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The Oregon State University Sustainability Blog

Windward Returns! by Rachel Tholl

April 22nd, 2016

Rachel Tholl has been is part of the OSU Student Sustainability Initiative team! As the Administrative Coordinator, Rachel helps SSI’s work that advance student efforts to create a culture of sustainability at OSU. 

Ecologue Windward Pic


The Student Sustainability Initiative welcomed back Emily Boyer, OSU graduate, on April 6th in the MU. Boyer and a team of Windward representatives came to the OSU campus to talk about Windward and discuss students’ options for getting involved with the organization. Windward is based out of southern Washington where members of the community work together to learn important skills. Windward values getting back to sustainable, basic skills such as gardening in your local climate and developing a healthy community with the people in your area. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to garden, build, and/or farm with your own two hands, Windward is a great place to explore!

Windward representatives want to talk to OSU students, alumni, and surrounding community members about what sustainability means to each of them, and how we can live sustainably where we’re at. If you can’t garden in a community or personal garden, you could raise easy-to-care-for plants indoors in an apartment or house, or volunteer at a community garden. The Student Sustainability Initiative and Center for Civic Engagement have events meant for learning how to garden, farm, and/or build with your own two hands –events for Beyond Earth Day (also being called BED), such as planting cherry blossom trees around campus on April 23rd. For more information, check out earthday.oregonstate.edu, where a comprehensive calendar of events focused on sustainable action and learning is available.

OSU Climate Planning Panel this Friday!

April 20th, 2016


Looking for an interesting event to attend on Earth Day? We’ve got you covered!OSU-Climate-Planning_square

You’re invited to attend the OSU Climate Planning Panel Presentation this Friday (Earth Day!) from 12-1 PM in MU 213! Learn about how OSU plans to become carbon neutral by 2025 and what you can do to help reduce carbon emissions. Getting there requires participation from our entire campus community. Learn how to be a part of the solution by joining efforts within your college or division.

RSVPs are encouraged but not required; interested attendees should email Brandon Trelstad (brandon.trelstad@oregonstate.edu) to RSVP. Free food will also be provided.

Come join us and learn more about OSU’s Climate Plan from OSU climate planning leaders and experts!

Earth Day of Service is This Saturday!

April 18th, 2016


EarthDayofServiceRegistration is now open for all Earth Day Projects! OSU Students, Faculty and Staff may register here. Pre-registration is required.

This year, the Center for Civic Engagement invites you to join in on Saturday, April 23, 2016 for their annual Earth Day of Service. Oregon State students, staff, faculty, and their children/dependents are invited to participate in this event and celebration of planet Earth. Transportation will be provided but volunteers would be willing to bike to the closer service locations in order to help reduce carbon emissions are requested.

Here is a summary of each project for Earth Day of Service 2016:

  • Smoke-Free Campus Clean-Up (Project time: 9:00-11:00am): Volunteers will be picking up cigarette butts and litter on the OSU campus
  • Park Clean-Up with Corvallis Parks & Recreation (Project time: 9:00am-12:00pm): Volunteers will be trimming shrubbery, removing invasive species, performing amenity repair, and more
  • Land Conservation with Greenbelt Land Trust (Projejct time: 9:30am-1:00pm): Volunteers will be removing remnant barbed wire fence that is a hazard to equipment and wildlife alike
  • Forest Restoration with Diverse Perspectives in Forestry Group and Institute for Applied Ecology (Project time: 9:45am-1:45pm): Volunteers will be doing scotch broom invasive species removal
  • Campus Tree Planting (Project time: 10:00am-12:00pm): Volunteers will plant 10 cherry trees on the OSU campus
  • Earth Day Craft N’ Care (Project time: 10:00am-12:00pm): Volunteers will be crafting for a local community organization
  • Oak Creek Invasive Species Removal (Project time: 10:00am-12:00pm): Volunteers will be removing invasive blackberry and ivy in the Oak Creek Bioswale, near Reser Stadium
  • Pollinator Garden Creation on Campus (Project time: 1:00-4:00pm): Volunteers will plant a pollinator garden near Linus Pauling
  • Wetlands Conservancy Day Tripper (Project time: 10:00am-2:30pm): Volunteers will be picking up debris on the tidal marsh along the Oxbow and Starr Creek parcels, and volunteers will prune invasive ivy in the uplands. Note this project takes place at the Oregon coast and participants will meet at 8am on campus and return to campus around 4pm.

