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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.


Spatial Institute to help with updating fish distribution map

January 23, 2014 |
Western Today
The Spatial Institute of Western Washington University and the Hood Canal Coordinating Council will be holding a one-day steelhead mapping exercise at the Hood Canal Coordinating Office on Jan. 28.

This meeting will call together federal, tribal, state, county and other steelhead experts who work in the Hood Canal region and will collect from them local-level steelhead distribution information to update the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife / Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Statewide Integrated Fish Distribution dataset for the Hood Canal region.

Check In With The Environmental And Sustainability Programs

January 20, 2014 |
The AS Review
With a new quarter underway, the Associated Students Environmental and Sustainability Programs are preparing a series of events for this winter to raise awareness of problems facing the environment and to encourage students to learn ways in which they can become engaged in environmental activism. ESP Director Sadie Normoyle emphasized an interest in exploring the intersection between social and environmental issues. To this effect, the office is collaborating with other groups on campus, including the Ethnic Student Center and the Social Issues Resource Center.

“Later in the quarter we’re planning to do an indigenous resistance event,” Normoyle said. “Our vision [for 2015] is a continuation of what we worked on since we started our jobs...being more inclusive in our programming and in who we reach out to.” On Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 4 p.m. Dhar Jamail, a journalist known for his coverage of the Iraq War, will speak in Commucations Facilities 110 on the issue of climate disruption. His talk, “Are We Off the Climate Precipice?” will focus on the science of climate disruption and mass extinctions that are currently in progress.

Bellingham selected as semifinalist in $5M Georgetown University Energy Prize

January 14, 2014 |
Western Today
The city of Bellingham has advanced to the semifinal round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, which challenges small- to medium-sized towns, cities and counties to rethink their energy use and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. Each community has submitted a plan to reduce energy use in homes and city and school district facilities that can be replicated elsewhere in the United States. The community with the best plan that most effectively reduces energy use over the 2015-16 period will be awarded a $5 million prize.

The prize provides a platform for communities to showcase local innovations to a national audience. More than 70 communities participated in the quarterfinalist rounds during 2014, but the field has been winnowed to a group of 50 select cities and counties who will be competing to reduce their energy consumption to make it into the finalist round in 2017. The semifinalist communities hail from 27 states throughout the country. In Washington, Bellingham is joined by Anacortes, Bellevue, Walla Walla and San Juan County. These communities will share information and best practices.

Western brings electric vehicles to campus for testing

January 12, 2014 |
The Western Front
Electric vehicles will be test-run on Western’s campus from Jan. 12 to 19 to determine how they can be used across campus to reduce carbon emissions. Facilities Management employees will try out the vehicles and give feedback on whether the vehicles can be used in their daily work. Several kinds of electric vehicles will be tested. Vehicles start arriving on campus Monday, Jan. 12, said Tom Krabbenhoft, program manager of Facilities Management.

Due to the large number of vehicles used on Western’s campus, Facilities Management has been considering alternative-fuel vehicles for years, to help reduce fossil fuel consumption on campus, Krabbenhoft said. “The entire campus is a classroom and everyone who is working and learning here is contributing to the development of others, whether it is directly or indirectly,” Krabbenhoft said in a Facilities Management press release. “We are looking for what types of applications and uses will make sense [and] where we are able to accomplish the job and at the same time reduce the carbon footprint.”

KAPOW! Making spaces into lively places

January 5, 2014 |
Sustainable Connections
With the help of local partners, Sustainable Connections is hosting a Placemaking Competition to transform underutilized spots in Downtown Bellingham with YOUR idea for a lively destination that builds a stronger, healthier community. We are asking you to design a “tactical urbanism” project that enhances our Downtown vitality.

The goal of the competition is to engage our community in designing inexpensive, individual projects that make small places more lively and enjoyable. These design ideas should help to reflect our unique community identity, attract people, activate inactive spaces, provide amenities and promote people's health, happiness, and well-being. Winning ideas will be selected based on their creativity, innovation, potential to be realized and social impact.

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.

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!