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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

After 23 years, Western bids farewell to sustainability innovator

Photo courtesy of Carol Berry

By Naomi Schapiro

When Carol Berry started working at Western 23 years ago, the blue bike shelters around campus today didn’t exist. The sidewalk down Bill McDonald Parkway was just a ditch from Birnam Wood to Wendy’s.

Berry, program manager for Campus Conservation and Sustainable Transportation, is retiring from Western in June.

“Transportation is a place where I can make a difference,” Berry said. “We all need to think about transportation because we all need to get from place to place.”

In 2006, Western started developing the sustainability program. Berry’s boss at the time decided that transportation and sustainability fit well together, Berry said. That’s when when her job moved to the Office of Sustainability.

In fall 2007, students developed and voted on the transportation fee that they now pay as part of tuition.

Berry, working alongside Whatcom Transportation Authority, used money from that fee to ensure all students got a bus pass as part of their student identification cards. In the past, if you wanted a bus pass, you had to buy it individually from a vending machine in the bookstore, Berry said.

Now, thanks to Berry, bus riding is accessible to all students.

In the last couple of years, Berry has let her employees do most of the hands-on work so they could learn the job before she retired, Kay McMurren, student transportation program support supervisor, said.

Berry has been McMurren’s supervisor for the last 10 years.

“[Berry] is creative, an artist at heart, and she brings that to her job,” McMurren said. “She is a very hands-off boss, giving us room to grow. She has a real heart for sustainable  transportation.”

Jillian Trinkaus, transportation program coordinator, has worked with Berry for the last two years, and will be taking over the transportation part of her work.

She said she really appreciated how good of a listener Berry was. 

“[Berry] has a long history of transportation involvement,” Trinkaus said. “We are losing a lot of institutional and community history.”

Trinkaus and McMurren both said that they will miss Berry’s positive energy, as well as the homemade cookies and scones she brought to the office.

Berry started at Western in November 1994 working part-time at the visitor information center. Her job was to give people information about campus and help them find a parking spot, Berry said. She did that until 1999 when a full-time position as commute trip reduction coordinator became available.

Berry, who studied fine arts in college, is now looking to connect both her passion of weaving with her passion of sustainability through work with sustainable textiles, and addressing the impacts of the fast fashion industry, she said. 

“We don’t see the effects of fast fashion globally,” Berry said. “We don’t see the pollution, we don’t see the unfair working conditions, we don’t see the cycle of poverty people are in who make our clothing. That specific area of creativity is the center point of my heart.”

She said she is also looking forward to having the time to make more conscious choices.

“I think a lot of times in our culture, we work hard and don’t live enough,” Berry said. “How many times do we make food choices that aren’t the best because you don’t have time to make the better choice? I am looking forward to having the time to make those good choices.”

Berry said that she could not be leaving the program in better hands.

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