Sustainability manager sustains

By Anne-Marie Falloria ‘15

Cooley preparing for a meeting with her Sustainability Technicians.

Cooley preparing for a meeting with her Sustainability Technicians. Photo by Anne-Marie Falloria ’15.

Chrissy Cooley is a Pacific Lutheran University gem. Since 2008, she has been leading the Sustainability Office as the Sustainability Manager. She has made significant improvements to PLU’s efforts of being sustainable.

Cooley’s biggest accomplishment at PLU is the money the university has saved by being sustainable. PLU has saved on average of $93,000 a year on recycling, $55,000 a year on natural gas, and has saved as much as $70,000 a year on energy. “Anyone can get engaged in sustainability from any angle,” Cooley said.


October is a busy time of the year for Cooley and the Sustainability Office as they lead unPLUgged, the month-long event where on-campus residents are encouraged to cut down their energy use as much as possible and unplug devices when not in use. It is a competition between the residence halls to see which hall can use the least amount of energy.

This year’s unPLUgged has a coal theme. “We are really trying to get the word out about the proposed coal trains that are going to go through Washington state to a proposed coal export terminal,” Cooley said. Located in all of the halls are 3D display boards with information. There are even coal samples, so students can touch and feel the dustiness.

Throughout the month of October, the Sustainability Center had films shown in the residence halls, a forum on coal divestment, and workshops for the Parkland community.

Today is the final day of UnPLUgged, however the results of the competition won’t be revealed until the closing ceremony on Nov. 6, 2013 at North Pacific Coffee Company on Garfield Street at 7 p.m. The closing ceremony will feature an unplugged acoustic show.

Aiko Nakagawa, ’15, is a student who works closely with Cooley on this project. She describes Cooley as a fun spirited person who is always looking for new projects. “She truly cares for her students and is a blast to work with,” Nakagawa said.

Where it all started

Even before being hired, Cooley has made sustainable impacts outside of the state of Washington.

Her passion for the earth began during her childhood where she grew up near the Goodyear blimp hanger in Akron, Ohio. “It was just really stinky and smelly and awful,” Cooley said.

Also near Akron, Ohio, is the Cuyahoga Valley National Park where Cooley’s grandparents took her hiking. “I learned really early on the value of the environment and that’s sort of when I became an environmentalist, even though they [grandparents] didn’t teach me stuff like that,” Cooley said. “They didn’t teach me recycling for the sake of being an environmentalist, they just taught me to reuse because it’s what you do.”

Her love for the environment has allowed her to work as the city of Columbus’ Earth Day Director in Ohio before she came to PLU. Her job was to create a model that could be easily replicated in the future so volunteers could take it over after her contract ended. Under her leadership over 80 work sites were created where 3,800 citizens volunteered their time. Work sites ranged from painting houses in low income neighborhoods to hosting daycares for volunteers with children.

Cooley leading an all team meeting. Pictured left is Becca Nichols, '13.

Cooley leading an all team meeting. Pictured left is Becca Nichols, ’13.

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