Seattle University, the University of Washington at Bothell, and Cascadia College are the first schools to achieve the Green Grounds Certification, awarded by advocacy group Re:wild Your Campus. This certification is the culmination of conversations with experts, groundskeepers, students, and sustainability professionals, and will help to spur the much needed shift away from traditional campus management reliant on toxic pesticides to a more holistic approach that emphasizes biodiversity, soil health, and student wellbeing on college campuses across the United States and beyond.
“We created the Green Grounds Certification to incentivize schools to protect both the workers and student populations and highlight their commitment to biodiversity, proving that managing grounds without chemicals is practical and achievable,” said Mackenzie Feldman, project director of Re:wild Your Campus. “We are working with schools across the nation to close the huge knowledge gap that exists when it comes to organic land care principles and implementation. This certification will help us recognize the work being done on these campuses and beyond to ditch the toxins and go organic.”
Seattle University, the University of Washington at Bothell, and Cascadia College are certified at the Platinum level, the highest available, meaning the entire campus and sports fields are managed 100% organically. Additionally, a campus must integrate native plants, reduce water use, transition to an electric fleet of grounds equipment, and include students in campus management efforts.
“I am excited and thrilled that Seattle University is being recognized for pioneering ecological and sustainable land care initiatives and practices,” said Shannon Britton, assistant director of grounds and waste management at Seattle University. “Re:wild Your Campus provides foundational programmatic support to grounds staff planning to deepen their commitment to sustainable and pesticide-free practices. Schools who receive their new Green Grounds Certification will be able to add the narrative to their recruiting and orientation programs, further emphasizing the importance of climate action and going green in land management and conservation efforts.”
Seattle University has been a trailblazer in organic collegiate land care and has been implementing organic practices since the 1980s. The university has been recognized by organizations such as Tree Campus USA and the National Wildlife Federation for their landcare practices. By relying on organic land management techniques, Seattle University’s grounds team is able to support local biodiversity, promote pollinators, and protect public health on and off their campus.
The University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia College, co-located schools in Bothell, Washington, are also leaders in the field and have been implementing organic management practices since 2006. Factoring in both time and inputs, the schools are spending 10 percent of what they once did on their conventional lawns. To promote local biodiversity and food security, the campus is also home to a food forest, with over 30 fruit trees. Their campus is also a Bee Campus, certified Salmon Safe, and is recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat. As part of becoming certified, the schools have agreed to use the least toxic options available when they replace their current synthetic turf sports field.
“From being one of the first campuses to achieve Platinum for Green Grounds Certification to our 58-acre restored wetland floodplain, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work at a university that believes in stewardship for the landscape rather than trying to control it,” says Rachel Luther, sustainability coordinator at University of Washington at Bothell. “I am so happy that the work of our incredible grounds team, led by Tyson Kemper, is being recognized for their many years of steadfast commitment to permaculture landscape management, supporting habitat for wildlife and pollinators, and adhering to best practices for ecosystem health."
The Green Grounds Certification has three levels in addition to Platinum. To receive certification, Bronze level schools must manage 50% of campus managed area without synthetic pesticides, Silver level schools must manage 70% of campus managed area without synthetic pesticides, and Gold level schools must manage 90% of campus managed area without synthetic pesticides. Campuses must also meet other requirements which include submitting pesticide usage reports, notifying the campus community when pesticides are used and replacing fossil fuel-powered campus maintenance equipment with electric ones. The certification is currently available for institutions of education, including k-12 schools, but Re:wild Your Campus plans to expand into certifying hospitals, corporate campuses, hotels, religious institutional grounds, and beyond.
Re:wild Your Campus is committed to helping any school that wants to take steps towards reducing synthetic pesticide-use. Reach out if you are a school who would like help working towards the Green Grounds Certification!
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Re:wild Your Campus
Re:wild Your Campus is harnessing the power of student action to create safer, more sustainable living and learning environments for all by starting locally and advocating for organic land care on college campuses. This movement empowers the next generation of environmental leaders to redesign their campuses as a solution to the climate, biodiversity, and human-wellbeing crises through eliminating herbicides and promoting pollinator health, native plants, and edible landscapes. Re:wild Your Campus is a fiscally sponsored project of Re:wild. Learn more at: rewild.org/rewild-your-campus.