Whitman’s debatable environmental consciousness

kristencoverdale

Many Whitties consider themselves environmentally conscious.  And with nationwide interest in Whitman increasing each year, being “green” can be a huge selling point.  But is Whitman actually as green as it claims?

Junior Anna Forge isn’t sure.

“Being here has made me much more aware of where my food comes from, how long my showers are, that sort of thing,” she said. “On the other hand, I don’t know enough about what’s considered green to say with complete confidence that yes, Whitman is 100% green.”

Common complaints include the lighting in the residence halls and the sprinkler system.

“They drench me on the regular,” sophomore Abby Neel said of the sprinklers outside Prentiss. “They probably don’t need to be on as often. But we all want our campus looking beautiful, right?”

While some sprinklers on campus seem to water the sidewalks just as much as grass, at least some of them run with recycled water, according to Associate to the President Jed Schwendiman.

Junior Gary Wang, who heads up Campus Climate Challenge, applauds the college’s efforts.

“I think Whitman is more green than it is marketed as, in some respects at least. In some reports we’ve been given the grade of a B or C. For example, the installation of the Bratton Tennis Center solar panels was huge progress in reducing our carbon footprint.”

This past spring, Campus Climate Challenge completed a greenhouse gas audit and were working with the Administration toward hopefully signing the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which would commit the college to “climate neutrality.” This means that Whitman would not have any greenhouse gas emissions, an impressive feat.

Students have initiated much of the advancement toward a greener campus. Groups like Campus Climate Challenge have lobbied for a paid Sustainability Coordinator on the College staff. Last year the first part-time Sustainability Coordinator was hired and tasked with bridging the gap between the administration and student organizations promoting conservation and sustainability. The position is currently held by senior Lisa Curtis, who is working on projects like more composting, environmental service days and increasing cooperation between environmental groups.

Even if the college is doing most things right, there can always be room for improvement. As Wang points out, perhaps change is needed within the student body.

“There aren’t huge flaws but there are things we could do better… there is a lot of apathy on campus,” he said.

Living green is a personal choice. While it might be easy to support, staying motivated enough to make little changes without seeing immediate results is tough.

Here are a few ideas for students interested in boosting their environmental efforts:

1. Compost. The college doesn’t really support off-campus composting so make an effort to compost at your house if you live off-campus.
2. Recycle. If you live in a Residence Hall, this is easy, but slightly less convenient if you live off-campus.
3. Walk, bike or take a bus. Walla Walla is not huge. Take  Valley Transit and ditch the car unless absolutely necessary.

For more information about environmental activism at Whitman, visit http://www.whitman.edu/content/about/environment/quick.