WWU's GEF Sustainable Energy Efficient Dorm Pilot

Live Green


As winter quarter is rapidly coming to a close (when did that happen, by the way), the time for planning next year’s housing arrangements is at hand. For some, myself included, this means expanding views out past Western’s campus and into the world of Bellingham real estate.

It’s a time of exploration into the next level of the adult world where you can have your own room, you don’t have to check in with an RA and you’re free to spread your wings a little wider. But among all the excitement, it can be exceedingly easy to forget that no matter where you live, the choices you make still have an impact on the environment.

If I hadn’t been a part of SEED these last two years reminding me to stay aware of the energy, water and waste I produce everyday, I feel certain sustainability would be one of the farthest things from my mind while apartment hunting.

But since deciding to move off campus, I’ve begun considering how I can continue to incorporate SEED into my daily life. In the end, I decided, it’s all about maintaining the sense of accountability that the program has used to give me such a valuable perspective on sustainability.

Here are a few things I’ve come up with:

  • Keep small signs or Post-it notes around outlets and light switches could help you remember to turn off and unplug any unnecessary devices when they’re not in use.
  • Look for LED light fixtures to brighten your space could help keep energy use at a minimum.
  • Find out if your complex has composting facilities. If not, a quick online search could help you find your nearest option.
  • Find out about your complex’s recycling options. Take a picture of one of the sorting guides around Western so you can continue to keep unnecessary waste out of landfills.
  • Set a timer before you get in the shower. After a few minutes, the alarm will help you remember that every minute you spend soaking in the hot water quickly adds up in terms of water use.
  • Use natural light to illuminate and heat your space when you can. Leaving curtains and shades open during the times of the brightest sunlight can help warm up your apartment, and closing them during the nighttime hours can help keep that warmth inside.
  • Open windows instead of using an air conditioner. Keeping cool with some fresh air just sounds much nicer than recycled air anyway.

For any one else in the process of moving off of campus, I wish you the best of luck. To those of you thinking you’ll return to the dorms for another year, I wish you the best as well. And for all of us, I wish for continued strides toward a sustainable future.

Until next time,


More information regarding living sustainably while off campus.


Sustainable Transportation

This weeks Eco-Challenge was inspired by the Go For the Green competition. Residences can receive points for their hall by attending Eco Rep events and challenging themselves to reduce their water, waste, electricity, and natural gas.

Transport donuts                                      Transp Peopple

This week, I hosted an Eco Rep event about sustainable transportation. Western students are fortunate to have many alternative transportation choices including: train, bolt bus, city bus, late night shuttles, well-established bike lanes, and Zipcar. Over 3,000 Western students take their cars to campus, a car may seem like a necessity, and in some cases it is, but given the variety of options to walk, bike, and ride, a car can be used sparingly. In addition to hosting an event, I earned points for my hall by submitting pictures to the Office of Sustainability (for their Eco Challenges Campaign) of ways I reduce waste. The first step is awareness, since it is easy to reuse containers, compost, and unplug devices. Gradually, with awareness, one will form new habits that uphold the three pillars of sustainability: health, economy, and the environment.

Help spread the word, choose Sustainable Transportation!

– Meriel

Is “Organic” Worth It?


For this week’s challenge I drew inspiration from our Energy Star certified refrigerator. As it’s one of the few appliances that can’t be unplugged between uses, it’s incredibly important for a refrigerator to be conducive to a sustainable lifestyle. This prompted me to start thinking more about the sustainability of the foods I eat and what else I could do to reduce the environmental impact of my diet.

While I generally eat breakfast and lunch at one of Western’s dining halls, dinner is a meal I typically prepare myself. For my meals, fresh produce is a must, so I decided to buy only organic fruits and vegetables for a week.

There was a pretty decent jump in price (depending on where you shop). For instance, at Fred Meyer, regular cabbage was priced at $0.79 per pound while organic cabbage was priced at $1.29 per pound. A jar of organic chicken bouillon was about $5 and half a gallon of organic milk was on sale for $2.99.

