renewable Energy.

Bellingham gardeners go back to their community roots

October 2, 2014 |
The Western Front
Alyssa Pitcher Sunflowers tower over the fall squash and winter kale. Busy gardeners tend to their crops in the damp Bellingham soil. At first glance, this may look like an ordinary garden, but this garden is helping a community go back to its roots with local food.

The Washington State University Extension Program began the Community Garden Tours in Whatcom County in order to support locally grown food as well as to encourage people to gain more interest in gardening. The tours began on Saturday, Sept. 22, and featured a variety of events including the farmers' market and a guided bicycle tour.

WWU named an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus

October 1, 2014 |
The Western Front
WWU - photo by Rhys Logan Western Washington University has been selected to join the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium, which now stretches across 29 campuses in five countries and provides students and faculty alike with interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial and solution-oriented skills to succeed and make a positive difference in the world.

“We are delighted to be accorded the status of Changemaker Campus by Askoka. Our strengths in sustainability, social entrepreneurship, service learning, teacher education and interdisciplinary learning were recognized by the Ashoka U accreditation team that visited us. They noted what we have always known: that ‘Active Minds Changing Lives’ isn’t a slogan, it’s the Western way of learning,” said Western President Bruce Shepard.

Bellingham advances in energy prize

September 27, 2014 |
The Western Front
The City of Bellingham has advanced to the final stages of a national competition for energy efficiency, which puts it in the running to win a five million dollar grand prize. The Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP) is a competition that began accepting applications in April 2014 and announced the 52 quarterfinalist communities in August.

Bellingham is competing against other communities with populations ranging from 5,000 to 250,000. Among the quarterfinalist communities there are complete newcomers and seasoned pros. “Bellingham has a pretty good historical record of energy efficiency efforts,” said Mark Gardner, legislative policy analyst for the Bellingham City Council. “Now it’s a matter of seeing what we can do to get the whole system working together.”

Carbon-rich tidal wetlands down, but not out

September 25, 2014 |
Western Today
About a hundred years ago, the Snohomish estuary was dominated by Sitka spruce forested wetland. Downed logs and driftwood occupied much of the channel in large rafts of diverse species. Historical accounts report that it was possible for some of these floating natural structures to remain in place for long periods of time. New trees up to 3 feet in diameter were reported to grow on top of the rafts. Some were over 25 feet deep, consisting of many layers of large logs, 3 to 8 feet in diameter.

Today, the Snohomish estuary is much changed. The estuary was logged and miles of dikes and levees were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since then, the Snohomish estuary has been used for agriculture, wastewater treatment, and as a site for several landfills.

Elwha: A River Reborn' on campus Oct. 6 to Dec. 30

September 24, 2014 |
Western Today
Western Libraries and Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment will host Elwha: A River Reborn, a new traveling exhibit from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, from Oct. 6 through Dec. 30 in Western Libraries Special Collections on the 6th Floor of Wilson Library.

Based on a Mountaineers book of the same name by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman, the exhibit takes viewers to the Northwest’s legendary Elwha River Valley to discover the people, places, and history behind a remarkable regional story – and the largest dam removal project ever undertaken. Through first-person accounts, stunning photographs, and informative text printed on free-standing banners, follow the Elwha’s journey from abundant wilderness to economic engine – to an unprecedented experiment in restoration and renewal that has captured global attention.

President Shepard updates Sustainability Advisory Committee on 2014-15 priorities

September 24, 2014 |
Western Today
Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard sent the following memo 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.

Western professor studying how butterfly populations reflect global warming

September 21, 2014 |
The Western Front
Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard sent the following memo 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.

WWU Foundation Responds to Request on Fossil Fuels Divestment

September 19, 2014 |
Western Today
The Western Washington University Foundation Governing Board of Directors on Sept. 16 decided not to change its investment policy regarding divestiture from investments in fossil fuel companies.

The Foundation Governing Board’s decision was in response to a request by the Western student government.

WWU’s Troy Abel to lead NSF-funded climate governance study

August 27, 2014 |
Western Today
Western Washington University Associate Professor of Environmental Policy Troy D. Abel and his research team have been awarded a $545,000 National Science Foundation grant that will allow him to lead the team in a three-year study on state and local climate-risk governance.

Abel helped launch a new Business and Sustainability degree at Western and was recently appointed the director of Huxley College of the Environment’s Peninsula program located at Western Washington University Center at Olympic College, Poulsbo.

WWU 19th on EPA Green Energy List

August 8, 2014 |
The Snohomish Times
Western Washington University is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the nation’s top 30 green energy purchasers in higher education.

Western, which is 19th on the EPA list, annually offsets 100 percent of its electrical consumption from green sources via purchases of renewable energy credits (RECs).

Backyard breeder: Retired Bellingham professor develops promising variety of spring wheat

June 9, 2014 |
The Bellingham Herald
| food
As an English professor, Merrill Lewis read books. As a retired English professor, he reads wheat.

A Bellingham resident, Lewis focused on Western American literature and Pacific Northwest writers while teaching at Western Washington University from 1962 to 1994. He now spends his days studying the spring wheat he grows in his small garden in the Sehome neighborhood.

Sustainability wall opens in Wilson Library

June 5, 2014 |
Western Today
The sustainability wall is now open in Wilson Library at Western Washington University.

A collaborative project of Western Libraries, the Office of Sustainability and the AS Environmental Center, this wall provides Western with a central and public location where the campus community can find out about environmental and sustainability events. The wall is located near the north entrance to the Wilson Library between Zoe’s bagels and the Tutoring Center.

Note: These news items are carefully selected from searching many local resources. They are linked directly to the original articles. We do not own any images or content within each article. The main purpose of this news section is to get the word out!