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Students walking in the Pinnacles Greenhouse

Sustainable Campus Operations

Western is dedicated to its efforts focused on making campus operations more sustainable as we build future leaders and help to solve the world’s pressing issues. Sustainable operations are seen all over campus, including in buildings, energy and climate use, transportation, cleaning, food and dining, purchasing, and waste diversion. Staff is consistently reexamining the efficiency of campus operations to reduce our carbon footprint

Students walking toward Taylor Hall

Waste Diversion

Western is dedicated to its efforts focused on zero-waste across campus. Our goals are to reduce waste and promote a culture change based on the principles of the Three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The campus recycling program is an integral part of our commitment to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2035. We promote waste diversion with recycling stations found all over campus, partnering with PCs For People to recycle e-waste, reusing household items through our FreeCycle program, partnering with TerraCycle for hard to recycle items, and hosting Zero Waste events.

Each spring, Western participates in the Campus Race to Zero Waste (formerly called RecycleMania), a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over an 8-week period each spring, colleges across the US and Canada report the amount of recycling and trash collected each week and are in turn ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most on a per capita basis.

To learn more about our campus recycling program, please click here.

Bike rack in Western's library


More than half of students commute to campus in a sustainable way (bike, walk, public bus, and carpool). Western takes pride in being a bike friendly campus. Bike racks are located at all buildings, as well as longboard and skateboard racks at some buildings. Covered bike parking is available wherever possible, and a free bike library rental system is available at the library.

Western offers electric vehicle charging stations at two locations, outside of Taylor Hall and the Paul M. Rady building. Western also partners with the local RTA bus system. There is a bus stop located on campus at Colorado St. and Ohio Ave. in which students can catch a ride around Gunnison or head up to Crested Butte. The bus offers multiple stops each day and schedules depend on the season. You can even bring your skis, snowboard or bike with you on the bus!

Students stand near Rocket Composter

Food and Dining

The Rare Air Café and Mad Jacks are Western’s two dining options in the University Center. Both are run by Sodexo, under a contract to divert waste and recycle wherever possible.

The Rocket Composter diverts up to 95% of food waste from the University Center- making it the flagship sustainable building on campus. The funding was provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE). In addition to the Rocket, Western sends some food waste to a local pig farm and sends waste oil to the county biodiesel fuel burner.

Sodexo provides every student with a meal plan and a reusable container for taking food to go. This is through a partnership with Pepsi and supports the Sustainability Action Committee’s (SAC) ‘Eat, Wash, Reuse’ program.

For more information, visit read this news article.

Drone shot of Taylor Hall

Green Cleaning

Western’s Custodial department provides a clean, safe, and healthy campus environment. The Green Cleaning Program is the standard for Western and the department is committed to purchasing Green Seal products for the majority of our campus sanitation needs. Western has found many green alternatives to the standard cleaning chemicals and will continue to look for new ways to reduce the reliance on harmful chemicals and replace them with high performing alternatives. Examples of green products that the Custodial department uses include: microfiber cloths, 100% recycled paper products, recycled plastic trash liners and green certified hand soaps.

Students ride bikes on campus

Purchasing Policy

Western’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy (EPP) fortifies the University’s commitment to sustainability. The goal of this policy is to reduce the unfavorable environmental and social impacts of our purchasing decisions by buying goods and services from manufacturers and vendors who share our commitment to the environment. Environmentally preferable purchasing is the method whereby environmental and social considerations are given equal weight to the price, availability, and performance criteria that colleges and universities use to make purchasing decisions. Western strives to purchase products that embody the following principles:

  • High content from post-consumer recycled materials
  • Low embodied energy (consumed to extract, manufacture, distribute and dispose)
  • Recyclable, compostable and biodegradable
  • Non-toxic
  • Energy efficient
  • Durable and/or repairable
  • Produced in a manner that demonstrates environmental, social, and ethical values
  • Minimal packaging (packaging should also abide by the above principles)
  • Afterlife reuse/regeneration potential through the company (carpeting, furniture, etc.)
Students use a wheel barrow together

Monitoring our Progress

Western’s Facilities department uses two reporting platforms, Second Nature and Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS), to measure its sustainability progress. These resources showcase how new projects can alter energy use on campus to be more efficient and the benefits to implementing more sustainable projects.

Second Nature’s mission is to accelerate movement toward a sustainable future by serving and supporting senior college and university leaders in making healthy, just, and sustainable living the foundation of all learning and practice in higher education. Since Western’s Climate Action Plan was developed in 2009, Western is a signatory of Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network. Western uses the Second Nature Reporting Platform to track its progress towards a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Yearly progress and greenhouse gas reports are uploaded to the Platform and publicly available.

Western also reports its sustainability efforts with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) with its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, Rating System (STARS). STARS is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. Performance indicators and credit criteria are organized into four categories that span the breadth of higher education sustainability: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning Administration. Western completed its first STARS reports in 2016, earning a bronze rating, and again in 2019, moving up to a silver rating. You can view Western’s STARS reports here.

Western's University Center on a fall day

LEED Buildings

According to the U.S Green Building Council, a LEED-certified building features ample natural light, a sophisticated system to ensure proper indoor temperature and even carbon dioxide sensors that trigger fresh air flow when there are students in a classroom. Western is proud to meet LEED requirements for our recent construction and renovation projects. Read more about some of the sustainability features of Western Colorado University’s green buildings.

