John Guenther
ENVS 220, Spring 2006
Internship Final Report

For my ENVS 220 internship, I undertook the job of creating a website that explored Whitman’s commitment to its established and explicitly stated environmental principles. This website, which I call the Whitman College Environmental Sustainability website, was created with the belief that it would be an effective way to inform and educate students, staff, faculty, community members, and anyone else interested in Whitman’s environmental commitments. The internet is an incredible tool for the development, exchange, and dissemination of information, and I hoped to harness that power for the purpose of elucidating Whitman’s commitment to the environment. As of this writing, the website is not yet live— I am still putting the finishing touches on some of the code, waiting for a last bit of information from here or there. I expect it to be online within the week.

The website begins with a statement of the environmental principles that Whitman has laid out for itself. These principles read as follows:

• To reduce the amount of non-recyclable materials, to reuse materials when possible, and utilize recycled materials.
• To consider the eco-friendliest science and technology available to decrease our environmental impact.
• To continue to build an energy-efficient campus in the 21st century.
• To patronize companies that are active in their defense of the environment from further degradation.
• To encourage individuals’ environmental accountability through programs of environmental education.
• To consider environmentally friendly options when they exist and are practical in decisions regarding developmental projects.
• To further the use of reused materials, recyclable materials, and the Internet for campus communications.
• To encourage and request food service to make environmentally friendly decisions in purchasing food and supplies, reducing waste, and reusing materials.
• To maintain campus grounds through the employment of bio-friendly substances and services.
• To strive to improve upon current practices so we may harmonize the trends of the industrial world with the natural environment.

From this listing of principles, visitors to the website are able to explore Whitman’s commitment to these principles in three basic categories: what has been done on campus in the past, what is currently being done or planned for the near future, and the ongoing efforts of various sectors of the college.

The first section covers what has been done on campus in the past in the spirit of the college’s environmental principles. This includes construction projects such as Reid Campus Center, and renovation/expansion projects such as the Hall of Science and Penrose Library. This section also includes non-construction related projects, such as the use of heat exchangers in the Hall of Science, energy efficient lighting in buildings across campus, and making furniture from the lumber of trees felled on campus. These projects typically fell under the jurisdictions of Pete Harvey and Bob Biles.

The second section covers the environmental concerns involved in what is currently being done on campus, or what is planned for the near future. Projects included in this section include construction of the new Baker-Ferguson Fitness Center, planned construction of the new Visual Arts Center, and construction of the new Health Center. Pete Harvey again is responsible for these projects.

The third section covers various ongoing environmental efforts of various sectors of the college. This section will cover a varied and diverse set of projects on campus, such as Jay Heath’s Paper Campaign, Bob Carson’s Conservation Committee, The Outhouse’s recycling efforts, Roger Edens’ Bon Appetit management, and Bob Biles’ landscaping efforts.

This division of information was decided upon after a lot of experimentation and thought. Finding a small number of distinct categories that could encompass all aspects of Whitman’s efforts to realize its environmental principles, without being needless complicated or vague, was tricky. I discarded several failed before ultimately settling on the structure outlined above, as I believe the categories are simple and specific enough to allow people to find information readily.

The layout of the website resembles the layout of the Whitman College website, with a few changes and additions. I went back and forth between a few ideas before ultimately settling on the final design. I believe the final design’s resemblance to the Whitman’s design helps tie the page into the rest of the Whitman website, establishing the formal connection that exists between the college and my work. The additions I’ve made, however, make it a distinct page all its own, with an obvious and self explanatory navigation system.

The resemblance of the Whitman College Environmental Sustainability website to the official Whitman College webpage begs the question of where my site is to sit in the hierarchy of the college’s website. I envision the site as being a modest contribution to the environmental studies department at this point. Typically, WCTS prefers to leave upper level pages under administrative control, but perhaps if the website stays in operation long enough it will build enough clout through reputation to be placed in a more visible location.

