LC lacks commitment to sustainable living

Illustration by Raya Deussen

By Riley Hanna

Lewis & Clark is regarded as a very environmentally sustainable institution. The 2015 Princeton Review rated LC as the nation’s number one green school, and the Sierra Club rated LC as No. 17 on its Cool Schools list, receiving 759.18 out of a possible 1000 points. While LC does a lot of things right, the school is nowhere near perfect in terms of sustainability, and improvements need to be made in the future.

One particular problem LC has is the amount of water used for landscaping, as according to Facilities Services, over 33,000 gallons of water were used last year. Michel George, the Associate Vice President for Facilities, explained how Facilities Services tries to reduce water usage.

“We try to minimize the amount of water we use in landscaping,” George said. “As we develop new areas we try to do xeriscape (drought-friendly landscaping), so they don’t take a lot of water and they work with the existing plants. Quite often in those green landscapes, you have to irrigate them for the plants to get started for the first couple years, so we put in temporary irrigation.”

Additionally, a computer system is in place which monitors the soil and only turns on the irrigation system when absolutely necessary. Facilities Services staff frequently check the angles of the sprinkler heads to ensure that the water is getting to the grass instead of the pavement.

Since grass on campus requires the most irrigation, Facilities Services is looking at replacing it with other native species which require less water.

“We’re looking at minimizing the amount of grass we have on campus, it really is a monoculture,” George said. “It’s not good and we have to maintain it and cut it. As we move through our landscaping plans we’re looking at what we can replace the grass with so we don’t have to cut it, we don’t have the monoculture, and we don’t have to water it.”

Another major problem at LC, according to Director of Sustainability Amy Dvorak, is transportation.

“Our transportation here is really difficult, primarily because of our location, also because of some of the limitations we have on us,” Dvorak said. “Trying to get up here by anything other than a single occupancy vehicle is really difficult from any other place in the city. We are limited in how much parking we can provide, we are limited in how much Trimet service we have, it’s hard to bike up here, it’s hard to walk here, it’s all difficult.”

The organization Students Engaged in Eco Defense (SEED) has proposed a solution for this issue. SEED is currently trying to bring the Waze carpooling app to campus, so commuting students will have a way to connect with each other easier. Evelyn Hunsberger ’19, a member of SEED, expressed that the group is going to need the support of the entire student body for the project to succeed.

“When that comes to campus, we’ll need everyone involved in that,” Hunsberger said. “Carpooling apps don’t work unless everyone uses them.”

A more recent problem LC has faced is improper recycling, due to China’s new ban on foreign waste that has left the US waste system in turmoil. Ryan Jensen, the General Manager at Bon Appetit, expressed that this recent change has impacted how non-food waste is handled.

“Non-food waste that can be recycled is diverted, but due to the closure of China as a resource for recycling, the list of items we can prevent from heading to the landfill has been dramatically reduced,” said Jensen.

Not only have the recent global changes negatively impacted our recycling system, but many students do not recycle properly. Dani Witt ’19, a member of SEED, elaborated on this.

“Recycling rules vary a lot city by city, and as most Lewis & Clark students are not from Portland, they bring a lot of misconceptions with them about what can be recycled in Portland based on what can be recycled in the city they grew up in,” Witt said.

Both SEED and the Office of Sustainability are working to educate LC students and staff on how to properly recycle. It is our responsibility to listen and learn in order to lessen our carbon footprint.

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