Sustainable efforts

With an increased effort to recycle, reduce waste, spread information and examine Portland State’s consumption of utilities, it has been a significant year for sustainability on campus.

With an increased effort to recycle, reduce waste, spread information and examine Portland State’s consumption of utilities, it has been a significant year for sustainability on campus.

Noelle Studer, who took over as campus sustainability coordinator in February, said her office has accomplished a great deal this year in the push to make PSU greener. PSU significantly decreased the amount of waste it produced during the 10-week national recycling competition, RecycleMania. It took a critical look at its water consumption. It worked to spread knowledge to students about living sustainably.

But, she said, there is still more to do to be a truly green campus.

“So many students are unaware that we are actually doing some really great things on campus,” Studer said.

It will take a serious culture shift in order to change the behavior that is routine for so many on campus, Studer said. This means educating students, holding open forums and making going green a fun and cool thing to do.

Striving to be more sustainable

Last fall, the Sustainability Office told the Vanguard about a number of plans it had for this year. Some plans were accomplished, and others were put on the backburner.

One of the major plans was to examine PSU’s water systems and look for funding to create an automated system that would track water usage, according to Scott DeSelle, who worked as the interim sustainability coordinator before Studer was hired.

While no fully automated tracking system has been created, Studer said, a capstone student did a major water audit at PSU. After working with the Portland Water Bureau, and looking at all of the 79 water meters on campus, they found that PSU’s 2006-07 water consumption was comparable to its use in 2000-01–despite increased enrollment.

The Sustainability Office and PSU have accomplished many other things recently as well.

Along with the governor’s mandate that all newly built and remodeled state buildings achieve a silver rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (the rating for sustainable systems), efforts are being made to achieve the much more difficult gold status wherever possible, Studer said.

Right now, the new student recreation center is on the verge of achieving the gold standard, and she said meetings are going to be held to try to make that a reality.

In RecycleMania, Portland State improved in its waste consumption, ranking 20th out of the 95 schools that participated in the Waste Minimization category of the competition. Per week, PSU produced an average of 4.59 pounds of trash generated per person–down from 6.05 pounds in 2007.

There are also a number of under-the-radar efforts made to make PSU sustainable, Studer said, including the push to achieve 100 percent use of renewable energy by 2010. The current amount of renewable energy used is 20 percent and should hit 50 percent next year.

The campus also now uses environmentally safe janitorial products made by Coastwide Laboratories and purchases 100-percent recycled toilet paper and paper towels.

Spreading the green word

In order to spread the word about these efforts, the Sustainability Office will hold the third in a series of Student Fee Committee-funded open sustainability forums next Thursday at 1 p.m. in Smith Memorial Student Union, room 327. The forums are designed to gather input on the sustainability-focused agenda items the campus should take on next year.

“It’s really up to students to figure out what they want to do,” Studer said.

While the campus has undertaken many tangible things to become more sustainable, there are efforts underway to increase knowledge about sustainability on campus.

Studer said she would like to see a network of experts with knowledge about sustainability throughout the university, who would be point people that students and others could go to with questions about recycling and other green practices. The goal, she said, is to decentralize the sustainability leadership on campus.

On May 23, the newly formed Sustainability Advisory Council will meet. This is the first time since 2002 that PSU has had a university-wide group of people look at sustainability, according to Studer. It is co-chaired by Mark Gregory, associate vice president for strategic planning, partnerships and technology in finance and administration, and Jennifer Allen, associate director of the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices.

In addition, Studer said, plans are in the works to create an online “dashboard” that would provide data on PSU’s current usages of water, energy and food, in an effort to be more transparent and inform the community about the campus’ sustainable practices.

With summer set aside for planning next year’s sustainability agenda, Studer said the path to make PSU more green is constantly underway.

“This is a long, uphill path, and it’s just about continuous improvement,” she said.