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Our Sustainability Commitment

Western has a long history of sustainability leadership that includes active engagement from numerous campus stakeholders, several campus-wide commitments and sustainability planning efforts.

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Sustainability Action Committee

The Sustainability Action Committee is a group of faculty, students, and staff that lead, support, and steward various initiatives related to campus sustainability.  Through the allocation of various funding streams, SAC empowers leaders across the campus to develop projects in renewable energy, local food production, water use reduction, environmental education, and other sustainability-related topics. The committee meets every other week during the academic year

SAC also oversees expenditures from the Sustainability Fund and the Renewable Energy Fee, which are both student-fee funds.  Through the stewardship of these funds, SAC elevates student voices and supports the development of sustainability leadership beyond the university experience and into their careers.

An everyday practice

Members of the Sustainability Action Committee work with all members of the campus community to provide everyday solutions for incorporating sustainability practices into their lives.

The Sustainability Action Committee (SAC), charged by President Jay Helman in 2012, is composed of a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students from a range of departments.

Participants include:

  • Campus Sustainability Coordinator
  • Vice Presidents for Student Affairs
  • Finance and Administration
  • Academic affairs or their respective designees
  • Director of sponsored programs
  • Representative appointed from the Faculty Senate
  • Representative appointed from the Chairs and Directors
  • Representative appointed from the Athletic Director
  • Student appointed by SGA
  • Student appointed by the Western Sustainability Coalition
  • Director of Facilities
  • Any sustainability coordinator(s) as might be appointed by the president
  • Other members of the campus community are also welcome to participate

The official Charge to the Committee is “to coordinate, implement, assess, improve, and communicate campus sustainability efforts including those associated with the Environmental Charter and the President’s Climate Commitment.

The committee shall provide assistance to the Student Government Association for implementation of their Sustainability Fund and will provide prioritized recommendations for the use of the President’s Sustainability Project Fund, which helps support material and energy savings and emission reduction projects. The committee is also to seek grants and other forms of support where feasible.

In practice, SAC is the campus group that coordinates sustainability initiatives across campus and with our partners in the community, ensuring that isolated initiatives are connected and vibrant.  We focus on the execution of actionable projects through faculty, staff, and student efforts, ranging from the big picture of campus impacts to issues that affect our daily operations as an organization.

Sustainability Action Committee Statement on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Internationalization and Justice:

Western Colorado University’s Sustainability Action Committee (SAC) promotes environmental, social and economic sustainability. Sustainability must not minimize the opportunities of citizens, societies or future generations. We strongly believe that all people have the right to a healthful environment, a supporting society, and prosperity.

Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC), Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), immigrant, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Questioning, etc.(LGBTQ+), women, people living with disabilities and mental illness, and other historically marginalized groups face disproportionate harms and barriers against full representation, inclusion, and recognition at universities and in environmental leadership. SAC affirms that genuine campus sustainability action requires a commitment to correcting the myth of racial, gender, and sexual orientation norms by creating space and opportunities for all marginalized identities.

Upon approval, SAC will add DEIIJ section to its work plan to be updated at least annually and initially include the following:

  • Invest SAC Funds to hire expert campus sustainability DEIIJ counsel and coaching
  • Revise Student Sustainability Fund application to include critical thinking on
    environmental justice
  • Collect voluntary identity information to monitor applicant diversity
  • In addition to opening the application to all undergraduates, market opportunity directly to underrepresented student groups through the multicultural center, disability services and SPECTRUM club
  • Create an Indigenous land acknowledgement statement
    • Acknowledge Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ and other nations whose territories have included the land Western Colorado University builds on and occupies
    • Contextualize the timeline of any confrontation for this land with local historians and Indigenous tribal governments
    • Understand related treaties and laws
    • Meet and collaborate with living Indigenous people from these communities
    • Learn Indigenous place names and promote their use
    • Focus on empowering Indigenous people
  • Create an environment for SAC members and guests that welcomes and uplifts underrepresented identities
    • Continue to incorporate scholarship, viewpoints, and work from BIPOC and other underrepresented groups in SAC agenda discussion
    • Define an explicit no-tolerance policy within SAC operations against racism, sexism, ablism, homophobia and shaming
  • Examine partnerships and purchasing to prioritize areas where SAC can support organizations and business owned by members of groups historically excluded from campus sustainability efforts

These action items, once approved and added to the work plan, will be prioritized with available resources. SAC members will volunteer to complete these actions and define realistic and accountable timelines. SAC will determine appropriate methods of communicating these actions to the campus community.

