This Earth Day provides the perfect platform for Whitman College to showcase the breadth and depth of its ongoing sustainability efforts. Through the collective actions of students, faculty and community, the college has propelled forward into a greener, more eco-conscious future.

As a testament to this, The Princeton Review recently included Whitman in its 2011 Guide to 311 Green Colleges as an institution “that demonstrates notable commitments to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation.”

Here is a list of Whitman College’s commendable sustainability efforts this year:

Beyond Coal Resolution
Last fall, the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) passed the pioneering Beyond Coal Resolution. The resolution, which was created by the Beyond Coal Campaign, is intended to influence the state government into revoking the TransAlta coal plant’s bid for contract renewal. Whitman was the first institute of higher education in Washington to take a stand on the issue of coal energy. The coal plant in question, located in Centralia, Wash., is “the single largest stationary source of global warming gases, mercury and nitrogen oxide pollution in the state,” according to the Sierra Club.

The cause was brought to the attention of Whitman’s Campus Climate Challenge (CCC) by Claire Meints ’14, who was inspired by the strong actions already taken in her home state of Oregon.  “We hope that the acceptance of this campaign in the Whitman community will bring the issue of coal energy to the attention of our fellow Washington state colleges and universities. CCC is very proud of the Whitman community for showing immense support for this campaign and reinstating the college's love for the environment and interest in preserving our planet for generations to come,” said club member Ysabel Diaz ’14.

Campus Greens

Compost bin outside of Anderson Hall.

Whitman’s Campus Greens, another student group for environmental activism, works tirelessly on its own endless list of proposals. Among current activities, the club is lobbying for the introduction of large-scale composting in the Walla Walla area as a means to reduce and reuse the tons of food waste generated, especially in the residential dining halls. An experimental composting program was instituted in each of the campus’ first-year student residence halls. Each section was provided with a compost bucket next to the normal trash and recycling options. These buckets were then deposited weekly into larger compost tumblers behind each residence hall. However, the tumblers soon lacked the logistical capacity to accommodate diligent composters. The club is nonetheless working to make this a viable option.

Students have also shown a keen interest in matters of conservation. Campus Greens spearheaded the recent Perspectives on Conservation lecture series, offering numerous presentations from Whitman College faculty members in the field of environmentalism.  Topics span an impressive array of issues, addressing the multi-dimensional and interconnected nature of conservation. Presentations continue into the month of May.

Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF)
With SRLF funding, there are plans to introduce waterproof hourglass shower timers into the residence halls, allowing bathers to heed the desired five-minute limit. The campaign to conserve water further extends to the introduction of dual-flush valves in the female facilities of Reid Campus Center. The green-colored handles enable a higher flush volume for solid waste and a lower volume — 30-40 percent lower — for liquid waste.   If the pilot program in Reid is well received, then all the women’s restrooms on campus may receive the retrofit over the summer.

Established in 2008, the fund is designed to facilitate sustainably minded improvements on campus that will pay back the costs incurred over the course of five years through the money-saving green technologies. For its efforts, Whitman was recently included in “Greening the Bottom Line: The Trend toward Green Revolving Funds on Campus,” placing it amongst the most environmentally progressive institutions.

Paperless where possible
Whitman College has gone paperless to the fullest extent with the 2011-2012 College Catalog. While it has been available online for several years, printed copies will no longer be distributed.

Being green
The Whitman college baseball team and the Greenhouse Gas Audit are collaborating to hold a Green Game on April 30th. The goal is to simultaneously promote sustainable living practices, and the baseball team. There will be a sustainable fair staged by various campus clubs before the day’s game.

Bottle ban
Earlier this year the Sustainability Committee launched a ban on the sale of bottled water on campus with its “Take Back the Tap” campaign. The colleges’ food service provider, Bon Appétit, has been an active participant in the extensive student initiatives. The company allows students to access the receipts and accounting information necessary to perform a food audit. The effort comes as part of the nationally organized Real Food Challenge (RFC). The goal of the RFC is direct funds towards the purchase of “real foods” that “encompass a concern for producers, consumers, communities, and the earth,” according the RFC website. More than 300 college campuses across the country are already participating. The information gathered through the audit will help students formulate an idea of what could be changed within the Whitman food system. Bon Appétit strives to source as much as 20 percent of its products from local producers. “Bon Appétit has a really robust philosophy about sustainability and the environment, it’s one of our core principles,” said Roger Edens, Bon Appétit General Manager.

Low Carbon Diet Day
April 14 was Low Carbon Diet Day in Whitman dining halls. Bon Appétit sourced the day’s meals with the utmost attention to the carbon impact of various foods, as well as provided helpful information for students on how they could decrease their environmental impact through diet choices.

Service Day

Students gather in Reid Campus Center for Service Day.

Collaborative efforts of a different kind have also been in the works. April 17 marked the Third Annual Spring Service Day, in which students from Whitman College, Walla Walla University and Walla Walla Community College joined together to put their labor towards community projects. Many of these service projects were geared toward stream restoration or general environmental clean-up efforts.

Green Commute Challenge
Faculty and staff are also in on the sustainability action with the community-wide Green Travel to Work, School, and Meetings Competition. Taking place for the duration of Earth Week, April 17-23, employees are encouraged to hoof it, bike, or use other low-carbon means of transportation. Participants sporting an “I Travel Green” button earn free travel on the Valley Transit all week.

Green concert
Finally, Whitman enjoyed a tongue-in-cheek “100% green concert” presented by the Department of Music, in which “No electric guitars, steam powered guitars, or the archaic wood burning guitars” were played. “Just ultra clean flutes, oboes and bassoons, low emission trumpets, trombones and tubas, energy efficient clarinets and saxophones.”

With a wide-ranging list of projects and activities that involve so many aspects of the community, it is clear that every day can be Earth Day at Whitman College.

For students and alumni interested in becoming involved, contact to find out how.

- Troy Cameron ‘14