Speaker Highlight: Advice from Candi Mabee, A Sustainability-Loving House Director

A former professional opera singer, house director, and a passion for sustainability? What’s not to love about Candi Mabee, who blessed the Green Greek Representative Program with her presence at our meeting this week. We learned a lot from her experience as a sustainability-loving house director, and are very thankful to have her here in the Greek Community at UW.
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Candi Mabee, the house director at Phi Mu, is quite an inspiration to us all. In her single year working with Phi Mu, she has driven Phi Mu to the highest standard of sustainability. She understands a green lifestyle as the right thing to do for the future and our Earth. In the past as a house director she has focused on the zero waste initiative, meaning utilizing compost and recycle systems to save money and protect the earth from methane gas release.

 

In order to ease the process of ensuring everyone in the chapter is doing their part, Candi recommends getting the kitchen staff on board, having the system set up so everything is easy and ready to go, accountability of individual members, and to prioritize communication about what goes where. This includes signage, frequent social media posts, and educational programs at chapter meetings. In regard to talking to house moms/directors about sustainability practices, Candi suggests coming prepared with research on cost benefits and how your house is doing, understanding the motivations of the house director, and working with them to find a solution. The key is constant communication.

 

Candi also recommends shopping at wholesale retail centers, such as the Costco on Aurora, for chapter necessities. Specifically, the Costco business center as they have the necessary compostable utensils and mealtime staples for an extremely reasonable price, as seen below:

Sustainable item Cost
12oz world centic cold cups $15.99 for 200 units
12oz cold cup lids $7.79 for 200 units
Clamshell (late plates boxes) $18.59 for 100 units
9″ plate $19.99 for 250 units
12 oz world centric hot cup $12.69 for 200 units
12 oz hot cup $16.09 for 200 units

Following Candi’s presentation, the Green Greeks had the opportunity to explore our own case studies and apply the tactics and tools Candi presented to  us to see the applicability of her experience and prepare for real life situations.

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Thank you Candi for those helpful hints. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed and we appreciate your impact here on campus!

UW-Solar + Green Greek Representative Program: Shining Collaboration

Two sustainability-focused groups at the University of Washington, UW-Solar and the Green Greek Representative Program, are collaborating on a project that has sunny prospects and dazzling potential. Essentially, the two groups will be working together to determine the potential for solar power in the UW Greek Community.

UW-Solar brings students and faculty together to carry out solar energy projects. The project tasks range from planning, governance, finance, design, development, economic, and environmental effects of infrastructure. These mid-to-short term solar power projects are small steps towards the long-run objectives of decarbonization, resilience, and information security.

Desiring to achieve similar goals, the Green Greek Representative Group works to make the Greek community a more sustainable place. So far, the Greek community has taken action to educate chapter members about recycling/composting, lighting efficiency, water conservation, and other general sustainability education topics. After focusing on many quick-fix problems, the Green Greek Representatives are now turning their attention to long-term projects.

Quoting myself, the current Director of the Green Greek Representative Program, from a May presentation: “Using too much energy and using energy inefficiently are huge problems in the Greek Community. We want to see what we can do to power our community more efficiently, bring down energy costs, and source as much of our power from clean energy sources as possible.”

Pictured: UW-Solar student helping the GGR Program initiate the project.

The U-District, where the UW Greek Community resides, is powered by Seattle City Light. As of 2014, Seattle City Light already had a highly renewable fuel mix, including Hydro (90%), Nuclear (4%), and Wind (4%). Less than two percent of energy comes from coal and other fossil fuel sources. Yet many energy customers are still pursuing solar energy too close this small gap, as well as additional benefits like paying less for energy in the long-run or getting paid for your electricity.

Solar power in the UW Greek Community has many additional perks. “The greatest benefit of this collaborative project is the potential for student engagement,” said Stefanie Young, the leader of UW-Solar. “The Greek Representatives involved with this project will gets hands-on experience working on a real-world energy project: they will be collecting data, preparing the feasibility audit, securing funding, facilitating construction management, as well as educating their chapter members.”

