Portland on Foot

By Erika Nelson

When I chose to attend PSU, I knew I wanted to live on (or close to) campus.  Proximity to classes and university resources aside, living in the midst of a major metropolitan city famed for its public transportation would mean I could forgo the expenses that come with having a car.

Now that I live in student housing, I walk 95% of the time. Before last year, I’d lived in suburbs my whole life, and was lucky enough to have a car (or access to someone who did) for my daily transportation. The first few weeks I lived in Portland required a huge adjustment to my lifestyle and habits. For example, walking home in the rain carrying bulging Safeway bags taught me to pare down my weekly grocery list to the essentials so I would only need one reusable bag, allowing my other hand free for an umbrella.

There are times I wish I still had a car, like when I want to go somewhere more than a few miles away, or when the weather is extreme. However, there are definite benefits to relying on my own two legs. Walking allows me to experience parts of Portland that would be hard to do from a car, like when I pass quirky shops or snap pictures of public art. My health has improved from being more active. I’ve been able to save money on gas, maintenance, and parking passes. Road rage and driving-related stress is nonexistent. Best of all: on any given day, I see a minimum of a half-dozen dogs being walked, and sometimes their owners let me interact with them! It’s times like these when I’m glad I got rid of my car and can focus on the simple things going on around me.

Living the Dream

By: Sharon Nellist

10258891_10101685513754293_6293913161816303566_oOne of my favorite things about Portland State University is how we are incredibly diverse. I have had the opportunity to meet so many new people from all sorts of backgrounds. I have been exposed to various cultures by those interactions right in my PSU backyard.

January 18 was no different than my past experience with diversity, except in one major way. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), Oregon Campus Compact, hosted over 400 students from PSU and six other local colleges and universities to come together in unity and love. Our goal was to serve and prove that we are not just dreamers, but if we believe then the DREAM will become a reality.

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Coffee’d up and ready to serve!

We served 14 community sites throughout East Portland and Gresham, logged 1,428 hours of service, and made an economic impact of $32,944.

I was privileged to lead a small group of students and AmeriCorps volunteers to serve the Dharma Rain Zen Center on their 14-acre former landfill site in Northeast Portland. In those four short hours it did not matter what school we came from, or what homework we needed to do when we returned; we put ourselves aside and focused on them. We were weeding around bare fruit trees, towing wheelbarrows of mulch downhill, and trying to avoid being poked by blackberry bushes while removing them. And even though we may not see a huge impact from our service at that moment, like the bare trees, we know that the fruits of our labor will be noticed with time and more love.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: “What are you doing for others?”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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At the Dharma Rain Zen Center

 

The Power of Orange

By Olivia Clarke

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On my bedroom curtain, secured with a safety pin, is a little square of orange fabric. I got the square when I attended PSU’s Sustainability Celebration last spring – in return for my signature on a Divest PSU petition, I received this piece of fabric as a symbol of my support for rethinking the university’s investments.

Divestment aims to deny financial resources to governments and industries that are viewed as harmful or unjust. While the hot-button divestment issue for the previous generation was South African apartheid, the current topic of concern among universities across the nation is the environment: specifically, the fossil fuel companies that are hurting it (and that receive financial support from our school every year). The Divest PSU campaign began in 2014, and it seems to be gaining momentum. Divest PSU holds weekly meetings, and those orange squares are getting more recognition around campus.

As a sustainability-minded student, I have high hopes for this campaign: I know how hard some people work to lead sustainable lifestyles, but the environment can’t be saved by our personal choices alone. Even if I carpool and recycle, my impact pales in comparison to the financial influence of my school and other universities around the country. For this reason, I support the Divest PSU organizers who are using their power as students to speak up for a more ethical PSU that stays true to its environmental values. After all, our logo isn’t green for nothing.

Confessions of an Urban Gardener

By Olivia Clarke

me

I first ventured into the PSU Community Garden last June, and I’ve been managing the Honors plot ever since. Thus far I’ve harvested strawberries, tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers, among other homegrown goodies.

