Budsberg Means Business
Mountain man brings courageous sustainability plans to campus
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Before Erik Budsberg, EWU had no campus sustainability coordinator.
EWU was already practicing some sustainable methods of helping keep the campus green, such as getting Patterson Hall LEED Silver certified, transitioning from all disposable eating utensils to 100% compostable items and participating in the Zero Waste Game Day Challenge during football season. But there was something missing, a uniting force to unify the sustainability work on campus and help direct new and innovative projects.
With a bachelor’s degree in geology and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences in progress, it was almost like the position was made especially for Budsberg.
“Getting your Ph.D. in environmental science, your job choices are limited,” said Budsberg. “The jobs that I am more tailored to are in bigger cities like Seattle and San Francisco, and being the father of a little boy, with a little girl on the way, my wife and I didn’t want to move away from our family in Olympia.”
Even though his Ph.D was not complete, he felt the circumstances were just right to apply to the Sustainability Coordinator posting at EWU.
“We had been to Spokane before and we have friends who live here,” said Budsberg. “It’s kind of why I applied before my Ph.D. was completed, there are only so many higher ed sustainability coordinator positions in Washington and I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity.”
Born in Seattle, Wa., Budsberg claims Olympia, Wa. as his hometown instead, citing that he moved to Olympia when he was quite young and graduated from high school in Olympia. From there, Budsberg moved to Bellingham to attend Western Washington University.
It was there that he combined his passion for education and his love of “playing outside” to pursue a bachelor’s degree in geology.
“All I wanted to do was be outside and play outside,” said Budsberg. “Geology was a major that played into that because it required to be outside to study the solid earth.”
Constantly being up in the mountains and spending copious amounts of time outside left Budsberg to revel in the study of earth and it’s rock formations. It wasn’t until Budsberg interned with a Washington natural gas company that he began to become interested in learning about the relationship between energy, humans and consumption.
Being involved in the natural gas industry really pushed Budsberg to think beyond fossil fuels and more toward sustainable sources of energy. It was in this search for more sustainable choices of energy that Budsberg was led to the topic that would become the point of interest in his graduate school pursuits.
“I took a year off between undergraduate and graduate school before getting my master’s in environmental science, and I’m still finishing up my Ph.D. there too,” Budsberg said.
It was at UW where Budsberg was a center component in exploring the feasibility in creating a Biofuel industry in the Pacific Northwest.
“I worked on a grant proposal to look at building a biofuel system here in the Northwest,” said Budsberg. “I was working with companies to see how they could change their practices; I was working with bioengineers, both faculty and students at UW, to see how possible it was to produce biofuels and I was also working with policy people to write policies pertaining to biofuels and a biofuel industry.”
Budsberg said his study and research of biofuels at UW was really just an in-depth review of how possible it would be to establish a biofuel industry here in the Northwest.
For Budsberg, sustainability goes beyond biofuels and is essential to advancing human existence, especially here on campus.
“I really see sustainability as a way that we continue to advance as a society without sacrificing the environment or the needs of others,” Budsberg said.
Since taking the job as EWU’s sustainability coordinator, Budsberg has begun to pursue high profile projects and ambitious goals at EWU. One of Budsberg’s most exciting project is helping EWU achieve a carbon neutral rating, or zero greenhouse gas emissions, as well as acting as the centerpiece of the EWU campus sustainability efforts.
(A correction was made to one of Erik Budsberg’s quotes. We incorrectly said that Budsberg had written a proposal to build a biofuel system in the northwest when he only stated he had helped work on it. The Easterner apologizes for any confusion we may have caused.)