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Whitman Mission National Historic Site Environmental Management Systems Team

Sustainable Leaders in Renewable Energy Use, Energy and Water Conservation, Green Purchasing, Pollution/Waste Prevention and Recycling, Alternative Fuel and Fuel Conservation in Transportation, and Environmental Management Systems, National Park Service, Walla Walla, Washington

Project Point of Contact

Francis Darby, Superintendant
Whitman National Historic Site, Walla Walla, WA
Phone: 509-522-6360


Whitman Mission National Historic Site has embraced the concepts of Environmental Management Systems to holistically manage and operate the site with reduced impacts on the environment.  EMS helped the park go beyond regulatory compliance to include sustainable practices in day-to-day practices.  Whitman Mission National Historic Site practices continuous improvement, identifying and prioritizing activities and impacts, and developing actions to implement goals and targets.  Reviewing their EMS program, with support from their Superintendent, keeps the program aligned with their Commitment Statement.  In particular, Whitman Mission National Historic Site's achievements reduce their carbon footprint, and set an example in combating global climate change.  Thinking globally and acting locally is demonstrated by the actions and projects completed in 2006.  Whitman Mission National Historic Site's achievements (too many to list here) include the following:

  • a grid-tied photovoltaic power plant on the park maintenance building, reducing park energy consumption by 30 percent

  • diverting approximately 90.5 percent of total solid waste from disposal to landfills, including composting organic materials

  • minimizing water use in the park; for example, replacement of an old heating and cooling system saved or 25 percent of the park's total use

  • pilot testing and ultimately using B20 in all diesel-powered equipment, reducing their annual fuel costs by 10 percent and making B20 biodiesel a cost-effective alternative fuel choice parkwide

Detailed Description

Renewable Energy

In the winter of fiscal year 2006 Whitman Mission National Historic Site installed a grid-tied photovoltaic power plant on the park maintenance building.  This 11.4 kW net-metering system went on-line at the end of October and in partnerships between the National Park Service, Bonneville Power Administration, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Pacific Power and Light.  This project reduces park energy consumption by 30%, conforming to Executive Order 12902, Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation at Federal Facilities.  One of our goals was to reduce energy consumption in the park (EMS Goal 2.A).

This was the first net metering arrangement with Pacific Power and Light in Washington State and allows Whitman Mission to use the solar PV energy to offset some of the normal electrical energy consumption. The maintenance shop roof was selected for the installation due to size, exposure and natural screening that reduced visual intrusion on the surrounding historic grounds and cultural landscapes of the historic site.

The PV power plant consists of 60 solar modules (panels) and three inverters.  Two 4.56 kW grid-tied systems each consisting of 24 Sharp 190 Watt solar modules (panels) feeding one Fronius IG 4500 Watt LV inverter, and, one 2.28 kW grid-tied system containing 12 Sharp 190 Watt solar modules feeding  one Fronius IG 2400 Watt LV inverter make up the total PV system.  When fed into the PP&L electrical grid, annual production under optimum conditions will generate up to 17,975 kilowatt hours of renewable energy.

The "top end" cost for our PV system is about $75,000 and has a life expectancy between 30 to 50 years.  The current renewable energy generated by the PV system has reduced our dependency on grid power by $0.31 per kWh or 30% annually. At the current performance rate, it should pay for itself in about 13-15 years. In 2005, the park used a total of 60,060 kWh of grid supplied power which released 10.25 metric tons of carbon pollutant into the environment. In 2006, carbon emissions will be reduced by 3.07 metric tons or 30%.

Whitman Mission is the first national park site in Washington State to have a solar generating plant with a major public utility. The park has strived to expand the use of renewable energy within the park boundaries by implementing other energy efficient measures such as our four off-grid solar powered security/parking light devices.  When combined with a new grid-tied system, our environmental footprint has been reduced. These examples show our energy efficient efforts and commitment to protecting our environment. It provides a few nice examples for others to follow. Like the old saying "better to give than receive", well, this has taken on a new meaning at Whitman Mission National Historic Site.


Annual visitation at Whitman Mission NHS averages 80,000 visitors. Currently there are 11 permanent employees and five to eight seasonal employees during the summer months. There is one residence in the park. There are no Concessionaires within the park. There are also no public facilities to purchase food, gasoline or supplies within the park.

Waste generation quantities include all solid and non-hazardous wastes created within the Park boundaries, including wastes generated by visitors, Park staff housing and Park operations. Waste generation includes all waste materials, which are disposed of or diverted.  All material taken to a landfill is counted as "disposed" of.  Materials that are reused, recycled, or composted represent the "diverted" materials. The sum of these two quantities, disposed and diverted solid waste, equals the total solid waste generated. One of our EMS goals was to minimize our solid waste to landfills (EMS Goal 1.A).

Estimates of total quantities of solid waste disposed are based on the collection schedule and container size, and on staff estimates of the typical amount the dumpsters are filled. These recorded observations are considered to be reasonably accurate. The assumed trash density is 150 pounds per cubic yard.

