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Central Washington University

CWU emphasizing its sustainability practices campus-wide

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sustainability is one of the more commonly heard buzz words around the Central Washington University campus these days.

But until recently, the university’s efforts to improve sustainability — meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs — have mostly been taking place behind the scenes.

This fall, CWU is putting its commitment front and center. 

For starters, the university has introduced a sustainability certificate program, where students develop experiential, service-learning projects that focus on addressing the sustainability needs of the university and community partners. 

Second, CWU is in the process of hiring a sustainability coordinator, who will be tasked with creating a strategic plan to improve the university’s processes and programs. 

The third key component in this effort is The Wildcat Neighborhood Farm, an on-campus sustainability center and outdoor classroom that just completed its first growing season. 

Beginning in the fall of 2020, The Farm will provide a wide assortment of vegetables to CWU Dining Services, which will incorporate the produce into its menus. The Farm also will donate to food pantries, and is developing other ways of delivering produce to the campus community. 

Meanwhile, Dining Services has already begun rolling out recyclable and compostable packaging materials at its new facility, Northside Commons. Those same packaging materials will soon be integrated into other dining facilities.

“CWU is really committed to sustainability, and it’s great that we’re beginning to create a roadmap for what we would like to do in the future,” said Susan Kaspari, an associate professor of geology who is helping coordinate the university’s sustainability initiatives. “There are a lot of exciting things starting to happen on campus.”

Over the past 18 months, Kaspari and environmental studies secretary Danielle Palmer have partnered with others on campus — many of them students — to collect data that can be used to evaluate the university’s sustainability performance.

Kaspari recently submitted CWU’s most recent data to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), helping CWU earn a Bronze rating under the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). AASHE also presents Silver, Gold, and Platinum ratings.  

“We still have a lot of room to improve, but I see this recognition as a great accomplishment,” Kaspari said. “It shows that we, as a community, made it a priority to complete the assessment, which provides us with a solid baseline for the future.”

CWU Farm and Sustainability Manager Kate Doughty, who has taken the lead on The Farm project, helped gather data from Dining Services over the past few months. Other groups collected data on recycling, energy use, water usage, transportation, and more. 

Doughty agrees that the STARS recognition has provided a positive baseline for the university as it seeks to improve its sustainability practices.

“This was information that wasn’t being tracked before, so participating in this process has provided us with a good benchmark,” she said. “But we’re not just looking at it from an energy and food waste perspective. We’re trying to implement a holistic plan for the university. 

“This isn’t just an environmental initiative; there is also an academic and social component,” she added. “It has taken a lot of people to make this happen, and taking these steps is really going to help us as we move forward.”

Students and staff are encouraged to explore the growing number of sustainability opportunities at CWU, such as working at Sustainability Cafes, enrolling in the new certificate program, volunteering at The Farm, and joining the Environmental Club.  

Learn more about CWU’s ongoing efforts to improve sustainability at cwu.edu/sustainability

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1518, David.Leder@cwu.edu.

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