Green ideas: from plans to reality

2013 Solutions Generator award winners announced

Written by | January 17, 2013

There are countless ways to be “green,” and now, several groups of students have an opportunity to contribute to the cause.

The Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State recently announced the award recipients in their 2013 Solutions Generator program, which seeks to engage students with devising their own sustainability projects around campus and the broader community.

The program, which began four years ago, awarded funding to a dozen groups for various projects that will manifest over the next two terms.

“[Solutions Generator is] an opportunity for students to engage in community projects outside the classroom,” said Laura Gleim, communications coordinator for ISS.

This year’s projects take many forms, such as a group devoted to raising farmworker awareness, a research project on how to better incorporate sustainability into the undergraduate experience and a film looking at social sustainability in Cuba, to name a few.

Angela Hamilton, coordinator for ISS, said that students submitted a total of 22 proposals.

Groups that didn’t receive funding up-front were designated “endorsed projects,” whose members will work with Hamilton to improve their submissions and potentially receive funding in the future.

There weren’t as many proposals submitted this year as in years past

but, Hamilton said, “The idea to get more students but have more opportunities for richer
experience.”

The Solutions Generator team worked with students over the course of the submission process.

Next, groups submitted abstracts, and then attended a proposal-writing workshop.

The full proposals were due in November, and a selection committee consisting of 10 students, faculty, staff and community members decided which projects would be given funding. The winners were announced Dec. 13.

Project criteria included relevance, timeliness, leadership and learning opportunity, feasibility, longevity and whether the project fell under the rubric of holistic sustainability.

Hamilton described holistic sustainability as symbolized by three overlapping circles, much like the Olympic rings, each one representing economy, environment and community.

“Something isn’t ‘sustain-ability’ if it doesn’t meet in the center of those circles,” she said.

The goal is to get students to see the whole picture, including rethinking details (such as vending for events and travel) in a sustainable way, like by patronizing businesses that make Earth-conscious choices. For example, buying Pizza Hut pizza for a group meeting would not be considered sustainable, but pizza from locally owned Hot Lips would be.

Gleim summed up the ultimate purpose behind many of the projects as engaging the community in an active research project that makes a difference while the project is actually happening. Groups were strongly encouraged to find a campus or community partner before submitting their proposals.

Along with the 12 funded projects, ISS also chose three interns and a student staff member to work on Solutions Generator this year.

Nichole Martin, a senior social science major, is this year’s program assistant. She first became involved with the program last year through a project.

Martin described the formation of her project as an outgrowth of a class she took called “Race and Sustainability,” taught by Black Studies professor Pedro Ferbel-Azcarate. Having little to no background in sustainability, she was intrigued by the title and wanted to find out what sustainability really meant.

Through her experience, she realized that sustainability can come in many hues of green, even if people don’t necessarily recognize what they’re doing as sustainable.

Martin noted that people won’t be engaged in sustainability if they don’t see someone like them practicing it, or don’t have the means of understanding the concepts on their own terms.

“I call myself the Batman of sustainability [because I’m] trying to decode that language to make it easy to understand,” she said.

As she plunges into her work as program assistant, her goal is to open dialogues about sustainability.

“It’s as simple as you make it and what you choose to do,” Martin said.

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