Photo: Alex Pedersen

This week, Western launched an all-campus survey aimed at understanding the university’s broad environmental attitudes and guiding future climate action and sustainability efforts. The survey, which is predominantly multiple choice and takes roughly 10 to 20 minutes to complete, is now available for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others in the greater Western community to complete through May 20. 

The survey covers topics related to campus energy, education, waste, supply chain, transportation, and buildings, and touches on some fairly complex topics and terms. Not to worry–all of the terminology comes with built-in explainers. 

Ashley Woolman, Western’s Sustainability Specialist, initiated the survey, which was crafted by the consultancy firm Brailsford & Dunlavey (B&D). B&D is an industry leader in advising schools, universities, and other institutions on plans regarding construction, facilities, and the built environment. Under the direction of the university’s Sustainability Action Committee, Western is contracting with B&G to provide a roadmap for environmental action in pursuit of Western’s established goals. 

Western’s current climate action commitment, signed in 2009, includes goals to reduce campus CO2 emissions by 50 percent before 2035 (utilizing 2006 baseline data as the benchmark for the reduction), and later reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

B&G’s broad-spanning survey seeks to understand the Western community’s attitudes towards potential programs that Western could implement to meet those ambitious goals, with the larger aim to guide climate planning and projects moving forward. “We have these CAP goals for 2035 and 2050, but HOW will we get there. This product will line out a plan for us,” says Woolman. 

From Woolman’s May 3 email: “We will use this information to accelerate solutions where there is broad agreement, focus education or further investigation where the picture is not clear and rule out ideas that simply don’t make sense for us…This survey [just] aims to measure our collective interest and general familiarity with common solutions.”

She notes that B&G will be performing additional analysis on behalf of Western outside of the survey, including modeling the effectiveness of various prospective solar and other alternative projects, and providing Western with information about return on investment, costs, and projected benefits over time for various projects. 

Later in the process, Woolman notes that Western will pursue a more technical analysis of solutions which have generated a high amount of on-campus interest and support. The goal for now, she adds, is to create a strategic plan in conjunction with B&D to move Western towards its ambitious climate goals. B&D’s work will conclude by the end of June, and give SAC a solid understanding of the campus climate to work from, especially as new university President Brad Baca begins his tenure July 1. 

Woolman adds that having student input, especially among younger and incoming students, is critical to the university’s visioning process, and to informing Western’s administration about student opinions and priorities.