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The Oregon State University Sustainability Blog

The Best and Worst States for Green Living

August 17th, 2017

Recent research by LEED Consulting firm, Above Green, reveals that Oregon is one of the top states for green living. The state scores exceptionally well in each category relating to energy use, waste management, green buildings, and sustainable building practices. Ranking #3 on the list, Oregon has respectfully held a great reputation for creating awareness and activism relating to the environment. The cities goal of becoming a “20 minute city” is to reduce commuter’s carbon footprint, being able to travel to work in 20 minutes or less. Being exceptionally passionate about green building and sustainability the team was curious about which states in the U.S. can be the best and worst for green living.

This map showcases their findings:

The map is based on six key data points: carbon emissions, water usage, renewable energy usage, number of electric vehicles, number of green buildings, number of green building professionals, and air quality. The factors were weighted by importance – for example, air quality counted more than number of electric vehicles.

The top five best states for green living are:

  1. Alaska
  2. Montana
  3. Oregon
  4. Washington
  5. Hawaii

The top five worst states for green living are:

  1. Delaware
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Ohio
  4. Mississippi
  5. New Jersey

Here are some interesting findings for the six areas that were reviewed:

  • There are 464 electric vehicle-charging stations in Oregon, with a total of 1,100 charging outlets, and, one of the most abundant networks of Electric Vehicle charging stations allowing people to travel relatively carbon free.
  • The 16 known hot springs that Oregon has to offer helps contribute to the abundance of geothermal energy, ranking third in the nation for potential energy after Nevada and California.
  • Kate Brown signed an anti-coal state senate bill, 1547 that phases out coal generation imports by 2035, this will help support consumer demanded utilities to be powered by 50% in-state renewable energy.
  • Among Oregon’s greenest cities are Corvallis, Bend, Portland, Eugene, Ashland, Hillsboro, Sherwood, Mosier, and Salem who all have shown great indications of eco-friendly practices.
  • In 2016, Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) adopted a new sustainability policy, which provides guidelines for sustainable planning and outlining roles for sustainability coordinators, committees, and planning. Also, implementing 2.3 MW of new net-metered renewable energy generation.
  • Portland, Oregon has implemented 398 Eco roofs since 2008, with more underway through the industry group compiling 300 members called GRiT (Greenroof info Think-tank).
  • Building efficiency incentives have long been in place for Oregon involving new construction; equipment renovation, remodels, and pursuing LEED certifications based on total energy savings can help cut cost up to 50%.
  • The town of Mosier uses 70% less energy than the national standard, setting a great example for the rest of Oregon and the other states.
  • Eugene, Oregon was the 3rd city to take initiative and create a Plastic Bag Ban to cut out heavy use of single-use plastics.

From findings based on these six key data points, Above Green found that generally the northern and western states were better for green living. There were additional factors that could be considered for a more complete evaluation, but this gives an idea of how green each state is.

OSUsed Store summer clearance sales offered Aug. 22 and 25

August 16th, 2017

August 2017 OSUsed clearance graphic

Much of the OSUsed Store’s merchandise will be on sale at our Summer Clearance Sales on Tuesday, August 22nd between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Friday, August 25th between 12:00 and 3:00 p.m.

Specially marked items throughout the store will be 25, 50, or 75 percent off.

About OSUsed Store Sales

The OSUsed Store carries computers and computer accessories, furniture (desks, file cabinets, tables, chairs, bookcases, etc), office supplies, sporting goods, household items, bicycles and much more.

We are located at 644 SW 13th Street in Corvallis (view on Google Maps). The store is operated by OSU Surplus Property and sells surplus equipment and material to departments on campus as well as members of the public during special public sales, in an effort to reduce landfill waste and keep money in the university.

While public sales provide an opportunity for the general public to make personal purchases, departments are welcome to shop 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays.

See more sale dates on our calendar. For more information, visit our OSUsed Store webpage or contact us.

A view of the OSUsed Store.

A view of the OSUsed Store.

