Look up and see green
Compost It | Donâ€™t get wasted
WHO DID WHAT Sarah J. Christensen
Special Section Designer/ Cover Art
Virginia Vickery News Editor
Jae Specht Advertising Manager
Theodora Karatzas Arts & Culture Editor
Richard D. Oxley Opinion Editor
Photographers Drew Martig Liana Shewey Adam Wickham
Noah Emmet Amanda Gordon
Sam Gressett Wesley Van Der Veen
Writers: Leah Bodenhamer, Sarah Esterman, J. Logue, Sharon E. Rhodes, Robert Seitzinger, Nilesh Tendolkar
Dear readers, Welcome to the Vanguard's 2010 Green Guide. Each year the Vanguard finds tips and tricks for the average Portland State student to engage in living sustainably. We hope you enjoy this years efforts. In the spirit of sustainability, the Vanguard is printing this years Green Guide with some special changes to help the environment: • Black and white printing • A reduced number of pages • Only ordering 3,000 instead of our normal 5,000 copies The Vanguard will be making an effort to produce more online and sustainable content for our readers and make conscious decisions to help the environment—whether it's recycling our layout pages or printing in black and white when we can. We hope that you, as well as the Portland community, join the effort to become sustainable when it matters most. Sincerely, Sarah J. Christensen, Editor-in-Chief
Recycled threads Liana Shewey/Portland State Vanguard
Thrift and consignment shops offer the best in sustainable threads on a college budget Sarah Esterman Vanguard staff
In a lot of ways, living sustainably can be a real cash saver. Nixing bottled water and investing in a BPA-free reusable bottle can save you hundreds of dollars each year, and employing energy-efficient home devices can shave big bucks off your power bill. But let’s be honest—when you’re riding your road bike up Broadway to campus, Timbuk2 messenger bag slung across your back, you want to be doing it in style. Nay, you want to be doing it in sustainable style—because, really, you don’t want to be the hypocrite whose clothing tag says that some child in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam or China sews your threads.
So what’s the alternative? Well, unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of mainstream options that are socially responsible. There are some awesome local eco-fashions, from designers like Sameunderneath (they use 100 percent bamboo in their t-shirts) or Emily Katz, but items from these artists will almost, if not always, run you upwards of $100. For the average college student with tuition and bills to pay, sustainable clothing choices easily take a backseat to looking good. Well, little hippie hipster in need of some threads that were not shipped thousands of miles, there is an answer. Welcome to the land of thrift shops and what we like to call “recycled” fashion. If you don’t have the dough to spend on American Apparel or these eco-friendly designers, then check out one of these awesome places in town to update your wardrobe and perhaps even contribute to someone else’s.
This one is kind of a given. In fact, there isn’t much to say about Goodwill except that it’s awesome and if you haven’t been to one, you’re crazy, considering that you can get more than just clothes at this place. Check out the huge store, affectionately known as “the Bins” on Southeast Sixth Street for a great selection of recycled duds and just about everything else you might need.
With its location on Hawthorne, let’s be real, Red Light just screams hipster. So if that’s you and you need some new clothes that are hollering, “I’m better than you,” in that cool and casual way that hipster clothes tend to, then check this place out. You’re going to find a lot of vintage and frumpy styles that seem to make up the hipster world. Like Buffalo Exchange, it’s going to cost you a little extra, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s better to give your money to a thrift or consignment shop than to an unsustainable corporation.
Buffalo Exchange So you think you’re better than Goodwill, huh? That it isn’t your scene? Don’t worry, you sustainable fashion-hungry elitist you, you’re not alone. If you’re looking for some clothes that are, shall we say, “hipper,” then you might want to stop by Buffalo Exchange on West Burnside or Southeast 37th and Hawthorne. Yeah, it’ll run you a bit more than Goodwill might, but it may be worth it if the clothes match your style.
Here We Go Again If you’ve gone to Goodwill, Buffalo Exchange and Red Light, and you can’t get enough, check out Here We Go Again in Southwest Portland. While it may be a little out of the way, you’ll find some awesome higher-end pieces and it’s worth a trip down.
