Go green: local communities’ sustainability efforts

September 9, 2020

 

While most people have been literally assaulted in the past several years with headlines about climate change and the national debate over what is often referred to as the “green movement” and what should become codified sustainability policy for the country, there's a much quieter effort or evolution underway in the state of Michigan and, more specifically, Oakland County.

Take the county government, for instance.

When David Coulter was appointed late last year as Oakland County Executive, he met with Jim Nash, Oakland Water Resources Commissioner, who told Coulter that he saw a future in which there were solar panels on the roofs of all the building across the county campus. Nash wanted to share that and see if Coulter had a similar vision.

“I said to him, ‘Jim, we have an amazing gem of a campus and there's so much more we can do to be the role model of environmental sustainability,’” said Coulter.

That campus plan is now one of Coulter’s three areas of focus to move the county towards a more sustainable environment. Over the course of the next year, Coulter hopes to create an environmentally sustainable campus for the county, establish environmental sustainability goals throughout the county as a whole, and look at doing an energy revolving loan fund to help either projects or communities in Oakland County.

All these goals start with one very important hire – a full-time sustainability planner. Coulter said that planner position was put into the budget presented to the board of commissioners that they will hopefully adopt by the end of September. So with the position funded, it’ll just be a matter of the  putting out an application.

Coulter knows the importance of that type of role and the effect it can have. During his time as mayor of Ferndale, he hired the city's first sustainability planner.

“We kept having these annual strategic planning sessions as a council, so many of which incorporated environmental and sustainability goals. But we didn't feel like we were moving the needle fast enough on these,” he said. “What I discovered was, somebody has to own that goal. Somebody has to be doing it as part of their job. It just can't be out there as a goal if you're really going to make progress.”

During his administration thus far as Oakland County Executive, Coulter was honest about how they haven’t made any significant investments or implemented anything in regards to sustainability.

That changes going forward, though.

“We have already begun to lay the groundwork on this campus plans. There are already people that have begun this work. In all sincerity, COVID really redirected a lot of our efforts and attention and it has been delayed,” he said. “Going forward, even with a distraction like COVID, this will continue to be someone's full-time job. That's why I think it's so important that you have to have someone on staff that just keeps their eye on this.”

Oakland County Commissioner David Woodward said that the county is interested in doing a countywide energy audit to set a baseline and put them on a path towards reducing carbon emissions.

“Oakland County is the economic engine of Michigan…that position gives us the responsibility to demonstrate how this can be done. How it can be afforded and for the production of this planet. We are being expected to do it by our constituency,” said Woodward.

Several years ago, Bloomfield Township did an energy audit, which led to implementing changes all across its municipal campus. At Bloomfield Township Hall alone, the boiler in the basement was replaced with new high-efficiency units, devices in bathrooms and other faucets to reduce the use of hot water by 10 to 20 percent were installed, and occupancy sensors in 28 rooms were installed  throughout the building to control electricity usage. Similar changes were made to other buildings across the campus.

Steven Kaplan, West Bloomfield Township Supervisor, is the first to admit that environmental sustainability is not an area in which he is an expert.

“It’s like a different language,” he said. “It's like if you went out with somebody who was a music major and conducted a band and played different instruments. It's like a foreign language to you, even though you like music.”

Thankfully, he has two full-time staff members leading the way when it comes to the township’s environmental concerns, and they’re both high-level positions.

In the last few decades, and for some even longer, everywhere from White Lake Township to Royal Oak, communities have been pushing more towards sustainability.

Actually, Michigan as a whole has been looking for more of an advance. Announced in August, the state is currently seeking proposals for the creation of an energy storage roadmap for Michigan. In 2016, Michigan passed a law requiring electric providers to produce 15 percent of their power from wind or other renewable sources by the end of 2021, up from 10 percent from a similar 2008 law.

Since there are no provisions in those laws that require municipalities to create goals for clean energy or going more green, it has been left up to the cities, townships and villages themselves and elected officials to create policies and programs – but it’s been working.

Traverse City, in 2018, was the first municipality in Michigan to commit to a communitywide 100 percent clean energy goal, voted in favor by the board of the city’s municipality-owned utility, Traverse City Light & Power (TCLP).

“Our goal is to reach 100 percent by 2040, and we are well on our way to reaching our interim goal of 40 percent by 2025,” said Ross Hammersley, a partner with the Michigan law firm of Olson, Bzdok & Howard, and board member of TCLP.

