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Western’s sustainability organizations come together for Bellingham conference

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Image courtesy of Local Impact Northwest

Western is home to several environmental and conservation-based clubs and organizations. Many of them have similar goals, like slowing climate change, reducing human impact on ecosystems or advocating for environmental justice. But it is rare that those groups come together to focus their collective efforts on one project.

The Local Impact 2016 conference will provide an opportunity for students working on environmental issues to coordinate with each other. It will also feature speeches from professionals working on environmental projects ranging from water management to food to solar energy.

It is set to take place on campus and at venues around Bellingham from Feb. 26-27.

As the marketing manager for the the conference, Hannah Bouscher would like to open different channels of communication, break down barriers and be able to spark students to make changes in their community.

“Our mission is to empower the next generation of student innovators and entrepreneurs who want to make change in the world, and so that’s what students will leave with,” Bouscher said.

Senior Julianna Fischer is an environmental policy major and said it would be a missed opportunity if she didn’t attend.

Participants will have opportunities to network with the professional speakers and other participants throughout the conference. The conference starts with a networking dinner at Kombucha Town. The second day of the conference will start with a networking breakfast and ends with a happy hour at multiple locations, including Aslan Brewing Company.

The idea for the conference began to develop in November 2015, Bouscher said. Ten students from Western attended the national Net Impact conference in Seattle, said conference coordinator Callum Dickerson. Bouscher and Katie Thompson, Western’s Net Impact club leader and conference coordinator, decided to do a smaller scale conference at Western, Bouscher said.

The event is geared toward encouraging student-led environmental changes around Western but also beyond campus. Dickerson said they are trying to bring new ideas on how to improve the community to the Bellingham area.

“We want students there but we also would really want the community there,” he said.

The conference will have four main themes: energy and environment, climate and social justice, engineering and design, and social entrepreneurship and marketing.

“Our main goal is to get people involved and connected so they can make their big ideas a reality,” Sarah O’Sell, the conference designer, said in an email.

The conference provides an opportunity to learn from those that have experience working with sustainability in the professional world, Dickerson said.

The event is open to students and community members. Student tickets are $20 with a $2.09 fee and general admission tickets are $30 with a $2.64 fee. They can be purchased until Feb. 21 online at localimpactnw.com. Admission to the conference also comes with meals, which Dickerson hopes will be organic and locally sourced.

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