All photos by Drew Martig/Portland State Vanguard
Student group brings new ideas to the forefront of people’s minds J. Logue
Situated roughly between the area where rubber meets pavement in the sustainability movement on campus, Look Up and See Green (LUSG) is constantly evolving the meaning of a student-led group. Led entirely by students, LUSG has accomplished more than most groups do during their time spent on campus. Headed by coordinators Derek Abe, Noah Carpenter, Patricia Graf and Dunham Sage, the group has spearheaded a large portion of the student-led sustainability projects on campus. Working feverishly, LUSG continues to take on new tasks in order to advance the keys of sustainability socially, environmentally and economically. “We’re really into development but with the understanding that we want to transform our urban spaces into more functional places,” said Graf. “So the [Urban Building] terrace we transformed so it’s more socially and environmentally functional.” Following Portland State’s motto of doctrina urbi serviat (let knowledge serve
Look Up and See Green the city), they are constantly striving to connect as many different people and entities to their projects, creating more robust results. “We try to consider in all our projects how our efforts are sustainable in the long-term,” Abe said. “After we move on, how can we keep the ball rolling?” Hitting the ground running with their first project, which also happens to be the source they drew upon for their name, involved the complete makeover of the Urban Building terrace. Starting as a group project in Professor Barry Messer’s capstone class in 2008, they began taking submissions for ideas on how to turn the bland, gray and featureless terrace on the Urban Building into a test ground for sustainable practices.
“Barry was just great. He really has a vision of connecting education to real life and giving people the opportunity to learn,” Graf said. After holding a design summit to spur new ideas, the group witnessed a huge outpouring of proposals from students and facility alike that was a bit eye opening. Using this momentum, they narrowed down the ideas and began seeking funding as well as more student involvement. Spending most of their summer putting it together, the current look of the terrace is the culmination of a year of hard work that included a considerable amount of elbow grease. Not ones to rest on their past experiences, LUSG has directed their efforts towards the design, construction and
placement of a kiosk to provide all people who pass through the Urban Plaza with the opportunity to interact and grow their knowledge of sustainability. “One of the current projects is constructing an educational and interactive kiosk,” Abe said. “We also want to put an (ecoroof) canopy on the living terrace.” With plenty of work to keep them busy, they are always interested in including more people. “If people have ideas and they want to help transform the landscape of the campus, then we want to hear what their ideas are and we want to help them do it,” Graf said. If you would like to participate in LUSG or share any ideas, they can be reached at email@example.com.
Born to be sustainable This electric motorcycle is not to be scoffed at Richard D. Oxley Vanguard staff
They might not have a patriotic gas tank to hide your drug money in, but today’s models of electric motorcycles entering the market maintain the sense of freedom and rebellion that their gas-guzzling cousins have made so famous. Will you be hitting a stretch of black top for a long road trip? Probably not. The bikes hitting the streets are geared more towards commuters and your basic get-around-town needs. But still, it beats being trapped in your car or paying for gas as it fluctuates between high prices and not-as-high prices. One bike from Oregon is sure to have you easy riding through town. Brammo out of Ashland currently produces one model, the Enertia. So far it has been rather popular, keeping this small company busy with orders. And they’ll only be getting busier with their current partnership with mega-chain store Best Buy, who has begun to carry the bikes in their big-box locations. Retailing at $7,995, buyers benefit from a 10 percent federal tax credit in addition to the State of Oregon’s own tax incentives for all electric vehicles. It is by far one of the more aesthetically pleasing electric bikes on the market. At first glance, you might not realize it is electric, which is a real plus given the range of oddballlooking electric bikes we’ve seen so far. The Enertia strikes the eye as somewhere between a cafe racer and a Harley Sportster.
