State environmental conference slated for WWU

The above collage shows examples of sustainability and environmental stewardship from colleges and universities in Washington state. The upcoming Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference aims to highlight those efforts. Courtesy photos

Western Today staff

Nancy Lord, author of “Early Warming: Crisis and Response in the Climate-Changed North,” will keynote the first-ever Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference Feb. 6 and 7, 2014, at Western Washington University. Lord’s book is the Western Reads book for this school year.

Students, faculty and staff at Western are encouraged to submit proposals for the conference.

The aim of the conference is to advance campus sustainability through the sharing of best practices, the presentation of cutting-edge examples of creative solutions to common challenges, and the development of regional collaborative networks, said Seth Vidaña, Western’s campus sustainability manager.

As host of the conference, Western is in the position to use its own examples of sustainability to inspire other the other 70-plus colleges and universities throughout the state, he said.

“I think that we have the opportunity to inspire, change and sustain action across campuses just by demonstrating what we’ve done,” Vidaña said. “It’s a real testament to how seriously Western takes this concept of sustainability to host the first statewide sustainability conference.”

Vidaña hopes to get 100 to 120 presentation proposals, of which 30 to 40 would be selected as finalists to be presented at the conference, he said. Topics for presentations can cover everything from campus agriculture and clean energy solutions to social justice and town-gown connections. Proposals can come from students, faculty and staff, or any combination of the three. A full list of potential topics and other proposal information is available in the online call for proposals.

“The conference is what we make it,” Vidaña said. “It’s a flexible format. If someone doesn’t see the type of presentation they want, I encourage them to submit it.”

Vidaña pitched the idea of the conference back in late December 2011 on behalf of the Northwest Higher Education Sustainability Consortium, of which Western is a founding member. The consortium is a subgroup of the Northwest Higher Education Coalition, comprising public two- and four-year colleges and universities in the Kitsap, Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, and Clallam counties.

The nine-member coalition fosters regional partnerships to better serve the educational needs of the North Puget Sound region and the people of Washington state. Members:

  • Western Washington University
  • Whatcom Community College
  • Bellingham Technical College
  • Northwest Indian College
  • Skagit Valley College
  • Everett Community College
  • Edmonds Community College
  • Olympia College
  • Peninsula College

Conference advisory groups include staff and faculty from NWHEC member institutions, as well as regional sustainability officers from the University of Washington, The Evergreen State College, Pacific Lutheran University, University of Puget Sound, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University and others.

Conference themes:

  • The role of higher education in the future of Washington State – preparing students to help meet Washington’s sustainability goals and create a sustainability-literate workforce
  • Preparing students and institutions for their role in the future world
  • Responses to the state legislature on carbon emissions reduction and vehicle miles reduction
  • Dissemination of cost-saving operational measures
  • Promotion of building energy efficiency, and research into clean energy solutions at institutions of higher education
  • Promotion of 21st century jobs, including clean energy development
  • Building lasting connections cross attendee institutions