The city council of Traverse City also set a goal for 100 percent clean energy for the municipal operations, which Hammersley said was met in only a few years.

In that part of the state there’s also Leelanau County, which has an energy plan to get them to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. The plan was developed with the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability.

Within that same study from 2019, the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign is brought up. There are currently over 160 cities, more than 10 counties, and eight states committed to meeting 100 percent of their energy demand through renewable energy. Of the communities in Michigan, they include Traverse City and Petoskey. Larger cities like Ann Arbor approved a resolution for the Ready for 100 campaign as well. In 2012, the Ann Arbor City Council passed a Climate Action Plan that set communitywide goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy use, with their ultimate goal to reduce greenhouse gas admissions communitywide 25 percent by 2025 and 90 percent by 2050. The city reached its original goal to use the equivalent of 20 percent renewable energy for municipal operations in 2010.

There’s one city much closer to home on the Ready for 100 list.

Julie Lyons Bricker, grants coordinator/energy and sustainability manager for the city of Royal Oak, said that mayor Michael Fournier signed on for the city to the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100. The city commission recently approved the climate emergency resolution, a formal declaration that recognizes that climate change is affecting local climate, regional climate and state climate. They’ve also tasked staff with creating a greenhouse gas emissions inventory to set a baseline so Royal Oak knows what kind of emissions they are creating.

When asked which municipalities in the county were particularly leading the way on sustainability, Coulter mentioned Royal Oak, which learned this past April they were the first city in Michigan to be designated LEED for Cities-Certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) under version 4.1, and only the third municipality in the country. A grant they earned last year from the U.S. Green Building Council and Bank of America helped them achieve that status.

Currently, they are in the process of creating a citywide sustainability plan, which has been on the commission’s desired activities list for a few years.

“One of the things that I did at the beginning of last year was inventory all of the programs that we have that are in place for other reasons, but happened to fall under sustainability items,” Bricker said.

Items include their parking decks having multiple electric vehicle chargers, added years ago, and a few hybrid fleet vehicles. They’re looking to increase that number.

“These things were put into place, but it was without a comprehensive thought about a sustainability plan,” she said.

The new plan will put all of these programs and policies in one place, including their ordinances about permeable pavement rules and renewable solar energy.

Future sustainability actions for Royal Oak include energy efficiency retrofits for municipal buildings, solar installations as appropriate, additional electric vehicle chargers, and streetlight conversion to LEDs.

With Royal Oak’s two newest buildings, city hall and the police department building, sustainability was incorporated into the design elements, like the white roof on the city hall building. Bricker said the intention with making the roof white instead of black, for example, is so the heat from the sun will reflect rather than heat up the building. It is one way they’ll need less energy to cool it down.

She said they had looked at green roof options for the buildings but the additional infrastructure was deemed too expensive, a common problem when it comes to becoming more green.

That is where funding programs like Lean and Green Michigan and Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) come in.

In 2010, Michigan passed the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Act which helps enable commercial and industrial property owners in Michigan to access financing to upgrade their buildings, whether that's through retrofit or an adaptive reuse, or even thinking about building better buildings because of new construction. It allows for people to access the capital, but it can only be accessed within a PACE district.

“The statute says that local governments can create PACE districts, can opt into PACE districts, and nobody was doing it,” said Bali Kumar, chief executive officer, Lean and Green Michigan.
Kumar said that Andy Levin, now the U.S. congressman for Michigan’s 9th District, saw that no one was taking advantage of this, so he started going to local governments to pitch the idea of Lean and Green Michigan, which could administer the PACE program on their behalf. Kumar said that whenever a deal closes there’s an administration fee as part of their closing costs. The long-term financing tool facilitates through local governments and allows commercial property owners in Michigan to undertake energy efficiency, water efficiency, and renewable energy upgrades. Oakland County is a participating jurisdiction in Lean and Green.

Kumar said the most common projects they help fund are hospitality types, office buildings, and a lot of non-profits which have begun to reach out.

SEMCOG, whose principle purpose is to help local governments in southeast Michigan improve and maintain everything from transportation systems to infrastructure and environmental quality, covers seven different counties, including Oakland, and multiple municipalities have benefitted from it. Kelly Karll, manager, Environment and Infrastructure for SEMCOG, said currently their biggest priority is looking at how to address flooding issues. One of the projects they’ve developed that will be rolled out during a webinar in October is a flooding risk tool which looks at assigning a flood risk to transportation assets, including roads, bridges, culverts and pump stations.