Western is committed to applying environmental stewardship principles to emphasize energy conservation and efficiency in building renovations and new facilities. Western’s Facilities department is dedicated to making its building operations and maintenance more energy efficient and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Recently, the university began replacing all incandescent light fixtures with LED bulbs. Western participates in the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The university is proud to meet LEED requirements for all recent construction and renovation projects and is committed to have all new buildings and renovations earn LEED-Gold certification or its equivalent.

Click the dropdowns below to learn more about each LEED-certified building at Western.


The University Center, which opened in January 2010, showcases several sustainability features and practices. It features large, south-facing windows that provide abundant natural lighting, 10 recycling centers, xeriscaping (which conserves water) and low-flow faucets. Onsite recycling during construction diverted 60 percent of the waste from the landfill and regional materials were used in the construction of the building. The pulper composter in the café generates rich soil for the university’s community garden.

LEED Silver

The Borick Business Building, which opened in fall 2007, led the way as the model for environmentally sustainable building initiatives at Western Colorado University. The facility, which houses the School of Business, was the first LEED-certified building on campus and the first in the Gunnison Valley. Environmental features include the reuse of the roof —saved during the renovation of other buildings on campus—along with motion lighting and an energy-efficient ventilation system.


Originally built in 1957, Kelley Hall reopened its doors in fall 2008 after undergoing a $5.5 million renovation. It houses the Behavioral & Social Sciences department, the Center for Environmental Studies and the Master in Environmental Management program. Kelley Hall is more than just a building — it’s part of the curriculum. Students researched and selected environmentally sustainable materials and design elements. Among those features are insulated windows, motion lighting, compact florescent lighting, low-flow faucets and a highly efficient boiler system. Building materials — from flooring to furniture to insulation — are from recycled or renewable resources, such as cork, bamboo, wood and paper fiber, and reclaimed hardwood. Students also spruced up Kelley Hall’s exterior by planting a xeriscape garden and other landscaping with low-water, native plants. Student efforts also resulted in the campus’ first solar panels for solar electricity and thermal systems. An Environmental Studies class applied for grants and helped design the solar panel system, including an educational center and laboratory to provide renewable energy information to the larger community


The renovated Taylor Hall opened in 2010. It features two of the original teaching facilities in Gunnison, the original high school and original college building. Taylor Hall marries both buildings in a very updated design. Features that add to LEED certification include the recycled fabric used on the furniture, windows that open automatically to help circulate air in the building, bioswales that hold water runoff, and reused, formerly exterior brick walls inside the building.


Opened in March 2014, the entire facility is 120,000 square feet, with 201-foot trusses, comparable to a Boeing 777’s wingspan. Mountaineer Field House features a 200-meter track, three multipurpose courts, three volleyball courts, three basketball courts, batting and golf cages, a new athletic weight room, a fitness center, fitness classrooms, a 47-foot climbing wall, a foam pit with trampoline, a hot tub and new locker rooms at the adjacent pool, a new High Altitude Performance (HAP) lab, and coaches offices overlooking the track.

LEED Silver

The Pinnacles Apartments were built in 2012 and received LEED-Silver certification. Pinnacles is the newest residence hall on campus, with more than 200 bedrooms, each fully furnished with a full-size bed, a desk, a small bureau and a closet. Upperclassman students can move into two-, three- or four-bedroom apartments. Each comes will a generously sized kitchen and common room, full-sized stove/oven and refrigerator, a large set of cabinets and closet spaces. Two- and three-bedroom units each have one bathroom, while the five-person and four-bedroom units have two bathrooms. Pinnacles has computer labs with printers, kitchens, game rooms and a multipurpose room. It also features a unique, student-led greenhouse, with a hydroponics system that cleans all excess water for reuse.


Opened in 2021, the Paul M. Rady building is home to the Western-CU Boulder Partnership Program and sets a new standard for sustainability. The 75,000 square foot building harnesses green energy through both passive solar and geothermal energy for heating and cooling. The passive solar design takes advantage of Gunnison’s year-round sunshine, showcasing an abundance of natural light and scenic vistas. Geothermal wells dug 280 feet into the earth provide temperature control, only requiring supplemental heating about six days a year. Approximately 90% of the waste generated in construction, or 747 tons of material was recycled! This cutting-edge building contains advanced instrumentation rooms, teaching and lab spaces, large theatre-style classrooms, and indoor and outdoor collaborative learning spaces.

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Students pose for a photo on top of Mount Crested Butte in the summer

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Colorado Hall with the Palisades in the background on a bluebird day.


The best way to find out what makes Western such a special place is to experience it for yourself. Our student-led tours give you an insider’s perspective on everything from academics to student life.

A group of four alumni look at an old photo that one of them picked up from a selection of photos that were printed and laid out for the Ski Team Social event.


We keep the Mountaineer spirit going strong within our alumni community. Whether getting together with friends at an annual event, making a donation or mentoring a student, graduates continue to play an important role in the Western community.

A few students pose for a photo behind the Multicultural Center table at the Admitted Student Day Club Fair.


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