The Office for Sustainability is constantly starting new projects, innovating current efforts and closing old loops. Below is an archive of past projects, programs and initiatives no longer being actively pursued by our staff or students. 


The aquaponics system at the Office for Sustainability began as a 2012 Student Sustainability Grant and included a nutrient film technique trough, a gravel bed ebb-and-flow tank, a transparent fish tank with twenty-six Nile tilapia, and a biofilter in The aquaponics system at the Office for Sustainability began as a 2012 Student Sustainability Grant and included a nutrient film technique trough, a gravel bed ebb-and-flow tank, a transparent fish tank with twenty-six Nile tilapia, and a biofilter in the sump. In 2016 the demonstration aquaponics system went through an upgrade, focusing on production consistency and the vertical growing system.  New floating raft material was researched in an attempt to avoid polystyrene and associated environmental problems, with some success in using closed cell polyethylene instead.  The fish species was changed from an edible Nile tilapia to an ornamental pond koi to explore the possibility of raising high value decorative fish instead of a species that we must kill and clean. The aquaponics team also participated in a national design competition run through the WEGE Foundation in Grand Rapids and won 1st place with a compost-worm-fish-lettuce aquaponic recycling system for urban areas. 


WMU’s electric vehicle charging capabilities are the standard for campuses nationwide. In February 2012, 15 new electric vehicle charging stations and a 50kW solar photovoltaic array opened near the Miller parking deck. The project was funded through a ~$700k Department of Energy grant administered by the Clean Energy Coalition, which also offset the cost of five all-electric Ford/Azure Dynamics Transit Connect work-vans and a hybrid-hydraulic bucket truck

No Dark in Sight

This project was supported by humanities-centered, collaborative, and sustainability-focused funding awarded to photograph sky glow, light trespass, and light pollution— as cause and effect. It is a public service and exhibit currently split between two gallery spaces in Kalamazoo: Diekema Hamann and Western Michigan University’s Office for Sustainability Gallery. Each exhibit contains a variety of imagery that captures a fuller breadth of the project in its current state. Look for more images soon from Las Vegas (the brightest place on earth at night), Peru, and elsewhere. While part of the awarded funding supports photography projects, it also supports the development of a “Best Practices in Photography” resource guide for future consumers, producers, and distributors.

Outdoor Education Space

The Outdoor Education Space at the Gibbs House was designed by a group of students and staff, with backgrounds in engineering, graphic design, environmental studies, and behavioral psychology. The Living Building Challenge-inspired outdoor education space was  designed to achieve net zero status by utilizing solar photovoltaic panels, rainwater collection, composting toilets, and responsibly sourced materials. The space was planned to be open to the public for community gatherings, K-12 and collegiate lectures, farm volunteering and workshops, seasonal celebrations, retreats, and many other special events.

Vermicomposting & Black Soldier Fly Larvae 

Based on a 2009 composting best practices study by alumna Sarah Campbell, the Office for Sustainability launched a pilot vermicomposting research project in 2011. Composting post-consumer food waste presents unique challenges, and WMU continues to investigate cutting edge practices that mimic biological processes, a concept known as biomimicry. Using Black Soldier Fly Larvae composting, in conjunction with vermicomposting, allows us to compost almost all organic matter, including meat scraps, fats, and oils - substances that can’t be composted via typical means due to their fat content. This system is building towards a self-sustaining model; this requires creating permanent breeding conditions for the BSFL, a process that is still being researched.

Compost Hot Water Heater

The Compost Powered Water Heater for the Gibbs House was awarded a Student Sustainability Grant for the Fall 2015 allocation for over $6,000. The grant included an AgriLab Feasibility Study, a workshop with travel for Gaelan Brown in October 2015, and all necessary materials for build. The pilot project effectively provided heat to the grow beds in the west hoop house during the winter.Prior to the workshop in October, the radiant grow beds, the coil tower, and a majority of the core was built by the permaculture team. The radiant zones within the hoop house are insulated with three materials: rigid polymer foam board, hay bale insulation, and cob with wine bottles.

sTart I & II

The OfS conducted a survey of faculty in January 2012 to help identify and prioritize the types of initiatives and policy changes faculty believe are important for facilitating the infusion and integration of sustainability into research and teaching. The result of this survey was the creation of Sustainability Across Research and Teaching (StART), a ground-up, faculty-driven effort in the form of a new University-wide learning community on education and research in the broad areas of sustainability. The intent of the learning community was to build understanding, develop skills, and promote conditions to improve quality of life for all through sustainability teaching and research.