UW Bothell awarded for its excellence and innovation in sustainability

The University of Washington Bothell has received the 2022 Excellence & Innovation Award for Sustainability and Sustainable Development from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The national award honors higher education institutions that demonstrate a clear commitment to advancing environmental sustainability and sustainable development in their policies, practices and/or curriculums.

“This is among the highest accolades conferred by AASCU,” said Dr. Kristin G. Esterberg, UW Bothell chancellor, “and we couldn’t be more honored to receive it. Sustainability has been a core principle of our campus for many years, and this recognition reflects that.”

In the classroom

As part of its commitment to advancing sustainability, UW Bothell educates students on sustainability, emphasizing the importance of both individual responsibility and civic participation. In addition to seven degree programs and two minors related to sustainability, the University regularly offers more than 150 academic courses that incorporate sustainability information and issues.

“We recognize that sustainability is more than implementing practices that minimize harm to the environment,” said Esterberg. “Educating our students and sending them into the world as stewards of the Earth is at our core, and I appreciate our faculty serving as good role models in this regard.”

In the last few years, for example, the University faculty members elevated two pathways, or tracks, within the former Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science to be their own majors: Earth System Science and Conservation and Restoration Science.

Individual courses related to the environment are also extremely popular with students. One such class is taught by Dr. Jennifer Atkinson, associate teaching professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, who researches and teaches about the emotional and mental health impacts of climate disruption and ecological loss.

“I am currently working on a book titled An Existential Toolkit for the Climate Crisis that explores strategies for helping young people navigate the emotional toll of climate breakdown,” Atkinson said.

“In tackling the intersecting crises of racial injustice, climate change, pandemics and ecological degradation, my approach is rooted in the belief that the challenge is to ensure that students don’t just have the content they need to address these issues — but that they also have the existential tenacity to stay engaged in climate solutions and navigate the long emergency ahead.”

On the campus

UW Bothell’s strong emphasis on undergraduate research provides students opportunities to contribute to faculty research projects too, such as the CCUWBee Native Bee Research Initiative led by Dr. Amy Lambert, associate teaching professor in the School of IAS. This initiative led to Bee Campus USA certification in 2021.

Dr. Amy Lambert guiding data collection on bee populations

Created in the spring of 2017, the project focuses on supporting pollinator populations across campus. The researchers survey the populations weekly from spring to late fall, gathering diversity and abundance data on these bees.

“Our goal is to provide the campus community with detailed knowledge on local bee populations and how, as an environmentally conscious school, we can improve native habitats,” Lambert said. “We aim to inspire students and faculty with a citizen-science approach to research and innovative thinking to ensure the best future for the pollinators who call our campus their home.”

To help campus pollinators, the grounds team plants and designs areas with native flora as resources for pollinators and promotes nesting sites by letting some areas grow unencumbered by mowing techniques and maintenance. “Letting a landscape develop naturally is great not just for pollinators but for the ecosystem as a whole,” said Tyson Kemper, grounds supervisor at the University.

“If grass grows long enough, it provides seed and food for creatures, cover for rodents and small animals as well as habitats for them to live in which then supports eagles, coyotes and racoons,” he said. “We try to create spaces like this on campus whenever possible.”

For the community

Sustainable grounds practices such as these are key to UW Bothell. The campus grounds are maintained organically with careful and creative strategies to manage unwanted plants and animals without pesticides.

“This is an important factor in environmental impact and in creating safe edible spaces on campus where students and other community members can forage and harvest fresh herbs and produce,” Kemper said.

There are currently five separate spaces dedicated to edible landscaping on campus, including the apple orchard, medicinal garden, Food Forest, Campus Farm and Herb Walk. All are open for harvesting by students, faculty and staff, along with members of the greater community.

“The Campus Farm alone produces of hundreds of pounds of food each year that gets donated to people in need,” Kemper said. “And just last year, the Food Forest won the AASHE Campus Sustainability award.

“I am proud to be a part of a university that truly cares and does the work.”

Earning marks of distinction

The University’s sustainability work has been recognized with a number of certifications and awards including these recent accolades:

  • Bee Campus USA certification – recognizing the CCUWBee Native Bee Research Initiative
  • Campus Sustainability award – an AASHE recognition of the campus’ Food Forest
  • Certified Wildlife Habitat – a National Wildlife Federation program that fosters appreciation and protection of wildlife to advance student leadership, restore habitat and conserve natural resources, such as the campus wetlands
  • Salmon Safe Certified – with UW Bothell being the second university in the nation to be certified
  • STARS (GOLD) – the second highest sustainability ranking a school or university can receive from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
  • Sustainability Award in Facilities Management – awarded by APPA Leadership in Educational Facilities to recognize and advance sustainability excellence in educational facilities.

And now, UW Bothell can add the 2022 AASCU E&I Award for Sustainability and Sustainable Development to its list.

“I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to Kristen Attebery, interim sustainability coordinator, for managing the detailed application process,” Esterberg said, “as well as to Tony Guerrero, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Services & Campus Operations, and his team for their outstanding work building and caring for our beautiful campus over the years.”

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