By Justin Buchanan
Walking across campus at night Pacific Lutheran students might see a young woman turning off lights. That young woman is not a Campus Safety officer or a professor leaving late, it is Sustainability Manager Chrissy Cooley on one of her night walks.
Cooley walks through buildings on campus, checking every room, making sure all the lights, computers and projectors are turned off.
“I’m not crazy when people are using electricity and are currently using it, it’s times like this [at night]. Why? Even if it is small, it does add up,” Cooley said.
On Sept. 20 Cooley checked the Hauge Administration Building making sure the automated lights were turning off. She found out that they had not been turning off by meeting with the nighttime janitorial staff.
“This is not the most glorious part of my job, but if I didn’t do it no one would know [about the lights] ‘till the morning,” Cooley said.
The automated lights did not turn off. Cooley did not waste a moment setting off to figure out why, busting out her smart phone to prepare an email.
Since Cooley’s arrival at PLU three years ago, Sustainability has grown significantly as a department. Sustainability now has two full time staff members and 30 student workers.
Sustainability collaborates in some fashion with every department on campus, and with the Parkland community.
“We’re no longer a cold institutional face, the inaction is priceless. She connects all the different pieces,” geology professor, and Bike Co-Op advisor, Peter Davis said.
Although the small things such as night walks are the cornerstone of Cooley’s methods, she has helped PLU invest in other larger programs.
In February of 2009 Cooley helped PLU invest in the Resource Conservation Manager program.
In the first year of the program Cooley has helped save 4.1 percent in the cost of natural gas totaling $29,834. In year two, PLU saved 7.5 percent totaling $51,860. In electricity, PLU cut 13 percent in use and saved $84,690.
Entering her office, visitors are greeted with a cluttered desk full of papers for the projects Cooley oversees.
Cooley’s morning starts at 7 a.m. and before she can settle in she already has students knocking at her door. Cooley’s first project every morning is getting her student employees started on recycling.
After the recycling begins, Cooley breaks ground on her other tasks. The variety of tasks makes it difficult for Cooley to describe an average day.
“I don’t even know how to say an average day,” Cooley said, “I live by my smart phone.”
The vast amount of her projects include working with students, seeking ways to cut costs in energy consumption with collaboration with other campus departments, overseeing the Pacific Lutheran’s Bike Co-Op, the list goes on.
At night Cooley attends graduate classes at PLU, pursuing a masters in business management.
“She has an ass-ton of work,” Davis said.
Though her day is busy, Cooley says she loves her job. It is her goal to have PLU carbon neutral by 2020.
Cooley says her favorite part of the job is inspiring students.
“It’s really important to me, to meet with my students…when I see their work it gets me through it,” Cooley said.
Cooley’s student employees can feel the effects of her leadership.
Habitat Restoration Volunteer Coordinator Erin Liden has worked under Cooley since spring.
“She’s [Cooley] super helpful, habitat is a huge thing to take on by yourself. Chrissy has facilitated the entire thing and has always helped,” Liden said. “She even comes out to pull weeds.”
Cooley’s dedication to her craft, and her results, have received high praise from many around campus.
Professor of Religion and Sustainability Chair Kevin O’Brien has been impressed with Cooley’s work and transition to PLU.
“I think she’s been great for the campus,” said O’Brien. “She’s made a place for herself, but she’s continued to expand that place.”
Facilities Management has also enjoyed Cooley’s presence and believes she has been a valuable part of their team.
“She’s [Cooley] brought a lot of energy,” Director of Facilities Management David Kohler said.
Kohler has been impressed Cooley’s out reach to other departments and her holistic view of sustainability.
“That [her] engagement has been a breath of fresh air,” Kohler said.
Cooley did not just appear at PLU. The process of getting the Sustainability Manager position was difficult.
Cooley went through a two-day interview before being selected. Cooley met with various campus organizations and officials, including Vice President for Finance and Operations Sharri Tonn.
Cooley said it “was an honor” to meet with Sheri Tonn.
The interview was topped off with a campus wide presentation of phantom load, the draining of electricity though a device not in use, but still plugged into a wall.
“It was the hardest interview I ever had to do,” Cooley said.
After being selected for the position, Cooley flew out from her home state of Ohio, and has found a new home in Washington State and at PLU.
“I really wanted to be here. We’re incredibly blessed in the Northwest,” Cooley said.