The Community Garden is a great opportunity for PSU residents to make sustainable food choices and build community. However, I’ve encountered some downsides to having a vegetable garden on a college campus. Most residents leave for the summer, which happens to be an extremely important season for gardening. Plots get hopelessly overgrown during this season, and work that is put into the garden during the academic year is often wasted. Security issues have led to the installation of a lock, which puts a damper on the “community” vibe. I’ve also known some of my vegetables and bricks to go missing, and some plots even include homemade signs that read, “Please stop stealing our vegetables!” I find this lack of trust unfortunate in a community space.

Yet even considering these drawbacks and annoyances, I wouldn’t want to see the space used for any other purpose. Sure, college students might not be the most consistent or reliable gardeners, and the lock and the occasional theft can be irritating. The commitment to maintaining the communal spaces in the garden could definitely be higher. But for those of us who maintain our plots on a daily basis, gardening is a refreshing and rewarding addition to our college experience. It keeps us close to the earth, and it ensures that we know where our food is coming from. And what can I say? Those cherry tomatoes are delicious.

If you’d like to have your own plot in the Community Garden, just sign up here!

The Miserable but Hopeful Hiker

By Olivia Clarke

When Smepring Break rolled around, my friend and I decided to go backpacking in the Columbia Gorge. We arrived at the trailhead around noon, and from there we hiked up…and up…and up.

It was an unpleasant trip. The weather was cold and wet. Our gear got soaked. Our hands went numb. The trail was brutally steep. By the next day I was so sore I could hardly move. Despite all this misery, though, when we returned home we were laughing and exhilarated, and we hoped to go camping again soon. That’s the strange paradox of hiking: terrible discomfort, followed by a desire to repeat the experience.

I suspect this phenomenon must have something to do with nature. As a person who “enjoys” hiking, I believe that now and then I need to shiver in the mountains in order to remember my place. On the slopes and in the forests, we feel small. The vastness and the harshness of the wilderness still have the power to humble us. This is important in an age when we huddle in cities, dreading the inevitability of climate change. When I think of the environmental destruction taking place every day, I often feel hopeless and resigned. On backpacking trips, however, when I see all the trees and the wildflowers and I breathe in that crisp northwestern air, I realize how much life and power remains in our resilient wilderness. I keep returning to the trail because when I see all that’s left to save, I feel an unmistakable rush of hope.

Let’s Talk Trash

By Brooke Horn

Brooke Horn

Lauren Singer’s green philosophy is pretty simple: produce as little waste as possible by making smart, sustainable lifestyle choices. As a whole, our society subscribes to the disposable model. We have disposable plastic ware, drink cups, water bottles, napkins, food wrappers, product packaging… the list is seemingly endless. Generating no trash might seem like an impossibility but, as Lauren shows us, we can get pretty darn close.

I discovered Lauren through this EcoWatch article last week and became really intrigued by the concept of zero-waste living. Amazingly, almost all of the trash she’s collected over two years fits in a single mason jar. Her blog, Trash is for Tossers, provides tons of useful information on how she pulls her zero-waste lifestyle off. After doing a lot of research and taking a good, hard look at my own habits, I’ve decided to follow Lauren’s lead and implement some changes in my own lifestyle.

While I don’t think that I’m ready to transition to zero-waste, I DO want to transition to zero-plastic (or as close as I can get). Plastics have been shown to leach toxins into food, and while they can be reused, they don’t decompose like other materials. Does this mean immediately disposing of all plastics in my household? No, and it shouldn’t. Throwing away these items would only ADD to the problem.

My dreaded Tupperware shelf... I plan on replacing all of that plastic with more sustainable containers.

My dreaded Tupperware shelf… I plan on replacing all of that plastic with more sustainable containers.

Instead, I plan on gradually replacing my plastic items with glass, wood, or stainless steel equivalents (which you can find here, or even at your local thrift shop). The plastic items can either be donated or recycled as I exchange them. And while I’m generally pretty good about bringing a reusable water bottle and canvas shopping bags with me wherever I go, I’d like to go one step further. By using linen bags like these when I purchase produce and bulk items, I eliminate most plastics from my shopping routine. BAM. No more plastic bags, no more plastic Tupperware. One step closer to zero-plastic and zero-waste.

