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[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 »

Yuck! Stinky!

[This post was written by Megan Rice, Jamie Price, and Angelina Peters in response to viewing the documentary Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home]

    Yuck! Stinky!
    Honey, take out the garbage!
    Honey, let’s keep our garbage in the garage for 3 months! Huh?

Retaining the family’s garbage in the garage is not generally an option couples discuss during dinner or when getting ready for the day. However, one couple did in fact take on this task. Asked by a friend who wanted to ask a question about how much garbage do we create and where does the garbage go after it leaves the curb. All great questions, but really keeping garbage and recycling for 3 months—some might call this a little crazy but this family did just that. They even brought garbage home from work, school, and parties—either really dedicated to the project or crazy. Perhaps a little of both.

Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home tackles this issue. A bold and respectable documentary that asks a family of five to keep all of their garbage and recycling. They weighed and put their wet garbage on the curb to avoid health department calls but everything else they kept in their garage. The primary purpose of the film is to make people aware of the impact each individual has on our environment in regards to our consumption (especially in North America).

Some things that stood out in our mind when watching this film were Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Sara Scott in response to viewing the documentary Foodmatters]

The documentary Foodmatters is shocking and revealing. The film brings up several points that the public should be aware of but are not. Most people are aware that fast food and processed food is bad for them, but are not aware of how much healthier they can be with raw foods (i.e. fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds). Many people do not realize that what we eat is what is causing many diseases that several thousand people die from yearly. This documentary really puts a new spin on the phrase “you are what you eat.”

Not many people are aware how effective nutrients and vitamins can be to our bodies. Yes, some people take vitamin supplements, but do they really know what those vitamins are good for? Do people even stop to think that instead of taking supplements daily, they should instead change their diet? America’s society is so fast-paced that it is hard to be able to eat healthily. Unfortunately, our way of living is costing us our health, therefore, our lives.

The film pointed out that vitamin deficiency is most likely the cause of many ailments, so when someone takes vitamin C to help fight a cold, they are really just giving their body the vitamin it already wanted. If that person did not have a vitamin C deficiency, there is a good chance they would not have gotten a cold in the first place.

Some interesting facts: Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Sara Scott in response to viewing the documentary Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home]

The film Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home addresses some compelling issues relating to recycling and social awareness. One interesting topic that comes up in the film is the general lack of knowledge relating to what really can and cannot be recycled. In addition, there are many packaging materials that are not recyclable but should be when considering how often consumers buy products packaged in those certain materials.

Reflecting on the first point, do people really know what they can put into the recycling bin? It is frequently assumed that all forms of plastic can go into the recycling bin, or that anything that is not compostable can be reused. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case. For example, plastic wrap, plastic bags, and Styrofoam cannot be recycled. These forms of packaging are generally used to package meat and other foods.

Another significant point along these lines Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Tina Xiong, and complements previous students’ analysis of the question What is Sustainability?]

One of the many topics of change that the Coalition for a Livable Future‘s Regional Equity Atlas expands on is poverty and, more specifically, child poverty. The Atlas presents a figure of 31,000 people living in poverty in the Portland metro area in the year 2000 and almost a third of that number were children. A collection of research also cited by the source provides an unsettling correlation of poverty stricken children and elevated exposure to crime and an increased chance of teen pregnancy, family problems, and a lower standard of education. In order to improve these unfortunate circumstances it would be necessary to utilize preventative and tertiary methods.

Preventative methods would aid in addressing the root of the problem rather than simply taking measures that will just move the population of poor to other areas. Continue Reading »

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