Over a 12-month period, June, 2005 to June, 2006, the Park's total waste generated was 51.7 tons. This included the following recorded volume estimates of materials disposed of, recovered for recycling, and composted materials. Estimates of total quantities recycled and otherwise diverted materials were based on weight receipts for materials delivered to recycling markets, and on staff estimates of volumes collected for composting.

  • A total of 4.9 tons of waste materials disposed.

  • A total of 0.7 tons of recyclable materials (aluminum cans, scrap paper and cardboard).

  • A total of 46.1 tons of composted/diverted materials (48,000 pounds of grass clippings , 40,500 pounds of leaves and 3,750 pounds of wood chips). All are based on recorded volumes and conversion to weight assuming 400, 300, and 500 pounds per cubic yard densities respectively.

The park produces a total of 51.7 tons of waste material but diverts 46.8 tons through composting and recycling.  Whitman Mission NHS is diverting approximately 90.5% of our total solid waste from disposal to landfills, exceeding the Department of Interior goal to divert solid waste by 45% by 2005 in support of Executive Order 13101.  Composting organic materials has been an excellent way of reducing our volume of solid waste, and has created a beneficial product that is used in the park to improve soil porosity, water retention, resistance to erosion, and the added benefit of eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers with a natural, nutrient rich alternative.

Other recycling effort that we employ includes ink and laser jet ink cartridges. These items are recycled through the Funding Factory education program. Through this program, empty laser and inkjet cartridges collected and donated earn points for participating educational organizations, while at the same time providing valuable funding for education programs while helping to save precious landfill space.

Water Conservation

Efficient management of water resources is a goal of the staff at Whitman Mission.  Conservation measures taken at the park are aimed to that end in the hopes of ensuring an adequate supply of water for future need, while at the same time meeting the conformance requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 whereby reducing consumptive water use by at least 20% when compared to the 1990 benchmark.  In 2006 a review was conducted to identify uses and potential conservation solutions to help us more effectively manage the water utilized in park operations.  One of our EMS goals was to minimize water use in the park (EMS Goal 2.B). Highlights of the conservation measures taken are listed below:

  • Water use in the park has been approximately 2.2 million gallons on an annual base.  A savings of 600,000 gallons annually, or 25% of total use, was achieved with the replacement of the old heating and cooling system in the park residence.  Not only did the old system remove 600,000 gallons of water from the aquifer but that water was processed through the potable water system before being delivered to the old heat exchanger and then discharged.  So not only did this conservation measure save water it reduced electrical demand by eliminating the need for pumping.

  • Conventional 5-gallon per flush toilets was replaced with pressurized tank system toilets designed to use only 1.6 gallons per flush.  This reduced the water demand for toilets by 68%.

  • Conventional shower heads, rated at 5 gallons a minute, were replaced by water miser heads with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute thus reducing water consumed for showers by approximately 50%.

  • A Falcon waterless urinal was installed in the public restroom at the visitor center.  Approximately 48,000 gallons of water per year are saved by replacing the conventional urinal that used approximately 3 gallons of water per flush.

  • The six toilets in the visitor center restroom were retrofitted with new flushometer valves that require only 1.6 gallons of water.  The conventional valves used 3 gallons each flush.  The new valves conserve 47% of the water previously used in the public restrooms.

  • Native vegetation has been incorporated in the landscaping about the public buildings in the park.  These native, drought resistant, plants require less water than the traditional ornamental plants used in most landscaping.  All irrigation is done through programmable timers set to reduce water loss through evaporation.

  • Part of solid waste program includes the diversion of vegetative matter into our composting efforts. This water retaining composted soil is added where needed to irrigated landscape areas for holding in moisture and reducing irrigation run times.

Whitman Mission NHS is committed to the efficient management of our natural water resources as a means to ensure an adequate supply of water is available now and in the future.

Alternative Fuel

In the winter of 2006, Whitman Mission decided to test biodiesel as alternative, clean burning heating oil.  The 3500 square foot maintenance shop, with a 700 gallon above-ground fuel tank, became our test facility.  Since the park doesn't have a transportation fleet, changing our practices to reduce petroleum use in transportation wasn't a goal since we do not have a transportation fleet to target. Instead, we decided that reducing petroleum use for heating park facilities would be achievable. One of our EMS goals was to increase use of alternative fuel in the park (EMS Goal 3.A).

Biodiesel has been used in heating fuel applications at the B5 blend in other parts of the country, and some studies have taken place on B20 blends, but little information was available related to actual experiences using the B20 blend. This pilot demonstration project was set up in hopes of reducing harmful emissions and sharing the lessons learned with private, commercial, and government facility owners.

Biodiesel in any blend was not available in the local area.  However, pure B100 soybean oil was available from a supplier 250 miles away in Portland, Oregon. Purchasing the B100 and subsequently blending on site made the transportation more manageable.  We transported 140 gallons of B100 soybean oil back to the park. We manually mixed the B100 with 560 gallons of locally purchased diesel heating oil to get a B20 blend. After blending, we turned on the shop oil-fired furnaces for winter operation. We also added a recirculation pump to the shop furnace system to facilitate maintaining a homogeneous blend of the B20. Over the course of the winter we experienced outside temperatures down to 9 degrees Fahrenheit and experienced no equipment failures, fuel gelling problems, or comfort compromises to the heated spaces.