A good demonstration of SEMCOG's benefit is  Southfield’s Evergreen Road effort from 2016, that was part of a pathway project. With help from SEMCOG, the city was able to create a bioretention pond, also known as a rain garden, that collects 32,000 cubic feet of stormwater. As part of that project they also added pervious pavers along the edge of the curb and large planting beds.

“It's that first inch of stormwater that has 90 percent of the pollutants, all the oils, greases, dirt that comes off the road,” said Terry Croad, Southfield’s Director of Panning. “So we want to try to collect that and filter it before it goes into our rivers and streams.”

SEMCOG’s funding was significant for that project, assisting with $1 million in total as part of a $12 million reconstruction and utility upgrade.

Brian Pawlik, bicycle and pedestrian planner, SEMCOG, mentioned that another project they helped fund with some green infrastructure elements is a road reconstruction project on Auburn Road in Rochester Hills. The project included a number of transportation and streetscape elements, but also incorporated green infrastructure within the right-of-way, making it a holistic project overall.

Part of SEMCOG is also its Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which focuses on funding pedestrian connections, pathways and also environmental, sustainable projects. Southfield has benefited from that program as well. The city’s most recent pathway project received 60 percent of it's funding from TAP.

A future potential for helping fund green projects in Oakland County would be Coulter’s idea for an energy revolving loan fund, similar to a program he created while mayor of Ferndale.

The Ferndale program was originally seeded by fund’s from the city’s government and helped fund projects that moved towards more sustainability. “It's one thing to want to do this in your heart, but when you need to get a project off the ground, if you don't have the funds, sometimes the green designs are the things that get nixed,” Coulter said. “We didn't want that to happen.”

Since these types of green projects can be easily measured for return on investment (ROI), city officials, through this loan fund, said they would pay upfront for the cost of the green portion of a project. They could then calculate the ROI over the course of its lifetime. From there, 75 percent of the savings were kept by whoever was doing the project, and 25 percent of the cost savings over time would be given to the city and put back into this fund, which grew and then funded more projects.

Coulter thinks they could do this in a few ways in Oakland County, by either having the county be the funder of the individual projects or help communities set up these revolving funds themselves.

Smaller municipalities could potentially benefit greatly from the creation of funds like this.

“We're a smaller community and we have to be very cautious with our expenditures,” said Rik Kowall, township supervisor for White Lake Township.

The township may not be looking into things like electric vehicles – they haven’t hit the economic mark that would make sense – he said, but they are making changes where they can, like with their annual home hazardous waste event that started five years ago. Bloomfield Township and West Bloomfield Township do similar programs twice a year.

“Folks can bring in their old cleaning supplies or something that got left in the garage. It's a concoction of who knows what,” Kowall said. “They can be properly disposed of because White Lake Township is a wellhead protection community, which means that the drinking water from this community comes from wells within the ground. So it's very important that we do everything we can to assist in keeping those kinds of chemicals out of the ground.”

The reason for starting for the program was simple. As a member of his community, Kowall thinks it’s important to do everything the township can to solve the problems and not create them.

Currently, the township is looking to build two new facilities, a new township hall and a new public safety building, in the next few years. They are in the preliminary stages, but they do plan to make them as sustainable for energy as possible. Kowall said they’ll probably have LED lighting and high-efficient heating and cooling systems.

“We'll take a look at the technology that's available at the time that the buildings are actually designed because as we know, all that technology is advancing very rapidly,” he said.

In less dense municipalities the improvements, much like the populations themselves, tend to be smaller.

“I don't think there's much that we've done recently to reduce energy because we don't use a lot of it,” laughed David Hendrickson, city manager, Bloomfield Hills. “We have a small department of public works that only uses the equipment they need to use.”

Their public safety department uses motorcycles though, which saves energy, and there isn't  a lot of  commercial building occurring in the city.

While they aren’t currently looking at any programs or policies towards a more green future, they did work with DTE on their budget last year to have all of their streetlights replaced to LED. Hendrickson said that was a $30,000 initial cost to change out over 100 streetlights but they will be able to recoup that money in under four years. LED lights will also last much longer and therefore save the city power costs for years to come.

“It’s the same question of how do you eat the elephant? One bite at a time,” said Robin Boyle, Birmingham Planning Board member and retired Wayne State University urban planning professor.

