WOHESC Blog

WOHESC Program Committee Member Spotlight: Kathleen Klaniecki - Central Washington University

Kathleen recently joined the Washington Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference (WOHESC) Program Committee to collaborate on and to add input and impact to our 2021 conference program. Her role on the WOHESC PC Team includes sharing regional campus priority program topics and content, recommending stand out speakers, case studies and regional initiatives and helping to drive and promote campus involvement with the conference.

She joined Central Washington University in January 2020 in the newly created Sustainability Coordinator role. She has been tasked with developing a comprehensive sustainability vision and plan for the university, while also leading engagement and outreach initiatives. Kathleen lived in Germany for the last four years working on a PhD in Sustainability Science and was excited to take a higher education sustainability position closer to her hometown of Olympia, Washington.

What do you see as our biggest challenge in sustainability work?
I find it challenging at times to balance enthusiastic optimism for sustainability progress with soul-crushing pessimism about the state of our planet. How do we build sustainable communities, encourage activism and propel sustainability progress while being completely overwhelmed at the scope of the problem and the scale of action required? It is easy to face decision fatigue, eco-anxiety, and burnout in this field, so I challenge myself to localize sustainability, identify inroads for participation, and focus on healthy and clean communities.

Advice for people just getting into sustainability work?
Diversify your knowledge and skills base and embrace being a generalist. Be as comfortable talking about GHG emissions and waste reduction as you are talking about stormwater, food insecurity, roof loads for solar panels, and curriculum development. I've found that being knowledgeable about a range of topics opens doors to a greater diversity of conversations and more opportunities to influence campus policies and initiatives.

The most fun you've had in sustainability work?
I recently attended the UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Shenzhen, China, with 1,000 young sustainability leaders from around the globe. It was a fun, intense and energizing week of developing implementable solutions to the SDGs. I walked away from that event reassured that the world has the knowledge, resources, and skills to move towards a sustainable future, if only we can figure out how to remove the economic and political roadblocks.

Interview reposted from WAHESC.

2020 Conference Redux

As political, social and environmental issues in our community become more complex, WOHESC convened March 2-4 at the University of Oregon to empower stakeholders who are driving leadership and generating solutions for a more sustainable, just and equitable future. Over the two day conference, over 400 attendees explored the root causes to sustainability challenges and the positive actions to address them. Connections were made, students and staff from higher education institutions shared actionable takeaways, and we grew and connected around issues of equity, sustainability and development.

This year's conference brought together attendees from all over the Pacific Northwest for 27 sessions, two keynotes, two receptions and four guided tours. Breakout sessions created space for discussions about renewable energy, advancing equity and incorporating it into sustainability across the board, sustainable bike transportation, integrated design, sustainable farming, food security, sustainable food commitments, academics, engagement and so much more. View the full breakdown of this year's conference in our 2020 Redux, and we hope to see you at South Seattle College February 10-12 for WOHESC 2021!

Recapping WOHESC 2020

Last week, March 2-4, over 300 passionate individuals came together in Eugene, OR for WOHESC to learn, connect and strategize for the future of climate justice in higher education. This year's event was an immense success thanks to our attendees, speakers, sponsors, and partners who helped us build the conference. We spent two and half days learning, growing and connecting around issues of equity, sustainability, and development within higher education.

This year's WOHESC theme focused on the root causes to sustainability challenges and positive actions to address them. Acknowledging the roots of sustainability issues is only the first half of the battle, finding positive ways to tackle them is just as important to cover; conversations took a deep dive into various efforts that foster sustainability and equity. This important theme was woven throughout our program in keynotes, plenary discussions and breakout sessions.

The University of Oregon was established in 1876 and they have worked hard to build sustainable solutions into their current and future planning. In 2017, UO received a gold ranking from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). Of the 900 participating STARS institutions, only 10% earn a gold ranking. This beautiful campus offered attendees the chance to view sustainable practices in action. Attendees also had the chance to engage with the unique sustainability showcased in Eugene through tours of cutting edge facilities on and off campus, case studies presented during sessions, a balance-focused yoga class and an entire student leadership track centered around student's efforts to engage their peers in discourse around sustainability.

Our 2020 conference program was dedicated to engaging attendees to discuss and collaborate on innovative solutions to the sustainability challenges faced in higher education while being inclusive of partners from surrounding communities and industries. Each session meant to inspire action and deliver next steps for our attendees as they return to their respective schools and organizations.

Thank you to all of our attendees and collaborators for sharing your enthusiasm on social media using #WOHESC! You can view a recap of all conference social media postings for #WOHESC here.

We closed this year by announcing our WOHESC 2021 Presenting Host Partner, South Seattle Community College in Seattle, WA set for February 10-12, 2021. We are already planning for next year and want to be sure we get your feedback - so please fill out our 2020 survey to give us feedback on your experience and what you hope to see at WOHESC 2021. Presentations for all breakout and general sessions are now live on the Website so be sure to review and take a look at the sessions you might have missed. Thank you for joining us and we look forward to seeing you next year!!

We owe a huge thank you to our media partners, community partners, and sponsors for helping build awareness about the event and putting your support toward WOHESC. From spreading the word via email and social media to sponsoring sessions and sharing in our passion for environmental change, thank you for helping to make WOHESC happen!

If you're interested in confirming your support for WOHESC 2021 please contact savannah@wohesc.org.

Check out some of our attendee's event photos!

