Here are 25 ways the Whitman community keeps its commitment to the environment and to sustainability.
Whitman’s landscape specialists, headed by Bob Biles ’74 (kneeling), include, from left to right, Jeffrey Jensen, Tom Wagner, Richard Dicus, Martin Stolen and Larry Malott. Not pictured are Rick Glen, Steve Thompson and Jack Mason.
1. Our campus is simply elegant
The mission of Whitman College’s landscape specialists can be summed up in two words.
“Simple elegance,” said Landscape Supervisor Bob Biles ’74. “That’s the term I coined since I’ve been on board.”
Biles leads a team of eight full-time landscape specialists who have more than 100 years of combined experience making Whitman’s campus grounds among the nation’s finest.
“We know what can grow here and how to take care of it,” Biles said.
Prior to his promotion to landscape supervisor in 2011, Biles had been a member of the landscape maintenance department for 16 years. Since taking the helm, he has led an effort to plant more perennials to save money and invest in sustainable beauty.
His job isn’t just about making the grounds of the campus look like Eden, however; it’s about making the the area elegant in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way.
Biles said his crew uses pesticide on less than 2 percent of the more than 1,500 trees on campus – the elms, birches and larches. Elms are susceptible to Dutch Elm Disease, birches are susceptible to birch borer infestations and larches are susceptible to case borer infestations. The pesticide is harmless to mammals and is chemically similar to nicotine.
Whenever dead or dying trees pose hazards, the landscape specialists cut them down. All of the salvageable wood is put to good use. The stairs in the Hall of Science are made from felled trees, as are the stair treads in Reid Campus Center and Sherwood Athletic Center. Lumber is also donated for use in Walla Walla High School’s shop classes. Chipped wood from branches becomes mulch for pathways in the Whitman students’ community garden. The landscape crew’s respect for wood doesn’t stop there – they even repurposed an entire house to make room for the Fouts Center for Visual Arts. The house now resides at 125 N. Cherry St.
Around campus, the crew has reduced the use of herbicide by heavily mulching with compost, which increases the vitality of the soil and eliminates the need for pesticides in shrub and flower beds. Biles said his crew uses about six gallons of Roundup® in spot spraying applications each year on 37 acres of landscaped area.
“On average, people probably use more than that around their own homes,” he said. “Our goal, of course, would be not to use any herbicide or pesticide, and what is applied is done in the most judicious fashion possible.”
About one-fifth of the campus grounds, including Ankeny Field, is fertilized with a slow-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer that does not contain phosphorous, which can lead to overproduction of algae in waterways. The crew has also increased its use of organic fertilizer.
To maximize water efficiency, this summer the grounds crew is performing a water audit, which involves using GPS to mark the coordinates of nearly 6,000 sprinkler heads. A computer will then simulate the coverage area of each sprinkler. This helps them use as few sprinkler heads as possible. To further reduce water use, Biles has incorporated more drought-tolerant plants into the landscape.
“It’s my job to keep it eco-friendly and make it look perfect,” Biles said. “Whitman College should be a spectacular, subtly beautiful place where it’s a joy to be outside.”
2. The Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund
The $50,000 Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund advances the college’s sustainability efforts by supporting projects that conserve resources and improve efficiency. The loans, available to students, staff and faculty, are paid back within five years through energy or resource savings. Past projects funded by the SRLF include:
- the Paper Phoenix Project, which turned old letterhead and envelopes into notepads,
- the installation of automated hand dryers in Penrose Library,
- off-campus housing weatherization,
- the installation of dual-flush toilets in Reid Campus Center
- and the Model Farm Project. (see next item)
3. SAW takes food production to the next level
In a greenhouse on the roof of the Hall of Science, the group Student Agriculture at Whitman grows microgreens it sells to the campus food service, Bon Appétit. First dubbed the Model Farm Project, it all started in the fall of 2009 with a $600 loan from SRLF, then grew to become an ASWC-recognized club. With weekly deliveries of microgreens to Bon Appétit, SAW paid back its loan and will use profits to expand into a 1,400-square-foot garden off of Isaacs Avenue, in the alley between Main Street and Rose Street. SAW will grow chard, kale, spinach and other veggies to sell to the dining halls in an effort to increase the amount of local produce available to the Whitman community.
4. Whitman’s green team
Students, staff and faculty make up the Sustainability Advisory Committee, which serves in an advisory role to the college. Headed up by two paid student coordinators, the committee evaluates practices and policies, promotes campus-wide sustainability programs and facilitates the sharing of information and resources among Whitman’s many environmental groups.
