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Sustainability Committee

The WSU Mount Vernon Sustainability Committee was started in 2005 and resumed meeting in 2021 following a hiatus. The committee operates to support environmentally conscious resource use in our facilities. The committee meets periodically to develop and implement new ideas for sustainability at WSU NWREC, and helps to educate faculty, staff, students and community members about the importance of natural resource conservation.


Since 2008, WSU Mount Vernon NWREC has adopted an All-In-One recycling system with Waste Management, Inc.. Since adopting this program, garbage pick-up has remained low despite the fact that the center’s programming has tripled in size. Recycling is picked up once a week and mixed recycling containers are located throughout the facility.


At events, compostable tableware is collected in designated inside bins. Announcements are made at group functions to remind people how to separate compostable tableware from recyclables, garbage, etc. Compostable tableware are purchased by the center each year. Compostable tableware is collected in bins on-site and then shredded using a tractor-mounted chipper/shredder. The shredded tableware is mixed into the Center’s compost piles. Ceramic mugs have also been purchased for events as well as permanent tableware for internal events.

On-Farm Composting

Compost piles in field, barns in background.On-farm organic material is collected into an on-farm composting system for compostable waste generated by field/greenhouse projects. The pile is maintained by a front loader and maintenance of the pile is the responsibility of facilities operations under the supervision of the farm and sustainability committee. Hay bales are set around the back perimeter of the pile. After they break down, the bales are replaced and old hay is integrated into the pile. Materials are added from field trials and grounds maintenance. Wood chips are added to the pile to maintain a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. The compost generated is used on non-research grounds of the NWREC to avoid problems with chemical residues, pathogens, weed seeds, etc.

Worm Bin

Round compost bin.

Employee and visitor food waste is being collected at the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC. All materials, excluding dairy, meat and eggs, can be discarded in covered 5-gallon white buckets located throughout the facility. Three buckets are currently in use and are located in the main lunch room, by the south exit and in the demonstration kitchen. Weekly, or when full, buckets are taken out to our compost pile.

An Earth Machine™ worm bin is located at the Olsen House for residents there to use and manage. The worm bin was started with soil, shredded paper, water and red worms (Eisenia foetida). New food waste is added to the top of the bin and spread evenly. As shredded paper is available from the front office, the paper is soaked in a bucket (24 hrs) and then added to the pile to cover undigested food waste. Within the bin, the pile is covered with black plastic to minimize flies and odors. New worms are added after an extended cold period and/or if digestion of food material becomes stagnant. The bottom hatch on the bin can be opened. Worm castings can be removed from this area and worm activity can be monitored.

Plastic Water Bottles

WSU NWREC prohibited the use of single-use plastic water bottles by all WSU personnel and external visitors in NWREC facilities starting in 2021. NWREC advocates for the use of reusable water bottles. A bottle filling station was installed in 2022 to encourage this practice.

Light & Gas Usage

For 2008 and 2009 the Sustainability Committee helped our facility tally energy use for the statewide reporting matrix mandated by the University. Motion/occupancy sensor-controlled lighting was added to the facility. All exterior campus lighting has been converted to LED fixtures. All campus T-12 fluorescent lighting has been retrofitted to high-efficiency T-8 lighting in older buildings. The committee helped implement an energy audit with Terry Ryan in spring 2011.

Farm/Grounds Management

In 2009, leaf blowers were banned from this facility. All leaf matter management is now done manually (see cover photo). Gator and vehicle usage has been minimized and walking or carpooling is encouraged to the Olsen House and surrounding fields.

Historical Activities


The sustainability committee hosted several informational seminars and demonstrations. These were focused on WSU faculty, staff and students as well as community members. Events are listed below:

  • Food Systems Planning and Research in NW Washington

    Dr. Brandon Born and Kara Martin, University of Washington (April 21, 2010)

  • Breadmaking Workshop: The Mysteries of Sourdough

    Scott Mangold, Bread Farm (April 10, 2010)

  • Artful Persuasion: Artists Helping Scientists Convey the Realities of Climate Change

    Lin McJunkin, sculptor/science educator (March 12, 2010)

  • Composting Systems and Management

    Tamara Thomas, Terre-Source (January 13, 2010)


Students eating in classroom

The Sustainability Committee also hosted the Lincoln School (Grades 3–6) for a field trip and healthy local farm produce lunch in September 2010.