LC sustainability recognized

Photo Courtesy of Morgan Fries

FOR THE FIFTH year in a row, Lewis & Clark has been named in Sierra magazine’s top “Cool Schools” list, which honors America’s greenest colleges and universities. At number 16 out of the top 20, LC is the only private school in Oregon to be included.

Some of the programs the Sierra Club includes in this ranking are peer-to-peer sustainability educator program, sustainability outreach and publications, outdoor program, sustainability courses, percentage of existing building space certified as sustainable, vegan options, LED lighting, electronic-waste recycling program and positive sustainability investments.

According to Director of Sustainability Amy Dvorak, LC undergraduate students purchase renewable energy certificates and greenhouse gas offsets as part of LC’s ‘carbon neutral’ initiative. LC also organically-manages landscape areas, locally sourced

food, electric vehicle charging and a green cleaning program, among many more environmental sustainable actions.

Dvorak says that LC is always trying to improve its green practices.

“I think this year we would like to expand our community-building programs,” Dvorak said. “We are also working on a Tree Campus USA certification program which will incorporate students and faculty. I am hoping we can provide more opportunities for students to participate in internship or experiential learning programs [and] activities.”

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies (ENVS) Jessica Kleiss is continually impressed with the passion and academic determination that LC students bring to their scholarship in ENVS.

“Our program guides students to consider actions, such as our campus sustainability practices, across a broad range of scales,” Kleiss said. “Campus sustainability practices are an intriguing amalgamation of our current paradigm of environmental stewardship and our current technological and horticultural abilities. It begs a very interesting question: how do solutions devised at the campus scale, such as campus sustainability, change in nature when they are scaled up to the city, country, or international level?”

LC uses the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) in order to measure and collect data on several elements of sustainability. STARS is a manifest, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.  various ranking systems, such as the Princeton Review and the Sierra Club’s Cool School’s List, use this data and score schools based on their own weighing of what is important. Thus, LC may receive a different sustainability ranking depending on who is publishing the ranking.

Some LC students have been conducting ENVS research with Jim Proctor, Head of the LC ENVS program, and Dustin Mulvaney, a professor at San Jose State University.  The LC students working on this project are Kori Groenveld ’18, Alexander Groher-Jick ’18 and Blake Slattengren ’18.

They are focusing on the education students receive in institutions of higher education.  According to Groenveld, approximately 20 million people are in college right now.  Although many college students are living an environmentally friendly life, this is a very small percentage of the American population.  Furthermore, these practices usually end when students graduate. They presented their research on this at the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences Conference (AESS) in Washington, DC this past June.

Groenveld enjoys this work because she cares about our nation and our generation’s response to the problem of climate change.

“Education is a huge tool that we have yet to utilize properly in this response, and I believe sustainability on college campuses is a component of this,” Groenveld said. “In addition to independent research credits and the opportunity to work closely with Jim, Dustin, and other college campus officials around the country, we gained a lot of networking and career opportunities, as well as the feeling of being a part of a developing, relevant conversation, through presenting at the AESS conference.”

According to Slattengren, LC has engaged in many actions to promote sustainability on campus, such as the Green Fee Fund and diversity and inclusion efforts. Together, everything helps contribute to a better future for our school.

“We [still] hope to see changes in the future,” Slattengren said. “One thing we are currently working on with Dvorak is how to increase transparency in our sustainability efforts and create conversation around what is and isn’t being done. We would also love to see more internally focused sustainability goals.  Other issues include LC’s endowment and struggle for financial sustainability as well as our diversity and inclusion efforts, which, while being improved, have a way to go before being sustainable as we define it.”  

Director of Environmental Studies Elizabeth Safran thinks one of the practices that LC has to contribute is thinking creatively about sustainability itself.

“[On one hand, sustainability is] all good things environmentally,” Safran said. “On the other hand, it gets applied in a narrow way—such as do we have gardens on campus? One thing we try to do in the ENVS program is to get people to think critically about what they mean by sustainability and what is and isn’t included in it. [In other words,] what is it that we are talking about sustaining?”

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