Please note that check-in is required at the SEC Plaza 30-45 minutes prior to the listed project time above.  Snacks and refreshments (including morning coffee) will be provided. Lunch will be provided for the Day Tripper. Collaborating organizations include the College of Forestry/Diverse Perspectives in Forestry Group, the Student Sustainability Initiative, and SOLVE. Accommodation requests related to a disability can be made by contacting 541-737-3041 or cce@oregonstate.edu.

Go Beyond Earth Day and attend one of the many other campus events in celebration of Earth Day!

Beyond Earth Day is Almost Here! Check out the list of events!

April 15th, 2016

Beyond Earth Day begins THIS MONDAY (woohoo!) and offers 21 events spanning over the next two weeks! Below is a full list of events along with links to facebook event pages. Learn more on the Beyond Earth Day Facebook page and website!
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  • Mon 4/18
    – Earth Justice Mural: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM, M.U. Quad










  • Fri 4/29
    – Women on Wheels Workshop: 4:00 – 5:30 PM, Intramural Fields, 26th St.

For full event details, please visit the event pages of the web calendar at:http://tiny.cc/earth-calendar.

The winner of the RecycleMania Civil War is…

April 12th, 2016

The final RecycleMania Civil War score was 10.9 to 11.3, with UO taking back the trophy.

The results of the 2016 RecycleMania Civil War are in! The winner of this year’s competition is… the University of Oregon! The competition was close, as we continuously narrowed the gap from weeks 5 through 8, but UO has reclaimed the trophy after we won it back from them last year.

OSU narrowed the gap over the final 4 weeks of the competition.

In total, Beavers recycled 235,893 lbs and composted 60,075 during the 8-week competition. As with previous years, total composting and per capita pounds of composting increased (from 55,006 lbs and 2.038 per person in 2015, to 60,075 lbs and 2.209 per person this year). However, per capita recycling diverted and recycling rate were slightly down. The amount of trash remained roughly the same.

“We lost the trophy this year, but that just means the competition will be more fierce next year,” said Kyle Reed, Campus Recycling’s Outreach Assistant. “We’re excited to see OSU consistently recycling and composting a lot; keep up the good work!”



Beyond Earth Day is Coming!

April 8th, 2016

Online Ad copy

Forty-six years ago, the first Earth Day celebration began. On that day at OSU, students put together a series of events, participating in this landmark date. While Earth Day-related festivities have not occurred every year since, our annual celebration has been going strong for what will be the 16th consecutive year this year!

Beyond Earth Day is a 2-week celebration (April 18-29, 2016) with fun and educational events focused on various holistic sustainability issues, put on by groups from both the campus and greater Corvallis community. Please see a full line-up of events on the Beyond Earth Day website: http://tiny.cc/earth-calendar.

The primary organizers and sponsors of Beyond Earth Day are Campus Recycling, the Student Sustainability Initiative and the Sustainability Office.  Participating groups for 2016 include OSU student groups and departments, local nonprofits, and government agencies. See the list of participating organizations here.

Stay tuned for more blog posts and join Beyond Earth Day on Facebook for more details. Or hop on over the to Beyond Earth Day website now!

Burying Winter Term by Micco Emeson

April 6th, 2016

OSU students at the Corvallis campus are eligible for up to $500 per academic year to participate in professional development opportunities. The Student Sustainability Initiative are seeking proposals that benefit OSU students and the SSI’s mission of “Advancing student efforts to create a culture of sustainability at OSU through opportunity, education, and action” are preferred.

This Spring Break I had the opportunity to spend four days practicing permaculture in the heart of the Columbia Gorge country. This course took place at Windward, an intentional community and sustainability education and experimentation center in south central Washington.

Windward boasts a variety of homesteading features, including:

  • a well-managed second-growth forest of Oak and Pine


    A view of Windward’s Orchard, looking south.

  • a large chicken run
  • rabbit hutches
  • pens for goats, sheep and pigs
  • several small, seasonal, man-made ponds
  • various aquaponics systems
  • a developing food forest
  • and a large annual garden

The occupants at Windward are even experimenting with wood gasification, a process which turns raw wood chips into a replacement for propane gas.

