“Green. It’s more than our school color. It’s our school spirit.”
Posters around campus boast this ideological motto. And while Portland State is a very sustainable campus, especially compared to other Oregon colleges, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
According to PSU Recycles, the university maintains an average recycling rate of 29.33 percent. Instead of just a few hundred students being green champions, all 25,000 PSU students should be challenged to becoming more sustainable.
The first step would be to make it easier for all students to recycle or compost their food and beverage containers. Currently there are green options on campus for the sustainable-minded, but sustainability needs to be more convenient for the average student.
The student-run Food for Thought Cafe has sustainability as one of it’s chief goals, buying local food with less packaging and serving food on dishes that are washed instead of thrown away. On their Web site they claim that they recycle and compost as much as they can. Although this is a great part of PSU, it only caters to a small number of PSU students.
Recently the dining hall, known as Victor’s in Ondine Hall, decided to take steps to become a “zero waste facility.” Instead of producing garbage, their output will completely go toward reusing and recycling.
According to the Portland State Web site, last year the Ondine’s dining hall composted 41.8 tons of food waste and napkins. They’ll continue composting in addition to recycling all cans, glass bottles, plastic containers, cardboard boxes, aluminum, paper, plastic wrap and films.
This is yet another good step in the green direction, but most of the campus still doesn’t have as many options for the average student to have “zero waste.”
There are many places to eat on campus that are not as sustainable, such as the dining hall in the Smith Memorial Student Union Building. There are places to recycle cans and bottles but nowhere to compost the little brown bags for Noah’s bagels, napkins and other that could be composted rather than thrown into the garbage.
Compost bins in all dining halls with signs telling students what can be composted and what needs to be trashed would make each student accountable for their own carbon footprint.
Many students don’t have time to sit and eat in a dining hall. With only minutes between classes, many students only have time to grab some food and eat it class. This results in to-go bags, wrappings and other paper products to be used rather than eating in.
Upon leaving class, there are usually garbage cans but never compost bins and rarely recycling bins. Most people aren’t going to carry trash around with them so they throw away something that they would have usually recycled.
Having at least three Starbucks on campus, paper coffee cups are often thrown into the trash. PSU Recycles has posted advertisements stating that coffee cups are not recyclable because of the wax interior, but this isn’t always the case. Some paper coffee cups line the interior with wax or paper, but Starbucks is more conscious than that.
Of course the most ecological thing to do is pick up a reusable mug from Food for Thought or another coffee cup. Also, places such as Starbucks will discount your order by about 10 cents when you bring your own mug. If you are staying at the cafe to do homework, you can request a ceramic mug.
For those who elect to use paper coffee cups, double check with the cafe to see if they’re recyclable or not before just throwing them into the trash. The outside liner to keep the beverage warm is currently recyclable but the cup itself is not. Make sure you’re recycling what you can. Within the next year, they hope to have discovered the technology to make 100 percent recyclable to-go cups.
Share your ideas for composting and sustainability at www.pdx.edu/sustainability.