5. Disposable water bottles are taboo
Just say “no” to water bottles. Thanks to the Whitman Sustainability Advisory Committee’s Take Back the Tap campaign, bottled water is no longer available in vending machines, and both Whitman College and its food service, Bon Appétit, no longer sell it on campus.
6.Whitman College Bookstore goes bagless
To reduce waste, the bookstore no longer hands out synthetic sacks to customers. The store sells a canvas bag as a school-spirited and environmentally friendly option.
7. We care for our cyclists
Whitman’s small size and abundance of sunny days make it a pedestrian and cyclist friendly campus. With more than 750 designated spaces to lock up bikes, the ratio of bike parking spaces to car parking spaces is 1.5 to 1. Supporting a campus community that is crazy for bikes, the college’s Outdoor Program provides a technician who assists with bike maintenance and repair, so Whitties can keep on rollin’.
8. The bike share program gets rolling
Penrose Library not only checks out books, it checks out bikes. Whitties can check out a bright yellow bike, a helmet, a lock and a light for a day through the bike share program. Security harvested abandoned bicycles around campus, and the Outdoor Environmental Leadership Fund paid Outdoor Program technicians to fix them up and give them snazzy paint jobs.
9. My mug is your mug
When Whitman students order lattes from the coffee station in Reid Campus Center, they no longer have to be served in paper cups with plastic tops. In early 2012, the student group Campus Climate Challenge started a mug share program, which was funded by ASWC. Students get $0.20 off their beverage when they use one of the blue mugs arrayed there. Once they’re done, students simply leave their mugs behind. The program may be expanded to more campus locations.
10. Education is a key
Campus Climate Challenge is an Associated Students of Whitman College-sponsored club that focuses on local and international climate change. The club seeks to spread awareness about climate change through education and activism. The club has participated in the distribution of compact fluorescent lightbulbs in low-income areas and has taught lessons on climate change in local elementary schools as part of the Cool the Schools program.
11. Whitman only purchases recycled paper
The college uses Process Chlorine Free paper made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber. The college goes through 840 cases a year, and each case uses approximately .6 trees per case, meaning in addition to saving energy and water, this choice of paper saves 504 trees a year.
12. GoPrint saves trees
When students print to public access printers, they use GoPrint Print Management, a centralized system that helps the college maintain a more flexible fleet of printers that use paper more efficiently. The system works like this: Students get $50 in free printing credit each semester. Black-and-white prints are charged at 5 cents per page, and 4.5 cents per side for double-sided printing. Color printing is 50 cents per side. Students get free black-and-white printing in December and May. When students click “Print,” a GoPrint dialogue pops up, students approve their print jobs and the fee is charged against their printing credit balance. This approval system reduces abandoned, unnecessary and unintended print jobs, thus saving paper. During the fall semester of 2008, before Whitman College Technology Services implemented GoPrint, students printed out 868,182 pages. During the spring semester of 2012, students printed 585,760 pages, and GoPrint saved 121,900 sheets of paper. That amounts to saving about 15 trees, not to mention a whole lot of ink and toner.
13. Advantage Whitman
Whitman’s tennis enthusiasts can always play under the sun – even when it’s raining. A 21-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array resides on the roof of Whitman’s Bratton Tennis Center. Launched on Sept. 1, 2009, the system produces enough energy to reduce the building’s power consumption by 20 percent. To see sustainability in action, visit tinyurl.com/whitmansolar to witness the solar array’s power output and carbon dioxide reduction in real time.
14. Our buildings meet LEED standards
Whitman insists that all new construction on campus be designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. Buildings that meet these standards implement green building design, construction, operations and maintenance. The Reid Campus Center, the Hall of Science addition, the Baker Ferguson Fitness Center, the Fouts Center for Visual Arts and the Sherwood Athletic Center were designed and constructed to measure up to these criteria.
15. The Outhouse brings the outdoors inside
The Environmental House was established in 1981 as part of the campus’ Interest House Community and is affectionately known by its residents as the Outhouse. Students living in the Outhouse focus on environmental and ecological issues by educating Whitman students about the environment. One such effort rests in Whitman’s recycling program, spearheaded by Outhouse residents, where members spend Saturday mornings retrieving recycling from across campus.
