WA Higher Ed Sustainability Conference: Catalyst For Collaboration

Date posted: February 11, 2014

Last week a group of BC Students, sponsored through the SESF, Faculty and Staff attended the first ever Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference (WAHESC) at Western Washington University.

The conference highlighted “ways to advance campus sustainability through the sharing of best practices and the development of regional collaborative networks” from a variety of PNW institutions and included lively discussions, workshops, break out sessions as well as hosting key speakers such as Jennifer Allen from Portland State University and Gifford Pinchot from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute.

These two days not only brought sustainability in higher education into view for participants but became a catalyst for helping acknowledge the work and collaboration already taking place and more importantly, future opportunities for more.  Bellevue College helped bring 27 participants to WAHESC, only second in attendance behind the University of Washington, and our larger attendance was not only felt in number of attendees but also in the amount of presenters.

WAHESC session sign at WWU

The Sustainability Director, Deric Gruen, co-organized a community college solutions summitThe Sustainability Program Manager, Patrick Green, participated in Sustainability Coalitions: Coming Together to Advance NW Campuses.  The Sustainability Communications Coordinator, Beautiful Existence, led a workshop in Social Media in Sustainability and the ASG Environmental and Social Responsibility Representative, Alex Clark, spoke on The Ins and Outs of Green Fund Programs.

Alex Clark speaking at WAHESC conference

While there were many topics being discussed at the conference from zero waste to teaching sustainability or climate change; the topics on everybody’s minds were the same topics that Bellevue College has demonstrated successful best practices and community partnerships in: Transportation, Energy and GHG (Green House Gas) Emissions.

Bellevue College students attending WAHESC session

Sustainability at Bellevue College has brought established collaborations in transportation advocating for Metro Funding, and energy and renewables with the Presidents letter initiative for a Coal Free PSE, and with GHG emissions through President Dave Rule’s letter on the Climate Legislative Working Group; as well as best practices such as creating a Community and Technical College (CTC) email listserve for sustainability.

Our Bellevue College faculty, staff, and students added a significant presence to the WAHESC conference, and will be meeting to reflect on ideas and possibilities for our campus in the future.  And while we learned that we have a strong start on sustainable efforts within our community, we also left WAHESC with the challenge and possibility to create an even greater future; a future built with collaboration, a future built upon the same foundation that we all have grown from and one that each of us lives, breathes, works and studies in everyday… the precious environment called Bellevue College.

Bellevue College participants at WAHESC 2014 at Western Washington University