Portland is a green city. It’s known to many for its recycling efforts, sustainability and love of composting.
Portland State is no exception.
Since its creation in 2010, the Princeton Review has been working in collaboration with the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit sustainability organization, to produce an annual guide to green colleges.
The 2013 Guide to 322 Green Colleges measures, scores and ranks universities throughout the United States and Canada on the sustainability of their campus infrastructure, activities and academic offerings. Hundreds of schools are evaluated each year, but only 322 colleges made the list this year.
For the fourth year in a row, PSU has been included in the list of top green colleges.
According to the guide, PSU is “a national leader in community-based learning.”
“Sustainability is a campus-wide learning outcome; for all undergrads PSU offers a minor and graduate certificate in sustainability, and [the Institute for Sustainable Solutions] facilitates and supports substantive trandisciplinary, policy-relevant research, dialogue, education, and outreach among and between science, business, educators, government, NGOs, and the public. The university has been incorporating sustainable practices into campus construction and renovation for some time,” the guide said.
Recognizing the strides the university has made in transitioning to a sustainable infrastructure, the guide credits PSU’s environmentally conscious approach to learning and structural sustainable efforts in going green as reasons for its inclusion in the guide.
In an effort to become more sustainable, the university has made strides and commitments to achieve its goals of being more environmentally conscientious.
“PSU has committed to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. We focus on a number of areas. Buildings and energy are major contributors to our carbon footprint. We’re increasing energy from local and renewable sources, upgrading [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] systems and a closed-loop energy system, and changing how we schedule these buildings to consolidate usage and increase efficiencies,” said PSU President Wim Wiewel in an interview with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
“We’ve identified three focal areas for research—urban sustainability, ecosystem services and social determinants of health—that best leverage our location and expertise. We’re also looking at ways to scale sustainability ideas and efforts. PSU is part of a group of public, private and nonprofit organizations working toward a regional economic ‘greenprint’ that will position the Portland-Vancouver metro area as a leader in clean technology,” Wiewel said.
One major effort PSU has taken to increase sustainability on campus is in the creation of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified buildings.
LEED is a voluntary program that involves third-party inspection and certification of green buildings.
According to PSU Campus Planning and Sustainability, “Green building practices recognize the interdependence of the natural and built environments and seek to minimize the use of energy, water and other natural resources and provide a healthy, productive indoor environment.”
Green buildings implement efficient energy systems and materials, and reduce the ecological footprint of the building. A 2004 PSU plan requires all new construction and renovation projects to meet LEED certification standards to guarantee sustainable building on campus.
PSU’s Lincoln Hall was renovated and restored with sustainability in mind and now has a LEED platinum status, the highest rating on the scale. According to CPS, Lincoln Hall saves the university $41,431 annually in energy costs, in part because of its rooftop solar array and because 75 percent of its construction waste was diverted from landfills.
Apart from its environmentally friendly structures, PSU is known for being a bike-friendly alternative transportation center in Portland—and for good reason.
“Although we now have about 3,000 students living on campus, PSU is still primarily a commuter campus. We’re right downtown and space is tight, so we’ve worked hard to get students, faculty and staff out of their cars and onto transit—less than 25 percent drive alone,” Wiewel said.
“Our campus is the number one transit destination in the metro system, served by bus, light rail and streetcar,” Wiewel said.
The 2012 Transportation Update, composed by Campus Planning and Sustainability, the Center for Real Estate and Transportation and Parking Services, reported that students are relying less on driving and more on mass transit and biking.
The survey shows that in 2011 19 percent of students relied on driving alone to get to campus, down from 41 percent in 2000. Instead of driving, 44 percent take public transportation, while another 12 percent bicycle to school.
With driving on the decline, PSU has created an abundance of incentives for those who choose to leave the car
Fifteen bus lines converge at PSU, as well as MAX lines and the Portland Streetcar. Electric Avenue, on Southwest Montgomery Street, is an electric vehicle charging station in the middle of campus where electric drivers can plug in and charge up. The Bike Hub is a one-stop bike store on campus, complete with a repair center, a parts and accessories store and bike loan and rental programs.
PSU has been transformed into a sustainable campus, but it hasn’t reached all of its green goals. The university has plans for changes and upgrades. Beyond greening specific buildings, the next target is entire neighborhoods.
EcoDistricts are integrated neighborhoods where community members efficiently manage resources and have access to a wide array of transportation methods, open spaces and natural areas, all in the pursuit of a sustainable community.
The initiative was launched by the Portland Sustainability Institute in partnership with the City of Portland. Five pilot EcoDistricts were created throughout Portland; PSU sits in the middle of the South of Market (SoMa) EcoDistrict.
Its vision, according to the CPS website, is “to create a sustainable neighborhood for future generations, by working together with our community to define, create and own a vibrant district with a variety of buildings and parks connected by green streets and public transit that will attract businesses, residents and visitors to our neighborhood and create a vital and diverse place for people.”
Being part of an EcoDistrict means communal involvement in taking sustainable action—PSU students included.
Students can find more information and learn how to contribute to the green cause at the Campus Planning and Sustainability website: pdx.edu/planning-sustainability/your-actions-matter-be-the-change.