Students celebrate Campus Sustainability Day

Gary Wang

Campus sustainability Coordinator Karlis Rokpelnis organized Whitman’s first Campus Sustainability Day last Wednesday, Oct. 22.   About 20 students, faculty and staff attended the events that day.   Nationwide however, colleges and universities have been holding Sustainability Day events for six years already.

“It’s about promoting sustainability as something that’s important overall but particularly at university campuses.   It’s where the young people are.   Every year they do a campus sustainability to draw attention to sustainability issues.   Several schools have sustainability fairs.   There are more than 300 schools this year doing it.   I’m trying to go for the same celebration thing,” Rokpelnis said.

So Whitman participated in a nationwide event with some history and past success at other campuses.   However, there were   live Web broadcasts of speeches and viewings that Whitman could not participate in because they started late on the East Coast, which means they would start when everyone is in class at Whitman.

There were several events on campus that day. First, there was open gardening at the Organic Garden; Professor of Geology Bob Carson gave a presentation to students and staff about living in an environmentally sustainable way; and Landscape Manager Gary Brown took students and staff on a tour of Whitman’s campus.   Culminating the event was a “shindig,” a term Rokpelnis used to describe the party at the Hunter Atrium.

“This is essentially a chance for people who don’t attend trees and landscaping meetings to hear about these things.   First and foremost [we need to] encourage more communication between the different people that do work on these things,” Rokpelnis said.

On the tour, Brown dismissed several rumors regarding Whitman’s trees.   For example, the banana tree located between the tennis courts and the library is not uprooted and taken inside the greenhouse during the winter.

“We actually just cut down the stalks and replant the tree every spring,” said Brown.
He also gave some sobering news regarding the Black Locust tree outside of Jewett and Lyman.

“The Black Locusts on campus will all be gone probably within three to five years,” said Brown.   These trees are too difficult to maintain.

Brown also revealed the faculty and administration’s role in saving several trees on campus.   The tree next to Reid Campus center that’s propped up by a metal bar was personally designated to be saved by President George Bridges.   Another such tree by the new Visual Arts building cost over $30,000 to save during the construction process.

With regard to sustainability, Brown also explained that it takes hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to maintain Ankeny field. Simply put, lawns are no longer sustainable.   They take a lot of man hours to maintain and require large amounts of water.   However, for aesthetic and admissions reasons, the landscape crew has to maintain the large number of lawns on Whitman’s campus.

After the tour, the 10 or so students, faculty and staff headed toward Hunter for a gathering of   sustainability-concerned individuals in the atrium for pumpkin pastries and punch.