The bike’s body is mainly centered in a diamond-shaped housing, causing second glances from those wondering where the engine might be. The one down side is the limited choice of colors, none of which are terribly appealing—the least abrasive being white and grey. But at least you’ll get noticed riding an offensively bright orange or green bike down the road. The Enertia will take its rider up to 60 mph, and in the city, will travel a distance of around 40 miles on a single charge. The company claims that their bike is around five times more energy efficient than a Toyota Prius, and even if the electricity is coming from a coal burning power plant, its total emissions are still under its tail-piped counterparts out on the road. Four hours is needed to fully charge the six lithium iron phosphate batteries—that is, if you maxed them out. You can plug the bike into the average wall socket overnight and it will be all set for tomorrow’s ride. “Ah ha,” you say, thinking this is where the true costs factor in. After all, fuel, even electric, has to cost something right? According to Brammo, the Enertia will cost its rider around one cent per mile in electric costs, which boils down to about forty cents per day if you are fully draining the batteries. All in all, if you are maxing out the bike’s distance and energy needs seven days a week, this equals about $11.20 per month. Now depending upon the rate your usual car is guzzling down gasoline, this can either be an improvement, or not so impressive. Sitting atop the bike, experienced bikers will begin scratching their heads as they search for the gearshift. It’s not under your left
foot, and it’s not a suicide shift (which would be awesome)—in fact, it’s just not there at all. There is no transmission on the Enertia, or most electric bikes in general. Being an electric motorcycle, the current, and thus force, is routed directly into the motor and onto the wheel. Skipping past the second law of thermodynamics among other things, this means that the need for gears is bypassed. The bike will get up to speed without any need for the assistance of a transmission.
In the end, the Enertia is the perfect commuting vehicle. Easy to ride, easy to maintain, and any biker will tell you, easy to park—which works out great when downtown. To add yet another benefit, not only is Brammo from Oregon, but the motorcycles themselves are mostly locally produced. About 70 percent of the bike, save a few parts originating in Europe and Asia, comes from within the United States—making this bike, for the most part, home grown.
Photo courtesy of Brammo.com
Portland Farmers Market
Snack sustainability Finding cheap food that’s healthy for the environment (and you) Sarah Esterman Vanguard staff
There’s an old saying that you are what you eat. But as we’ve learned in recent years from filmmakers like Robert Kenner and investigative journalists like Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, “we are what what we eat eats, too.” Through the film Food, Inc. and the books Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it has become apparent that our food system is in disarray and that it is not only harming our bodies, but the planet as well.
When it comes to the question of what we should eat—as individuals with our own health concerns and as part of the larger society—it’s easy to get confused. Even products that are touted as “organic” and “natural” may not be the best options, as the USDA seal of approval doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things. Since none of us plan to become “breathe-air-ians” in the near future and not many of us have the opportunity to live on a farm and grow our own food, it’s about time we recognized the most sustainable food sources that Portland has to serve up our food—and that they aren’t too hard on the pocketbook.
The seasonal farmers market, which takes place in the South Park Blocks near campus on Saturday morning until 2 p.m. and has been open for a few weeks now, is an obvious winner among local, inexpensive and sustainable food. A common misconception about the farmers market is that it’s too expensive for the average college student, but this isn’t so. If you shop carefully, you could get away with spending no more than $25 for a week’s worth of food at the farmers market. Not only can you get an awesome and inexpensive meal while at the farmers market, with the array of food vendors serving up delicious food for the moment (like, for example, award-winning biscuits and gravy from Pine State Biscuit), but you can also stock up on fresh produce and local cruelty-free meat for the week. The best bet for optimal pick of produce and shorter lines is to get there as early as possible. For a full list of other market locations and times, check them out online at www.portlandfarmersmarket.org.
Co-ops and local groceries Cooperation and local groceries are the next best choice for those who have schedules restricting weekly ventures to the farmer’s market. Be thankful you live in a city where people care about the food they
produce, sell and consume, because we are privileged to have a variety of awesome food co-ops which allow us to sustainably get our munch on. Check out Food Front Cooperative Grocery on Northwest 23rd Avenue and Thurman Street or People’s Co-op at Southeast 21st Avenue and Division Street for a great selection of local produce and local meat at a pretty decent price.
Whole Foods, New Seasons, Trader Joe’s, etc. As opposed to the farmer’s market or co-ops and local groceries, Whole Foods, New Seasons and Trader Joe’s don’t come off sounding nearly as sustainable (or inexpensive), but don’t be too harsh now. If for some reason (like lack of transportation or work) you can’t make it out to either of the options listed above, these are your next best bet. Believe it or not, when it comes to locally sourced and organic food, you’ll spend less for your goods at one of these places than you will at Safeway or Fred Meyer. So don’t be afraid of them while thinking that you’ll spend a fortune on your food—venture in and check it out for yourself. Besides, Whole Foods or New Seasons are awesome places to go for food on the go, because they have prime choices at their delis and prepared food sections that won’t cost a pretty penny (I’ve spent less than $5 on lunch before at Whole Foods).
