When we hear the phrase “Go Green,” we usually think of the little things such as planting a tree, composting or using “green certified” products. We try to be mindful of the day-to-day activities that have an effect on the environment, like recycling, washing our cars in the driveway or turning the lights off when we leave the room. But what if each of us had the power to embrace environmental friendliness on an even larger scale?
At the University of Washington, Bothell (UWB) and Cascadia Community College (CCC) campus, all of these ideas and more have come together to form a “green system” unique to any other college campus in the country. Through the implementation of environmentally productive programs and the latest technology, the facility staff on campus and their partners are making our corner of the world a better place, and have earned the school the reputation of a “green campus.”
When it comes to the sustainability of a large area, what’s on the inside matters just as much as what happens outside. Technology has played a pivotal role in decreasing the campus’ carbon footprint from the inside out. For instance, the florescent lights in the classrooms are motion activated and the lights in the library dim based on the amount of light coming from outside. The HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is computerized in “smart-buildings” where a computer sustains the ideal temperature based on the outdoor climate. UWB/CCC’s partnership with the organization ESCO (Energy Service Company) has given them access to a Web site known as Building Dashboard, which helps them monitor and analyze their use of energy.
“When you know what you use, you tend to try and use less,” Assistant Vice Chancellor Tony Guerrero said. “(The money saved in energy costs) goes back to the college, back to the university, in order to…focus on the students, instead of paying it to PSE (Puget Sound Energy).”
The use of a computerized system continues outside, as well. The campus irrigation system monitors the weather stations to know when it is necessary to turn on the sprinklers. Solar panels and electric car chargers are located in the parking garages on campus, paid for with the savings from other conservation projects, such as garage lighting. The removal of 502 light fixtures in 2005 and the installation of florescent lights in the parking garages paid for itself in only nine months.
Though technology has allowed for great advances in the campus sustainability measures, there are still some “old school” ideas being put to use. Whether you’re on campus or at home, composting is an easy but effective step toward green living. At UWB/CCC, there are compost bins for students to use located all over campus. The multiple food sources such as campus cafes and Subway all participate in contributing their coffee grounds and food scraps. The collections are rounded up and put into composting worm bins to be turned into mulch to use on campus. It also makes a nice compost tea to water plants.
The campus’ unusual weeding method has sparked news attention before. Goats, 60 or more of them, can demolish a 10-foot-tall blackberry bush in five days. Rather than using harsh weed killers or wasting time and resources, the goats are let loose on the invasive shrubs as a completely natural way to maintain the campus.
Goats are not the only four-legged animals on the property. Deer, coyotes and other wildlife roam the 58-acre wetland on campus, making it the largest wetland restoration in the Pacific Northwest. What makes this restoration so remarkable is not only its size, but also the amount of work that goes into its maintenance each day. The full- and part-time staff are out working 5,300 hours a year and their job is never done. They remove non-native plants and replant new trees for every one the local beavers chop down. Tours are conducted by the staff, such as the free 60-minute “Muddy Boots” tour through the campus wetlands, and other interactive tours for all ages. The staff works with students in the environmental science classes offered on campus to take water samples, make observations and sometimes help with planting.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Guerrero said. “Students come right out of the campus and into the wetlands and start their studying…just steps away from the classroom.”
Guerrero explained the importance of awareness of the water drainage system. Oil is not changed on campus, cars are not washed and pesticides are not used on the plants because all of that may eventually end up in North Creek. Salmon have returned to this section of North Creek since the restoration. Cascadia is the first college in the nation, UWB is the second university in the nation and first in the state, to be certified “salmon-safe” for the preservation and protection of endangered salmon. This is in part due to the water filtration system that separates contaminants from the water that will ultimately flow out to the creek.
Putting so many sustainability methods to use is not cheap. Though much of it pays for itself and earns savings to go back to the college, it costs about $145,000 a year to keep the various green systems running in the wetlands. Many would argue it is a small price to pay for the preservation of precious resources.
With Earth Day coming up April 22, why not turn over a new leaf and think of ways to decrease your carbon footprint? The campus will be celebrating Earth Day on April 19. Take a tour of the campus and see first-hand how all of the aforementioned systems combine to make UWB/CCC a one-of-a-kind campus. Be inspired to take on some environmentally friendly projects of your own.
Hillary Sanders is a Cascadia Community College student and Inglemoor High graduate.