OSU Libraries Resident Scholar Lecture: Leah Aronowsky

August 7th, 2017

The OSU Libraries’ first Resident Scholar lecture for 2017-18 has been scheduled for Wednesday, August 16th at 2:00pm, to be held in the Willamette East seminar room on the 3rd floor of the Valley Library. Our speaker will be Leah Aronowsky, a doctoral candidate in the history of science at Harvard University. Her presentation is titled “Accounting for Ecosystems in a Post-DDT Age: The Case of the Microcosm.”

Leah Aronowsky is a historian of the modern life and environmental sciences, technology, and the environment. Her work has appeared most recently (or is slated to appear soon) in Environmental Humanities, Environmental History, and Endeavour. 

Faced with mounting evidence of the pervasive environmental threat of DDT, the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s was forced to contend with a new kind of hazard: the slow-moving, insidious danger of a chemical’s persistence over time and space. DDT, a pesticide whose full range of deleterious effects had come to light only years after an environment’s exposure and in bodies far beyond these initial exposure sites, demanded a means of evaluating a chemical’s harm that extended beyond a single species or even a single environmental medium; it required a screening test that could reveal the relationship between a chemical and an entire ecosystem.

Drawing on archival research conducted in the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center, this talk charts the rise and fall of one such screening test: the microcosm. Microcosms were simple, lab-based ecosystems designed to be complex enough to correspond to processes in the real world, but simple enough to serve as reproducible, standardized instruments. The microcosm ultimately failed as a viable screening test but, in so doing, I show, became entwined in ongoing efforts among systems ecologists to rethink longstanding assumptions about the fundamental nature of ecosystems. The talk stems from a broader ongoing research project on the history of the concept of steady-state stability in the American environmental sciences, focusing on how it took shape in the postwar era as a framework for re-theorizing the relationship between “life” and “the environment.”

We hope to see you there!

Hiring: Benton County Climate Action Intern

July 27th, 2017

Are you interested in climate change policies and sustainability? Benton County is hiring a Climate Action Intern! This is a funded, part-time internship that will begin in September and run approximately through December. There is a lot of County momentum and initiatives addressing carbon reduction, resource efficiency, and climate adaptation. They are looking for a strong candidate to assist and drive their efforts forward.

The position is responsible for helping plan, organize, guide, and carry out Benton County’s efforts to calculate and reduce our carbon footprint and implement policies and actions that proactively address climate change. Activities for the position include calculating carbon emissions, exploring current County methods and practices to improve resource efficiency, researching new and emerging technologies and analytical tools, and educating staff on sustainable practices. Additional information about this position can be found here.

The application deadline is August 21. To apply, please submit a cover letter and resume via email or mail to:

Sean McGuire, Sustainability Coordinator
Benton County Community Development
360 SW Avery Avenue
Corvallis, OR 97333

Rain Forest Conservation and Wildlife on the Brink of Extinction

July 24th, 2017

Golden Conure. (Photo: David Ellis)

Last week, Nick Houtman wrote an article about the correlation between forest habitat loss and the increased risk of wildlife extinction. Matthew Betts, a College of Forestry professor at Oregon State University, and Christopher Wolf, an OSU Ph.D student in forest ecosystems and statistics, were two of the eight co-authors of the Nature article, “Global Forest Loss Disproportionately Erodes Biodiversity in Intact Landscapes”.

Forest data was collected by Matthew Hansen at the University of Maryland. The data showed that up to 371 million acres of forest areas are being destroyed per year. Almost half of the global forest loss occurs in South American rain forests. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists 19,432 vertebrate species that are at the risk of extinction.

Betts states that “it’s obvious that forest loss increases the risk of species being listed, but our work provides the first global quantitative link between forest loss and forest species decline.” Researchers are wondering if our conservation efforts should be focused on forests that are already destroyed or on those that are just beginning to be impacted.

It’s no secret that humans are one of the leading causes of deforestation, but evidence shows that humans can co-exist with nature only if we focus on wildlife and rain forest conservation, and reduce the use of natural resources, pollution, etc.

