Campus Community


Written by Stacy Howard

November 5, 2013

Students sitting and talking on the bright green grass outside Lemieux Library

SU is tops in the state among government and academic institutions for its commitment to sustainability. 

Seattle University won top honors in sustainability among academic and government institutions in the 2013 Washington Green Awards from Seattle Business magazine. In citing SU's statewide leadership award in sustainability, the magazine's November 2013 issue reported, "Seattle University's recent efforts to improve sustainability and reduce waste are myriad and miraculous," noting that the list of green achievements-such as LED lamps and composting-gets longer every year. 

In the last three years alone, Seattle University has spent over three million dollars installing high-efficiency gas boilers and a swimming pool heat recovery system in Connolly Center. These energy conservation measures annually reduce the university's utility bill over $244,000 and carbon dioxide emissions by 2,574,295 pounds, Karen Price, campus sustainability manager reports.  

Price ticked off other eco-friendly measures the university has recently implemented. All four buildings built in the past four years are LEED Gold-certified. SU switched to an environmentally-friendly vendor for paper towels, toilet paper, soap and hand sanitizer. The annual April recycling event lets employees, students and our surrounding neighbors drop off their hard-to-recycle items for free.  In 2010, SU became the first higher education institution in the state to ban the sale and distribution of plastic bottled water. 

"We are pleased to see so many companies introducing innovative technologies, policies and processes that make our economy more environmentally sustainable," said Leslie Helm, editor of Seattle Business. "Our goal is to encourage those efforts by recognizing the best organizations and holding them up as models for others to follow."

5 SU representatives accepting the Washington Green AwardIn addition to identifying a Washington Green 50 list of outstanding organizations, the magazine recognized winners in 12 categories drawn from across the state and from virtually every sector of the economy. 

One of the criteria for winning is the comprehensiveness of an organization's effort. Price said the judges took note of our recent academic efforts, specifically, the university's newly launched Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability and its mission to enable interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching. The Environmental Studies program's Urban Farm has transformed unused land at a Renton wastewater treatment plant into a farm that donates produce to local food banks. 

These recent sustainability initiatives in academics and operations are part of the university's efforts to implement its 2009 Climate Action Plan. The goals of the plan are to educate students about sustainability and climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operations and engage our community. Seattle University's President's Committee for Sustainability has been busy for nearly three years making sure our aspirations become a reality. Other progress so far on the plan includes: 

  • 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from operating our buildings last year as compared to 2009. This was a result of replacing the purchase of steam heat with installing a new gas boiler to heat five buildings. When the carbon offsets we purchased are factored in, the emission reduction was 83 percent.
  • 65 faculty and staff have learned how to live more sustainably in the quarterly lunch hour sustainability discussion groups.
  • Creation of a Green Meeting Event Planning Guide and Checklist for everyone who organizes campus meetings and events.

A few objectives for the coming year include: 

  • Administer a sustainability literacy assessment to undergraduates.
  • Implement a campus-wide EcoChallenge in April.
  • Evaluate ways to reduce emissions from campus owned and leased vehicles.