Advancing the Field: The Role of Sustainability Professionals in a Growing Sector

An interview with Michele Crim | Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Portland

Twenty years ago the number of people calling themselves sustainability professionals could be counted on one hand. Today they number in the thousands. On March 2-4, we are thrilled to welcome Michele Crim, the City of Portland's Chief Sustainability Officer, at WOHESC where she will speak in our plenary "Hiring: Chief Sustainability Officer," discussing the role of sustainability professionals, what they do, what they've achieved and where the field is headed.

We had a chance to check in and gain some insight into her experience leading the sustainability charge for the City of Portland, Oregon - one of the most sustainable cities in the nation. Check out what she shared and hear more at the Washington Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference on Tuesday, March 3rd.

You will be sharing your expertise at our Opening Plenary Hiring: Chief Sustainability Officer at WOHESC 2020. What parts of your role do you find the most pivotal to enacting the change you want to see?

Having this role in local government comes with tremendous opportunity and great responsibility. Government has the power to touch all facets of our lives. We create the policies, the systems and the structures that greatly influence the outcomes experienced by residents and businesses in our community. As such, it is very important that I approach my role with a wide view of all of the ways my work, and the work of my staff, may play out to ensure we are maximizing opportunities and mitigating burdens and unintended consequences. That requires understanding the interconnected systems at play and figuring out when and how government should seek to influence those systems, if at all.

In Portland, we are struggling with these issues right now in trying to figure out what role local government should have in trying to influence what consumers buy and eat. Portland's "consumption-based emissions" - the carbon emissions that are generated elsewhere in the world from the food and goods (like clothes and appliances) and services (like health care) - are twice as much as the local emissions from our building energy use and cars. We know that we, as a society, need to tackle those consumption-based emissions. What we don't yet know is what (if any) role should local government have in shaping that.

What are the biggest efforts you feel the City of Portland is taking to adapt and drive action to combat climate change?

Portland has a long history of leadership in tackling climate change. We were the first city in the U.S. to adopt a climate action plan over 25 years ago (1993). We're currently implementing our 4th such plan, and are beginning the process of updating that plan yet again. We've reduced total local carbon emissions to 15% below 1990 levels, even while our population has increased by 38% and our jobs have grown by 34% during that same time. While laudable, those accomplishments aren't enough. We are actively working to identify the bigger, bolder and more accelerated actions we can take to address the climate emergency. Although daunting, and at times depressing, it is an exciting time to be doing this work.

Since you've started as the Chief Sustainability Officer at the City of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, what have you seen to be the biggest challenges the city needs to overcome to continue moving towards a more sustainable and equitable future?

The biggest challenge Portland needs to overcome is figuring out how to move forward in a way that centers the needs and priorities of communities on the frontlines of climate change, including Portland's Black and Indigenous people, communities of color, immigrants and refugees, low-income individuals and workers, people living with disabilities, youth and individuals experiencing homelessness. People from these frontline communities have the least opportunities to change or benefit from the systems that impact them, and they must be the ones that benefit first from the transition to a renewable energy economy. We are challenging ourselves, in our department and in departments across the city, to find new models of engagement and policy development that positions frontline communities to lead the planning and implementation efforts to address climate change. We know we will not be able to achieve our aggressive carbon goals if we continue to leave over 1/3 of our community behind. We need new approaches and new solutions, and the expertise, perspectives and lived experiences of people from our frontline communities can help us find a successful path forward.

We cannot wait to welcome Michele Crim to the WOHESC stage at the University of Oregon in Eugene alongside other leading voices in the sustainability field. Join us March 2-4 to learn, connect and strategize for the future of climate justice in higher education.

Feature on UO Sustainability

The Washington Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference (WOHESC) looks forward to bringing sustainability leaders in higher education from around the Pacific Northwest to the University of Oregon in 2020. The University of Oregon has long been a leader of sustainability in higher education, featuring top-ranked academic programs, leading researchers, sustainably-designed buildings, thoughtful operational practices, and passionate, active students. Located in beautiful Eugene, the University of Oregon is thrilled to open their campus to the top thinkers and doers from around the region.

UO's approach to driving sustainability principles, practices and programming into operations, academics, co-curriculum, athletics and community management mirrors WOHESC's goal to both enliven the role of higher education in the future of Washington and Oregon and the role students play in a future sustainable world. WOHESC aims to promote collaboration among students, staff and faculty to strategize and take action across all areas of sustainability - a method that has brought UO to the forefront of campus sustainability.

With WOHESC 2020, we will focus on root causes to sustainability challenges and positive actions to address them. UO's active engagement in greening facility operations, innovative research, supporting and encouraging student initiatives, implementing environmentally and sustainability focused curriculum, and sponsoring public service initiatives will set the scene for an open and collaborative discourse aimed at finding actionable solutions to sustainability issues.

Established in 2007, the UO Office of Sustainability has spent the last 12 years implementing programs and projects giving students, staff, faculty, and community members the opportunity to help set goals, monitor progress, make policy recommendations and tell the UO's story. To read more about UO's active programs, performance and achievements in sustainability, visit the Office of Sustainability's website here.

WOHESC is still accepting speaker proposals for the conference. If you have research, workshop ideas or program presentations, make sure to submit before the deadline October, 11. Registration for the conference is open with early bird discounts available on tickets until Nov. 4!

We want to extend a huge thank you to the University of Oregon for hosting this year. We're thrilled to be partnering with one of Oregon's leading sustainability campuses, and can't wait to bring together all the thought leaders and change activists for WOHESC 2020.

Click here to view the 2019 Blog Entries and 2018 Blog Entries