Wyss Campus Acquires More LEED Certifications
To have a LEED certification is an honorable feat in the world of sustainability. A product of the U.S. Green Building Council, the multi-tiered LEED certification system has been a pioneer and leader in sustainable building initiatives around the world. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes responsible building designs and practices. In pursuit of sustainability, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) has jumped on the LEED train and is successfully taking the school toward a greener future.
On Jan. 22, 2015, the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus received one gold and five platinum LEED certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council for their caretaker house and student housing units, respectively. These high-end certifications echoed the standard that the Wyss Campus set when the educational facility became LEED Platinum certified in November of 2013. Over the course of about 18 months, the project team focused on a variety of details to achieve the six recent certifications, and the result is worthy of admiration.
Certifying these residences is absolutely an accomplishment as far as the environment is concerned. Not only are the facilities designed to work with the elements that they are set in, but they also create a learning opportunity for the students who spend time in them.
“For many students, this is their first opportunity to live in a building that requires active engagement. After a month at the Wyss Campus, students are more likely to reach for the window than the thermostat to manage comfort,” noted WMI Assistant Director Shana Tarter.
The environmentally friendly components of the student housing on the Wyss Campus encourage students to appreciate and pursue greener practices.
The positive impact of this achievement resonates beyond the NOLS community, as NOLS is now a leader in LEED Platinum certification within the state of Wyoming. With LEED Platinum being the highest of certifications, the Wyss Campus has set a wonderful example for other groups seeking to build green.
CNG Truck at NOLS
Transportation is a necessity at NOLS. How else would students and instructors arrive at some of the most isolated and spectacular places on our planet? Although transportation is key to NOLS operations worldwide, it also accounts for 40 percent of the school’s carbon emissions, making it a significant sustainability concern.
Last September, NOLS purchased a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicle with funding support from Encana Oil and Gas. CNG is a well established alternative to gasoline, boasting low cost, widespread distribution, and most importantly, clean-burning qualities. Due to the proximity of CNG providers in the area, the Ford truck will spend most of its days at the NOLS location in Vernal, Utah. After a short debut, it has proved to be a valuable asset to the NOLS fleet of vehicles.
There is a possibility for more CNG use at NOLS, as a CNG vehicle is being considered for the Three Peaks Ranch due to the infrastructure in Pinedale, Wyoming. We are excited to explore the use of CNG as well as more opportunities for environmentally friendly transportation.
DEQ Aims to Downgrade Essential Streams in Wyoming
It’s a hot summer day in Wyoming and you are hiking along a cherished trail surrounded by pines, peaks and sunny skies. Care to take off your boots and soak your feet in a cool stream, or perhaps go for a swim? Water quality may not cross your mind when you’re sweating and distracted by the beauty of the landscape, but you might have to think again.
With countless streams, creeks and rivers flowing through Wyoming wilderness areas, we have reason to acknowledge their relevance to the environment and our lives. In August of 2014, the Water Quality Division of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) made a decision to downgrade certain surface waters from primary, to secondary contact recreation. By downgrading streams in this manner, the standards set for water quality in more than 87,000 miles of streams will be lowered significantly.
The process used by the DEQ involved analyzing stream size, proximity to population centers, and recreation access. These three steps were designed to determine the potential use of the stream for swimming, bathing, or other activities that could result in full body immersion or accidental ingestion of water. Although the analysis aimed to consider the public in the decision-making process, the outcome has proven to be a misrepresentation of which streams are likely to be used by the recreating public. As we know at NOLS, just because a stream is located further than a half a mile from a trailhead, does not mean it is inaccessible.
As a primary user of streams in Wyoming’s backcountry, NOLS is taking a stand against the proposal to downgrade these essential waters. In addition to being a part of our classroom and where we recreate, water is one of the most amazing and imperative resources on our planet. To downplay the significance of so many Wyoming streams is a step in the wrong direction.
Wyoming Legislature Angles to Annex Federal Lands
It’s the beginning of a new year, and the 2015 Wyoming State Legislative Session is in full swing. There are many reasons to pay attention to the bills passing through legislature, but why is it important to NOLS?
There are several bills being proposed in this year’s legislative session that are worthy of attention. One profoundly influential bill concerning NOLS operations is House Bill 209, the Transfer of Federal Lands. House Bill 209 mimics bills of the past, proposing that control over public lands in Wyoming ought to be transferred from the federal government into the hands of the state.
