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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.


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.

Students for Renewable Energy meet with WWU Foundation

June 4, 2014 |
Western Today
Associated Students President Carly Roberts presented on AS divestment efforts to the WWU Foundation board May 16. The presentation included a student-produced video and 75-plus handwritten letters from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.

Roberts asked the WWU Foundation Board to commit to an immediate freeze of new investments in fossil-fuel companies and a five-year divestment plan for any existing investments in 200 specific companies. The AS has asked for a decision by the end of 2014.

Huxley Spatial Institute develops interactive map of rail lines used to ship crude oil in North America

June 4, 2014 |
Western Today
Western Washington University’s Huxley Spatial Institute recently completed a collaborative project with the organization Oil Change International. The Institute’s Jacob Lesser and Tyson Waldo spent months developing an online map that allows users to explore the rapid expansion of crude oil being shipped by North American rail lines.

The Crude-By-Rail map was created as an online companion to “Runaway Train: The Reckless Expansion of Crude-By-Rail in North America,” a report published by Oil Change International in May 2014.

New processing center brings more local produce to Whatcom County schools

June 3, 2014 |
The Bellingham Herald
The Caesar salads served up in some school cafeterias are about to cut their commute time, as a new processing center will allow more local produce to be served in schools.

Cloud Mountain Farm Center in Everson recently completed a new processing center, which will provide prepared local produce for the Bellingham and Nooksack Valley school districts and Western Washington University starting this fall.

WWU, Ecology team to train future cleanup experts

June 2, 2014 |
As a college student, Susannah Edwards toured the Everett Shipyard cleanup site on Port Gardner Bay. Now she's working on cleaning up the shipyard as an Ecology employee.

Susannah, a sediment specialist in training in the Toxics Cleanup Program, joined Ecology in October 2013. She graduated in 2012 from Western Washington University with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science with environmental toxicology emphasis.

Climate change dries out Whatcom

May 30, 2014 |
The Western Front
Major trends caused by climate change in the Northwest are water-related challenges, including changing stream flow and an earlier snowmelt, which can increase the likelihood of drought, according to the United States National Climate Assessment released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program in May.

The report was gathered and reviewed by more than 300 experts on the topic, including scientists and federal agencies.

Guest column: Pledge to be sustainable

May 30, 2014 |
The Western Front
Western Washington University seniors once again have an opportunity to become more socially and environmentally responsible by signing the Sustainability Graduation Pledge.

Students picking up their cap and gown for the spring commencement may stop by the Office of Sustainability table and sign a pledge.

NOVA wins $35,000 for solar window invention

May 30, 2014 |
The Western Front
A team of six Western students known as NOVA received a total of $35,000 in the past month from different competition prizes and grants for their NOVA Solar Window, the first completely transparent solar window.

On May 23, the team was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, said team member Joshua Bennett. The rest of the money was won from business competitions this year.

Graduation pledge commits students to environmental responsibility

May 27, 2014 |
Western Today
Western Washington University seniors once again have an opportunity to pledge their commitment to social and environmentally responsibility by signing the Sustainability Graduation Pledge.

Students picking up their cap and gown June 11 and 12 in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room may stop by the office of Sustainability table to sign the pledge.

Expo highlights teams' Green Energy Fee projects

May 23, 2014 |
Western Today
The Green Energy Fee Grant Program at Western Washington University held its second annual expo May 14 in the Miller Hall Collaborative Space on campus. The event highlighted 10 teams that have been working hard to formulate new and innovative sustainability projects for campus.

The applicant teams that presented at the expo have been actively researching or implementing a wide variety of campus projects. More than 70 students, faculty and staff attended the expo.

County enlists WWU students in disaster planning

May 21, 2014 |
Go Skagit
BURLINGTON — In the event of a natural disaster, the ability for individuals and families to take refuge and protect themselves is extremely important. And for that, preparation is key.

“For the most part people are not prepared and that’s why hazards become disasters,” Western Washington University student Pam Melton told the Skagit Valley Herald Tuesday.

Revision of Western’s sustainability plan in the works

May 20, 2014 |
The Western Front
Ten Western students are working to create the first Sustainability Action Plan in efforts to improve green efficiency on campus.

The project is part of the course curriculum in Environmental Studies 471, Campus Sustainability Planning Studio, led by Seth Vidaña, the campus sustainability manager.

Students protest for clean investing

May 20, 2014 |
The Western Front
Five students from the Students for Renewable Energy (SRE) and Divestment group met with President Bruce Shepard Monday, May 19, to discuss the possibility of Western divesting $1.5 million from the fossil fuel industry in the next five years.

The SRE, Divestiture Study Group and Associated Students are asking Western Foundation Board to commit to a divestment plan by the end of 2014. Shepard suggested moving that decision to the middle of fall quarter due to the urgency of the campaign, said senior Jenny Godwin, president of the students for Renewable Energy.

Students use ice blocks to show climate change

May 15, 2014 |
The Western Front
Western students were doing more than enjoying the sun at Boulevard Park Wednesday, May 14. Three students were also demonstrating the current climate changes and the need to make changes to protect our planet.

With a display of more than 20 melting ice blocks hanging between two trees, they also had a sign in large red print that said “climate change is here now.”

Student research award winners announced

May 15, 2014 |
Western Today
Western Libraries is pleased to announce the 2014 winners of the Undergraduate Research Award, which is an annual award given to Western Washington University undergraduate students who demonstrate outstanding library research in the writing of papers for courses taught across the colleges.

It recognizes excellence in undergraduate research papers based on significant inquiry using library resources and collections, and learning about the research discovery and information synthesizing process.

Students to present geology research findings

May 13, 2014 |
The Western Front
Western students and faculty are preparing to present their geological studies on a variety of topics, ranging from poverty to tree rings. Western senior Tyler Black has been working all quarter on an extensive project with the Whatcom County Health Department mapping vulnerable populations of elderly and low-income people throughout Whatcom County.

Black, along with four other students and Western environmental studies professor Dr. Aquila Flower, will showcase her original work at the Association of Washington Geographers (AWG) Spring Meeting on Saturday, May 17. The convention is hosted on the University of Washington’s campus in Tacoma and features students throughout the state talking about their work in the field of geography.

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!