“A lot of people are saying that, yes, it's all well and good for global bodies to suggest a large scale or global response to climate change, but at the same time, there's a very strong argument that small scale change at the local level is just as important. In fact, you could argue that it's even more important,” Boyle continued.

Smaller actions may not seem like much, but they add up.

“There's low hanging fruit.  There's easy things to do,” said Chris Kobus, director of Engineering and Energy Education at Oakland University. Kobus is also part of the university’s Clean Energy Research Center.

A survey of local municipalities in Oakland supports this approach.

One item that frequently came up was the use of LED lights. Numerous municipalities have switched over to the more energy saving lights in both new developments and when old light bulbs stop working in their current buildings. Recycling programs are also common.

Installing daylight sensors is another common practice found across the county. Hybrid cars have been introduced into fleets in cities like Novi and Royal Oak. Others, such as Southfield and Rochester Hills, have started to look into incorporating those into their purchasing policies.

Even things like Bloomfield Township’s switch to a four-day work week and Novi’s Bike to Work Day, an annual program that encourages employees to do just what the title says, can help move a municipality more green.

“It started with little things like a no idling policy and it kind of comes full circle into the larger things like the solar panels, or the hybrid vehicles,” said Simone Bell, Novi Assistant to the City Manager..
Bell said that Novi really began to make more sustainable changes around 2006. One of their first big changes was instituting the no idling policy. As a way to reduce emissions, staff are no longer allowed to leave their car idling if they are making a quick stop at the civic center in Novi.

Last year, the city was able to dip their toes into alternative energy with their new parks maintenance storage facility, which uses 26 solar panels that are hooked to the DTE solar grid program, which allows them to use renewable energy. That building, along with their department of public works complex, installed dual flush toilets and low-flow faucets in the bathrooms all over campus. There’s also low-flow shower heads in the public works garage.

Within the buildings on Novi’s municipal campus, visitors will find that the furniture and ceiling tiles include content from recycled materials. Carpet throughout the municipal buildings are made from 100 percent recyclable materials. Thirty-nine percent of city purchases from 2014-2018 contained recyclable content, and 24 percent of purchased content was recycled.

“We've definitely had sustainable practices in the fabric of everything that we do here in the community,” Bell said. “But as you can see, we don't have a comprehensive document of these are all the green things...as we go along we do our best to mitigate our impact with the environment that we have here in the community.”

Bell said a sustainability plan may be worked on in the future.

When it comes to sustainability, some start bit by bit, but others, well, have gone full force from the get-go.

“Most of the stuff that we do is big,” said Pat Engle, Oakland University's Associate Vice President for Facilities Management. So big, in fact, sometimes it gets an audience, like in 2010 when Kobus, Director of Engineering and Energy Education at Oakland University, took videos of the Human Health Building as a geothermal system was installed. It was the first LEED-certified building on campus and now is the only Platinum LEED-certified building for any educational institution in the midwest. There are now three buildings with a Gold LEED rating as well.

“Thirty years ago, stuff like that just didn't exist, and now I'm on a campus where every new building being planned for is planned for being more sustainable…And that includes construction materials that you use, as well as energy efficiency after the building is commissioned. I love seeing that,” Kobus said.

Oakland University’s campus doesn’t just use sustainable practices in its buildings but on its grounds as well. Siraj Khan, the university’s director of engineering, said that well water is used on the campus’ golf course and the grass sprinklers’ centralized controller detects if watering is needed based on rain sensors. They are currently working on a recycling program and lightbulbs have been switched to LED to bring down the utilities and carbon footprint.

Engle said they have an electric waste heat turbine that has been generating electricity for the campus for the past three years. It uses the heat to run instead of putting it out of the top of the building.

“Sustainability is probably our biggest push right now,” Engle said. “Sometimes it costs more, but it's the right thing to do and so frequently that's our mantra as we're going through these processes.”

“Any technology, there's going to be an upfront cost to it, always,” Kobus said. “You can get a more efficient generator but even though it's going to save you money in the long run, you have to have that long-term vision. If your vision is limited to one year, you're not going to pull the trigger.”

There also has to be patience.

For the last four years, Farmington Hills has been working towards creating a trailhead, the Hills 275 Trailhead, that will be along the Interstate-275 Metro Trail, that connects from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. The trailhead will go behind the WoodSpring Suites Hotel on Haggerty Road, which will be usable in October, with a grand opening of the trailhead next spring.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) was unanimously supported by the Farmington Hills City Council in July as  part of an agreement for the construction, maintenance, and operation of the trailhead and park at the hotel.