What other ways do you think we could implement in order to protect the environment? Let us know in the comments below!

SSI Professional Development Grant Recipient: Kendall Conroy

July 10th, 2017

Recipient of the SSI Professional Development Grant, Kendall Conroy, has been conducting a parallel research on engineered wood products. In collaboration with Dr. Mariapaloa, Dr. Chris Knowles from Oregon State she also worked with Dr. Manja Kuzman from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. She recently attended a conference in Vancouver, Canada to present on this research. This international conference put on by IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations) and SWST (Society of Wood Science and Technology), two forest product research organizations.

Conference Header

Her presentation was tiled, “Architect perception of engineered wood products: a parallel study in Europe and USA” and lasted around 15 minutes followed by Q&A. The conference has nearly 500 delegates representing 49 countries from around the world. Most of the attendees were from North America, Asia and Europe, but also included people from Australia, Africa and South America.

Outside of her presentation she had the opportunity to listen to others talk on current forest product related topics. Such topics were on the use of wood to create a healthy built environment, sustainability in the forest sector, and public perceptions of various forest sector products and business trends.


She concluded her report by saying, “I greatly appreciate the SSI for helping me attend this conference and be a part of all the researchers sharing their research to help grow the wood products industry and help promoting a more sustainable culture globally.”

OSU shatters goal by collecting almost 36,000 pounds during Move Out Donation Drive

July 6th, 2017

Official results are in: OSU residents donated nearly 36,000 pounds  – 18 tons – during this year’s Residence Hall Move-Out Donation Drive!

Donation Drive results infographic

This includes an estimated:

  • 15,502 pounds of housewares
  • 4,119 pounds of food, toiletries and school supplies
  • 8,191 pounds of clothing, linens and shoes
  • 7,864 pounds of loft kit wood

That’s a total of 35,676 pounds of donations!

These weights completely smashed our original 24,000-pound goal and reached the highest level since weight tracking began in 2010.

Donations of housewares, food, toiletries, school supplies, clothing, linens and shoes were 19 to 33 percent higher this year. The largest increase came from wood, which totaled 7,864 pounds – an over 600 percent increase from the previous year. The large increase in wood donations may be a product of more residents using loft kits and donating the wood instead of taking it home or throwing it away.

Graph of donation weights over time

We are unclear as to why donations increased as much as they did. Given we do not have weight data for trash, we are unable to speculate if donations were higher because less was landfilled. Regardless, we are very happy to see such a large increase from last year. Our residents made a great showing this year and our team put in an amazing effort to get it hauled, sorted, and distributed to nonprofits.

Special thanks to the over 50 volunteers who gave approximately 250 hours of time to pick-up and sort donations and to all the residents who donated!

Learn a bit about how the program is coordinated here and find out who received donations on our Donation Drive webpage.

The Res. Hall Move-out Donation Drive is an annual event coordinated by Campus Recycling in collaboration with Surplus Property and University Housing and Dining.

Oregon State staff address “Wicked Problems”.

July 5th, 2017

Oregon State Scholars publish a new book, “New Strategies for Wicked Problems: Science and Solutions in the 21st Century”, a look into current problems that our society confronts on social, economic, political and environmental topics. This book is a series of articles that addresses these issues and proposes an assortment of problem-solving methodologies to confront them.

Appealing to a large crowd the book is for other scholars, students, policy makers, managers and anyone in our communities facing these “wicked” problems.  From the school of Public Policy at Oregon State staff Edward Weber, Denise Lach and Brent Steel edited and compiled the essays into this book which can be ordered online or by calling 1-800-621-2736 to see if it is available in bookstores.

One example of the issues they touched on was addressing the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as “fracking”. Fracking is a technique used to get gas and oil from the ground by injecting liquid, usually a water mixture, into the Earth at high pressure. This specific article written by Chrisopher Weible and Tanya Heikkila from the University of Colorado-Denver explores how professional expertise, personal-values and affiliation with different groups affects how people approach the issue. In this case how fracking effects not only the environment, but the economy and society.