All photos by Liana Shewey/Portland State Vanguard
Worldwide opportunities in organic farming Leah Bodenhamer Vanguard staff
Are you tired/bored/fed up/confused with your existence as an all-consuming monster that struggles to find meaning/ satisfaction/direction in your life? Do you deeply desire such fulfillment and love the earth? Then sign up for a membership with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). There is no international WWOOF membership—rather, it is a network of national organizations. The memberships are assigned by either country or region. For example, there is WWOOF Latin America, which includes the countries of Ecuador, Belize, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina and Brazil to name a few. The WWOOF USA, on the other hand, includes only the states within our country (not including Hawaii). This program has hosts all over the world, in anywhere from Romania to Nepal, New Zealand to Uganda, Spain to Morocco. WWOOF also provides you with food and housing, with each farm varying on how much food they will provide for you, how many hours you work and how long your stay will be. Projects are diverse and can include many kinds of activities.
Some farms are looking for more experienced workers, while others are looking for eager students wanting to learn more about sustainability. What all the hosts have in common is that they are converting or practicing growing in ecologically beneficial methods (organically), providing hands-on experience and education for volunteers and providing clean and adequate accommodation and food during the volunteer’s stay. Some farms are attempting to use permaculture, which is a holistic approach to agriculture, where they take into account the “bigger picture” rather than focusing on particular profitable crops. In other words, these farms are trying to replicate relationships found in nature by analyzing and understanding the complex network of balance demonstrated in the natural world. In practicing agriculture this way, the environment is saved from being exploited. Regardless, if you are craving to get hands on experience with agriculture or to be proactive in your support for organically grown produce, WWOOF may be the perfect fit for you. It provides an unparalleled opportunity to meet experts, travel cheaply and be intimately in touch with the land, while contributing to the movement for organic farmers. For more information, go to the WWOOF website at www.wwoof.org.
Digging your hands in
All photos by Adam Wickham/Portland State Vanguard
PSU green all-stars!
A look at sustainable personalities on campus Robert Seitzinger Vanguard staff
Portland State has a rich history of being active and engaged with the sustainable community of its urban home. The City of Roses is internationally revered for its green consciousness, and PSU is a cornerstone of the environmental effort generated here. To put some names and faces to the sustainability efforts on campus, here are four people’s take on what it means to work at PSU, the sustainability community and their goals for the future.
All photos by Adam Wickham/Portland State Vanguard
Noelle Studer-Spevak, sustainability coordinator Since winter term 2008, Studer-Spevak has orchestrated efforts to improve and maintain the awareness of sustainable projects, operations and academics at PSU. She previously served as the sustainability coordinator for Portland Community College and said that she feels PSU is a great place for students interested in pursuing careers in sustainable industries. “The thing I really enjoy about Portland State students is that they have a chance to work on turning the campus into a place to learn analytical and leadership skills, get to participate in projects and groups that end up on their résumés,” Studer-Spevak said. “They make marvelous things happen and when they graduate, they’ll have done more than just memorize periodic tables and will be able to actually engage in their jobs.” She said student involvement and advocacy for green initiatives and projects at PSU is very encouraging to her as sustainability coordinator. Her goals for increasing sustainability awareness include recording and analyzing first-use data, switching to real-time meters for energy use by campus buildings and increasing the number of student positions focused on sustainability. Another goal she has is to realize the concept of a living lab at PSU, which would “bridge the operational and academic parts of the university.” “It’ll be great to see how PSU stacks up nationally,” Studer-Spevak said. “Students can look at a system and understand why it is working well, or see why it isn’t working and not repeat those mistakes. The cohesion of operations and students is the next frontier for PSU sustainability.”
