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Dispatches from a future sustainable society

Starting around the turn to the 21st century, colleges and universities from coast to coast began to get seriously about sustainability. Carleton College in Minnesota installed wind turbines to replace nearly one-half of its fossil fuel-based energy sources. Seven years ago, Middlebury College in Vermont reached carbon neutrality, while also diverting 65 percent of its materials from landfills, including food waste to feed pigs at local farms.

   While Pacific University has not invested the same attention to far-reaching sustainability, it has taken decided steps over the past several years towards more sustainable practices and awareness.

   In an interview with The Pacific Index, Professor Ramona Ilea discussed the goals for the Center for a Sustainable Society (CSS), where she also serves as the Director, perhaps most recently and most visibly a “free store,” which is now open at Drake House and includes various useful, recycled items; a practice that helps divert items from the landfill while simultaneously reducing the need for new items to be manufactured. The CCS also has promoted biking and sustainable transportation, including doing a bike challenge last year. Ilea elaborated that, “we would like to do [the bike challenge] again, but have more participation.”

   Also, she says, they “have promoted vegan and vegetarian diets and plant-based food options.” The CSS is “trying to reduce waste at Pacific by helping people learn how to recycle, upcycle, and repurpose items.” They have a team dedicated to composting, but the scope of the program is far from being able to handle all of the potentially compostable food from the Pacific Café.

 “In general,” Ilea said, “people are much more concerned about sustainability now than they were a few years ago, certainly a lot more than when I came to Pacific.” However, she continued, “I definitely think that we can do more in a variety of different ways.”

   “Certainly, if Pacific was fully committed to sustainability and wanted to do more to support it,” she explained, “they would hire a full-time director or they would give me and other students more money and more time.”

   Other sustainability efforts on campus may be less obvious, like maintaining the healthy ecosystem and tree canopy, a task that falls to Cindy Schuppert, the Director of Facilities Management and Campus Public Safety, who manages multiple projects aimed at assessing and supporting the health of trees on campus. “In April of 2021,” she explains, “I did spend a significant amount of money to do a deep root feeding of the White Oaks on Campus after a tree root investigation in January and a full campus tree assessment in February of 2021.”

   This was followed by “annual assessments of our trees” done regularly with the aid of Pacific’s landscaping company and a tree service company which helps to identify issues with the trees and works to sustain them. For instance, “In September of 2022 we were ahead of most people in identifying the Emerald Ash Borer [an invasive insect] and treating all of our ash trees on campus,” Schuppert said. Additionally, this group has “done everything from removal of dangerous or unhealthy trees to significant trimming and cabling.”    Pacific’s CSS and Facilities Department are not the only organizations that are mindful of sustainability in the Forest Grove area. Some companies in Forest Grove have made efforts to further sustainable resource management. For instance, the Forest Grove Light and Power Department, which works to sustain the electricity of the city, has a program where participants can obtain “an incentive of $500 to purchase an electric vehicle (EV) 240-volt Level 2 charger. The incentive applies to all prior and future purchasers of Level 2 chargers,” according to their page on the Forest Grove official website forestgrove-or.gov. Additionally, the Forest Grove Parks and Recreation Department works to maintain healthy flora in the city parks. — Troy Pigman


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