Another example is an article by Robert Lackey, a fisheries biologist who has worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and OSU, which tackles the issue of wild salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. He argues that the science and technology to restore wild salmon runs is available, but the solutions ultimately would be too restrictive and divisive to succeed. The billions of dollars spent on salmon recovery to make minute inroads into the solution might be considered “guilt money,” he says.

In their concluding essays, editors Weber, Lach and Steel explore whether there is need for a new social contract for scientists and policy implementation. Plans can’t be rushed. They need strong and engaged leadership, sufficient time for implementation, and proper funding.

Editors wrote: “… We also hope to energize the scholarly and practitioner-based conversations and real-world practices around these topics in ways that help leaders and stakeholders imagine new possibilities, conduct new experiments in implementation, and, ultimately, make even more progress in the ongoing, difficult battle against wicked problems and their less-than-desirable effects for society as a whole.

PAC-12 Sustainability Conference

July 5th, 2017

Last Monday, three members of the Sustainability Office and two student athletes who are a part of the Beaver Athletics Sustainability Team (BAST), represented Oregon State University at the PAC-12 Sustainability Conference in Sacramento, CA. This conference focused on incorporating sustainability practices into the PAC-12 athletic programs. There were about 150 attendees who represented the PAC-12 schools. Oregon State University was recognized as being the only school with a student athlete sustainability group. Way to go OSU!

The conference was hosted at the Golden 1 Center, an indoor arena located in downtown Sacramento. The Golden 1 Center was the first indoor sports venue to receive the LEED Platinum certification. Sacramento is the farm-to-fork capital of the world, therefore they source 90% of their ingredients within a 150-mile radius. The leftover food is given to local food banks, green waste turns into soil at local farms through the California Safe Soil program, and leftover fryer oil is converted into biodiesel by a local business. It was fitting that the conference was hosted at such an environmentally friendly location!

Throughout the day there were various sessions about how to implement sustainability practices into the different areas of athletics, such as the athletics staff, marketing and sponsorships, sustainability professionals, and student engagement. For each topic, there were different speakers. The speakers came from the different schools, or were industry professionals from companies such as IMG, NCAA Final Four Sustainability Committee, ESPN, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. It was interesting to hear their perspective on each subject, as well as how they were implementing sustainability into their professions.

During one of the sessions, the attendees broke up into smaller groups based on their profession. The students discussed how they can engage their peers into implementing sustainability practices during athletics events and in their daily life. These practices could be as simple as recycling and composting. One of the reasons it’s challenging to implement these techniques is because sustainability isn’t a top priority for many schools. That’s not to say sustainability isn’t valued, but other issues take precedent. Adding recycling/composting bins at the athletic events is an extra step, and the waste must be sorted at the end of the events. Currently, universities don’t have the bandwidth to implement this at every game. In order to have recycling and composting, OSU would need volunteers to help sort. Luckily, OSU has the Beaver Athletics Sustainability Team who is working on executing this. Hopefully in the next couple years OSU will have recycling and composting at every event!

Bill Walton, a former UCLA student athlete, NBA player, and ESPN and PAC-12 Networks on-air talent, attended the conference. Walton, who is passionate about sustainability, was interviewed by Yann Brandt and Jamie Zaninovich. He talked about his history and how he leads a sustainable lifestyle. It was inspiring to hear how he built his career, as well as how he is able to reduce his carbon footprint. He replaced the lights in his house with LED lights, and added solar panels to his roof, drastically reducing his monthly energy bills.

A few takeaways from the conference were that the students have the power and ideas, but how can we show students that they have the power? If students work with athletics, these ideas can be put into action. Student groups should become more involved in sustainability, and want to feel a sense of ownership over their projects. Students also want to see leadership and buy-in from the school. The most asked question at the event was, “how can athletics be used to empower change?”

How do you think OSU can become more sustainable? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

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