EWC50 Spotlight: 'Going Green' at the EWC: Student Fellows Lead the Way for Environmental Sustainability

Sustainable EWC initiative volunteers help manage the Center’s recycling efforts.

"It is my firm belief that change comes from our own community--recycling in the EWC community is an example of this,” stated Mariko Miyahira, EWC Participants’ Association (EWCPA) Sustainability Co-coordinator. “By collecting bottles, paper, and other recyclables, EWC participants are putting their beliefs into practice, and we are making change within our community."


With East-West Center student fellows taking the lead, the EWC is lightening its environmental impact. Significant improvements have been made to reduce waste, conserve energy and water, and raise awareness on ways to create a healthier, more sustainable community.


The impact of the Sustainable EWC initiative sparked the formation of a Center-wide Environmental Sustainability Task Force (STF) in October 2009. “Our goal is to build on EWC's achievements, articulate a vision for sustainability at the Center based on staff and student input, and provide concrete action steps that each individual can take to have a more positive impact on the environment and community,” stated Christina Monroe, STF Co-chair.


The Sustainable EWC initiative, established in October 2008 through a student-led planning process, has attracted more than 100 student volunteers representing some 30 countries, who have contributed a combined 2,400+ hours towards lessening the Center’s environmental footprint. As one of the long-range goals of Sustainable EWC, participants take the lessons learned in environmental stewardship back to their home countries to expand the impact further.


Environmental awareness and concern is not new to the EWC.  Student fellows have engaged in small scale organic farming in Center plots since the 1970s, and recycling initiatives began around the campus in the 1990s. In 2006, the EWCPA took steps to institutionalize the Center’s environmental efforts and began an on-going process of collaboration with EWC Facilities staff.


EWC student fellows tending to their organic gardens on campus.

Efforts to cut back on energy consumption by switching to compact florescent lighting, installing LED signs, and motion detectors and timers on retrofitted energy efficient lights in the common areas, and reducing air conditioning usage, among other strategies, have resulted in tangible improvements. The Center has seen the energy consumption for Lincoln Hall reduced by 37.5% (27,160 kWh) and Burns Hall reduced by 22.5% (474,600 kWh). Efforts were also made to reduce water consumption by installing low-flow shower heads and faucets. A formal recycling program was instituted campus-wide and a green cleaning program was implemented this year.


Combined with the energy savings of the two residence halls and the Imin Conference Center, a total of 812,179 fewer kilowatt hours were used in 2009 as compared with 2007. With the cost of energy being higher in Hawai‘i than any other state in the U.S., these savings help sustain both the Center’s budget and the environment.


In January 2009, the students went a step further to put their ideals into action and adopted the “EWCPA Declaration of Sustainability,” which encourages students to bring their own reusable cups, plates, and utensils to EWC events and only purchase biodegradable, recycled and/or recyclable supplies for EWCPA-sponsored events.  The use of local and/or organic food and vendors was also emphasized in the declaration. These goals were made a top priority and a shift in the supplies and food used was evident throughout the 2009 and 2010 student orientation.


The declaration also focuses on the goal of supporting opportunities for students to learn more about issues of sustainability through volunteer projects, sponsored events, and EWC orientation. Trips to Ma`o Farms provide hands-on experience in organic farming and composting that students then apply to their EWC gardens. Sustainabili-Tea, a monthly tea-time discussion on sustainability issues, and a weekly films series in Hale Manoa on environmental issues helped generate more interest, awareness, and involvement. The EWCPA Sustainability Team also produces the Sustainable EWC newsletter, which is funded entirely by their recycling efforts.


"The EWC sustainability initiative has evolved from grassroots gardening and recycling efforts into a full-fledged institution-wide initiative,” noted founding EWCPA Sustainability Coordinator Bryan Bushley. “I am confident that this collaboration will continue to flourish and transform the Center into a leader and model for environmental sustainability throughout the Asia Pacific region."


Posted October 20, 2010