Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 65.57
Liaison Jeff Spoelstra
Submission Date July 22, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Western Michigan University
EN-9: Community Partnerships

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 3.00 Jeff Spoelstra
Sustainability Coordinator
Office for Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have at least one formal sustainability partnership with the local community that meets the criteria as “supportive”?:

A brief description of the institution’s supportive sustainability partnership(s) with the local community:

Stormwater (ongoing) - WMU participates in sub-watershed (Arcadia Creek) and watershed (Kalamazoo River) management with the Portage-Arcadia Creek Watershed working group, the Stormwater Working Group (MS4 permittees), and other water resource organizations. These efforts are ongoing and involve planning, best management practice implementation, and evaluation of numerous efforts targeted at education, groundwater, and stormwater.

Community Garden (ongoing) - The Stadium Drive Community Garden is a 15,000 square foot community garden operated by WMU partners (primarily student organizations). Garden plots are available to students and the public. We encourage students, staff, faculty, and Kalamazoo community members to actively participate in growing local and sustainable food. The garden is a place to learn, interact and have fun with others interested in growing fruits and vegetables. We encourage community garden participants to plant a row for the hungry and donate their extra produce to local food banks.

Non-motorized transportation collaboration (ongoing) - Our Bike Stable and other student staff attend and contribute to community efforts to increase non-motorized transportation. Recent examples include efforts to re-envision a critical barrier to walkers and bikers located between downtown Kalamazoo and two college campuses (including WMU) and efforts focused on opportunities to convert one-way streets to two-way streets in downtown Kalamazoo. A WMU research team recently created the Center for Liveable Communities, a grant-funded national research network, focused on several related transportation efforts.

City of Kalamazoo Greenhouse Gas Inventory (ongoing) - Faculty and students in Environmental and Sustainability Studies are working with partners at the City of Kalamazoo to assemble the first-ever City of Kalamazoo Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

Does the institution have at least one formal sustainability partnership with the local community that meets the criteria as “collaborative”?:

A brief description of the institution's collaborative sustainability partnership(s):

Southwest Michigan Sustainable Business Forum - The mission of the Southwest Michigan Sustainable Business Forum is to promote business practices which demonstrate environmental stewardship, economic vitality, and social responsibility.

Guiding Principles
The Guiding Principles of the Southwest Michigan Sustainable Business Forum are to fulfill its mission as stewards in our community.

The SWMSBF and member organizations will endeavor to:

- Promote sustainability as business practices that encompass the environment, economy and social responsibility.
- Strive to surpass conformance to environmental regulations using compliance as the minimum standard.
- Follow the waste hierarchy of eliminate, reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, incinerate, and landfill.
- Develop awareness programs and practices, and implement technologies that safeguard and preserve the environment.
- Identify the environmental impacts of facilities and materials used in our products, processes and services in order to minimize environmental impact.
- Encourage environmental organizations, businesses and governmental agencies to cooperate on common issues.
- Create opportunities to expand the Forum's concept into a national network of sustainable business forums.

WMU is a dues paying member of the organization. Members cross promote events and hold regular gatherings (approximately quarterly) covering an array of sustainability topics. Most recently, the Forum contributed to the success of the 2014 Sustainability Leadership Summit. The Forum also hosts informal, monthly "Green Drinks", an organic, self-organizing network, with the intent of creating an ongoing community dialogue about local sustainability issues.

The 2009 Southwest Michigan Sustainability Covenant committed numerous signatories (leading community institutions) to social learning through community collaboration.

Does the institution have at least one formal sustainability partnership with the local community that meets the criteria as “transformative”?:

A brief description of the institution's transformative sustainability partnership(s) with the local community:

WMU was a key partner, organizer, founding signatory, and supporter of the 2009 Southwest Michigan Sustainability Covenant, which reads as follows:

The Southwest Michigan Regional SUSTAINABILITY COVENANT shall be a joint initiative of several organizations in the Southwest Michigan Regional area that are committed to promoting the development of a sustainable infrastructure by the interconnection of economic, social and environmental sustainability principles throughout the region and within their respective community and organizations.

The “Southwest Michigan Regional Sustainability Covenant” provides an opportunity for government, academia and other participating stakeholders to lead the community towards meeting the ”triple bottom line” goal of environmental, economic, and social responsibility that provides an improved quality of life for all future generations – a concept that we define as “Community Sustainability”. The Covenant creates a partnership of stakeholders who are uniquely positioned to have a profound impact on the overall sustainability of this community.

This covenant shall symbolize the joining together of government, academia, healthcare, and other stakeholders for the purpose of working together to ensure that the Southwest Michigan Region continues to be an excellent place to live and that each organization shall commit to the community’s betterment through economic, social and environmental strategies germane to their mission for the benefit of future generations. This shall be accomplished by each participating organization’s acknowledgement and embracement of the concept of community sustainability in its activities. Sustainability includes the careful consideration of life cycle costing and careful consideration is given to environmental and human consequences and continued improvement in the efficient use of energy resources.

As signatories to this Sustainability Covenant, we commit to take the following actions in collaboration with other participating organizations:
1. Generate a regional and community sustainability vision statement, goals and objectives.
2. Establish a ‘blue print for sustainability’ to include the identification of sustainability indicators, methods for monitoring progress, reporting successes, and development and sharing of best practices to assure continuous improvement.
3. Assessing sustainability in a manner that allows each member organization to develop methodologies, systems, policies and programs that follow the above blueprint.
4. Share sustainability successes on a regular basis for the mutual benefit of participating organizations and to bring consistency and accountability to sustainability assessment.
5. Build a sustainability constituency within each member organization and throughout the Southwest Michigan Region through education, community outreach and sharing of best practices.

As signatories to this ‘Southwest Michigan Regional’ Sustainability Covenant, we shall adhere to the purpose and terms of this commitment and pledge our best efforts in developing and promoting Sustainability through our organization and to the Southwest Michigan Region.

Signatories are available at - http://www.wmich.edu/sites/default/files/attachments/sustain-covenant.pdf

Subsequent activities and explorations in 2010 include Community Sustainability Indicators exploration, a community survey, and stakeholder meetings. See - http://www.wmich.edu/sustainability/reports-publications/office-sustainability-publications

WMU regularly updates partners on institutional sustainability efforts including green building, greenhouse gas emissions inventories, community sustainability indicators research, and climate change awareness and outreach. Office for Sustainability and university leaders have increasingly been called upon to advise community leaders including other local colleges and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation on transformative institutional change.

We meet regularly with covenant supporters (e.g., Kalamazoo Mayor, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Sustainable Business Forum Leaders) to seek implementation opportunities and support. Recent WMU actions supporting the Covenant and its signatory institutions include our community visioning events exploring "What does sustainability mean to me?" at a our Community Roundtable and Sustainability Slam event. WMU also signed on to the Alliance for Resilient Communities (ARC) in 2014.

A brief description of the institution’s sustainability partnerships with distant (i.e. non-local) communities:

The website URL where information about sustainability partnerships is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.