Sprucing up campus sustainability; Honoring Roger Patterson

The ASWSU Environmental Sustainability Alliance recently decided to honor Roger Patterson, Vice President of Finance and Administration and Interim CIO, for his support of environmental health and sustainability.

On Wednesday, a tree planting ceremony took place on the north lawn of the Vogel Plant Bioscience Building in honor of Patterson.

“We want to show our appreciation to Roger Patterson for his efforts to promote environmental health and sustainability throughout his career at WSU,” said Taylor Harrison, ASWSU Environmental Sustainability Alliance Chair. Among these efforts are his work to “establish a tobacco-free campus and the Cougar Green Fund, a resource students can use to create a more sustainable campus.”

The creation of the WSU Arboretum is being financed with help from the Green Fund, and is being used in the process of revitalizing Ruby Street Park.

Patterson, a vital member of WSU’s staff since his arrival here in 2010, will be retiring this year. The ASWSU Environmental Sustainability Alliance wanted to show its gratitude to him before he left.

“I was so deeply honored when Taylor Harrison approached me about the Honorary Tree Planting Ceremony,” Patterson said.

Despite his own achievements, he is very adamant that the ones who are truly making the greatest difference are “the students, faculty, and staff who get involved in initiatives, projects and committees.”

He points to examples such as “the Global Case Competition, or involvement in the Green Fund which the student Environmental Science Club and ASWSU Environmental Task Force helped create as a revenue source for student sustainability and environmental projects, or getting involved in local community cleanup efforts.”

“They are the real heroes. You see, I don’t really see that what I do is that much,” he said.

Patterson knows that it is the duty of anyone in his position to give the environment the attention it deserves, but nevertheless, both the Environmental Sustainability Alliance and the community acknowledge that he has done this exceptionally well.

Among his greatest accomplishments has been making the Sustainability and Environment Committee a WSU Presidential Committee, said Dwight Hagihara, Executive Director of Environmental Health and Safety. This has helped the committee to better achieve its goal of coordinating efforts between students, faculty, staff, and administrators to promote the advancement of sustainability.

Hagihara stated that Patterson has “supported and facilitated campus-wide sustainability fairs, Green Fund projects, energy conservation projects, green purchasing, and green transportation alternatives for students and employees.”

Through all of these different facets, he has helped to bring about a greater awareness of environmental issues among the WSU community, which has led to numerous movements to neutralize the effects that we have on our surroundings.

According to Jason Sampson, Manager of Environmental Services, the aforementioned Green Fund projects, in addition to the Arboretum and Ruby Street Park projects, range from conservation efforts to the ASWSU Environmental Sustainability Alliance and Environmental Science Club’s sponsoring of a talk by Alex Steffen, a speaker for sustainability. Conservation efforts include the Wildlife Society’s work to save an endangered species of frog.

Patterson has also been instrumental in opening doors to “provide leadership for WSU to work with other institutions of higher education to improve WSU sustainability programs,” Hagihara said.

This year, WSU engaged in the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge in which WSU Waste Management and Cougar Athletics attempted to host a basketball game which would produce no waste. Although it only managed to divert 54.9 percent of waste to recycling, this was nonetheless an enormous improvement on the usual average of 28 percent. The event revealed what is possible when a large group of people unite with a common goal, and what could be possible in the future.

The tree that will be planted, a Black Hills spruce, will grow to a height of around 25 feet and does not require much water. Patterson, in his ceremonial speech, likened it to WSU, saying that the roots are President Floyd, he himself is one of the branches, and the students are the needles. He emphasized the idea that all of these environmental achievements are not his work alone, but a combined and cooperative effort.

After he retires at the end of this year, Patterson will be going on a biking trip across the country, back to North Carolina where he came to WSU from, and staying there.

Before and after the ceremony, the mingling of the audience was intertwined with ideas for future environmental projects, a sign which bodes well for sustainability.

Environmental issues could continue to be a challenging presence, but the WSU community has the ability to work together to counteract some of these problems. An essential part of Roger Patterson’s legacy will be the advancement of the context through which students and staff can continue fighting to heal and prevent further damage to the environment.