For tips on how you can live a more sustainable lifestyle on campus, check out PSU’s own Green Campus Living. The blogs Project Green Dorm, Zero Waste Home, and, of course, Trash is for Tossers are also really great resources. Wish me luck on my journey to zero-plastic! Feel free to share your own tips, recipes, resources, and ideas in the comments below.

Chirp, Chirp, Squawk: Rediscovering Nature in the City

By Olivia Clarke

“Look!” my classmate said excitedly, pointing up into a tree in the Montgomery courtyard. “A crow!”

We were on a bird-watching field trip for our urban ecology class, led by a member of the Audubon Society. Our guide had arrived in our classroom thirty minutes earlier to give us an overview of Portland’s bird species. Then he led us outside to observe the ornithology of the campus. Our inner birders awakened, we announced each sighting with greater enthusiasm. We gleefully identified “Rock Pigeons” and “Glaucous-winged Gulls” as if they were rare and exotic specimens.

After a steep hike into the hills south of campus, we reached a clearing where we could look out over the entire city to glimpse Hood, Adams, and St. Helens in the distance. Our guide called us over to a tree to train our binoculars on a little black bird with bright red eyes and wings to match. “Ooh,” we all crooned.

We tend to think of ourselves as separate from nature, especially here in the city – “urban” and “wildlife” seem like contradictory terms. But if that disconnect were real, I don’t think my classmates and I would have found ourselves huddled together to admire a Spotted Towhee against a mingled backdrop of buildings and mountains.

Nature is persistent. We forget that it sings songs around us constantly, even in the middle of Portland. I hear these songs chirped and squawked around campus all the time, now that I’ve adjusted my ears.

On Courage and the Humble Compost Pail

By Olivia Clarke

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If I stick my head out of my apartment window, I can see that the ground is littered with discarded food: two whole onions, yellow peppers, decomposing noodles. Someone above me has been tossing this stuff out of the window all year. Each time we notice new scraps, my roommate and I look vaguely upward and shake our fists: “How irresponsible!”

Next to that kitchen window sits my new compost pail. Like many students who live on campus, I returned from a final exam last term to find it sitting on my counter, shiny and expectant. It has a convenient handle, and an eye-catching label with instructions that read, “In: coffee grounds, soiled napkins, veggie scraps. Out: liquids, Styrofoam, all plastics.” The pail is straightforward and easy to use. And the thing is, I know that Food Tosser above me has one too. Yet he or she continues to chuck food into the dirt.

But maybe that’s what makes the compost pail so special. The folks at the Campus Sustainability Office know what they’re up against when they try to encourage change: old habits, laziness, lack of understanding. They know plenty of students think composting is gross, and would much sooner throw their scraps in the garbage – or out the window – and forget about them. Nonetheless, here are these compost pails. Stationed in each housing unit on West Campus, they remind me of brave little soldiers, perpetuating Portland’s relentless environmental spirit in the face of all obstacles.

Where is your next destination?

What if you had all the time and money to travel wherever you liked? Where would you want to go?

I spend quite a lot of time daydreaming about traveling and experiencing a new culture. When I come across beautiful and extravagant scenery of various countries, I can’t help but imagine what the place would have to offer me. The knowledge and experience I would gain from the sightseeing, climate and people would be stories I would tell for years to come.

I am interested in studying or working abroad at some point before I graduate. The high cost and the lack of financial resources somewhat discourage me. But I attended the first Education Abroad Fair of the year on October 4th in the Smith Ballroom, and I grabbed numerous brochures about study abroad programs and international internships.


Community development is my field of study. I have decided that I want to get some hands-on experience working with disadvantaged populations. I have heard from one of my peers, the IE3 program has many global internships to offer (http://ie3global.ous.edu). The two internship locations I am most intrigued by are South Africa and Nicaragua. I would like to gain a better understanding about sustainable community development as well as global issues such as gender inequality, racism, and poverty in developing countries.

To learn more about education abroad, visit this site:
http://oia.pdx.edu/ea/
Or you can visit the study abroad office in East Hall, 632 SW Hall St.
Drop-in hours:
• Tuesdays: 12-1pm
• Wednesdays: 1-2pm
• Fridays: 10-11am