Sustainable Office Certification: Success Stories

Practices in support of university and community sustainability can be found in every department on campus. Completing the SOC score sheet earns recognition, and provides a measurement of what we practice in our daily work.

Offices with a commitment to sustainable practices, and achievement of Sustainable Office Certification are invited to share the stories of their actions and innovations.


Biology Stock Room

The SOC Team: Peter Thut, Kendra Bradford, Mark Price, Jeannie Gilbert and Sarah Hoag.

SOC Certification Level: Platinum

         The Biology Department was a pioneer office for sustainable practices, beginning with its efforts as a 10x12 pilot department/building. In 2014, the Biology Stockroom staff voluntarily completed Sustainable Office Certification, scoring over 121 of a possible 148 points for actions ranging from recycling and waste reduction to electricity consumption, transportation and more. The Instructor/Technicians responsible for achieving Sustainable Office Certification in the Biology Stockroom are Peter Thut, Jeannie Gilbert, Kendra Bradford, Mark Price and Sarah Hoag.

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         Of the 14 offices officially recognized with Sustainable Office Certification, only two have reached Platinum level, an achievement requiring over 110 points from the SOC action score sheet. TLA was the first office on this top tier of SOC effort, joined in Spring 2014 by the Biology Stockroom.

         The 2011-2012 10x12 pilot program was a strategy outlined in Western’s Climate Action Plan, which called on WWU to reduce energy consumption and costs 10% by the end of 2012. The 10x12 energy-conservation actions Biology implemented laid the groundwork for their current SOC success. Other departments with participation in the 10x12 pilot were located in Arntzen Hall, the Chemistry Building and Parks Hall.

         Peter Thut and Kendra Bradford first stepped into the role of Department Conservation Coordinators during the 10x12 pilot, with the support of Biology department manager Mary Ann Merrill. In that first year, Biology staff implemented a number of innovative programs, including recycling Styrofoam, collection and distribution of re-usable and recyclable materials, and a fume hood sash monitoring and closing effort, including signage and directed action by both lab staff and students. They also assessed autoclave electricity use, and implemented diversion of non-toxic bio-lab waste materials to compost from landfill. The custom-made wood “Hold and Recycle” stations (pictured below) were installed outside each classroom lab to house students' food and beverage containers, providing an area for recyclables as well. Between January and December 2011, the Biology Department saw a 7% reduction in energy use and over 18% reduction in water use.

         The most successful component of the Biology lab and stockroom programs has been the waste reduction focus, particularly in reference to the lab classrooms and stockroom storage area. Initially, Biology began composting paper towels used in labs, reducing landfill waste significantly. About six months ago, Biology lab rooms where particularly messy work is done were converted over to red cloth towels, reducing waste by significantly cutting down on the number of paper towels in need of composting. A large part of their success is attributed to the dedication of the department's work study students, who help perform weekly waste sorting duties in both the stockroom and individual labs. Help from dedicated work study students is one similarity the two Platinum SOC offices share.

         Additional efforts include circulation of email reminders about sustainable practices. The Staff continually strives to discover and implement systematic changes with the greatest results. This concentrated change approach is a testament to the program's success. What's up next for Biology? Peter, Kendra, and their colleagues envision integrating office practices into university-wide composting and collection systems. They can imagine a "Green Team" of work-study positions for the future, where offices seeking assistance with carrying out SOC recycling and composting practices on a large scale could hire work study students to get the program up and running for their offices. If anyone's up to the challenge, this model office may pave the way!

         Custom-made “Hold and Recycle” stations outside Biology labs.


Teaching-Learning Academy

The SOC Team: (from back left to bottom right) Shevell Thibou [TLA Program coordinator], Simon Bakke, Kali Legg & Caroline Dallstream [Learning Commons liaisons].

SOC Certification Level: Platinum

         Spearheaded by Shevell Thibou with student co-facilitators Simon Bakke, Caroline Dallstream and Kali Legg, the TLA Sustainable Office Certification Program has seen enormous success since the program's kick-off at the end of 2012. First reaching a SILVER level score in March 2013, the TLA staff implemented a number of boundary-pushing measures to increase their score over 50 points to PLATINUM level by October of that same year. TLA, a part of the Western Libraries Learning Commons, currently holds the highest SOC score of any departmental office.

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         Beginning in early 2013, staff installed waste sorting signs above recycle bins outside the TLA office space, and continue to maintain these as well as food waste compost. These frequently-used sorting bins are well-marked and accessible both to Library staff and students studying in the Learning Commons area. TLA has provided reusable mugs and tea to complement a number of events held in the Learning Commons, including the Office of Sustainability's Lunch and Learn conversations this past Fall.

         TLA's objective is to "create a community of scholars who work together to understand better the existing learning culture, to share that understanding with others, and to enhance the learning environment for everyone." This inclusive approach has been manifest in the group's collaborate efforts with SOC. As part of a Green Energy Fee grant, TLA student staff addressed concerns with the human aspects of sustainability, showing an "Economics of Happiness" film with a panel discussion, and facilitating workshops to make and distribute hand-made sock monkeys to displaced children.

         Promoting the SOC program at staff meetings brought recognition and increased participation in the programs. The TLA student facilitators and staff collaborated with Office of Sustainability staff to develop and pilot an SOC Energy Inventory template which was used in the TLA space, and adopted as an SOC tool for all offices. TLA energy reduction efforts also include turning off computers and printers after hours and on weekends, facilitating and rewarding carpooling to conferences, and choosing conference venues based on reduced environmental impacts.

         Most recently, TLA student staff have been key to assisting members in other Western Libraries departments as they begin the SOC process. The newest Library SOC members include Special Collections, facilitated by Paul Piper; the Tutoring Center, facilitated by Katrina Buckman; Map Collections, facilitated by Dennis Matthews; and Library Administration, facilitated by Clarissa Mansfield. With more SOC offices than any other building on campus, Wilson Library could become the first SOC-certified campus building!

      TLA's multi-part waste sorting station near their office in the library.



Carol Berry, Campus Conservation Program Manager | (360)650-7979

Jenny Godwin, SOC Program Assistant