During this course I had the opportunity to make a hugelkultur bed, which is basically a mound of earth containing woody debris which provides nutrients to plants as it decomposes, much like a nurse log. I also got to plant trees and shrubs in a silvopasture system which integrates trees and pasture into a cohesive unit. In addition to these hands-on projects, a majority of the time was spent discussing how this community manages to thrive in such a harsh climate where a lack of mid-summer water, and extreme cold throughout the winter severely restricts the amount of species that can be grown on the land. Perhaps most interesting of all, I participated in a “natural burial”.

Through my ongoing stint of “eco-tourism”, I have found that regulatory labyrinths are a common hurdle for communities like Windward seeking a more sustainable lifestyle through avenues such as natural building. For example, Windward falls under a “timber” tax classification, which results in a tax break on much of the land that is actively growing timber to be harvested and sold. Yet, despite their location in the midst of a productive timber forest, all of their structural buildings must be constructed of certified lumber purchased from off-site.


Carrying the body to the site of the grave.

The residents of Windward have found a way to use America’s complicated political atmosphere to their advantage. Several years ago they struck upon the idea to turn a portion of their land into a natural burial cemetery, which will prevent unwanted future development on their land. This allows them to fully invest their hearts and resources into establishing a productive ecosystem on the land without fear of their efforts going to waste.

Natural burials are also less resource intensive than burials in traditional cemeteries. The management of turf can require lots of fertilizers, herbicides and water, whereas Windward’s “HerLand Forest” is a beautiful, self-reliant ecosystem. Tombstones quarried and trucked in from off-site are arguably unnecessary. Windward’s graves will be marked with small plaques designating a generous 20 square foot site for each grave. The energy embodied in fancy caskets soon to be buried forever can also be minimized by placing the body in a biodegradable, non-toxic cardboard box sized for the purpose.

This was Windward’s first burial in the HerLand Forest. The first “guardian”– as Windward’s residents are calling those buried on their land – was declared deceased the day that I arrived. Originally I was hesitant to participate as this event was rather unexpected, but eventually I resolved to attend for a good story to tell if nothing else. Although I refrained from any of the labor involved in actually burying the body, I did take pictures and maintain a presence during the rites. I found this experience to be richly rewarding.

I have never been to a burial before. In general, I think that our society is quite disconnected from the process of death and dying. This is evidenced by the rampant exportation of elders into assisted living homes where they are often segregated from family, charged exorbitant rates, and amped up with drugs to eke out the last bit of life despite their body’s obvious and natural inclination towards for the restful resolution of life. Contrarily, buying a plot in HerLand Forest is funding conservation work, an act which may be soul soothing to those easing their way into Earth’s bosom.

I hope that I inspire others to follow in the footsteps of Windward – or at least head in the general direction of sustainability and social awareness – through this story of my experience. In this vein, I declare my intention to provide the outgoing elders in my life with a rich social context and physical environment in which to say their goodbyes. Please join me in creating a more socially satisfying world by making contributions in areas which you see a need.

This trip was made possible by a Professional Development Grant through the Student Sustainability Initiative (SSI). The SSI paid for the course registration as well as gas and mileage to the rural location. Any OSU student can apply for funding of up to $500 per year for costs including air fare. The SSI is sponsoring a presentation on Windward by Andrew and Lindsay, two of the core members, on Wednesday, April 6th at 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. in MU 212.

If you would like to get involved in on-campus landscaping projects, please contact the author of this article, Micco Emeson, at SSI.landscaping@oregonstate.edu


Sustainability Alumni Profile: Nick Somnitz

April 4th, 2016

Here’a another edition of our Alumni Profiles Project ! Check out what our alumni have been up to since graduation and see what a difference they’ve made in solving global challenges!

This profile is all about Nick Somnitz, a 2012 graduation of both Construction Engineering Management and Business & Enterpreneurship! Nick previously worked for the Sustainability Office as the Energy Project Student Technician and Energy Project Coordinator.


During his time at OSU: Nick worked as the Energy Project Student Tech at the Sustainability Office from 2011-2012 and worked on a multitude of projects. His duties in his position included many things, such as coordinating a 2.2 MW ground mounted photo voltaic solar system, managing state funded energy saving projects, performing electric, water, and steam meter reads for billing and MEP troubleshooting, outreach to educate public of current projects and energy savings practices, and more! His favorite part about the position was being able to manage and coordinate energy saving projects around campus.

Since OSU: Nick is currently working as an Estimator for a general contractor, Dorman Construction, Inc. He was married last year and currently lives in Eugene. As a hobby, he raises chickens and harvests their eggs. Nick is working on energy savings projects in his own home. After replacing the lighting, he installed a heat pump water heater. For his next project, Nick will be upgrading the plumbing fixtures!

