University of Puget Sound recognized for its sustainability agenda

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Skylar Bihl, assistant director for spiritual life and civic engagement (from left), Dave Wright, university chaplain, and three student volunteers sort, weigh, and display donated clothing that will benefit local nonprofit groups during Operation Save. Photo courtesy of University of Puget Sound

At the University of Puget Sound, Loggers Live Green is the rallying cry by which students, staff, and faculty follow each and every day on campus – integrating a comprehensive sustainable agenda into every facet of campus life, which includes focusing on cutting waste; energy conservation practices; utilizing alternative modes of transportation; and choosing locally sourced farm-to-table foods.

This conscientious decision by university administrators to create this culture and to do it so successfully, garnered attention from the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. Earlier this month the chamber recognized UPS for its environmental stewardship and efficiency with its Tahoma Business Environmental Award.

Sage Haynes is the sustainability and energy manager who leads sustainability services, which focuses on reducing waste on campus and includes managing, tracking, and removing recyclables in all residence halls and academic buildings.

Haynes said the environmental award came as a welcome surprise.

“It’s exciting to receive the award,” she said. “It’s nice to have that assurance that we’re doing something right. It’s a motivator to work harder.”

There are numerous programs on campus that are independently organized and managed but that adhere to the ethos of the sustainable model. There are also many opportunities for student engagement, which include the Sustainability Advisory Committee, aimed to raise awareness and practice of sustainable behaviors on campus; the Environmental Campus Outreach Club, which does more of the same; the Garden Club, where students learn about gardening and grow fresh vegetables on campus; and the Recycled Rag, the monthly campus sustainability newsletter informing the campus community about environmental programs and events.

One organization on campus that offers a gamut of student-engagement activities related to sustainability is the Center for Intercultural and Civic Engagement. One of CICE’s more popular and most successful volunteer-run programs is Operation Save, which annually reduces the amount of clothing and bedding in local landfills during student move-out each year.

In 2016, Operation Save, for example, donated more than two tons of bedding and clothing to community partner agencies, which then distributed to individuals and families in need.

“Operation Save drastically reduces the waste that the campus puts into the landfill, making sure it goes to places that put it to good use,” said Skylar Bihl, assistant director for spiritual life and civic engagement, who facilitates the program.

One Tacoma nonprofit that benefits significantly each year from Operation Save is NW Furniture Bank, which serves upwards of 145 families per month with beds to sleep in and dining tables to eat on. Operation Save is an essential provider of bed linens, as well as carpets, pillows, and towels to NWFB. NWFB board member Laura Majovski said that Operation Save, in 2017, provided enough linen to support roughly 200 local families.

“We’re very honored to be part of Operation Save,” Majovski said.

Meanwhile, Haynes said adding more projects and getting more students engaged across campus is an ongoing goal. In that spirit, an inaugural Sustainability Expo was piloted on April 17 on campus as part of Earth Day events. Students had the opportunity to learn about various programs, how to get involved, and ask questions.

For more information, visit pugetsound.edu and search for “sustainability at Puget Sound.”

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