For me, these prices seemed pretty steep and I couldn’t help but question if the extra cost was worth it. So I did a little digging into the importance of organics. Through my research, I came across the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, an organization established in 1972 and has since worked to promote agricultural sustainability and awareness.

I was immediately impressed by the statement on the IFOAM website that designates the organization as “the only international umbrella organization of the organic world, uniting an enormous diversity of stakeholders contributing to the organic vision.” It also states that IFOAM is established in more than 100 countries around the world.

But what struck the deepest cord for me, was the list of principles IFOAM operates by.

1. Principle of Health

Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.”

2. Principle of Ecology

Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.”

3. Principle of Fairness

Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.”

4. Principle of Care

Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.”

Earth is a beautiful and delicate place. Keeping these four principles in mind can help remind us all that each one of us plays a part in keeping it alive. I want to continue learning about sustainable agriculture and I hope others do as well.

For more information about the IFOAM, check out its website.

(By the way, a cup of organic ice cream is wonderful company if you’re single on Valentine’s Day)

See you all in the next one,

– Libby

If you want something local and deliverable to your door, check THIS out!

While organic produce is one thing that can be very beautiful to create and uphold, we as the SEED team have discovered this article on Organic meats, specifically the Cruel Truth Behind Organic Chicken.

On a lighter note, Bellingham will have local options that are easy to pick up at a new local butcher shop Carne. They will be opening soon and offer as local as possible, grass fed meats!

Thanks for reading,


It’s All About The Little Things

Did you know: the U.S. would need to plant 30 billion trees a year to absorb the CO₂ it emits.

This leads me to ask: how can I change my everyday habits to reduce my pull on the Earths resources?

For this week’s Eco-Challenge, I focused on environmental awareness in my day to day activities. There is a multitude of ways to incorporate more sustainable practices in everyday life: from washing and cleaning to cooking to shopping. The following are eco-friendly tips I have come to use regularly:


  • Cook in batchesIt takes less energy to reheat leftovers than prepare new meals.

At the beginning of the week I make vegetable soup to last for the week’s dinners and oatmeal for the week’s breakfast.


  • Wash clothes on cold – According to Jonna Yarrow in How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint, “up to 90% of the energy used for washing clothes goes into heating the water.”

hm clothing recycling

  • Buy clothes second hand – According to National Geographic, producing a T-shirt takes “2,700 liters of water, plus it takes a lot of energy to get it from the cotton fields to your closet.”

Approximately 80% of what I wear is second hand. What is not second hand, tends to be gear such as jackets or shoes that will last a long time.

I will continue to add to the list in future blog posts; stay tuned!

– Meriel

SEED is dedicated towards inspiring sustainable habits in residents across campus. If you would like to visit SEED and discover new technologies, eat yummy cookies baked by Libby and Meriel, as well as discuss small changes you can make in your dorm, feel free to drop by BT 514 any Friday between 3 PM to 5PM!

Can’t wait to meet you!

– SEED Team

Remember To Unplug


For my Eco-Challenge this week I decided to focus on one of my most difficult habits; leaving electronics plugged in when they’re not in use. While our outlet timers are a valuable tool to remedy this, I know that I will not always have them as a resource. Therefore, I wanted to work on developing the habit on its own.

I did continue using the Belkin outlet strip, as the outlet nearest my desk would otherwise require a great deal of effort to reach every time I wanted to plug something in. However, I did work on trying to remember to turn the extra outlets off when I didn’t need them. In fact, that was where I started with this challenge.

With a little extra mindfulness—I made a point to include “turn off outlets” in my morning mantra—I was able to remember to flip the little switch on my outlet strip as I was leaving for the day. What I then realized, was how little I actually needed those outlets to be on at all. A number of days went by before I tried to use something that was plugged in and had to turn the outlets back on. This surprised me quite a bit, as I often would justify continued use of the outlets with the fact that I needed certain devices turned on at all times. To suddenly realize after two days that this wasn’t true was really eye opening.

