Student concern pumps up Whitman’s green power purchase

WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Input from students, including a vote on the issue, helped guide Whitman College’s decision to increase its commitment to renewable power. The college recently made a substantial hike in its purchase of Pacific Power’s Blue Sky wind energy – from $3,000 to $20,000 per year.

“At Whitman, learning takes place outside of the conventional classroom as well as in,” said Peter Harvey, Whitman’s chief financial officer. “Students are encouraged to take an active role in their education. In this case, they learned more about what they value and how to translate that into action that has financial implications. We’re very proud of their choice and their execution.”

Pacific Power sells Blue Sky in 100 kilowatt-hour blocks. Whitman increased the amount of wind energy it buys from 180 to 2,202 blocks per month. The purchase vaults the college into Pacific Power’s top, visionary partner level, and makes the school eligible to be an Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partner.

“Commitment to a set of environmental principles guides our entire campus community on a daily basis,” said Deborah Winter, professor of psychology and longstanding member of the college’s Conservation Committee. “Participating in Pacific Power’s green-power program is a natural avenue for the college and represents the kind of partnership that conservation programs need to be effective.”

EPA Green Power Partner logo Whitman College is an EPA Green Power Partner .

New rankings from five national sources place Whitman in the top tier of more than 2,500 colleges and universities in the nation. One survey, The Princeton Review, singled out Whitman’s dedication to sustainability, reporting that students also appreciated that “Whitman is a very green campus and aware of the environment.”

There are significant benefits to green energy use. For example, the clean energy purchased by the college each month during the period of a year provides environmental benefits equivalent to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2,647 tons, which has the same benefit as not driving a car more than 5.7 million miles. Whitman’s annual purchase of renewable energy equates to the annual electricity usage of about 165 Pacific Power-served homes in Washington.

While Pacific Power already buys renewable power for its customers, Blue Sky is a way to bring even more into the system. Enrollment is optional, and customers can increase their participation or withdraw at any time.

Blue Sky is one of the most popular green power programs in the country, ranking second in the nation for the number of customers enrolled. Today, 571 Walla Walla-area households and businesses participate, which represents 3.7 percent of the community. More than 47,740 customers buy Blue Sky in the western United States.

“Wind is a growing industry that provides benefits to our local economy,” said Bill Clemens, regional community manager for Pacific Power. “Wind turbines provide steady income for ranchers and farmers and increased tax revenue for rural counties.”

Large businesses have two renewable options: Pacific Power’s standard Blue Sky Block offering and Blue Sky Quantity Savings. Blue Sky Quantity Savings allows large business customers to buy renewable energy from Pacific Power for less, provided they purchase at least 101 blocks of Blue Sky per month for a year.

Environmental Principles of Whitman College

Recognizing the impact Whitman College has on the environment and the leadership role Whitman College plays as an institution of higher learning, the college affirms the following environmental principles and standards, which shall be consulted to explore the practical ways Whitman College can promote an environmentally conscious campus.

  • 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.

Whitman’s Conservation Committee is comprised of students, faculty and staff who volunteer their time and effort to monitor practices and processes. The committee helps to ensure that the principles are represented through action that serves current needs and prepares the campus for future environmental and conservation challenges and opportunities.