Sustainable Operations

Prisons are essentially small cities, operating 24/7. They can be extremely costly and resource-intensive. In Washington, prison age and design range from the 130-year-old first territorial prison in Walla Walla, to the country’s first LEED Gold prison campus in Connell, WA. Facilities provide health and dental care, treatment programs, educational and employment training, laundry and food services.

Two technicians pull commodities from a prison waste stream. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Starting in 2002Washington State Department of Corrections (WA Corrections) made a strong commitment to sustainability in prisons. Sustainable Operations programs statewide are managed by a dedicated Sustainable Operations Manager; this position was created by WA Corrections to monitor and reduce the environmental, economic, and human cost of prisons. Major sustainable operations initiatives include greenhouse gas emissions, energy, waste, and potable water use reductions. Every prison in Washington has implemented sustainable operations programs in waste sorting, composting, recycling, gardening, water and energy conservation, green purchasing, and more. Sustainable operations in Washington’s prisons  range from very small-scale practices to industrial-size, state-of-the-art operations. These programs not only save money and help the environment, but also can create examples for other residential institutions such as military bases, assisted living centers, and summer camps. Striving for sustainability should hardly be limited to prisons: it’s the responsibility of any and every kind of facility.

For highlights and measures, please see the Sustainable Operations section of SPP’s annual reports.

In 2017 and ’18, WA Corrections worked closely on the development, and now the implementation, of the Governor’s Executive Order 18-01: State Efficiency and Environmental Performance, the focus of which is the reduction of carbon emissions and toxic pollution produced by state government operations. WA Corrections is proud to have several staff serving on the Governing Council, Guidance Team, and Subject Working Groups to develop and implement effective reduction strategies and actions to reduce waste, emissions and pollution.

In 2022, SPP partners took their commitment to composting to the state capitol, supporting the passage of the Department of Ecology’s new Organics Management law (HB 1799), which requires diversion of organic materials away from landfill disposal and towards food rescue programs and organics management facilities. SPP partners are now working with Ecology to help composting facilities at Washington prisons comply with the new law.

The worm-composting program at Monroe Correctional Complex was founded by incarcerated individuals with a strong commitment to scientific practice and public outreach. They host hundreds of visitors every year. Photo by Ricky Osborne.