While I’m still working on improving my good outlet habits, I feel like just having the outlet timers helps me keep in mind why I need to do it. Unfortunately, I won’t always have SEED to make things easy, so I want to take advantage of it while I can so I can continue working toward sustainable living in the future.

Happy February everyone,


While not everyone has outlet timers, or even outlet strips, you too can make this change an every day habit!

Remembering to unplug your devices after you are done using them can seem a little daunting. Especially when we consider everything we, as college students, need to remember to do every day.

One easy way to remind yourself is to set an alarm on your phone for the time that you leave for school every day. That way you can be reminded to unplug before you go!

If you want to take it one step further and unplug after every time you use a device, place sticky notes on the device you are using to remind you to unplug.

If you want to save energy this Eco-Challenge is for you. Good Luck!

Until next week,

The SEED Team

PS: Here’s a little extra for those who want to do more.

Saving The Planet, One Drop At A Time


This week I challenged myself to use no more than 2 gallons of water per shower—with the water pressure in our dorm, 2 gallons equals out to approximately a four-minute shower. For this challenge I was using SEED’s Efergy shower monitor, which tracks the time and amount of water used.

The following data displays my shower times and the gallons of water used:

Date             Length of Shower (minutes)        Water (gallons)

1/20/15                     2:37                                     1

1/21/15                     2:39                                     1

1/22/15                     2: 55                                    1

1/24/15                     4:02                                     2

There are many ways to conserve water but one of the easiest is cutting shower times. Here are some ways I reduced the amount of water I used:

  • Turned off water when applying soap, shampoo, or conditioner.
  • Kept an eye on the shower monitor
  • Timed my shower by listening to a song

Through this challenge, I realized that using 1 to 2 gallons of water per shower is quite doable. I plan to continue using the above suggestions to help conserve water!


So why save water anyway? Here are five reasons why.

Can you say that you are conserving water? Why not step up your game by taking shorter showers! Here is the key to a four-minute shower.

30 seconds rinse

60 seconds suds

60 seconds rinse

30 seconds shampoo

30 seconds rinse

and an extra 30 seconds for good measure.

We challenge you to try to make this goal!

Here is a tip; try playing your favorite four-minute song while you shower.

Good luck, and keep working towards your Eco-goals!

– SEED Team

Turn Down The Heat


If there’s anything I’ve learned throughout my time with SEED, it’s that sustainability can be achieved in unexpected ways. Take our refrigerator, for instance. Our Energy Star Electrolux model replaced an old Kennmore fridge from 1999, and the change produces an impressive result.  The old model was estimated to use approximately 654 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year while the new fridge uses an estimated 387 kWh. A difference of over 250 kWh still impresses me.

But who thinks of saving energy with their fridge? It’s just an appliance that’s easy to forget about until your leftovers start turning purple and sprouting mushrooms. But knowing just how big a difference our fridge change has for our energy output inspired me to look for other inconspicuous methods to save energy.

After searching online, I found my challenge. During the week of Thanksgiving when Meriel returned home, I turned off the heater in our living room. I also closed the blinds to retain the heat that was already there. I discovered numerous articles regarding how much energy this technique can save. Closing the blinds (especially at night) helps hold the heat in. During the day, if there’s sun (aka natural heat) open up the blinds to let new heat in. Then you rinse and repeat.


I hate the cold, and I was really reluctant to give this a try. But I was happily surprised to discover that aside from adding a sweater to my daily wardrobe, I felt no change whatsoever. While this may have been a more difficult challenge to attempt during colder weather, giving it a shot helped me realize that it was doable. It’s so easy to just close the blinds in the evenings, and the benefits quickly overtake the few seconds of effort.

Libby Keller

We love saving energy, time and money! Help your living space by using this checklist as you leave for break this winter!



Join us every week as we save our world one small challenge at a time!

Have a Happy Holidays Everyone!