Developing the content of the webpage was the meat of this internship-- finding and contacting the people responsible for the various programs and projects I was hoping to learn about, arranging meetings with them, and obtaining the desired information. Typically, I would start with a polite email asking for some of the individual’s time to discuss their involvement in environmental projects on campus, and from there would arrange a meeting of usually no longer than an hour so as not to unduly burden them. In the cases in which a physical meeting could not be arranged, email correspondence usually sufficed. I asked them questions of their involvement with environmentally sustainable practices on the campus, what they did to achieve results, and how effective those methods were. I spoke with Bob Biles, Bob Carson, Roger Edens, Jenny Gilbert, Pete Harvey, and Jay Heath about their respective projects, and also about their own opinions of Whitman College and its commitment to its environmental principles. I was able to expand my knowledge on many projects I was already aware of, and also learned many new interesting things as well. I would take all this information and then integrate it into the webpage, being careful to decide exactly what information was relevant, which information best presented and summarized a particular project.

During my conversations with the people mentioned in the previous paragraph, I feel I gained a fair overall view of the environmental consciousness of the Whitman Community from the perspective of those who were either in a position to enact change, or had put themselves in such a position. I found the people responsible for maintaining and upholding Whitman’s environmental principles to be passionate, engaging individuals willing to sacrifice or compromise on issues of money or convenience in order to keep the operations of Whitman College, past present and future, in line with its principles.

The goals I established for myself to fulfill the provisions of the internship included designing the layout for the webpage, organizing the structure of the webpage, obtain information on Whitman’s commitment to its environmental principles, and put it all together to create an easy-to-use and information-rich website.

In pursuit of my goals during the course of this internship, I have encountered a few challenges. The primary challenges of this internship involved arranging interviews, and getting the right information out of your interviewees. Putting together all the HTML (hyper-text markup language, the most common webpage authoring code) was at times troublesome as well, especially since I do all my coding by hand-- that is, I work in a text editor when building webpage, as opposed to letting an HTML development took create the code for me. While it did prove a source of difficulty, I have long felt that this offers me greater control over the final look and functionality of a website.

During the course of the internship, I have also had many successes. I consider actually being able to finish the website to be the biggest success of the internship, but there were many other aspects of putting the site together that went very smoothly. I obtained many nice pictures of the campus for the website (all pictures on the site are taken by me), and also obtained a lot of good information. I feel that the site as a whole is a very well put-together, given the success in obtaining these two critical components.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the internship, both with the task that was given to me, and with the realization of that task. I’m someone who really enjoys the idea of information exchange, of an information repository. To be charged with developing one made for an interesting, fun, and enlightening internship. I’m satisfied with the end-result website as well, as it nears completion. The layout ties in nicely with the Whitman College website without being too similar, and the informational divisions make the site easy to use and navigate. Meeting with the various individuals involved in the environmental efforts on campus was also very satisfying, especially satiating my curiosity regarding many behind-the-scenes issues of the college campus.

I can only hope that someone else in the Environmental Studies program next year shares my interest in the idea of an information repository and in the college’s commitment to its environmental principles. A static website is only useful for the short time after it is created, as soon the information it contains becomes dated and obsolete. This internship, more than anything, felt like laying a framework on which a bigger, better, more comprehensive information set could be placed. There is a good deal more information that could be added to each project if someone looked to more diverse sources of information, or was able to request more time of an interviewee. There are also many more smaller, more subtle projects or programs on campus that contribute to Whitman’s environmental commitment, but were not large enough to fit the scope of the page at present. On top of all that, the purpose, actions, and effectiveness of the various people, programs and projects on campus are constantly changing. Therefore it becomes essential to have someone willing to maintain, update and expand this website if it is to continue to serve as a place where members of the Whitman community can explore the college’s commitment to its environmental principles. It’s my hope that future Whitman students will undertake such a job.