Through the summer, the Green Greek Representative Group is working to collect data from all 54 chapter houses, including roof plans, electricity information, and the age of the roofs. Come fall, UW-Solar will use this data, and the continued help and support from the Green Greeks, to conduct feasibility studies that answer questions such as: Is solar even feasible on chapter house roofs? Is it cost-competitive with what chapters are currently paying in energy costs? What will the return on investment be? Will solar power reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and if so, by how much? What would be the best system given project type/location? What are the funding possibilities? How will energy be monitored to quantify the success of results?

Depending on the outcome of the feasibility reports, the Green Greek Representative Group and UW-Solar will then work to determine the next steps. Regardless of whether solar power turns out to be feasible or not, this opportunity is a chance for collaboration, education, and dawning discovery.

Originally published on the UW Campus Sustainability Blog.

5 Collaborative Partnerships the GGRP is Engaging In

Collaborative efforts like these hold the key to sustainability success in the future.

Other Greek Chapters Nationwide: The GGRP wants to extend our reach and expand our collaboration efforts with other Greek Communities around the nation. Currently, the UW Green Greek Program would is interested in Cornell’s LEAF rating system, the University of Arizona’s “Zero-net-waste” philanthropy events, and Indiana University’s Spring Energy Challenge.Collaboration is a two-way street, already students at Washington State University and Syracuse University have contacted the GRRP to learn about potential program possibilities for their own Greek Communities.

UW-Solar: UW-Solar, a group that works on solar energy projects, is working with the GGRP to calculate the solar potential for chapters. Learn more here!

The UW Farm: The UW Green Greek Representative Group hopes to participate in future collaboration projects with the UW Farm, whose mission is to be the campus center for the practice and study of urban agriculture and sustainability. Although that idea has yet to come to fruition, reaching out has already culminated in one chapter, Sigma Kappa, successfully servicing the “Farm-To-Table” dinner.

Mercedes Stroeve, Seattle Public Utilities: A UW senior used the GGRP to gather data for her research for Seattle Public Utilities on creating an outreach strategy that encourages tenants to fully transition to composting and other best waste practices.

UW Biodiesel Cooperative: The UW Biodiesel Cooperative, a group repurposing leftover cooking oil into an alternative fuel supply, is setting up a collection system to use the Greek Community’s leftover oil.

Sigma Kappa’s Road to Sustainability

At the beginning of January last year, I began my role as the first-ever Sustainability Chair for Sigma Kappa Chapters nationwide. My passion for sustainability has – to use a nice “green” metaphor – grown and bloomed in ways that I never would’ve imagined when I accepted the position a year ago. It seems only fitting that after such hard work from myself and all of my fellow sisters, I take some time to highlight what the Sigma Kappa Mu Chapter has accomplished in regards to “sustainability” this year and share our sustainable goals for the future.

The road to sustainability is most definitely not the smoothest of roads. Defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” sustainability intrinsically revolves around long-term planning – investing now for an ever-changing future. Yet, as the movement grows, especially here on the University of Washington campus, even the most traditional of establishments are adding green to their purple and gold.

Already, the UW Greek Community is working towards chapter-wide Green Greek Certification through EcoRep’s Green Greek Program. In the meantime, certain chapters are taking giant steps to get there. My chapter Sigma Kappa, one of nineteen sororities on campus, has become a role model in sustainability.

“Sigma Kappa’s role in sustainability has been budding for the past few years. Our green initiatives really took off within the last year after the hard work of two sustainability-minded individuals,” said Hailey Zurcher, the Sigma Kappa President.

On one side was Jaclynn Treat, the current President of the Sigma Kappa Corporation Board and an architect at the sustainable design firm Perkins+Will, who wanted to pilot a brand new initiative to demonstrate the potential for waste reduction and energy efficiency in Sigma Kappa Chapters nationwide. On the other side was myself, who I think I can appropriately describe as an engaged, motivated student eager to take a leadership role in bringing green innovation to the chapter.

