UW may be purple and gold, but green is in our DNA

Jon Marmor, Columns MagazineEveryone knows the official colors of the University of Washington are purple and gold. Now, you can add green to that list.

In August, the Sierra Club named the UW as the nation’s most environmentally friendly university in its ranking of the nation’s “Cool Schools.”

Schools were ranked on 10 factors: efficiency, energy, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments and other initiatives. Amazingly, five years ago, when the Sierra Club released its first rankings, the UW was nowhere to be found. But ever since, the UW skyrocketed from the ranks of the unranked to the top of the compost heap: 9th in 2008, 2nd in 2009 and 4th last year.

It’s no surprise, really. Being green has been in our DNA for a long time. As far back as 1970 (see photo at left), UW students staged the “world’s first trash-in” as a way to draw attention to the environment and the idea of recycling.

Today, being green is simply part of who we are and what we do on a daily basis. And UW students continue to play a big role in this movement.

A prime example occurred last year, when student activists created the Campus Sustainability Fund. This fund—essentially an additional fee students volunteered to pay—supports projects that increase campus sustainability, make sustainability a priority of student government, and include outreach and education components.

As of now, students have funded 16 projects, including the UW Urban Farm expansion, Food Co-Op and Do-It-Yourself Bicycle Repair Stations. More are on the horizon. Choosing to pay another fee at a time when tuition is climbing shows what environmental stewardship means to our students.

Now that’s cool.