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.


Woodring Extension - Everett Community College

The SOC Team:Britta Eschete: Program Assistant, Dr. Elizabeth Boland, Bobbie Rogers, Jillian Gooding, and Dr. Christine Schaefer, Dr. Jane Ellen Brady, Monica Holmer, Dr. Dana Brickham, Nancy Bluestein-Johnson

SOC Certification Level: Platinum

         WWU Everett is excited to be joining the ranks of offices in the Sustainable Office Certification Program. Located at Everett Community College, Woodring Everett has set the bar high, achieving Platinum level certification, through a process that began early in 2014. WWU Woodring at Everett Community College is the first off-campus office to participate in the Sustainable Office Certification Program, and the second in Woodring, where the Office of the Dean was awarded certification at the Gold level in 2014.

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         Conversations about participating in this program started in May 2014, when Britta Eschete, now the Program Assistant with Extended Education and Woodring College of Education, transferred to the WWU Everett site from the main campus. Britta’s experience working in WWU facilities, which is dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of campus buildings and grounds, combined with experience in the College of Science and Technology and over a decade working in the non-profit environmental education sector led to her interest and support of programs and events offered Western’s Office of Sustainability. (Where should the first quotation mark be?) One of Britta’s first observations when touring WWU Everett and the campus of Everett Community College was the commitment to sustainable, efficient and environmentally friendly processes.

         Britta contacted Carol Berry to inquire if the certification program was open to extension sites of WWU. Her enthusiastic “Yes, why not?” response led to Carol traveling WWU Everett to meet the staff in their workplace, discuss certification qualifications, and begin the process of charting actions WWU Everett was currently participating in. Carol arrived via public transit from Bellingham (80x and 90X County Connector buses) bringing resources such as signage promoting energy conservation and waste reduction, a portable compost bucket, and some “green office” supply samples. Prior to a meeting with Carol the sustainable office checklist was circulated among staff to identify additional actions and innovative ideas. It should be noted that there was a great deal of enthusiasm and creative thinking for this process!

         After meeting with Carol and discussing additional actions at a staff meeting, new sustainability goals were pursued and the score sheet updated. A list of innovative actions undertaken by the office group was reviewed by the Office of Sustainability, who confirmed that WWU Everett would achieve certification at the Platinum level!

         Academic Program Director Dr. Christine Schaeffer shared her personal sustainability story, and other staff confirmed the importance of sustainability in their personal as well as professional lives. Dr. Schaefer worked on the Russell Family Foundation Grant that Professor Victor Nolet obtained as part of the initiation of sustainability into Teacher Education course work. Chris’s sustainability story follows below.

         The office environment at WWU Everett is one of collaboration, enthusiasm, and commitment to utilizing practices in place and developing innovative ideas. WWU Everett looks forward to inspiring other offices and continuing to seek out best practices for workplace sustainability.

         Some everyday actions followed in the Woodring Everett offices are described below.

AIR QUALITY- In addition to plants in personal offices, WWU Everett has larger plants located in common areas to improve air quality and ambiance.

FACILITATE SORTING- EvCC has containers for paper, mixed recycling and trash located in every classroom and multiple containers located in common areas. All offices at WWU Everett have smaller blue containers for recycling which are emptied into large blue co-mingled recycling or paper containers weekly.

FACILITATE CONVERSATION- Signage such as “10 Top Actions” and “5 Things in 5 Minutes” are posted in one of the central gathering places for WWU Everett Staff and Faculty, and visitors who utilize the sink located in the WWU Everett Office Suite. Information about resources for students and staff at EvCC is incorporated into annual student orientations and PowerPoint guides provided to students, staff and faculty.

OFFICE MAINTENANCE- Light office cleaning is conducted weekly utilizing microfiber cleaning cloths, which are taken home and washed.

RESOURCE CONSERVATION AND WASTE REDUCTION- Instead of individual-use plastic water bottles a refillable water pitcher is utilized and refilled. Many staff and faculty bring their lunches in re-useable totes which are stored in the refrigerator. Utensils are washed and reused. WWU Everett is also successfully using a portable compost container for everything from coffee grounds to lunch “leftovers.” This is emptied into larger compost bins located in an adjacent building.

Dr. Christine Schaefer’s story:

         As a long-time organic gardener at one of Seattle's many P-Patches, sustainability plays an important role in my life in a lot of different ways. Growing and eating my own luscious, organic fruits and vegetables keeps me healthy and out of doors enjoying the weather. Chopping up the greens for the garden beds and putting waste into a worm bin keeps the cycle going, making the worms happy, enriching the soil, adding goodness to the produce, and not contributing so much to the waste stream. I share organic gardening tips and produce with co-workers and teach friends to can jam and make bread. I co-wrote and edited a brochure for my P-Patch on our sustainability practices that the City of Seattle had translated into several languages. When I worked out of the Seattle office, I maintained a container for vegan food waste to take home for my worms and collected recyclables from the students in classes. I have presented at local and state conferences on sustainability, using my own experiences and those of our students as examples of what can be accomplished. I also worked on a plan to create a P-Patch on the North Seattle College campus, although we were unsuccessful during that time. However, with a change in the school's administration after I made the move to Everett, the tide turned, and a new P-Patch opened on that campus in spring 2014.

         Sustainability has become important in the Secondary Education Department and to our College, and I helped initiate the inclusion of sustainability literacy into our foundations courses. Dr. Linda Meuter, who teaches the foundations courses for us in the Everett MIT program, developed the curriculum to include in those classes, and she and I have often conferred about texts, activities, and what the students create. Understanding the effects of food insecurity, including "food deserts" for those who live in impoverished areas, contributing to food banks, and feeding programs--I have seen our students tackle these issues and develop plans to work on the social justice aspects of sustainability. In fact, some of our students have had the opportunity to have a real and immediate impact on others through sustainability. For example, one of our MIT candidates, inspired to action by Dr. Meuter, involved her transitional special education students in working at a food bank and participating in a program called the Bottomless Backpack, which sent backpacks full of food home with students on the weekends. I also see the results of Dr. Meuter's good labor when our graduates include sustainability literacy into their own classes when they become teachers. So, mulching, composting, feeding worms, spreading the good word, encouraging others--these have been a big part of my life for many years.

         Oh, yes--One of the goals of Seattle's P-Patch program is to end urban isolation, so community-building is as important as soil-building. My P-Patch takes this to heart and has many social activities throughout the year. I met my husband at one of our many parties, so organic gardening can have lasting, positive effects in unanticipated ways, too!

Christine C. Schaefer, Ph.D.
Academic Program Director
Woodring College of Education

         WWU Everett would like to thank the Office of Sustainability, Extended Education, Woodring College and the resources and people of Everett Community College that make participation in actions of sustainability possible.

         Some of the options available at Everett Community College include food waste collection and composting through Cedar Grove, co-mingled recycling collection and pickup, containers for recycling used batteries, print cartridges and light bulbs, and recently, a complete inventory and roundup of over (100?) “mini-refrigerators and a switch to large shared refrigerators which substantially reduced electricity usage.

         Britta and Carol also met with Molly Beeman, Administrative Services Manager/Resource Conservation, to learn about practices at Everett Community College and share information about practices at WWU. Several EvCC buildings, including Gray Wolf Hall where WWU Everett is located, are LEED Certified at Silver or Gold levels.


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 Sustainable Action Fund, 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

Jacquelyn Stenman
Campus Conservation/SOC Outreach Assistant