Sustainable Walla Walla Makes Plans for Earth Day, Future Collaborations

Students, city council members and representatives from around the community gathered for a meeting of local working group Sustainable Walla Walla in the Walla Walla Public School District board room Tuesday night, Feb. 5.

Attendees shared their own efforts to promote sustainability in the community and made plans for future collaborations and both long-term and short-term sustainable initiatives. The group also discussed plans for upcoming Earth Day events, which currently include a fair at Walla Walla Community College and the continuation of the annual Green Travel Awards, given to the local organizations that come up with the best programs to encourage low-impact travel in the community.

Sustainable Walla Walla was created in 2008 following a series of conferences and work sessions sponsored by Walla Walla’s three colleges and the local community service group Walla Walla 2020. The group’s initial goal was to create a long-term sustainability plan for the community. Although the City Council of Walla Walla now has an official Sustainability Committee for this purpose, the group continues to meet quarterly to discuss ways to promote sustainable action in the community through advocacy, education and collaborative efforts.

At the most recent meeting, representatives from a variety of organizations were present, including the Washington State Penitentiary, St. Mary Medical Center, Walla Walla University, Walla Walla Community College and Whitman College. Self-described “private citizens” also sat in to share their individual efforts to promote sustainability.

“It’s really been a good cross-fertilization happening [at these meetings],” said Whitman alumnus Dan Clark ’65, secretary-treasurer of the group, on the collaboration between different organizations. Clark noted he was pleased to see representatives from all of Walla Walla’s colleges present at the meeting.

Sustainability initiatives discussed at the meeting ranged from the progress of Whitman’s fossil fuel divestment campaign to the activities of the sustainability committee at the penitentiary. A representative from St. Mary Medical Center shared the positive impacts of the hospital’s recently constructed “green roof” as well as an ongoing campaign to promote stairwell use over elevators in the facility.

Plans for future events and collaborations between organizations were floated as well. Valley Transit general manager Dick Fondahn discussed the possibility of a program to encourage Whitman students and other local college students to utilize the public transportation system more often.

“I was surprised by how many students [at Whitman] didn’t know there was public transportation,” he said. While it was acknowledged that many students don’t have to travel far from campus on a regular basis, there still seemed to be some interest in a competition between local colleges involving public transportation use, as well as greater student discounts or free rides for certain periods.

Though none of these plans are definite, Fondahn said he is interested in hearing student feedback for future projects.

“We’re very open and flexible. What we need is some input back from the students on what student needs are,” he said.

The public transportation competition may tie into the upcoming Green Travel Awards, which are held annually. Sustainable Walla Walla solicits briefs from local businesses, schools or other organizations that describe their green travel programs—incentives, publicity and the results of the program’s implementation. Applications are due to Sustainable Walla Walla by May 3, with the winners being announced at the Farmers Market the following week.

The next Sustainable Walla Walla meeting is slated for March 11. All meetings are open to the public.




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