How eco-friendly is Portland State?

“Neighborhoods and Watersheds,” a senior capstone class at Portland State University, gathered in the Urban Center Building, and kick started a train of thought among the Portland community to consider more eco-friendly measures to control the university’s storm water channels and utility rates.

Professor Barry Messer’s class spent six weeks researching ideas for generating feasibility analysis and suggestions for reducing Portland State’s storm water channeling into the Willamette River, controlling the commercial utility rate of $70,000 per year paid to the city and creating an ecological and “green” campus.

Messer expressed his appreciation to PSU’s Facilities Department and the Bureau of Environmental Services for their cooperation in partnering with the class.

The extensive and condensed project included gaining an understanding of the city’s programming, auditing the campus for its measurements and locality, calculating geographical surfaces on campus and conceptualizing ways of improving the campus into a “green haven.”

Alex Clark, a participating student, described the project as having an “environmental aspect” to improving the existing campus into an aesthetically pleasing ecological garden where students and faculty would feel compelled to “hang out.”

He described the course as having contained a Public Relations context where students focused on attempting to “project a hospitable and green image” of the current campus.

Using the Park Blocks as a divider, the class was split up into two groups. This was done keeping in mind the limited six weeks at their disposal.

Students presented suggestions and evidence at the class presentation, which was attended by Portland State’s Sustainability Coordinator Michele Crim and representatives from the City of Portland among others.

Some of the suggestions include hanging planter systems for the skyways, flow-through planter boxes for the Urban Plaza fountains and eco-friendly roofs for Smith Memorial Center, Neuberger Hall, Cramer Hall and Lincoln Hall.

Students identified several barriers toward this improvement project including a lack of maintaining an aesthetic look on campus, resistance to active “green thinking,” availability of product vendors and continuing prioritization of school resources such as computer technology over “green expenses.”

In response to the student’s work, Crim emphasized the ideas were novel and warranted further thought and research. Describing students as having an advantage with their unique ability to come up with new and creative ideas over “professionals,” she said she “loved their ideas” and described them as the quintessential “simple-fixes.”

She said “the aesthetic aspect is exciting feedback from students” and hoped her involvement with the class would encourage students’ interest in environmental issues on campus.

Messer described the students’ suggestions as “common sense” and admitted while they were not attempting to start a revolution immediately; their main aim was to catch the attention of the community and kick start a revolution of ideas, which in turn could change into action in the future.

He agreed the proposals carried a relative short-term cost but would be beneficial in the long-term. He envisioned a campus with gardens and flower pots which he said had not crossed the minds of many people.

Renovation of older buildings to incorporate some of the classes ideas would be considerable, however newer buildings include some of these designs and should be given serious consideration.

Describing the class as having been “fun,” Messer emphasized his main aim was to create awareness on campus and in the local community to pave the way for the ecologically sound campus he envisioned.