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South Sound colleges lead way to green future

February 1, 2008

South Sound colleges lead way to green future

PLU has teamed up with South Sound colleges and universities to promote sustainability in Pierce County at the first “Tacoma Sustainability Summit: Education and Action.”The University of Washington Tacoma, located at 1900 Commerce Street, will host the event Feb. 9 and 10. It features a South Sound Sustainability Expo on Feb. 9 and a Conference on Sustainability in Pierce County Higher Education on Feb. 10.

The expo runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free and open to the public. It will provide information about local sustainable services and products, including transportation alternatives, green construction, energy conservation and alternative energy sources, waste minimization and recycling, and global climate change initiatives.

The event will feature an array of speakers and exhibitors. Those scheduled to speak include the group Bridging Urban Gardens Sustainably (BUGS) to discuss community gardens in Tacoma, and Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (SEED) to talk about community-based energy solutions.

PLU will also have a display created and manned by members of the Sustainability Committee that depicts the efforts on campus.

“At the expo, we’ll have the opportunity to talk with the general public about the ways that PLU is taking a leadership role in the sustainability movement on college campuses,” said Rose McKenney, associate geosciences/environmental studies professor and chair of Sustainability Committee.

“We’ll be able to point to the many, many things we’re already doing, discuss our future goals and highlight our achievements,” she continued.

The university was among the first to offer an environmental studies major and minor, and environmental issues are addressed in courses across the disciplines. With a recycling rate hovering at 60 percent, the institution boasts one of the highest in the region.

PLU was the first Pacific Northwest university to sign the Talloires Declaration, a pledge to incorporate sustainability and environmental literacy into all aspects of the university.

Last year, the university took a leadership role again when President Loren Anderson was among the first to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (PCC). It requires universities to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral.

The Morken Center for Learning and Technology and the Garfield Book Company at PLU are also testaments to PLU’s dedication. The Morken Center attained gold-level certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, and the bookstore incorporated similar green building practices.

Across campus, the effort continues: residence halls are equipped with low-flow toilets; Dining Services is bringing more organic and locally-produced food to campus; and human resources offers a transit pass benefit to encourage commuting by mass transit, carpools or walking.

Currently, the Sustainability Committee is looking at how PLU will meet the goals of the PCC. Elsewhere on campus, students in the Climate Change Ambassadors program are learning about global climate change and devising ways to motivate the community to action.

PLU students, faculty and staff can join with their peers in the South Sound on the second day of the summit to discuss environmental stewardship in the academic environment. The conference on Feb. 10, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is free and open to all Pierce County college students, faculty and staff. Lunch will be provided and registration is required.

Participants will discuss how college campuses can be more sustainable and develop concrete initiatives for addressing the needs of their campus. Two specific themes will be addressed: promoting alternative transportation and campus infrastructure, energy and resource consumption.

Along with PLU, the conference is sponsored by Bates Technical College, Clover Park Technical College, The Evergreen State College – Tacoma campus, Pierce College, Tacoma Community College, University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington Tacoma.

University Communications staff writer Megan Haley compiled this report. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact her at ext. 8691 or at