Heather Spalding, sustainability leadership and outreach coordinator Spalding began as a student at PSU and has since filled various roles involving work for and with the student body. She was the ASPSU Senate pro tempore before starting as an assistant to Studer-Spevak, and she has since helped to turn the idea of a Web site dedicated to sustainability at PSU into a reality. The PSU EcoWiki (ecowiki.pdx.edu) is a hub of information about events, classes and volunteer opportunities for students. She said that working with the Environmental Club made her realize how willing students are to get involved and engage in projects both on campus and throughout the community. “Working with them for a year got me very interested in leadership, and so did being Noelle’s assistant for a year,” she said. “I was focused on adding sustainability to new student programs and orientation… and when this position opened up, I was very happy to take it.” Spalding’s position as sustainability leadership and outreach coordinator includes overseeing the Sustainability Leadership Center, which includes five student positions to promote green efforts on campus, she said. Her goals for this year include integrating sustainability with the curriculum, increasing branding for PSU sustainability and to continue hiring students to get involved with the SLC. “I like the attitude sustainable people have, that they’re open minded and want to include everyone,” she said. “I think PSU does a great job of defining what sustainability is and incorporating sustainability into daily practices, and that is very inspiring to me. The people here are motivated by really good intentions.”
Julia Fraser, graduate research assistant Fraser is pursuing a graduate degree in ecology culture and learning programs at PSU. She has worked in Multnomah County and the City of Portland as a sustainable purchaser, meaning she considers the ecological and long-term impact of how an organization spends money on goods and services. Currently, she is working to bring a green purchasing project to PSU, which would be housed in the Purchasing and Contracting Office. According to Fraser, the project will boost the amount of university funds spent on green-friendly projects and services. “We’ll be looking at how best to spend money in the interest of students,” Fraser said. “This will help integrate sustainable practices into purchasing decisions on campus.” She said the benefits of green purchasing will help boost sustainable practices both by current and future students, and that spending will also be dedicated to boosting the amount of classes that incorporate sustainable topics. “I’d like to see sustainability become more integrated into curriculum areas, in a way that means we’d learn about the world around us and not just have sustainability tacked onto other subjects,” Fraser said. “I think PSU is in a really great position to do that.” Her favorite part about working at PSU is how much it applies to her undergraduate studies, especially when it comes to creating and developing programs, which she said has been “a really great opportunity here.” “I’ve been able to use theories I’ve studied in this community, and it’s been a very good experience,” she said.
Kelly Larson, energy conservation outreach specialist Larson came to PSU as part of her work with AmeriCorps, a federal government program that provides jobs for the education, public service and environmental industries. She came to Portland after attending the University of Montana. “After college, I knew I wanted to join AmeriCorps and after applying for a variety of positions, I knew I was Portland bound,” Larson said. “My goal is to finish this term with AmeriCorps and have an enriched experience along the way through working in this community.” Larson has been involved with organizing on-campus initiatives, such as a competition between residents of the Broadway Housing Building to see which floor uses the least amount of energy, a concept she wants to spread to other campus buildings. She said coordinating with Residence Life made the competition possible and that she hopes other departments on campus will be as willing to reach out to students and decrease energy use campus wide. “[My favorite part has] definitely been the people and what I’ve learned from them,” she said. “They have been a very positive part of this experience.” Her goals for the future of PSU sustainability include creating more initiatives similar to the Broadway energy-reduction competition, in addition to “retrofitting facilities that aren’t as efficient as modern buildings and increasing involvement from both faculty and students to drive down carbon emissions overall.”
Compost it Turn your trash into dirt Richard D. Oxley Vanguard staff
Whether it is for the purpose of cutting down on garbage costs or simply being green, composting has become an urban trend. It’s not hard to understand why. Though a dirty job, it is perhaps the easiest action a person can take to be green. All you do is, well, throw stuff away. That’s it. Plant nurseries and gardening shops all over Portland will sell you dirt for a pretty penny. It’s good healthy soil, but some folks may scratch their heads at the thought of paying money for…dirt. The fact of the matter is, not all dirt is equal and some are better to grow plants in than others. For gardeners, good old-fashioned dirt is another reason to compost. Composting is basically taking most of the waste you would throw in your garbage can, putting it in a bin and turning it into soil. The resulting product can be used for natural fertilizer, landscaping material or just to simply cut down on the cost of waste management. It’s as easy as one, two, three. Step one: Get a compost bin. You can build your own by, well, building a box. It’s not rocket science—just put up four walls and a lid. Or you can purchase any number of bins currently on the market. This option might be more aesthetically pleasing for those who aren’t as gifted with a hammer and nails. One thing to keep in mind for any bin is to make sure that it is completely contained. Keep a lid firmly on the bin and be sure that your base is blocked— meaning, put down some tiles, bricks or cinder blocks to prevent burrowing pests from getting into your compost. You’re basically providing an all-you-can-eat
Don’t get wasted!
