Serious about sustainability

Dresden Skees-Gregory is in her third week as the new sustainability coordinator of Portland State and already she has more than a full plate of projects.

Skees-Gregory succeeds Michele Crim, who joined the city’s office of sustainability development and still works on sustainability projects with PSU.

Some people have trouble defining what “sustainability” is, but Skees-Gregory has no trouble pinning down her version.

“I think of sustainability as learning to live more in harmony with nature and each other. The best way is to mimic what nature does. We have examples from other species on how to survive for the millennia,” she said.

Sustainability can also learn from other cultures, both modern and ancient, she added.

Skees-Gregory holds a bachelor’s in environmental science from Texas Christian University and a master’s in environmental science and engineering from the Oregon Graduate Institute.

She came from private environmental compliance work for Xerox, Fujitsu and Hyundai, all in Oregon.

Associate Director of Facilities Robyn Pierce said, “We’re excited to have Dresden working for us.”

Skees-Gregory sees the Portland State position as an opportunity to become involved in practical sustainability projects, in contrast to her corporate experience, which she said frequently consisted of filling out forms.

She said her predecessor laid good groundwork for a university sustainability program, emphasizing recycling and getting involved in “green building.”

However, Skees-Gregory said, “There is so much that can be done. There’s still plenty to do.”

The biggest project in the making is the hydrogen fuel cell to be installed behind the Ondine. Power from the cell will heat water and provide electricity for the Ondine. The 50-kilowatt cell came free through the Environmental Protection Agency. The university is applying for a grant of $20,000 from the city to install the cell, which will require pouring a concrete base. If all goes according to plan, the cell will be in place by the end of summer.

She sees an assortment of other projects on the horizon. One current priority is to put solar panels on the roof of Cramer Hall. The design is finished. The goal now is to find the funds to finish the installation.

Skees-Gregory says she is getting much enthusiasm for sustainability both from the facilities side and the academic side.

“Everyone’s got ideas,” she said. “It’s good that people care about this. It’s a priority and everyone’s interested in it.”