The Campus Sustainability Fund (CSF) will be regularly featuring alumni, project leaders and other students who help the CSF make a difference on campus. Today's alumni spotlight is on Sunni Wissmer, former CSF committee member.
UW Graduation Year: 2015
Major: Community, Environment, and Planning
Hometown: Steilacoom, WA
Favorite Outdoor Activity: Sailing
What position did you hold when you worked with the CSF?
"Resident trouble-maker, but formally I had a number of positions. For a year I was the Student-Staff-Faculty liaison. I would go around trying to get people to start projects, which I had been doing before anyway. I also worked on the Husky Sustainable Storms and UW Solar projects; two of the largest infrastructure projects the CSF has funded. Lastly, I was on the CSF committee for a year."
What takeaways do you have from working with the CSF?
"It taught me to just ask for what you really want and be genuine. Be professional, but be real. Just go out there and make friends. Climate change is too big of an enemy for us to not be on the same side. So, the more you can turn enemies into friends the better. It’s about showing people that you are not trying to make them look bad or show them up. You are not trying to challenge their authority. You are throwing a party and they are invited. Make it fun."
What is your current job?
"I am the Global Network Coordinator for the International Living Future Institute at the Bullitt Center. I work with the Living Future Network, which includes 690 professionals in 43 countries. Lots of different time zones. Lots of different ideologies of life. But we all have one thing in common: we want to fight climate change. And we feel that the best way to do that is to implement Living Building projects.
The Living Building Challenge is the most stringent green building standard in the world. The Bullitt Center is a Living Building and there are only 11 certified Living Buildings in the entire world. There are about 346 registered projects pursuing the certification. The program recognizes buildings that collect all their own water, all their own energy, and are made with healthy building materials. They can’t use any lead, PVC or asbestos. All those things are highly toxic and are known to cause cancer, and yet we build with them every day.
The Living Building Challenge is based on the idea of biomimicry. We as biological organisms have evolved as part of a system that is 3.8 billion years old. This system that we evolved within has certain chemicals, processes, and substances that our species has learnt to deal with. A huge part of why we are starting to see things like higher rates of autism, cancer, or multiple sclerosis is that we are now chemically creating materials, substances, and processes that we’ve never been exposed to before. We are forcing our bodies to do things they haven’t evolved to do like sit in an office chair all day in the dark. So why not design in a way that’s respectful of our biological need to fit in with our local ecology? That’s the whole idea behind living buildings."
To learn more about the International Living Future Institute or the Living Building Challenge, please visit living-future.org