A look at how PSU has fared in five years of green competition Robert Seitzinger Vnguard staff
Every year, universities and colleges throughout the U.S. gear up to recycle more, waste less and promote sustainability on campus. It’s part of a national challenge called RecycleMania, a 10-week event that tracks the materials recycled and wasted by participating schools and ranks them to offer leading campuses bragging rights. In 2001, Miami University and Ohio University held a competition to see which campus could generate more recycled materials, and thus RecycleMania was born. By the 2009 event, more than 500 schools across the country were competing to recycle as much as possible, and several other categories of competition were added. Since 2006, Portland State has participated in various categories, most
All photos by Marni Cohen/Portland State Vanguard
buffet for the urban wildlife, so cutting them off is key. Step two: Toss your waste in. Once you have your bin, start throwing your waste into it. Just let it pile up. Once in a while, to speed things up, it helps to stir up the mix. This ensures that oxygen is getting into the compost. Use a shovel or pitch fork and move the mess around. Some compost bins for sale have a moveable feature allowing them to spin, roll or tumble. This really helps the dirt-making process along. Step three: Wait. Sit back and allow nature to take its course, turning your household’s waste into soil. After about a month to a year, you end up with a decent product. All that really happens at this point is the waste you put into your bin rots and decomposes. It would happen anyway, you are just isolating it for later use.
What can’t you compost?
What can you compost?
Remember, most compost can be used for planting or landscaping. You don’t want to put items into the mix that can break down and be harmful to your plants. Do not compost these items: -Dairy products such as butter or sour cream, or meat waste including fats and grease. These can attract pests—more so than your average pile of trash -Any yard waste treated with chemicals or yard waste that was diseased -Pet waste. Fido and Mittens might mean well, but their waste may have certain bacteria and other bad attributes that you won’t want in your compost -Glossy print paper. Sorry—your collection of National Geographic won’t help you here. Glossy paper contains too many chemicals to be used for composting
It’s surprising how many things you can compost: - Some cardboard - Paper - Coffee grounds - Dryer lint - Eggshells - Sawdust - Tea bags - Wool or cotton rags - Yard waste and grass clippings - Pet hair and fur - Fireplace ashes - Any organic material such as dead houseplants, banana peels, apple cores, old bread, nut shells, etc.
especially waste minimization—PSU finished fourth nationwide for that category in its first RecycleMania. The number of waste minimization entrants increased dramatically the next year, meaning that despite less waste generated per student during the 2007 event, PSU placed 13th out of 66 schools in that category. The story was similar in 2008: More schools meant tougher competition and facing smaller campuses that had an easier time engaging students in the challenge. Waste minimization grew to 95 schools and PSU finished 20th in that category, again despite generating less trash than during the two previous challenges. Last year, waste minimization by students again improved but the overall finish was lower because of another major increase in smaller campuses in the challenge. For example, the fifth week of competition in 2009 saw PSU students average 4.25 pounds of waste, down from 4.77 pounds per person during week five in 2008. By week five of this year’s challenge, students averaged 4.49 pounds of waste apiece. The increase in waste generated is small, but it also marks the first year that PSU is generating more waste on average than the previous year. According to the waste minimization results page on the Web site, 200 schools are participating in this year’s waste minimization category—meaning PSU is looking at a lower ranking than their 2009 finish. Noelle Studer-Spevak, sustainability coordinator, said one cause for the increase in waste is a decrease in promotion of RecycleMania this year. “There’s been very little going on to raise awareness—we didn’t have funding at the level that we did in previous years,” she said, referring to a Student Fee Committee cut of advertising funds for PSU Recycles!, the
group facilitating campus participation in RecycleMania. “They didn’t get any contract money yet either, and together that has meant less participation in RecycleMania.” She also points to the small campuses and overall number of entrants as reasons for the slippage in rankings. She said the numbers from this year’s challenge aren’t discouraging, because despite less promotion of RecycleMania this year, the amount of waste generated is still low. “Students are still participating, and now we’ll have to look at some other funding models for next year and try to increase participation,” she said. Here’s for hoping that PSU Recycles! gets more funding for next year and that PSU is able to return to its waste minimizing ways next year and that the spirit of friendly competition prevails on campus. Huzzah!
