Willamette University, OR Sustainability Initiative

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Willamette University, OR, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Adopted

Source File: http://www.willamette.edu/about/sustainability/


About Sustainability at Willamette
Willamette University defines itself by its service to the local and global community. From its inception as an educational institute on the frontier in 1842 to its present role as one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, the students, faculty, and staff have “walked the talk” of the school’s motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.” Over the past several years, students, faculty, and staff have had an ongoing and constructive conversation regarding ecological and social sustainability, and significant steps towards sustainability have already occurred. As we approach the future, ecological and social sustainability are a focal point for re-conceiving not only our educational mission but also our service to and responsibility for our city, state, and world.

Willamette is not satisfied to conceive of “sustainability” as merely an ecological concept. Without marginalizing the significance of achieving ecological sustainability, the Willamette community is dedicated to advancing a more just society, both now and for future generations. Thus, Willamette University’s sustainability initiative, as outlined by President Lee Pelton, incorporates the “four Es” of sustainability:

  • Equity
  • Environment
  • Economics
  • Education

Willamette's Distinctive Legacy in Sustainability
At Willamette, sustainability is not a fad. In fact, Willamette has been on the cutting edge of social and environmental sustainability for decades— it is part and parcel of who we are as an institution, and community dedicated to fulfilling our motto, "not unto ourselves alone are we born."

For instance, in 1954 at Bell Labs, two Willamette graduates, Gerald Pearson ('26) and Daryl Chapin ('27), developed the first practical photovoltaic cell— the basic design favored today to run everything from refrigerators in central Africa to powering lights in the new Kaneko Commons. They were awarded honorary doctorates by Willamette in 1956, and recevied several international science prizes for their work, which laid the critical groundwork for a bright, clean, less fossil fuel dependent future.

In 1973 Willamette University founded one of the first interdisciplinary environmental science program in the nation— a program that thrives to this day.

In 1977 through the generosity of the Lilly Foundation, Willamette University founded the Alternative Futures Project, exploring the linkages between the economy, social values, and environmental protection at the community scale.

Present and former Willamette faculty, students, and staff founded "Sustainable Fairview Associates," a consortium transforming 275 acres of a former Oregon state hospital into a landmark experiment in sustainable community design.

How We Choose to Live

Eating for the Future
Partnering with Bon Appetit Management Company, Willamette University has made great strides in making its food service ecologically and socially sustainable. Highlights include:

  • Whenever possible, foodstuffs (including both meat and vegetables) are purchased from local organic farms using just labor practices. Bon Appetit and Willamette are literally going out and recruiting farmers practicing sustainability.
  • “Farm to fork to farm” program. All food waste is composted on site or sent back to local farms for feed.
  • Compliance with Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s conservation guidelines for seafood.
  • Elimination of plastic clamshell “to go” containers and adoption of biodegradable and compostable products made from beet derivatives.
  • Elimination of “to go” plasticware in favor of corn-based “earthware.”
  • Participation in student-led events highlighting consumption and food waste on campus, and the working conditions of farmworkers.
  • Participation in campus events (e.g., OxFam America) highlighting world poverty and starvation.

Building Green Facilities
In 2003, the Willamette Board of Trustees endorsed green building practices for all new construction and renovations. Presently, Willamette University is working with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership to design the first of several new residential and academic buildings, the new Kaneko Residential Commons, to LEED Gold standards. Recent building renovations, additions, and repairs have provided opportunities for major “green” improvements: The new Montag student center and expansion of the Art building have incorporated some green building techniques and performance standards. Throughout the campus, energy reduction and management technologies have reduced total energy costs per square foot from $1.98 in 2001, to $.78 in FY 2003-2004, despite significant increases in per unit energy costs. Willamette’s average energy consumption for buildings over 5000 square feet (sqft) is now less than 11.8kwh/sqft/year-below the national “Energystar efficiency standard of 12Kwh/sqft/year, and significantly below the national average of 19.6Kwh/sqft./year.

Physical Plant Steps Toward Sustainability
Major infrastructure and Physical Plant steps towards sustainability include:


  • Replacement of gas-powered work vehicles with electric vehicles
  • Adding additional insulation when a roof is replaced.
  • High efficiency boilers and chillers are installed in new construction and retrofits.
  • DDC energy management system that is installed throughout campus includes capabilities of night setbacks, building night flushes, free cooling, occupancy scheduling, and early problem detection.
  • Capacitor banks installed on motor control centers to improve power factor.
  • Exit lights have been retrofitted to high efficiency LED's.
  • Lighting controls have been installed in all new construction including lighting sweeps, occupancy sensors,ambient light sensors and dimming, photo controls, and motion sensors.
  • Lighting upgrades to electronic ballasts and T-8 tubes in campus buildings.
  • Replacement of old single glazed windows with high efficiency, low-E, argon filled double glazed windows.


  • Replacement of carpets with low VOC alternatives containing recycled material
  • Mixed recycling, and recycling of all recoverable wood, metal, grease, oil, refrigerants, and containers
  • Donation of furniture and other large items no longer needed by institution or students to local non-profit organizations
  • Use of paper products with a substantial recycled content .
  • Use of carpets that contain recycled content, and requiring that old removed carpet is recycled.
  • Recycling of wood, metals, plastics, cardboard, greases, oils, cooking oils, plant materials, paper products, glass, computer equipment, photo lab chemicals, refrigerants, batteries, furniture, mattresses, appliances.

Using Environmentally Friendly Products

  • Replacement of carpets with low VOC alternatives containing recycled material
  • Banning acid based cleaners
  • Use of environmentally safe, low mercury content flourescent tubes.
  • Use of paper products with a substantial recycled content .
  • Use of carpets that contain recycled content.
  • Utilizing "Green" cleaning materials and methods.
  • Use of slow release fertilizers to minimize runoff.


  • Water efficiency technologies employed throughout campus, including drip irrigation and low flow shower heads, toilets, and faucets. Waterless urinals are being explored
  • Sensor operated lavatory faucets are used.

TIUA: Our International Partners in Sustainability
For over four decades, Willamette University has had a unique and fruitful partnership with Tokyo International University, a private four year liberal arts college located in Kawagoe Japan. In 198X, TIU established a North American campus, Tokyo International University of America, just across the street from Willamette. Over the years, students and faculty from both institutions have studied and lived together in both Oregon and Japan.

Today, the partnership between TIU and Willamette continues into sustainability. Both campuses share an expressed commitment to living and advancing sustainability, and have faculty and students actively engaged in sustainability research. TIUA faculty are vital members of the Sustainability Council. Willamette University's Kaneko Commons, (LINK) our first residential commons constructed at minimum LEED silver sustainable construction standards, is being undertaken due to the generosity of TIU and its associated Kaneko Foundation. And most recently, through the support of a Sustainability Council mini-grant, TIUA faculty, led by Professor Tamara Smith, included sustainability training for new students during their orientation. Click here to see some of the materials utilized in this training—including a power point presentation and the "sustainability pledge" signed by all students.