Inspiration. Innovation. Implementation
Sustainable decision-making at Seattle University goes back to the early 1980’s when a painter acted as the campus exterminator. He would put highly toxic diazinon into his paint sprayer and spray the campus trees every couple weeks at noon on school days. Any employee or student nearby could have breathed in this toxin. Every time he pulled the sprayer over a bump, diazinon spilled into the street and down the storm drain. Fortunately Ciscoe Morris, now a local gardening celebrity, was hired as head of the Grounds Department. He put a halt to the spraying and in its place released more than 20,000 beneficial insects called lacewings to eat the aphids that had infested the trees. It worked and that led to a whole host of pesticide-free gardening practices. Cisco began a transformation that has made the university a model for ecological gardening.
Chip Romain, Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator, started the campus waste reduction and recycling program in the late 1980s. With an increase in environmental concerns on campus, the need for staff within Facility Operations that specifically dealt with campus wide environmental issues was recognized. In 1992 the Recycling Coordinator position was created.
In 1994, the recycling program received an Environmental Excellence Award from the Seattle Rotary Club. Receiving the award brought the importance of recycling to the university and the global environment to President Father Sullivan’s attention. This prompted Fr. Sullivan to ask Facilities staff, “What else can we do?”
With the President’s acknowledgment of Facilities staffs’ efforts and support to continue, Facilities Director Bob Fenn encouraged staff to broaden their efforts to reduce SU’s environmental impact. This encouraged Lee Miley, Cal Ihler, Patrick Baldwin-McCurdy, Byron Lynch and Ron Quist to form the Energy Conservation Committee. Their recommendations persuaded the Executive Team to fund large, expensive energy conservation projects with a short pay back time. Lee Miley also got Seattle Public Utilities to give the university a financial incentive to buy and install an irrigation meter to stop being charged the sewer fee for irrigation water.
Staff has continued to be inspired to implement innovative solutions. You can learn more on the Campus Initiatives page.