Why is this a concern? One of the greatest assets to NOLS as an outfitter is the integrity of its federal land permits. Without the permits that NOLS has acquired within Wyoming’s wilderness, NOLS operations in the state would not be possible. Transferring control of public lands to the state threatens the status of existing permits in the federal permits system, jeopardizing accessibility to NOLS classrooms.
In addition to placing NOLS classrooms in jeopardy, House Bill 209 could potentially have detrimental effects on Wyoming’s travel and tourism economy. Lending control of public land to the state encourages exploitation of the land’s resources for the greatest economic means, which does not always represent or promote the true beauty and value of the land. Furthermore, state lands are not available for camping. This fact, as we are all well aware, has the ability to negatively impact NOLS, as well as the everyday Wyoming recreationist.
As the 2015 legislative session presses on, NOLS will be keeping an eye on House Bill 209, among several other bills that may affect the school. If you would like to view the content and status of this bill or any other bills being proposed, visit the Wyoming Legislature website.
The Governor's Task Force on Forests
Wyoming’s expansive forests are exceptional. For more reasons than one may realize, the state’s forests play an important role in our lives and future. Whether it be environmental, economic or recreational value, these areas represent something that every Wyomingite can identify with.
Hiking, climbing, fishing, hunting, skiing, and observing wildlife are just a few of the activities that take place in Wyoming’s forests. In addition to these lifestyles, the forests generously provide us with clean air and drinking water, as well as habitats for fisheries and wildlife. It is for these reasons, among many others, that NOLS has a special relationship with these wild places.
With damaging wildfires, invasive non-native species and residential development, forests within Wyoming have been facing more challenges in recent years. The Governor’s Task Force on Forests, a group of representatives from various organizations in Wyoming, came together under Governor Matt Mead to highlight the most important aspects of the state’s forests. The Task Force was created to proactively manage issues concerning forests in Wyoming by highlighting their attributes and implementing recommendations to help maintain and protect them.
Recommendations made by the Task Force were finalized and approved earlier this month and the result is worthy of recognition. The final report addresses issues pertaining to fire and other disturbance, resource management, and economic opportunity. Many of the recommendations are important to NOLS because they help to ensure that the unique outdoor classrooms in Wyoming are not compromised. By taking preemptive action against threats to forests in Wyoming, we can continue to enjoy and appreciate their supreme resources and beauty.
Wyoming Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights
There is a growing concern for the youth of today: will this be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents? Obesity and diabetes are scary realities for many children in the United States, and there are several theories as to why these health issues have become such an epidemic. One major contributing factor is that kids are not spending enough time outdoors and being active. When children spend more time outside, they are not only physically healthier, but they also have an overall higher quality of life.
Many are beginning to realize the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle and are trying to find ways to motivate young folks to get outside. WY Outside is a coalition of various Wyoming organizations, including NOLS, that care and recognize the importance of connecting youth with the outdoors. As part of the WY Outside mission to enhance the number of people participating in outdoor activities, WY Outside has developed the Wyoming Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights to embody the movement for more movement. The Wyoming Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights promotes the participation and enjoyment of children in the beautiful Wyoming outdoors. The bill of rights includes fundamental outside activities such as, sleeping under the stars, planting a seed or a tree, appreciating a mountain-top view and visiting a Wyoming historic or cultural site. Activities such as these capture the essence of how valuable it is to play, create, observe and make memories in the outdoors.
In order to make this bill of rights as comprehensive and successful as possible, WY Outside gathered input directly from Wyoming youth on what activities are the most essential to an outdoor experience. Aaron Bannon, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Director at NOLS, is a member of the WY Outside committee and was involved in the creation of the Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights. Bannon is also continually involved in formulating events through WY Outside with the hope of finding new ways to engage youth in outdoor activities.
“I’m hopeful that the Wyoming State legislature will embrace the Youth Outdoor Bill of Rights,” says Bannon. “It is the right message for Wyoming’s youth today. As we know at NOLS, time spent outdoors leads to a healthier, happier life.”
Facility Efficiency Improvements at NOLS Pacific Northwest
When it comes to sustainability, every little bit counts. Even a toilet. When Karly Copeland, NOLS Sustainability Coordinator, made a call to NOLS Pacific Northwest to do an annual facility efficiency audit, toilets came up a lot. As it turns out, there is a lot that goes into sustainably updating a facility. Everything from appliances, light bulbs, and pipes, to weather stripping, sink fixtures and toilets must be taken into account. Some fixes are simple while others require much more attention, planning and funding.
