Western Washington University has appeared on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the top green energy purchasers in higher education for the past 10 years.
In fact, Western has been on the EPA’s top college list since it was launched in January 2006. In the most recent listing in April, Western was 20th on the EPA’s list of the top 30 green energy purchasers in higher education.
“Western’s commitment to sustainability isn’t just about delivering innovative environmental education in the classroom, it’s a comprehensive approach to how our campus community lives, learns and operates in this physical environment,” said Western President Bruce Shepard. “As is the case with so many aspects of Western’s distinctive excellence, our students deserve special recognition for their leadership and vision. From how we power the campus to what we eat in the dining halls, our students are always looking for ways to make Western a greener, more environmentally responsible campus.”
Western annually offsets 100 percent of its electrical consumption from green sources via purchases of renewable energy credits.
Western is the only college or university in the state of Washington on the EPA list, last updated on April 25.
The genesis for Western’s renewable energy program began more than 10 years ago when a small group of Western students set a goal of having Western offset all of its electrical energy from a 100-percent renewable source. To meet that goal they proposed a student initiative to implement a fee that would offset the cost of purchasing renewable energy.
As a result of their visionary efforts and significant research into renewable energy, Western moved to the forefront of the renewable energy field, becoming the first university in the country to implement a student fee for the purchase of green energy.
The student initiative passed in a spring 2004 election with 84.7 percent approval. The WWU Board of Trustees approved the student fee, which went into effect in 2005 and which allows the university to offset all of its electricity use with purchases from renewable energy sources.
In spring 2010 and 2015, the WWU student body voted overwhelmingly – more than 80 percent in favor in 2010, and 86 percent in favor in 2015 – to renew the fee, now known as the Sustainable Action Fund. In addition to funding the purchase of the renewable energy credits from the Endeavor Wind Farm in Iowa, the students also voted to expand the fee to finance projects devoted to piloting sustainability measures on campus. Some of the projects funded have been the conversion of high-wattage incandescent lights in the Performing Arts Center Concert Hall to high-efficiency LEDs, the installation of water bottle refill stations, the deployment of a 5 KW solar array, an electric bike pilot, and many more (a full list can be found here). A permanent staff member and two student staff are funded by the fee, and they are tasked with working with the campus community to develop these projects.
The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary EPA program that seeks to increase the use of green power among leading U.S. organizations. Green power is defined by the partnership as electricity products that are partially or entirely generated from environmentally preferable resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, and low-impact biomass and hydro resources. For more information see EPA’s website on the Top 30 College and University green power users.