Fifth annual Social Sustainability Month kicks off

Portland State will kick off the fifth annual Social Sustainability Month, starting Oct. 20 and running through Nov. 21. Social Sustainability Month is a collaboration of multiple programs on campus, striving to use communication to build a more sustainable community. Campus Sustainability Day on Oct. 22 will usher in the month of community events.

Events on Campus Sustainability Day include an ethnobotanical service project on the Oak Savanna at PSU, a Shop for Free program for students with children and a speech by Winona LaDuke, an advocate for social justice work and food justice work. More events that promote social sustainability will take place throughout the month.

“We’re trying to promote sustainable activities on campus where students can get involved,” said Kevin Thomas, cultural sustainability coordinator and graduate student in the urban studies program at PSU. “Right now, [PSU] is the only campus in the country to have a Social Sustainability Month, so everything we do here is kind of new and cutting edge.”

Campus Sustainability Day begins with the Reduce, Reuse, Recaffeinate event in an example effort to reconnect with more people in the community.

“We’ll be handing out free coffee for students who bring their own mugs, and for students who don’t have their own mug, we’ll have mugs available through our ReUse Room,” said Laura Gleim, communications coordinator at the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at PSU.

“We want to highlight a holistic perspective of sustainability and hopefully tie in to campus events, like Portland State of Mind and Social Sustainability Month, to bring greater awareness,” said Heather Spalding, the sustainable leadership and outreach coordinator.

Communication is key when in social sustainability. Thomas said PSU has made efforts to work with other schools, partnering on programs with Portland Community College, as well as Oregon State University and Chemeketa Community College.

“We’re focusing on breaking down barriers to a collaborative community,” Thomas said.

“With sustainability, there’s environmental, economic and social. Most people know the environment. You can see it. Economic, you can count it. But how do you quantify social sustainability? Because it’s nice if you have green roofs on the buildings, but if the people working inside the buildings are miserable, it’s not sustainable,” Thomas said. “It’s a quality of life issue, which is very important and very difficult to quantify and measure.”

Spalding said students interested in sustainability have many opportunities at PSU.

“We do a lot to promote sustainability. From academics to research operations to student engagement,” Spalding said. “I think we’re working through all of those different lenses for sustainability.

“For myself, I can say I think we need to work on highlighting diversity in sustainability and ensuring we’re getting a lot of different perspectives,” Spalding said. “I think there are a lot of different approaches to the sustainability challenges that we face, and so the more broad and the more representative we are, the more successful we’re going to be.”

More information on Campus Sustainability Day, Social Sustainability Month, and other sustainability events can be found at