Sustainability Task Force seeking community ideas

A WSU Cougars logo superimposed on a forest floor with a globe in the corner.
The WSU Sustainability Task Force was formed as part of a broader effort to ensure the university is at the forefront of environmentally-conscious efforts in higher education.

Whether it’s proposals for making campuses more efficient or pitches for eco-friendly community engagement, a new task force is eager to hear ideas from the university community as it charts the course for WSU’s sustainability efforts in the years to come.

The WSU Sustainability Task Force was formed as part of a broader effort to ensure the university is at the forefront of environmentally-conscious efforts in higher education. Some 50 members of the university community, including faculty, staff and students from across the system, are split into four subcommittees focused on specific areas:

  • Research, innovation, and creativity
  • Student experience
  • Outreach, extension, service, and engagement
  • Institutional effectiveness, and infrastructure

Subcommittee members from each area are currently putting together goal proposals for wider consideration by the task force’s executive committee. The executive committee is led by Julie Padowski, a research associate professor in the School of the Environment and co-director for the Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach, and Jason Sampson, director of Environmental Health and Safety.

“This is the first task force I’ve been involved with where we had more volunteers than we could bring onto the committees,” Sampson said. “Because of that enthusiasm, we knew we needed to come up with a way for individuals to bring their ideas forward and ensure as many perspectives from across the university system were heard and considered.”

Ideas on making WSU more sustainable can be submitted through March 7 via the redesigned sustainability website.

Building a more sustainable future

In the months ahead, the subcommittees will offer their draft goals to the task force’s executive committee, which will then coalesce those pitches into a proposal for considering by the WSU Board of Regents. Regents are expected to vote on adopting core goals for sustainability in September.

“As a task force, we’re thinking about short term measurable goals and outcomes that we can start tracking immediately to gauge the success of our current sustainability efforts, as well as looking further down the road at targets that are more ambitious,” Padowski said.

While surveying the higher education landscape on sustainability plans, Sampson noted that many are focused on how to make their campuses more environmentally friendly. While that’s something WSU is doing as well, it’s important for land grant institutions to engage with community across the state on ways universities can help them be more sustainable. It’s also vital to explore opportunities to further research into the conservation of natural resources and give students the tools and expertise necessary to make an impact on environmental initiatives after they graduate.

WSU’s refreshed Sustainability website includes information on several ongoing efforts, from efficiencies in operations to the significant number of research projects and centers dedicated to ensuring the long-term health of the planet.

The university has identified four key areas of focus within its sustainability efforts:

  • Reduce emissions across the WSU System throughout all dimensions of operations by both direct reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and indirect actions to reduce goods, services, and activities that contribute to carbon pollution.
  • Discover, promote, and invest in regenerative practices that conserve and rebuild natural resources and sustain ecosystem services, via research, academic programs, and extension/outreach.
  • Build a working culture of sustainability across the WSU system by engaging with our diverse partners in tribal, extension, and other statewide efforts.
  • Engage with other land-grant institutions to rapidly share and disseminate ideas and explore collective actions that promote the reduction of emissions and adopt regenerative practices. 

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