With the success of the pilot-test, we expanded our use of B20 to our 2000 gallon underground fuel storage tank used for heating to our 6,800 square foot visitor center. We also switched all diesel-powered equipment to B20. In less than a year, the park has gone from 0% to 100% in the use of B20 for all diesel fuel applications. This effort has also had the added benefit of reducing our annual fuel costs by 10%, making B20 biodiesel a cost-effective alternative fuel choice park wide.

The use of biodiesel reduces harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide, a gas linked to global warming. Whitman Mission's use of B20 biodiesel has reduced our carbon dioxide emissions by 16%. Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions have also been reduced by 20% through the use of B20 biodiesel. Since biodiesel contains more oxygen by weight than fossil fuel, it burns more completely, reducing the unburned fuel emission toxics such as particulate matter, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide released into the environment by 20 to 40%.

Whitman Mission National Historic Site is the only NPS site in the country utilizing B20 biodiesel as heating fuel oil. Since 2006, the park has increased the bio-blend an additional 10% to B30. As stewards of the many historic, cultural and natural resources of the park, Whitman Mission National Historic Site is committed to protecting of our unique environment. As such, we continue to seek opportunities to utilize environmentally sound products that preserve and protect resources.

Greening the Park

"Sustainability" is out of the closet at Whitman Mission NHS. In 2006, we have taken a very proactive approach in our efforts to reduce resource consumption, to reuse and recycle materials, and to reduce our impacts on the environment as identified in Executive Order 13101, Greening the Government Through Waste Prevention and Recycling. One of our future EMS goals, which actually was accomplished in 2006 and carried forward to 2007 for added improvement, was to purchase and use biobased lubricants (Future EMS Goal #6). By commitment and taking a few simple steps toward more environmentally responsible procurement, listed below are some of the ways we've been able to do this:

Waste Prevention/Reduction Strategies
  • Scratch paper is used as notepads

  • Computerization has reduced paper use

  • All computers are energy-wise

  • The use of refillable pens and pencils is employed and encouraged

  • Mulch mowers are used on park grounds

  • Composting of grass clippings, leaves and wood chips

  • Irrigation sprinklers are on a timer system

  • Recycling containers are clearly marked to distinguish from garbage containers

  • The Park avoids waste generation by avoiding food production and distribution
Items recycled/strategies
  • Mixed paper including magazines

  • Cardboard

  • Aluminum cans

  • Toner cartridges

  • Batteries

  • Oily rags

  • Used motor oil

  • Construction materials

  • All containers are checked daily and emptied as needed by the park staff into centralized containers

  • Employees transport recyclables to Walla Walla recycling centers as needed
Recycled Content Purchases
  • Laser Printer, Fax Machine and Laser Jet Cartridges

  • Photocopier paper (30%)

  • Toilet paper and paper towels (100%)

  • Office and other office supplies when available

  • Re-refined motor oil

  • Recycled plastic restroom partitions (50%)

  • Recycled plastic lumber for park entrance signs (50%), and picnic tables, sign posts, and bridge curbing (100%)

  • Recycled plastic recycling containers
Less Toxic Alternatives/Hazard Material Practices
  • Propylene-glycol antifreeze containing no ethylene

  • Ozone depleting chemicals have been eliminated

  • Bio-based Bio-Penetrating Lubricants used

  • Bio-based bar & chain oil used

  • Soy-based two-cycle oil used

  • Soy-based parts cleaner/degreaser used

  • Bio-Food Grade Grease used

  • Bio-based cutting oil used

  • Bio-based gear oil used

  • Bio-based hydraulic fluids

Whitman Mission National Historic Site takes care of some of the most unique resources in the country. The public expects that we be environmental leaders in our day to day operations as we protect those resources. Green (sustainable) practices are dynamic and the park will always be adapting to new situations. It has become part of our everyday conversation. People should never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, caring, and committed employees can contribute and make our environment safer, cleaner, healthier and Greener for everyone as we have proven otherwise.


Whitman Mission National Historic Site has embraced the concepts of EMS (Environmental Management System) to holistically manage and operate our park to reduce our impacts on the environment. EMS has helped the park go beyond compliance with regulatory requirements to incorporate sustainable practices into our day to day practices. We practice continuous improvement, identifying and prioritizing activities and impacts, and developing actions to implement goals and targets.  Monitoring and reviewing our EMS program, with support from our Superintendent, keeps us on track and aligned with our Commitment Statement. In particular, our achievements are helping reduce our carbon footprint, and, in our small way, we set an example in combating global climate change. Thinking globally and acting locally is practiced by the park staff and is demonstrated by the actions and projects completed in 2006.

In 2006 Whitman Mission National Historic Site was recognized and commended by the Pacific West Regional Director for our diligent efforts to be in compliance with environmental regulations, as demonstrated by the outstanding Environmental Health and Safety Audit finding records for the past two audits. As a reward for our efforts, the next audit has been pushed back from the normal three year cycle to a five year mark (April 2011). We are the first PWR Park to receive such a reward.

Additional Information

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