Another green challenge on campus In the competitive spirit of RecycleMania, and in an effort to promote sustainability among students residing on campus, the Broadway Housing Building is hosting a floor-by-floor challenge to see which one can use the least amount of energy as part of a friendly competition. Kelly Larson, energy conservation outreach specialist, collaborated with Residence Life to turn the idea of an energy competition into a reality, and she said the event could become a regular event for more residence halls on campus in years to come. “My office partnered with Res Life, and the RAs and LCAs [resident assistants and learning community assistants] have done a great job organizing outreach to student-residents,” Larson said. “We hope to organize this and similar challenges every year.”
Marni Cohen/Portland State Vanguard
Liana Shewey/Portland State Vanguard
Drew Martig/Portland State Vanguard
ASRC going green! Rec center makes a conscious effort towards sustainability Nilesh Tendolkar Vanguard staff
Over 20 years in the making, Portland State’s newest recreation facility opened its doors on Jan. 3 and is now open to all students. Since then, more than 30,000 Portland State students have passed through its doors to take advantage of the university’s newest recreation and fitness facility. The Vanguard ran a three-part series about Portland State’s new Academic and Student Rec Center in the month of January. However, what most students might not know is that there is an impressive array of sustainability features that have been incorporated in the ASRC.
Environmental historians discuss the value of looking back while moving forward Sharon E. Rhodes Vanguard staff
On March 9, the Friends of History and the Portland Center for Public Humanities hosted an Environmental History Forum at Portland State University. Dr. William Lang, a professor of history at PSU and the forum’s moderator, opened the evening by asking the forum’s three panelists how history “helps us think smarter” about sustainability. The panel consisted of three professors of environmental history: Dr. James Feldman from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, Dr. Nancy Langston from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Dr. William Cronon, also of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. According to Cronon, “sustainability” is a “remarkably recent addition to our general vocabulary.” In fact, the earliest entry in the Oxford English Dictionary for ‘sustainable’ in the modern, ecological sense occurred in 1972. Cronon said “sustainability” in this new sense incorporates “most of the old issues of environmentalism.” However, where ‘environmentalism’ concerned itself with the environment exclusively, ‘sustainability’ considers these concerns with reference to the “human future.” Sustainability “makes appeals to global self-interest, global altruism and global fear,” Cronon said. Yet, “values at the global scale are, arguably, the least powerful.” Cronon explained that powerful values are those for which people are willing to die to defend and therefore are “most effective at the local scale.”
The ASRC is one of the few Gold LEEDcertified buildings in the country. Student sustainability coordinator Jenny Grant said, “All new Oregon University System (OUS) buildings are required to meet at least the LEED Silver standards. Beyond the requirements from OUS, Campus Recreation is dedicated to sustainability. As our values state, we promote the link between recreation and sustainability.” The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system was designed by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage and facilitate the development of more sustainable buildings. The report is organized into five environmental categories as defined by LEED, including LEED Prerequisites and LEED Credits. “This building excels in both areas, and currently few universities are
building LEED certified recreation facilities. As far as I know, only a handful exist in the country! We really are helping lead the way,” Grant said. Some of the facilities in which the various sustainability features have been used include the pool benches, the climbing wall, the gym floors, the multi-purpose rooms, the gym-ventilation rooms, the daylight lighting and the laundry system. Grant said, “We have received a lot of positive feedback about our features, especially for things like the rainwater collection system. This is because there are signs in the bathrooms where we use rainwater for the toilets. There are other features not visible to the average user, like our UV filtration system in the swimming pool or the photovoltaic cells on the roof.” The benches in the natatorium are made out of ipe wood from South and Central America, which is durable and resistant to rot. The floor surface of the Nicros climbing wall is a Surface America PlayBound surface, which is made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled rubber from tires. Also, Nicros is an environmentally conscious company that follows the LEED Green Building Rating System. Two of the three gym floors are wood courts featuring Connor Forest Stewardship Council-certified maple wood floors. The multi-purpose rooms also feature council-certified wood from Connor flooring, and the multi-purpose rooms utilize natural lighting and operable windows to manage temperature. The gymnasium features a flexible system of manually operable windows, relief vents and paddle fans that allow building operators to take advantage of the natural air currents, thus minimizing the need to use mechanical heating and cooling
