Champion of Sustainability

Bellevue College initially connected with McKinstry, an energy consulting firm, when they partnered up to work on BC’s recent application for a Department of Commerce grant. Though the college didn’t receive the grant, “we got on their radar,” said Sustainability Director Patrick Green, and since then have earned an award of recognition, highlighting BC’s achievements in sustainability around campus.

The Champion of Sustainability award was received in November at CenturyLink  Field by Ray White, vice president of administrative services, who was representing Bellevue College. The award was something given by the company to send their message, “We admire what you do and we want to acknowledge you for it,” Green described. Other higher education institutions were also awarded at the event.

“McKinstry was impressed with our sustainability program, mainly the amount of investment the college has put into energy conservation work through ESCOS [energy service companies],” Green said. “It basically demonstrates to the community that the college does value energy conservation and sustainability work and is willing to put resources and time into it,” Green stated. White said, “It is the right thing to do, and it makes me really proud that my teams can do this work.”

Along with allocating its own funds to projects of sustainability, BC has been “applying for grants that pay for often half, a dollar-for-dollar match of what we put in, and so that’s helped us make the right decision knowing that for half the money, we can get this work done, help the environment and start saving money too,” White said. BC has been awarded grants from other ESCOS, where each party invests money into projects of sustainability and conservation, which in turn can be cost neutral, when money saved meets or exceeds the amount invested. BC has chosen to take on projects that “pay for themselves over time,” White explained.
BC’s commitment to sustainable practices is ongoing, and further retrofitting projects are being conceived or initiated on campus now.

“We recently completed a project for weatherization. If you’ve had some issues with doors closing, it’s because the doors have recently been weatherized. Not all of our doors are the same, so they have to be addressed one-by-one.” The Office of Sustainability has received positive feedback regarding the effectiveness of the doors, saying that classrooms have remained warmer.

Another recent project BC has taken on was to install water meters, which measure water usage, in individual buildings on campus, an addition to the campus-wide water meter that was installed previously. These meters will guide BC to educate users of the individual buildings to be more conscious of their water usages as well as to help identify leaks that might have gone undetected otherwise.

The most advanced sustainability features of buildings, such as water collection or recycling devices generally need to be incorporated into the master plans of buildings to ensure financial feasibility. Water collection or recycling facilities “might be something to argue for student housing, if and when that gets built,” Green said. The buildings on campus may have flashing, which is sealant used mainly where the roofs have been operated on, when it has been necessary to “break the building envelope,” in order to install a new wiring system or something of the sort. “Sometimes it’s coated with zinc and other metals that could be a hazard,” which leaves the greenhouse as the only building that the project would be safe and feasible on.

BC has invested in other things, which can more easily be retrofitted to the buildings, such as low-flow toilets, low-flow urinals, water bottle filling stations and the water meters. Looking forward, “Anything that we can do to reduce single occupancy trips to campus is on the top of my list,” White shared. Lower impact transportation methods, such as carpooling and biking, have been a recent focus.

“We already have a rain barrel over there, but so far we haven’t gotten a student who wants to basically implement the project. If a student sees opportunity to do these things, we’re happy to assist them with it. If our office runs all these projects, we’re kind of taking away the opportunity for student leadership, so we have to be careful of that.”

“We’re happy that a company of that size is saying, ‘Hey, Bellevue College, great job,’ and we’re also happy that it’s advertised to other institutions,” Green said. “Bellevue College is doing its job and we’re hoping other higher education institutions follow suit.”
“Students have made it a priority,” Green said. “It wouldn’t have happened without interest in the SESF funds, students talking to their faculty about it, bringing their voices forward when they’ve seen something they want to fix.” White said, “Students like to take a step forward,” with completed and ongoing student-funded projects on campus such as Earth Week, the farmers’ market, water bottle filling stations and solar panels.