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LEAD: Leadership, Engagement and Development

Sustainable Western

Western Colorado University is actively engaged in improving environmental awareness and sustainability efforts through student-, faculty- and staff-led initiatives.

Sustainability Fund

Make a difference in our campus and community.

Whether you are looking to dedicate yourself to becoming an environmental steward or want to accomplish a project that is affiliated with sustainability, there are venues that can be useful to your efforts. Working on environmentally friendly issues allows individuals to make a concrete difference in our campus and community. By taking these actions, we begin the process of adhering to the values our campus teaches by finding the contradictions of what our campus promotes and what our campus does. Participating in sustainability projects results in meeting like-minded people, developing leadership skills, exploring career options, and learning about local and global issues that affect us.

Learn About the Sustainability Fund

Make a better campus

Through the Sustainability Fund, students can design proposals and earn funding for environmentally-focused projects and initiatives on campus.

Campus Involvement

Lead change on campus through clubs and organizations.

Clubs like the Organics Guild, the Sustainability Coalition and the Sustainability Action Committee are open to students who are ready to get involved and make a difference on campus and in the Gunnison community. It’s an excellent way to make new friends, attend exciting events and participate in fun educational opportunities outside of the classroom.

Groups on Campus

The Organics Guild (OG) and the Sustainability Coalition are Western’s premier environmental groups on campus. They meet weekly and engage in a multitude of activities. The OG is highly involved with the Pinnacles Greenhouse, and an active part of putting locally grown food on Western’s menu. Talk to the Environment & Sustainability department in Kelley Hall to get more involved.

The Sustainability Coordinators are paid positions on campus made up of highly motivated and involved individuals. They dabble in all types of sustainability initiatives, but spend much time educating students and organizing environmental events on campus. Contact Sara Phillips (sphillips@western.edu) or the LEAD office located in the University Center to learn more.

Sustainability Action Committee (SAC) is a collective of professors and administrators who improve environmental awareness, stewardship of natural resources, and resource efficiency on campus through implementing the goals of Western’s Environmental Charter. This is a closed meeting, however volunteers are welcomed at their three subcommittees, the Outreach & Education, 3R’s (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle).


At Western, recycling isn’t just a random act. It’s part of our culture.

  • Recyclable materials include, plastic #1, #2 and #6, aluminum, steel (cans), glass (clear, green, and brown), magazines, newspaper, office pack paper and cardboard.
  • Recycling bins are located in ALL building on campus. When living in one of the residence halls, recycling containers are provided to all residents, and are picture coordinated with the large collection bins located outside each residence hall.
  • Recycling is picked up weekly by Western’s Facilities Services.

Western was awarded a $139,690 grant to purchase the Rocket Composter.
The Rocket will divert up to 95 percent of food waste from the University Center—home to the Rare Air Café and Mad Jack’s Café—making it the flagship sustainable building on campus. The funding was provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE). This new addition will help further Western’s ability to reduce food waste on campus and pursue our Zero Waste goals. Composting is important to the environment because it allows nutrients to be returned back into the earth creating rich and fertile soils.

The list below is the Food Recovery Hierarchy created by the EPA to depict the preferred methods of reducing food waste. In the order of most preferred to least preferred:

  • Source Reduction & Reuse: Reduce the volume of surplus food generated
  • Feed Hungry People: Donate extra foods to food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters
  • Feed Animals: Divert food scraps to animal feed
  • Industrial uses: Provide waste oils for rendering and fuel conversion and food scraps for digestion to recover energy
  • Composting: Create a nutrient-rich soil amendment
  • Landfill/Incineration: Last resort to disposal (EPA)

The purpose of this organization is much like a thrift store. The difference is that anything you see at FreeCycle is free for you to have. Please come to FreeCycle and take anything you would like!

Where to Find FreeCycle

FreeCycle is located in the basement of the Ute Hall. Be aware that if you’re trying to get into Ute Hall during the FreeCycle hours, the FRONT AND SIDE DOORS ARE LOCKED! The only way to get into FreeCylce is from the back entry way. There is a sign behind the residence hall that directs you to FreeCycle.

FreeCycle has variable hours because it is student-run. For current hours, please check the FreeCycle FB page or call the LEAD Office, 970.943.2469.

