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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

[This post was written by Sam Medina, Charlie Zigmond, and Thomas Yabrough.]

The codependent pillars of sustainability (equity, environmental, economic) are typically not focused on as a whole, and therefore sustainable practices commonly fall short of their intentions or adversely affect another pillar. This concept of “sub-optimization” is a poisonous characteristic of haphazard attempts at being sustainable. People and organizations tend to focus on the environmental pillar of sustainability, with notions of the other less known pillars. In addition to this misconception, many systems of “sustainability” have been created, further “greenwashing” (having the appearance of sustainability without actually being sustainable) the public into thinking a specific set of actions will create an everlasting lifestyle that can be perpetuated for generations after.

This is a critical mistake for anyone to consider one pillar over another when making decisions about our lifestyle choices. Recycling electronics is simply a facet of sustainability, and the current definition needs to be reshaped in order to ensure that the goals of recycling are quantified, qualified, and are in common use to lead to the three-pillared version of sustainability. For example, Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Christopher Milton, Sara Davenport, Kimberly Sherwood, and Jan Steinbock.]

Our Growing Communities group is researching sustainability as it relates to local food systems, food bank gardens, permaculture and light pollution.

The idea of local food systems is a sustainability issue that is being addressed in society today, through such things as farmers markets, community gardens, and local fruit and vegetable delivery programs. However, the potential for sustainability from utilizing local food systems could be addressed much more extensively. Local food systems can provide fresh, healthy food options that make societies that utilize them more sustainable and more self-sufficient. Local food systems can also benefit communities by allowing them to see where their food is coming from and how important it is to take care of the earth that produces the food.

One component of a healthy food system are food bank gardens. There is little research available on food bank gardens, but community gardens are very similar Most peer-reviewed studies and news articles focus on the economic and social benefits of community gardens. Yet, as Brundtland stated, “The environment does not exist as a sphere separate from human actions, ambitions, and needed . . .” (Kates, 2005).

By gardening locally these groups are doing good things for the environment. Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Teresa Celestine, Scott Demming, Stephanie Lewis, and Stephanie McCarthy.]

Sustainability is not only defined in terms of how things should be done in order to reduce material consumption and waste, but practical in ways that are actually being put to use by various individuals and organizations. Speaking from a purely academic point of view, ideas about how to be sustainable are endless. People can dream up an infinite number of ways to reduce consumption and waste. Most definitions of sustainability are subjective, correlating to the perspective of individuals and their experiences. Moving beyond personal interpretation toward a common language would improve the general acceptance and commitment of individuals to further advance the cause of creating more sustainable behavior individually and by organizations. There are an equal number of infinite applied sustainability practices that could be placed into effect. The key component for sustainability in business operations is to strive for this common language and understanding about what is real and what is not. The last thing a start-up business needs is to commit to a sustainable idea that is not real, but is simply green washing. The costs for running a business are only magnified when considering the additional time; effort and money necessary to navigate a business with the additional layer that sustainability questions add to the endeavor.

The definition of a sustainable business today is not the same definition of a sustainable business ten or twenty years ago. Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Charlie Zigmond, Sam Medina, and Thomas Yarbrough. The post and complements previous students’ analysis of the question “What is Sustainability?”]

One of the more common perceptions people have with regard to sustainability is that it is strictly an environmental issue. Many people believe that if they recycle, or if they plant one tree to replace each one they cut down, they are being sustainable. The truth is that sustainability has multiple components, and many of the behaviors people commonly associate with sustainability are not enough in and of themselves to qualify as truly sustainable.

The UN sponsored Brundtland commission helped to flesh out a more meaningful definition of sustainability. This definition discusses the environmental, social, and economical aspects of true sustainability. The logic behind this is explained in “Sustainable Development: Exploring the Ethics of Our Common Future”:
Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Jan Steinbock, Sara Davenport, Kimberly Sherwood, and Christopher Milton. The post and complements previous students’ analysis of the question “What is Sustainability?”]

What is sustainability? Is it a concept, a set of actions, or is it just the latest buzzword that companies and media groups are now using to bolster their rating and support from the “concerned” public masses? The truth, if there is a truth, is entirely debatable and far too complex to fully express in a single blog-post that is comprised of five hundred or so words; however, there are a few facts that we, a group of students involved in the study of sustainability, have agreed will help build a firm foundation for a working definition of sustainability in regards to issues that surround the topic.