Farmington Hills will spend under $20,000 on the space from a sustainability grant.

“The future thought is that creating connectivity between our community and others is how you create destination points,” said Bryan Farmer, deputy director of special services, Farmington Hills. That connectivity will allow for people to bike to work or stop and visit businesses along the trail.

Farmer said they are currently working on legislation with trails and greenways.

The trailhead isn’t the only thing Farmington Hills has done to further the city’s green movement.

“We're definitely a community that is at the forefront when it comes to sustainability – we're not putting it in the back seat,” Farmer said.

There have been programs put in place, including purchasing more fuel economic vehicles for their fleet; their ice arena was completely converted to LED, which saves them both energy and money; automatic lights are in all office across the campus; and water bottle filling stations can be found everywhere from the parks to the fire department. Their city hall was redone several years ago and is now LEED-certified, and there’s a large, citywide recycling program.

The city does a lot of practices so they’re able to study if it's something they want to move forward with. One example would be the replacement of wood chips at Olde Town Park with what is know as poured in place, a rubber surface from recycled material. What they’ve found is that it requires less maintenance so their park staff doesn’t have to visit the park as often, saving on fuel and oil emissions. There are plans to do a second project this fall with the poured in place.

“If your expectations are that, you know, I'm going to 'wow you here with policies,' you're probably going to be disappointed,” said Brent Savidant, community development director for the city of Troy.

However, what Troy has done over the years is wow-worthy.

Most of their green initiatives occur within the buildings themselves, according to Troy’s Facilities & Grounds Operations Manager, Dennis Trantham. His department has worked to retrofit or replace many of the lighting fixtures throughout various city facilities; most facilities utilize a building control system for the HVAC system where temperatures are based on building usage times; the library has a lighting control system that allows lights to be scheduled on and off based on the building’s use; storage buildings at the department of public works have motion sensors on light fixtures; overhead doors were upgraded to insulated panels for garages with conditioned space; and the newly-renovated Sylvan Glen Pro Shop takes advantage of daylight harvesting.

Their grounds division only installs benches that are made of recycled plastic, recycling opportunities are throughout the campus, and their mowing contractor uses commercial grade battery-operated equipment.

Outside the municipal campus, there have been some large changes throughout the years. In 2006, they looked at where the city was in terms of their major artery, Big Beaver Road. The quarter was mostly companies with a lot of large office buildings but it didn’t offer much more than that.

“We recognized that we had an opportunity with the Big Beaver corridor to do something better,” Savidant said. “So we decided to try to create a world class corridor.”

That same year they developed the Big Beaver Quarter Study and it set into motion a bigger vision for the area, part of which included more mixed use buildings, which ideally consist of retail or restaurants on the first floor at street level and then residential on higher floors.

“Recognizing that it's a puzzle and one of the pieces is residential, we took that vision that we defined in our master plan and in 2011, we comprehensively rewrote our zoning ordinances,” he said.

From there, they created the Big Beaver District, the Maple Road District, and the Neighborhood Node District. Savidant said within those districts they strongly encourage development of mixed use buildings and residential buildings in those areas, which addresses automotive and walkability.
The first projects the city saw were one-story buildings with retail and restaurants but they have started to see some multi-storied buildings, like DMC-Children’s Hospital.

Currently, Zen Apartments is under construction on Big Beaver and once completed it’s going to have a parking deck attached. Within that parking deck on the first floor, one side will have commercial and restaurant type uses that will activate the street, and about 270 units above it.

As part of the city’s desire to encourage walkability, they created a program that incentivizes the construction of parking decks. Savidant said developers can recapture some of their investment back through the program, as long as they invest in a parking deck, and/or underground retention. With the city approaching 100 percent build-out this is important for future development. Parking vertically will free up more property to be developed.

Troy isn’t the only one who gives incentives when it comes to development. West Bloomfield Township offers incentives for developers to satisfy LEED regulations. If developers follow LEED regulations, township Supervisor Kaplan said their plan is more likely to be accelerated through the different departments needed for approval.