16. We get extra credit for our credits
In 2006, students voted on the Renewable Energy Initiative, which requested that the Board of Trustees increase semester tuition by $5 to invest in renewable energy through Pacific Power’s Blue Sky Program. Whitman was the first college in Washington State to take part in the wind credit program, which puts money toward the development of renewable energy projects. In 2010-2011, Whitman purchased approximately 35 percent of its electricity from wind credit programs – 27 percent from Renewable Choice Energy in Boulder, Colo., and 8 percent from Pacific Power.
17. Our wind power will blow you away
Every howl of the Walla Walla wind creates electricity. Of the wind turbines that dot the hills of eastern Washington, 70 are located on land that Whitman leases to Florida Power and Light. Whitman is first in the nation in terms of wind power produced on college land, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
18. Just call them eco-Greeks
Whitman students lead the charge when it comes to being green. The Green Leaders program promotes green habits among Whitman students living both on and off campus. Students designated as Green Leaders instill these habits in their peers through education and programming. Fraternities are currently seeking funding to conduct energy audits of their houses so they can weatherize their abodes and save electricity. Sororities plan to establish official environmental chapter positions responsible for serving as environmental advocates during event planning.
19. Even our trash receptacles are special
The next time you’re walking the campus grounds, take a minute to admire the little recycling receptacles joined to the trash cans. Those beauties are custom-made, and Whitman College staff designed them. In 2000, Landscape Supervisor Bob Biles ’74, who was then the recycling coordinator, took a fleet of empty mayonnaise buckets from Bon Appétit and wired them to Whitman’s trash cans in an effort to separate beverage containers from trash. The idea caught on, and the buckets filled up. But the system did lack for looks, however. Dan Park, director of the physical plant, enlisted the help of Randy Halley, a Whitman mechanic who does metal fabrication, to come up with a design for a receptacle that looked more polished and professional. Halley took his finished prototype to Hard Rock Machine Works, which made enough copies of the unique receptacles to go around campus. The city of Walla Walla quickly caught on to the good idea, and those same receptacles now line sidewalks of the award-winning downtown.
20. Whitman people meet the challenge
The week of April 16-20 marked the campus’ annual Green Commute Challenge in honor of Earth Week. Whitman faculty and staff competed as departmental teams and scrambled to find alternative means of transportation throughout the week. Participants were encouraged to commute to school by foot, bike, scooter, bus or carpool.
21. Whitman offers fresh perspectives
The Perspectives … environmental lecture series, now in its second year, seeks to share the research and knowledge of Whitman’s faculty. Organized by the Campus Sustainability Coordinators, this year’s theme was Perspectives on Landscape and Agriculture. Presentations included Prof. Lynn Sharp’s “La fin des terroirs? Nationalism and cheese production in fin-de-siecle France” and Prof. Donald Snow’s “Reign of Terroir: What the Great International Wine Debate Reveals about Concepts of Nature and Agriculture.”
22. Whitties aren’t afraid to garden for grub
Created in 1997 by four Whitties, the student-run organic garden has served as a place dedicated to growth, and all students are welcome to participate in the garden. The organic garden on the corner of Pacific Street and Penrose Avenue is the perfect stop along an afternoon walk. Rest in the shade of the gazebo, witness the movement of burgeoning life and perhaps pick fresh basil to flavor your next meal.
23. Debaters travel much lighter
Whitman debaters became the greenest debate team in the country when they abandoned paper notes for laptops. In the past, the team transported thousands of sheets of paper to tournaments in large plastic tubs. The transition helps the team save countless trees each year and reduce their environmental impact. They’ve also saved on airline fees since ditching the heavy plastic tubs.
24. Worms make quick work of Whittie waste
Students teach community members about vermicomposting.
The earthworm-to-student ratio on campus is 42:1 and growing. Bins in the red shed behind Lyman Hall currently contain more than 64,000 Red Wriggler worms. The creepy crawlers are fed food waste from Jewett Dining Hall, and they double their population every 90 days. Once the worm wigwam reaches its capacity of 105,000 worms, they will turn more than 100 pounds of student food waste into rich vermicompost each day. The vermicompost will then be used to fertilize campus plants.
25. We value environmentalism
In the early 1990s the college’s Conservation Committee drew up a set of environmental principles that Whitman strives to follow as a community. One such principle is to encourage individuals’ environmental accountability through programs of environmental education. A list of the principles can be found on the college’s website, in the student handbook and in the course catalog, which also is paperless, saving both money and resources.
By Whitman Magazine, with the help of staff members,
faculty and students with a passion for the environment.