CWU News

Student-led Projects Tap Into Ongoing Focus on Sustainability at CWU

Geocaching Adventure Lab

Central Washington University’s goal of highlighting sustainability initiatives across campus got a boost this spring from student-led projects in an upper-level Campus Sustainability course.

By tapping into the popular smartphone app Adventure Lab, Professor Susan Kaspari’s Environmental Studies 499 students developed a pair of interactive campus tours that will give members of the CWU community and the general public a chance to learn more about ongoing sustainability efforts on the Ellensburg campus.

“The university is committed to making sustainability an institutional priority, and these projects are a way of highlighting some of the sustainability efforts on campus,” Kaspari said, explaining that the Adventure Lab app was designed by to offer interactive experiences. “These types of projects also help us build capacity around our sustainability efforts so our students can keep building on them year after year.”

Throughout the spring quarter, junior Rhiannon Whitehead worked to include new and detailed information about numerous “sustainability hot spots” on campus that can be infused into CWU campus tours. Along the way, she refined the content so it could be easily digested by tour guides and participants. 

The information that she compiled, along with contributions from senior Malik Watts, supported the creation of the Adventure Lab titled “Central Washington Sustainability Tour.”  Stops on the tour include Dean and Discovery Halls, two of CWU’s “green” buildings, as well as the Diversity and Equity Center and Wildcat Neighborhood Farm.  

“There is a lot of great information out there about these green buildings, and it only makes sense to share it with others,” said Whitehead, a Geology major. “The project was pretty grueling at times, but so far, it has been very successful. It’s really satisfying for me to know all of my work finally came to fruition.”

Senior Christian Castilleja’s tour, titled “The Environmental Benefits of CWU’s Trees,” takes an in-depth look at the environmental benefits of the trees surrounding Dean Hall. He researched seven of the trees and compiled the information for his Adventure Lab project, which went live earlier this month.

“For each of the trees, I highlighted either carbon sequestration, stormwater interception, or energy conservation,” said Castilleja, an event management major. “I described the environmental benefits of each one and also included an interactive portion. It’s a new concept that I had never worked with before, but I think it could help me in my career.” 

The tree tour highlights CWU’s status as a Tree Campus USA, an honor given by the Arbor Day Foundation to universities that have proven to have the management of campus trees in mind, developed community relationships on and off campus to promote healthy trees, and created service-learning opportunities to maintain trees in the larger community.

Additional ENST499 projects helped to improve sustainability at CWU.  Two of the students worked on projects at the Wildcat Neighborhood Farm with support from Kate Doughty. 

Senior Kaleb Sheridan-Pangburn built a wormbin, which will support composting at the farm, and freshman Emma Balcom worked on the plans and beginning construction of an enabled garden-wheelchair and standing accessible garden beds, improving the accessibility of the farm to everyone in the community.  

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