First off, sustainability can no longer be defined as a uni-dimensional system. Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Teresa Celestine, Stephanie Lewis, and Scott Demming. The post and complements previous students’ analysis of the question “What is Sustainability?”]

In theory, sustainability practices seem straightforward. To put it simply, try to do what ever you are doing in a way that will allow it to continue on, hopefully forever. This applies to economic, social, and environmental factors. In this three part theory, as initially introduced by the Brundtland Commission in 1986, we see that each factor can be equally important to the goal of sustainability[1]. This seemingly simple theory, however, is difficult to put into practice, especially in today’s business world.

Current practices and cultural awareness of sustainability measures are a far cry from what they were 30 years ago. Yet, Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Michael Aitchison, Donovan Jackson, and Stephanie McCarthy. The post is in response to our tour of the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center and complements previous students’ analysis of the question What is Sustainability?]

Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center

On June 30, 2011 our class conducted a self-guided of the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center, also known as the Ecotrust Building, located at 721 NW 9th Avenue, in Portland. One of the building’s many ecofriendly features is its ecoroof. Unfortunately, we were unable to view the roof, but the information in our field guide piqued our interest. Ecoroofs are not only beautiful to look at but they also make real environmental and economic sense. Ecoroofs greatly extend the lifespan of a roof, reduce stormwater runoff, and also reduce energy consumption by decreasing rooftop heat loss. The vegetation planted on the ecoroof at the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center was carefully selected from Pacific Northwest native plants and seeds. These native plants, a mix of grasses, wildflowers, and succulents, are drought tolerant and once established need very little watering and maintenance. The ecoroof is part of the sites stormwater management system that helps to minimize rainwater runoff, including pollutants and sediment, from flowing into the Willamette River. This stormwater system, which also includes bioswales, captures at least 90% of the rainwater falling at this location. The system is funded in part by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services.

What is a green roof?

Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Megan Rice, Jamie Price, and Angelina Peters in response to viewing three short videos, Greening the Ghetto, 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World, and Tabor Tilth]

In class today we watched three short videos that pertained to sustainability in three different aspects. The first video was Majora Carter‘s February 2006 TED presentation “Greening the Ghetto.” In this presentation, Carter explains the many benefits of turning industrial riverfront land into a public park. She came across this idea when she was walking her dog in a heavily industrialized neighborhood in South Bronx and discovered an old road that lead to the river. She was motivated to make a change. She brought up overwhelming statistics that show Blacks and Latinos being five times more likely to live in a neighborhood within walking distance to an industrial factory. People who live in these heavy-polluted neighborhoods are more likely to develop respiratory disorders and other health issues. She raises a great question: who would be motivated to go outside and exercise when one lives in area where the air is toxic?

What really struck us about her presentation was Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Megan Rice, Jamie Price, and Angelina Peters in response to viewing the documentary Foodmatters]

The documentary Food Matters discusses the diet of most Americans and how unhealthy we are as a group. The ultimate message of this documentary is that if you eat well you will live well. It seems simple enough. It does seem simple enough, so why did the filmmakers spend thousands of dollars creating the film? Within ten minutes of watching the film, one of the premises of the filmmakers focus is clear—advocating for a raw food diet.

When one looks back to our hunter-and-gatherer ancestors, raw foods were a major staple of their diet. However, society today cannot hunt-and-gather as our ancestors did millennia ago. A point that the film brings to light is the importance of eating foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins. In spite of the billions and billions of potential profit in the diet and medical industry, most of the initial statements seem like common sense.

Yet, the documentary also goes into lengths explaining that our medical system is not diet-oriented. Many of our doctors are trained to treat medical problems with drugs rather than proper diet. The creators of the film bring up an important and fundamental point: With the proper diet, many illnesses can be avoided and even reversed. Our society relies too much on drugs for treatment which only relieve the patent of the symptoms they do not fix the problem. The creators of the film argue that cleaning your body of toxins and replenishing your body with antioxidants, vitamins, and good diet can lead to better health and fewer doctors’ visits.

This documentary shows a sustainable lifestyle that leads to fewer doctors’ visits and a better, longer, and happier life. Also this raises the question that if we as a society could have a healthier diet, would it lower our health costs? According to the film makers, we are facing a epidemic, and medication is not going to be the answer.

We have a few critiques and questions . . . Continue Reading »

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