equipment. One of the strategies to reduce energy use is utilizing daylight lighting in offices, the pool and other areas of the building. This reduces the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours. The ASRC building uses 29 percent less energy than a comparable code compliant building. The elliptical machines are enabled with ReRev technology which helps generate electricity using the kinetic motion of the user. The outdoor program strives to be environmentally sustainable and follows the “leave no trace” policy on their outdoor trips. There is a provision to collect the rainwater from the roof and use it for plumbing and fire sprinkler systems, which has made the water distribution system 85 percent more efficient. “Personally, I think the heating-cooling pump is pretty awesome. It was a system they put into the old PCAT building to draw up cold water from the aquifer and used to cool down the building. When the ASRC was being built, they just modified the pump so that it returns the water to the aquifer after it is used,” Grant said. All students taking one credit or more are automatically members and just need to show their photo on a PSU OneCard to access the new facilities, equipment and classes. Though student memberships to the ASRC are included in tuition and fees, alumni, faculty and staff can purchase memberships. Spouse and guest memberships are also available, and more information on pricing and payment options is available at campusrec.pdx.edu or by calling 503-725-5127. Sustainability tours are offered by appointment only. E-mail campusrec@ pdx.edu to request a sustainability tour. For groups larger than eight people, fill out the group tour request found at www.pdx.edu/recreation/campus-rec-tours.
Sustainability: Not a new phenomenon There is “no better poster-child” for sustainability than Portland, Feldman said. However, what works in Portland and what motivates the people of Portland will not necessarily work elsewhere or motivate other groups. According to Langston, the value of history in the sustainability movement is history’s ability to teach us “how to bring about resiliency” and not “collapse like lots of societies in the past.” For instance, Langston said, one way in which history can help “is paying attention to the lives of those people who came to new places” and adapted to the new resource constraints. “The importance of narrative emerges as a key theme” in sustainability, Feldman said. Narratives “teach us how to monitor land use,” population, etc. In researching her recent (2010) book, Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES, Langston said she encountered a lot of grief from people who, in trying to protect their children with breast milk, poisoned them because the toxicity of their environment had made the women’s bodies toxic. However, Langston said, “though we’ve made our bodies into toxic waste sites” the water, even in Green Bay, one of the most toxic areas in North America, is much better than it was in the 1960s.
According to Feldman, history “helps us make sustainability a big idea” and move away from prescriptivism, such as telling people, “You shouldn’t drink water from a bottle” and toward what he called “an avenue of inquiry” wherein we look at the larger picture. Feldman said history allows us to produce narratives about the ways, positive and negative, peoples’ actions have affected the environment, the economy and the degree of social equity (the three Es of sustainability) over time. After summing up Langston’s new book, Toxic Bodies, as “how our attempts to save nature hurt it,” Feldman said, “there isn’t an alternative energy source that comes without a cost.” For instance, mining and shipping uranium for nuclear power plants require fossil fuels and wind turbines, when placed too near homes, create a shadow flicker that can cause headaches and nausea (think of the flick of a badly placed ceiling fan, but momentarily cutting off all daylight). In answer to an audience member’s question about Jared Diamond, the author of Guns, Germs & Steel and Collapse, Langston said, “we need to move beyond it”—the way society can collapse is not as useful as the way society can continue. However, Langston praised Diamond’s work for “giving us an opportunity to talk
about all the ways that Diamond is wrong.” The product of books like Diamond’s Collapse, “despair and fear, are remarkably ineffective political motivators,” Feldman said. History, however, can help us “learn the narrative of hope.” Feldman said, “people need to feel good” and environmentalism has not always been hopeful. In fact, Lang added that one of the challenges of environmental history has been figuring out how to keep students from jumping off of a bridge after class. According to Langston, hopeful narratives emerge from “stories of people who do adapt” when resources they thought might be infinite begin to run out. Innovation too can be hopeful in its “awful wonderfulness,” Cronon said. The steam engine, for instance, did remarkable things for economies and the transportation of people and information, yet they are dirty, loud and can easily kill whatever strays into their path. Most important, Cronon said, is that “sometimes we’re going to get it wrong, but that doesn’t mean we should stop talking.” Sustainability is “absorbing change, managing to persist without sucking resources dry or dumping toxic waste,” Langston said. And, according to Feldman, “one of the fundamental lessons of history is that everything is always changing.”