Together, Jaclynn and I created a “Sustainability Chair” position. It was a completely new role with no precedents and very few guidelines. Quoting myself from the annual Sigma Kappa Annual Board Meeting this December; “Less than a year later, sustainability has definitely become a cornerstone of our chapter. I’ve seen real change in our members – from the way they pause in front of disposal containers, deciding whether they should recycle or compost, to the way they jump at the opportunity to get involved in our sustainability volunteer opportunities.”

There were four crucial steps in progressing Sigma Kappa’s sustainability initiatives: 1) Creating a Baseline 2) Establishing Goals 3) Choosing Projects, and 4) Focusing on Collaboration.

Within the first month of being elected, I created a baseline that tracked Sigma Kappa’s energy expenditures and utilities, including gas, waste, electricity, and water from over the past five years using an online tracking tool called Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Next, I worked with members of the Sigma Kappa Corporation Board, specifically Jaclynn, to create reduction goals and target specific problem areas.

We brainstormed potential projects, prioritized them according to feasibility, cost, timeliness, and impact, and then got to work. Potential projects included increasing the house’s lighting efficiency through implementation of LEDs and motion-sensor lighting, sustainable food sourcing, achieving Green Greek Certification through EcoReps, and collaborating with other sustainability-oriented entities on campus, like the UW Farm.

Already, the chapter has been extremely successful in reducing waste. As of November, public spaces within the house, including bathrooms, individual rooms, the study room, and kitchen, have an easily accessible recycling, compost, and trash set-up. Making use of behavioral psychology, garbage cans tend to be smaller than the other two bins with large red signs alerting the disposer to think before mindlessly tossing everything into the trash. What’s more, members have taken it upon themselves to create unique “recycle” and “compost” signs. Above the community printer, there hangs a beautiful hand-drawn poster that features weeping trees with large, watery tear drops falling from their branches and a message that reads: “Save the trees!”

One problem the house recently solved is what I called the “One-Stop Garbage-Dump:” garbage piles up in individual rooms and then the whole trash can is dumped in the larger “public space” garbage without being sorted. To stop this, I ordered every single room its own blue recycling bin, since most of the “trash” from rooms is recyclable: paper, napkins, coffee cups, etc.

The chapter has also focused on our Green Greek Certification, spurring increased networking with other chapters and EcoReps. In fact, through these efforts, I found an additional outlet for my endeavors. I am now the Director of the Green Greek Representative Program (GGRP), which I helped to launch in November of this year. The goal of the program is to make sure that every chapter has a Green Greek Representative who takes on chapter-specific sustainability projects. The GGRP participated in the Greek-wide street clean on November 21, gathering on the sunny autumn morning to pick up trash and beautify our neighborhood.

“Ultimately, we want to create a coalition of sustainability activists in the Greek system so that we have a network of motivated people and a way to communicate about sustainability initiatives,” said Kiyomi Morris, Director of EcoReps, the GGRP’s parent student-run organization.

Aside from involvement with the GGRP, I also organized collaborative volunteer events with other sustainability-focused organizations. In line with our Inherit the Earth philanthropy, Sigma Kappa serviced the UW Farm’s “Farm-to-Food Event” on October 22nd – some manned the pumpkin carving station, while others served food, ran the slideshow, and all took part in progressing the sustainability conversation.

What’s more, the Sigma Kappa Mu chapter is already expanding our sustainability net. About two months ago, I began working with Sarah Tennyson, a Sigma Kappa from theZeta Omicron chapter at University of Arizona to create a sister sustainability pilot-project. From there, we are continuing to branch out, now talking with Sigma Kappa sisters at Washington State University and Texas Christian University.

As the sustainability movement within Sigma Kappa and the Green Greek Representative Program continues to expand (both already turning towards the national level), it is clear that sustainability in UW’s Greek Community is fast becoming the next big trend.

Originally published on UW’s Sustainability Blog.