There’s a clause in Birmingham’s landscaping ordinance that if native plants are utilized, they get a bit of reduction in terms of parking lot landscaping requirements. In the city's Triangle District, planning director Jana Ecker said that people can get extra square footage if they plan to do a LEED-certified building and developers have taken advantage of it, a bonus for both developers and sustainability. In that same district, bike parking is required for all developments.

Ecker said they encourage green roofs, but not many people take them up on it; many of the city’s parking decks use LED lights; and in city hall everything from the lights to vending machines are on timers. She also mentioned large developments must do a transportation study and transportation impact analysis to indicate walkability and how they’ll be providing access to public transportation and amenities for bicyclists.

According to Birmingham’s City Manager Joe Valentine, the city has several initiatives underway from solar power ordinances to LEED certification initiatives. Robin Boyle, from the city’s planning board, said officials are now discussing the current and a new master plan and the topic of more sustainable development has been brought up. Even though it’s still a draft, Boyle said that bioswales are being considered for the next master plan, among other items.

A few municipalities are beginning to think  a little outside the box.

In July, approval was given in Rochester Hills for a new office building to be of recycled shipping container at their park, Innovation Hills.

Yes, a recycled shipping container.

“The whole park is a testament to our commitment to innovative environmentalism,” said Bryan Barnett, Rochester Hills Mayor. “That whole park was developed with sustainability in mind.”

It has a living roof that will be installed in a pavilion, all the benches are made of recycled material, rain gardens are in all the parking lots, and there’s a permeable pavers system throughout the majority of it.

“We've got more work to do too,” Barnett said. “I mean, sustainability is not a destination, it's a journey. You're always kind of working to get better and there's new ideas that are presented.”

West Bloomfield Township is asking developers to comply with the concept of anti-carbon, which helps prevent global warming.

One place in the county that’s been ahead on the sustainability front is the Oakland County International Airport, which in 2010 broke ground on the county’s first completely green building. The green terminal, completed in 2011, was certified at the LEED gold level, and became the first general aviation airport in the nation to have a LEED-certified terminal building.

David VanderVeen, director of central services who also oversees Oakland County International Airport, said that the terminal building was outdated, both functionally and design wise, and the debate began whether or not they were going to remodel.

Then the 2008 recession hit. As part of the recovery efforts there were funds available to build a couple buildings for what VanderVeen called “shovel ready projects.”

“We decided, well, if we're going to be a bear, let's just be a grizzly bear,” VanderVeen said. “So we said let's go all the way and design an aesthetically pleasing, green building that's very compatible to the environment.”

The big savings in terms of energy for the terminal comes from the geothermal heating and cooling system – with reductions in utility costs by 44 percent. The terminal also has LED lighting, electric charging stations, and a living wall.

These types of changes throughout the county have primarily occurred in the last few decades, thanks primarily to a cultural shift.

“I can tell you when some of our early projects were suggested that there was some resistance, to say the least, from elected officials and even from some of our departments, because it was perceived as more work than it was worth. It’s taken some time to educate and to implement and to show that there is positive aspects for this type of thing,” said Croad, of Southfield. “We were more likely to get funding and support from our elected officials in the last five plus years.”
That cultural shift also is reflected at the college level. Kobus of Oakland University said when he started in the early 2000s at the university, his class on alternative energy systems was the only one of its type at the university. Now, there’s a whole track for students with an interest in alternative energy.

At Wayne State University (WSU), where Birmingham Planning Board member Robin Boyle spent almost 30 years in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, he said there was a whole curriculum change regarding sustainability. The focus is now on the 3 E’s of sustainability – environment, economy and equity.

WSU’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Daryl Pierson, thinks that bringing students who are studying different subjects and faculty who are in different areas together to form a multidisciplinary approach about sustainability is important.

“You can't really just look at it from one side in order to get something that's truly sustainable,” he said.

Pierson said that those who think things are moving too slowly need to be patient and not get frustrated, but continue to share the message of efficiency and the benefits of its work. It will ultimately lead to a big difference all around.

Ashley Flintoff, director of planning and space management at WSU, said there’s also interdisciplinary sharing with students, who bring in fresh ideas and teach them while also being taught. Collaboration is vital to sustainability moving forward.

Flintoff hopes that sustainability is able to get woven into the everyday vernacular and become less of a thing were people toot their horn about and have banners every time they achieve something with sustainability.

"You just work it into your everyday life so that eventually the goal is that everything that you do has the sustainability aspect to it,” she said. “You don't have to think about it, you just do it. It just becomes kind of normal.”

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