Western's Rocket Composter

Environmental Charter

In 2005, Western Colorado University President Jay Helman, committed the campus to the Environmental Charter, which still guides many campus-wide policies today. It is a guiding document that has led to refinements in education, hiring, purchasing, operations, and other functions of the University.  To learn more about the Environmental Charter, click on the drop down.

Combining leadership and sustainability

Western leadership has taken actions that have allowed cutting-edge sustainability initiatives and innovative ideas, such as the Rocket Composter, to create far-reaching impacts on Western’s campus.

The students, faculty, staff, and administration of Western Colorado University recognize the institution’s responsibility to improve environmental awareness, stewardship of natural resources, and resource efficiency. We endorse the following principles and goals:


  1. Environmental Education: Western State College of Colorado has an obligation to educate campus citizens and the public about environmental responsibility and facilitate constructive dialogue that simultaneously considers environmental, business, economic, and social concerns.
  2. Stewardship:  Western State College of Colorado is situated in an outstanding natural environment which is integral to its identity and success; therefore, Western has a responsibility to teach and assist in natural resource stewardship for the benefit of current and future generations.
  3. Need to Increase Efficiencies:  It is important for Western to function as an exemplar of resource efficiency.


  1. Increase knowledge and understanding of both institutional and personal relationships with the environment and provide assistance to the public as environmentally-sound solutions are sought in consideration of varied societal interests.
  2. Improve stewardship of the natural resources of the campus and the region we serve
  3. Develop institutional procedures to increase resource efficiencies such as
    1. Encourage the reduction of natural resource (energy, water, material) waste and increase resource efficiency.
    2. Support an effective program that promotes reuse and recycling of resources.
    3. Buy environmentally friendly products including goods containing recycled materials whenever practical.
    4. Explore incentives for departments or institutional offices that demonstrate significant advances toward reducing environmental impacts while increasing economic efficiency.
    5. Minimize environmental impacts and maximize environmental efficiencies in campus development whenever practical.
  4. Continue to refine exemplary environmental education, natural resource stewardship, and environmental efficiencies in light of these principles in future campus planning efforts.

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President’s Climate Commitment

In 2007, Western Colorado University became a signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). ACUPCC is a high-visibility effort to address climate change by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize earth’s climate. In 2009, Western released a Climate Commitment Action Plan. The plan includes target reductions of 20% from campus emissions by 2020, a 50% reduction by 2035, and carbon neutrality by 2050.

A nationwide network

For over a decade, Western has been a part of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, dedicated to addressing climate change through making individual college campuses more sustainable.

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Sustainable Purchasing Policy

Created in 2017, 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 manufactures and vendors who share our commitment to the environment. Click on the drop-down for more details about this policy.

Purchasing for change

Western’s EPP ensures the university adheres to purchasing standards that promote sustainability and prove Western’s 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.

The products purchased by Western should 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.)

Flags displaying "Zero Waste" at an on-campus event

Zero Waste Goals

In recent years, Western has become engaged in the global Zero Waste community through engagement with groups such as the Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN), which seeks to cultivate, educate, and inspire a student-led zero waste movement, and the Circular Economy Club. The same year, Western’s President released a campus Zero Waste Commitment, creating goals to maximize its waste infrastructure. Western encourages students, faculty, and staff to utilize recycling, compost, e-waste, Terracycle, and Freecycle infrastructure on campus. For more information about waste management on campus, click here.

Conscious consumption

Western’s Zero Waste initiatives encourage all members of the campus community to take steps to minimize their impact on the environment through the goods they consume.

Aerial view of W Mountain

Tracking Our Progress

The campus community uses two main rating tools to track our progress towards our goals. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a program of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, is the most comprehensive approach that we use. Western completed their first STARS reports in 2016, earning a bronze rating, and again in 2019, moving up to a silver rating.

Second Nature, the organization that created The Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments, is the organization that supports Western for carbon accounting more specifically.  We aim to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 and track our progress.

Accountability for sustainable action

Western uses two rating tools to both track the university’s impact on sustainability efforts as well as set future goals for making campus even more sustainable.

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