Let’s talk about sustainability

Treasure of a planet: Mark Ruelle, former CEO of Westar Energy, speaks to Washburn students and faculty at a lunch held by Beta Alpha Psi. Ruelle spoke about the future of sustainable energy and what it looks like to be a leader in any field of work.

In the world of increasing technology, the welfare of our planet can often take a back seat to the progression of industry and change.

Environmental sustainability is taking into consideration that not all things are limitless; over time some forms of energy may not exist. It is important to discuss the role of humans in nature and how we have become embedded within environmental systems through the economy and even political climate.

In order to sustain a limited amount of resources, energy users must find a way to collect and use forms of energy that can never be depleted. Light, wind and even water energy are just a few examples of what types of energy sources are sustainable or unlimited.

Mark Ruelle, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Westar served as President and Chief Executive Officer, of Westar Energy, Inc. prior to leading the merger with Great Plains Energy that resulted in the formation of Energy, Inc., a Fortune 500 company.

Ruelle came to speak to about 20 Beta Alpha Psi Washburn students and faculty about the future of energy and his experience in many key leadership roles.

President of Bete Alpha Psi, Ashlyn Lane believes that it is valuable to understand the concepts of sustaining our world’s environment.

“I think it is very important that students at Washburn understand the concepts of sustaining our world’s environment. If they are educated about the process, maybe they too will take small steps in creating a better environment. The world only gives us a limited number of resources and if we do not come up with ways to make these resources last, the way we live will be forever changed,” said Lane. 

Academic sponsor of Beta Alpha Psi and Vice President at Washburn University, Jim Martin, believes that Washburn has already taken the initiative to use sustainable energy.

“The largest most recent addition to our sustainability efforts is our acquisition of five megawatts of capacity in the Soldier Creek windfarm which will allow us to access approximately 80 percent of our electricity needs at Washburn and Washburn Tech from a 100 percent renewable source. We expect this windfarm to be complete and operational in 2020,” said Martin.

A windfarms primary purpose is to harness the power of sustainable energy, but they can also support the economy. Wind energy centers, provide employment opportunities to about 300 workers and it can add property taxes that benefit the schools and local civic services. Windmills create no air or water pollution, they use no water and they allow the surrounding land to remain in its original agricultural use, but storage of energy can be quite complex and often very expensive.

“Everybody says they want clean and renewable power, but they don’t always want to pay for it. Sometimes the most sustainable resource is not the cheapest and the cheapest resource is not always the most sustainable,” Ruelle said.

It’s up to everyone, not just the corporations, to maintain the lifestyle that we have become so accustomed to living.

If technological advances are inevitable, then so too is the world’s need for sustainable forms of energy.