The NOLS facility efficiency initiative is a crucial component of meeting the school-wide goal to reduce carbon emissions by thirty percent by the year 2020. By looking closely at each NOLS facility, the initiative is designed to bring seemingly minor details to the forefront, and ultimately make a big difference. We’ve all heard that we can minimize our carbon footprint by riding our bikes, taking shorter showers, or changing a light bulb. NOLS recognizes the importance of making these suggestions a reality.
The NOLS Pacific Northwest audit is a great example of the attention to detail and important questions that must be asked in order to optimize sustainability within a facility. Are the pipes properly insulated? Are the appliances energy efficient? Are the light bulbs LED or fluorescent, and do they have motion sensors? Are the toilets low-flow? Many of these details and more were discussed in the conversation between Karly and John Harnetiaux, the Operations Manager of NOLS Pacific Northwest, and Mitch Harter, Facilities and Fleet Manager of NOLS Pacific Northwest. The audit consisted of reviewing data pertaining specifically to the Pacific Northwest facility, a thirty acre-property with eleven different buildings. Various efficiency improvements were discussed such as the heaters in the staff housing units, water pipes in the food services building attic, the weather-stripping on the doors, and of course, the toilets. All of these improvements and more are recorded, labeled and prioritized in the audit.
“The Pacific Northwest campus was built in the early 90's, and was originally designed with various energy efficiencies in mind. Within the last five years, as the buildings on the property have begun to age into their twenties, we've been attempting to do more retrofitting, as well as some larger scale sustainable construction projects,” commented John Harnetiaux.
As multiple NOLS locations, such as NOLS Pacific Northwest, continue to make improvements on the energy efficiency of their facilities, the goal of drastically reducing carbon emissions by 2020 will be that much more attainable.
Creating a Climate of Thanks
In the world of environmental sustainability, too often the amount of work to do overshadows a great many accomplishments that should be celebrated. This Thanksgiving, NOLS was happy to take a moment and offer #climatethanks. In case you missed us on twitter, here are three pieces of gratitude we’d like to offer up for those who work to preserve our wilderness classrooms:
1) NOLS Grads Above all else, NOLS’ greatest contribution to the environment is our graduates. They are skilled leaders who understand the beauty and fragility of our planet. Thank you to the countless NOLS alumni who have gone out and changed the world!
2) NOLS Faculty and Staff support the education and experiences that inspire students to become environmental leaders. Thank you to all NOLS employees who work incredibly hard to further a mission they believe in and are agents for positive change in the world.
3) Generous funding for our alternative energy programs Rocky Mountain Power, The North Face, and many other organizations and individuals support our sustainability initiatives. Thank you for making it possible for our students to benefit and learn from the clean energy generated onsite at nine NOLS campuses around the world.
Obviously this is just a small snapshot of what we are thankful for, but it’s a start. Many thanks to everyone for supporting NOLS, we couldn’t do it without you!
NOLS Southwest Celebrates Wilderness
What better way to celebrate the Wilderness Act than to get out and enjoy a piece of public lands?
NOLS Southwest teamed up with Arizona to do just that in November. Dozens of organizations welcomed thousands of individuals to the Wild for Wilderness Festival at the Sabino Canyon Recreational Area. NOLS Southwest hosted one of the activity stations placed along a two-mile trail to educate. NOLS staff taught kids how to read and draw topographic maps from play dough models. Adults learned about map and compass and GPS navigation.
Photo by Jehan Osanyin
Gila District Manager Tim Shannon thanked NOLS for its role in protecting and enhancing Wilderness recourses: “The future is bright … the future is our next generation of wilderness supporters," he said. "Most importantly, it is the children … and the grandchildren that are learning about wilderness from you."
What Wilderness Means to Us
To me, Wilderness means we still have a place to go. A place to go immerse in pure, fresh water, a place to go sit on top of a ridge and watch the sun dip below the horizon, a place to go and enjoy the peaceful quietness of an alpine meadow on a sunny summer day. We still have a place to be us.
—Mike Casella, NOLS Marketing Representative
Join Mike at the celebration of the Wilderness Act's 50th anniversary in Albuquerque this weekend. Learn more here.