Sustainable Living

  1. Ride your bike around town.
  2. Turn the heat down and wear a sweater. Shut all windows tightly.
  3. Open the windows when the weather is nice. Turn off the air conditioning.
  4. Put all electronics on a power strip. Turn off the power strip at night and when you leave.
  5. Turn off lights when you’re not using them.
  6. Bring your reusable bags/backpacks to the grocery store.
  7. Don’t use bags whenever possible.
  8. Use non-toxic cleaners. You can even make your own.
  9. Take cooler showers.
  10. Limit long, hot showers to decrease energy use.
  11. Always use a reusable water bottle and rechargeable batteries. Print double-sided, and reuse school supplies.
  12. Shop local. Shop secondhand. Shop durability.
  13. Get outside,
  14. Use the bus or carpool.
  15. Recycle properly and recycle often. No caps or contents.
  16. Contribute to community gardens.
  17. Give away unwanted belongings rather than throwing them out, or participate in FreeCycle located in the basement of Ute Hall.
  18. Wash clothes in cold water; use a drying rack.
  19. When eating at Rare Air Cafe, don’t take more food than you can eat, and compost what you can.
  20. Get involved—become a member of the Western’s Sustainability Coalition or Organics Guild. Find out more by stopping by the LEAD Office in the University Center, Office 118 and speak with one of the LEAD Sustainability Coordinators.

Give Your Car a Break

  • You can easily bike and walk around Gunnison, the town itself is barely over two miles long. If you are heading up to Crested Butte or Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), check out the RTA bus schedule. Service between Gunnison and Crested Butte is free.

Paper or Plastic? Neither.

  • With reusable shopping bags available at most grocery stores (they are available at City Market and Safeway here in Gunnison), there is no reason to use paper or plastic bags. Paper and plastic bags require constant resource extraction from our planet due to the nature of the bag material. Reusable bags, like cloth ones available from stores, will last longer than conventional shopping bags and cut down on your personal resource use as well as the litter and waste produced by single-use options. Many grocery stores also give ten cent discounts per bag to costumers that bring their own. Reusable bags are also great for toting books and binders to class, or towels and sunscreen to Blue Mesa.

Make Your Voice Heard

  • Making sure your ideas are heard is just as important to sustainability as reducing your impact or shopping local. There are many ways to get involved with sustainability at Western. You can join the Student Sustainability Coalition or the Organics Guild, both are student-run clubs on campus that has made numerous accomplishments, including the solar panels on Kelley Hall and the composter in the dining hall. Speak with the LEAD Sustainability Coordinators about any ideas or suggestions you might have. They are students just like you, and can assist with any projects your interested in, or point you in the right direction to make your project happen.

Have Fun Sustainably

  • Being social in college an exciting part of the experience. While alcohol or drug abuse is not condoned, taking responsibility for your social life, as well as for your impact on the planet are both necessary to a healthy body and healthy world. Reuse your cup when you’re at a party, and try to avoid using disposable cups if possible. Always recycle aluminum cans and glass bottles—30 pack drink boxes make great recycle bins! Be conscious of your consumption by finding out how far your favorite drink has to travel to make it to the Gunnison Valley—the farther the distance, the more fossil fuels used to get it here, which makes it less sustainable. Drinking from local breweries can be more sustainable and a fun way to get to know the place you live.

LEED Buildings

Setting the standard in high performance, green, LEED certified buildings.

Western Colorado University participates in the state’s High Performance Building Program. The university is committed to have all new buildings and renovations earn LEED-Gold certification or its equivalent. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of “high performance, green buildings.” The U.S. Green Building Council sets the standards.

Learn About Leed Buildings

Resource efficient and environmentally responsible

All new buildings, like the Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science & Engineering are LEED certified and designed to save water, reduce waste and lower emissions.

Take part in exciting events

Western’s environmentally-focused clubs and organizations host events throughout the year to educate and take action on campus.

Zero Waste

Western is committed to becoming a Zero Waste campus.

The Mountaineer Nation is committed to becoming a Zero Waste campus. In a Zero Waste system, all processes and products are designed to conserve and reuse resources, rather than discarding them. This practice significantly reduces environmental degradation caused by materials toxicity or extraction of new resources. According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, Zero Waste is “the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of all products, packaging and materials without burning them, and without discharges to land, waste or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

Learn About Zero Waste

Take the Next Step

Apply to Western

Apply to Western

We understand that applying to a university can be daunting, which is why we make our admission process as simple and straightforward as possible. Learn more about applying to your program of choice at Western.

Visit Western

Visit Western

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.

Alumni Community

Alumni Community

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.