Sustainability update
Molly Burchfield ’19, a geology and environmental studies major, pitches in at Mt. Trashmore on April 5.

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Photography by Matt Banderas '04

Whitman’s Office of Sustainability has seen many of its efforts rewarded in recent months. It 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 Whitman’s name to a “We’re Still In!” letter pledging to abide by the Paris Climate Agreement despite shifting federal policy.

“With these accomplishments and the continued support for campus sustainability, not to mention the gracious donations of our campus community, we are on track to make Whitman a leader in sustainability,” said Campus Sustainability Coordinator Brandon Bishop. “These actions represent a small sliver of our campus community’s continuing efforts to mitigate our regional and global environmental impact.”

Whitman surpassed conference rivals in the 2016-17 College and University Green Power Challenge by utilizing more than 17 million eco-friendly kilowatt hours of green power. Whitman procures renewable energy certificates from Renewable Choice Energy and generates green power from an onsite renewable energy system utilizing solar resources. This constitutes a proactive choice to move away from traditional sources of electricity generation and support cleaner renewable energy alternatives.

The college has been purchasing Green-e certified renewable energy credits to offset electricity usage for about 10 years, Bishop said, and currently offsets 100 percent of campus electricity usage, with the goal of offsetting 100 percent of natural gas usage by 2020. Whitman has broken ground on its first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings and committed to the construction of 116kW of additional solar panels.

In recognition of its commitment to carbon neutrality, Whitman gained admittance to the Green Power Leadership Club, the highest distinction in the Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partnership. The college holds a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The Office of Sustainability hopes to offset all greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent by 2020.

During the daylong Mt. Trashmore event last spring, students, faculty and staff volunteers sorted through a 3,600-pound heap of garbage intentionally dumped on Cordiner lawn, processing 800 pounds of it for reuse. Student groups also distributed information about a variety of sustainability issues, including food waste and multimodal transportation. The event highlighted how Whitman recycles more than 9,000 pounds of paper each semester, diverts more than 40 percent of campus waste each year and recycles 33 percent of the campus waste stream annually, among other efforts.

And in June, President Kathleen Murray joined more than 1,000 leaders from across the United States in signing a declaration of support for staying in the Paris Climate Agreement amid the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw. Washington State signatories included the mayor of Seattle, Starbucks, Amazon and a number of educational institutions. In total, nine states (including Oregon and California), 125 cities, 902 businesses and investors and 183 colleges and universities endorsed the statement.