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Business Officer Magazine

Structured Sustainability

In the session "Strengthening Leadership on Environmental Sustainability," panel members from The Evergreen State College and University of Washington discussed the challenge of maintaining momentum for sustainability projects and goals. Key for these two institutions has been drawing on a diverse group of participants and stakeholders.

Energy and related sustainability concerns have grown increasingly complex, making it impossible for any one individual to know or understand everything, noted Richard Davis, Evergreen's facilities engineer. Sustainability leaders need a diverse and knowledgeable team of advisers. When designing an energy conservation program, Davis suggests balancing conservation goals and institution mission by setting standards that achieve real savings while still allowing for employee comfort and productivity—otherwise, you risk losing important employee buy-in throughout the organization.

Jeanne Rynne, Evergreen's director of facilities, agreed that the way you go about achieving a goal—from energy conservation to carbon neutrality—can be as important as the goal itself. Set attainable goals, integrate them with faculty and student priorities and projects, identify roadblocks as well as resources, and continually assess the maintainability of your sustainability goals. Flexibility to try new things is a requisite part of recalibration, noted Rynne.

One overriding strength of the sustainability program at the University of Washington is student involvement, said Ruth Johnston, UW's associate vice president of environmental stewardship and sustainability. Graduate student Graham Golbuff, the university's campus sustainability fund coordinator, spoke about UW's three student-focused and student-led initiatives: a campus sustainability fund for engaging students in shovel-ready projects; a green seed fund focused on student research; and a finance and facilities internships fund to employ students in substantive real-work sustainability experiences across campus. The financial commitments in these areas have helped change the administrative culture at UW, lending seriousness to student interest and involvement, noted Golbuff.

In addition to strong student involvement, sustainability decision making has now reached a more mature phase at UW,noted Johnston. She works to engage UW students, faculty, and staff through a variety of grassroots coordinating councils representing all facets of academic, administrative, and community activity. With interest in issues of sustainability now having reached broad participation across the university, coordinated leadership has become essential, Johnston said.

UW student presenter Golbuff participated in the session through a student scholarship from NACUBO.

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