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Photography by Matt Banderas '04

Students who reside in Whitman’s Environmental Interest House, commonly known as the Outhouse, head the campus’ recycling program.Chalk up a $mart Business Partner Award from the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce as the latest recognition of Whitman College's accomplishments in eco-friendliness.

"The award recognizes the continued leadership and progression of Whitman's sustainability efforts," said Campus Sustainability Coordinator Brandon Bishop, as well as "Whitman's place as a leader in the Walla Walla Valley and our dedication to the protection of our natural environment."  

Attendees walked a red carpet at the local chamber of commerce's 11th annual Business Awards Showcase, held earlier this month. Nominees spanned multiple categories, ranging from Health and Wellness to Catalyst to Youth Entrepreneur. This year marked the first time that Whitman earned a $mart Business Partner Award.  

Bishop called the milestone "the culmination of years of effort by our faculty, staff and students" to improve Whitman's resource management, greenhouse gas offsets and reduction of its global and regional ecological footprint.  

Erendira Cruz, executive director of the Sustainable Living Center, which sponsors the award, said, "Winners exemplify what can be accomplished with some foresight, goal-setting and follow-through:" less energy use, water use and waste.

"Not only does the organization reap the benefits of reduced operating costs, but the savings of these resources also contribute to the well-being of our community and the environment," she said. "We applaud Brandon and his team's efforts and the positive example that Whitman College is setting."  

Politics-environmental studies major Genean Wrisley '19, who serves as an intern in Whitman's Office of Sustainability as well as sustainability director of the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC), echoed these sentiments.

"Whitman got this award because of the amazing work of so many student organizations," she said. "Brandon has ... made leaps and bounds for Whitman College, switching light fixtures to LED, working with ASWC Sustainability to create the bike share program, purchasing renewable energy credits and so much more."

Indeed, this past year, Whitman led the Northwest Conference in the College and University Green Power Challenge, built a "Mt. Trashmore" to highlight what materials could be diverted from the city landfill and what could be recycled and added its name to a "We're Still In!" letter pledging to abide by the Paris Climate Agreement despite shifting federal policy. The college currently offsets 100 percent of campus electricity usage, with the goal of offsetting 100 percent of natural gas usage by 2020. Whitman has also broken ground on its first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings and committed to the construction of 116kW of additional solar panels, among other sustainability initiatives.