Nick feels that the most valuable thing he got out of his experience working for the Sustainability Office was his expanded knowledge of energy savings project and outreach skills.

We’re so proud to see Nick continuing to do great things! Good work!


Intro to Permaculture– A Massive Online Open Course

March 30th, 2016

What Is Permaculture?

Permaculture design is a method of landscape planning that can be applied to anything, from a home garden or farm to a city block or entire village. Permaculture uses design principles from nature itself and takes into account such things as how indigenous people use the land; how water, fire and wind flow through the land; and how soil, water, vegetation, buildings and habitats can be managed in a stable and enduring way.

The Permaculture perspective has more resonance now than at any other time since the term ‘Permaculture’ was coined in 1978. The Paris Climate Agreement has the world admitting it needs to turn civilization onto a different road. Permaculture design has been scouting out that path for nearly 40 years, and now it’s time that the world sees what we have learned about living in cooperation with nature.

That is why Oregon State University is launching a huge public education project with the creation of “Intro to Permaculture” — a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) which runs from May 2 through May 27, 2016. This free course covers the foundations of the Permaculture design system in four weeks, with 12 to 16 hours of engagement. 

OSU is throwing the full resources of its development staff at Open Oregon State to create a high-­production, online educational experience that includes video, images, animation, text, resource lists, links, and interactive activities. When students complete all of the interactive assignments and content quizzes, they will receive a ‘digital badge’ which verifies their participation.

The course is taught by Andrew Millison, who has been involved in Permaculture practice, design and education for 20 years, and is an instructor in the Horticulture Department at OSU and founder of Permaculture Design International (PDI).

Global networking for mass education

We’re collaborating with the Permaculture Association, a British non-­profit recognized as the most organized Permaculture organization on Earth. We’ll be using their extensive educational database and media assets in the course, and adding many of our own.

The goal is to use the resources that a major U.S. university can provide to present an organized introduction to the Permaculture design system, and steer people towards further study and practice of Permaculture, using the reach of our combined global network.

A host of other organizations have gotten on board to help publicize and provide educational and media resources, including Permaculture Design International, Regrarians, Oregon State University Small Farms, Unify, Daily Acts, Village Lab, NuMundo, Permaculture Voices, and more.

Who should take this course?

This course is for the novice and the professional alike, with no prior experience necessary. For the person new to design and  land stewardship, the course will provide a foundation from which to build upon with subsequent training, and introduce a new perspective that can be applied in many careers and facets of life. The class assumes no prior knowledge.

For the gardener, farmer, nurseryman, architect, landscaper, land manager, developer, engineer, aid worker, planner or activist, this course can help to deepen and focus the good work you’re already doing, and provide a grounding in the Permaculture process that you can apply in your current endeavors. The course is not teaching specific techniques as much as a system and process of design which can be used to enhance work in many different fields.

Permaculture is a roadmap to sustainability

Our aim is to elevate Permaculture further into mainstream knowledge and discussions so this valuable design system can be used to transition civilization to a future with clean water, safe and abundant food, renewable energy and resources, healthy watersheds, and prosperous people and ecosystems.

There is a lot of social, political and environmental instability in the world right now. Consensus has been reached with the Paris Agreement that we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions to maintain a stable climate through this century and beyond. We need a paradigm shift where we change the foundation of business as usual. The Permaculture design system is a tool to accomplish this great shift, and it’s time we put that tool in everyone’s hands so we can all get to work repairing, restoring, regenerating, and reaping the rewards that will come when we care for Earth and its people.

Please accept this gift we are offering and share this opportunity for free Permaculture education with your family, friends, and community.

For more information, visit the course page.

Source: Andrew Millison, andrew.millison@oregonstate.edu

Sustainability Office Now Hiring Students!

March 16th, 2016

Want great work experience in a rewarding environment? Come work for the Sustainability Office! 

The Sustainability Office, with two full time staff and five student worker positions, is part of Capital Planning and Development, the department responsible for OSU’s infrastructure development. The Sustainability Office serves the broader campus through a wide variety of services and programs.

Currently, the Sustainability Office is looking to hire four enthusiastic student employees for the following positions:

Employment begins next term and preference will be given to applicants with availability at least through Spring 2017.


For more info and to apply, visit our website.

Applications are due no later than April 10th!

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