Rachel Willis, Reed’s first Sustainability Coordinator, is swinging into her first fall semester on campus with a diverse team of student sustainability interns working on a variety of projects under the sustainability umbrella. A few of these projects are expanded from previous clubs and student volunteer positions, such as the recycling center, community garden and orchard. Other projects have been born from collaborative efforts between Willis, her interns, and other campus parties interested in advancing sustainable campus culture and management.
One of the longest-running sustainability projects at Reed arguably began before the college was founded, when all the land was utilized agriculturally. Various community gardens have waxed and waned on campus over the years, with the land allocated to each project slowly dwindling in size and management; they ultimately fall into the hands of a few dedicated Gardening Club members. With a renewed interest in sustainable land management, sustainability interns Mud Bentley (Junior, ES-Econ) and Lily Simon (Junior, ES-Bio) made great strides in keeping up the vegetable garden and the centennial orchard this Summer, and will continue their work through the Fall and Spring. They hope to provide support for any students who want to get intimate with the dirt on campus, and they hope to rely upon volunteers to expand and sustain the legacy of agriculture at Reed.
The Recycling Center is another long-running project that began through Greenboard, Reed’s sustainability club. Now, Tess Rutstein (Senior, ES-Bio) and Anna Clauer (Sophomore, ES-Chem) are leading the effort to reduce Reed’s impact on landfills. Located in the basement of the GCC next to the pool hall and mail room, the Recycling Center has the capacity and breadth to sort almost anything one would be able to carry down the hallway. Materials sorted through the Center are sure to be recycled through various partnerships that Rutstein and Greenboard have cultivated over the years – something that cannot be said for general Portland recycling. The Recycling Center extends a warm invitation to the Quest readers to join them for an open waste audit on October 10th on the lawn.
Other waste streams on campus are being diverted internally; this semester, the campus celebrated the grand opening of the Swap Shop, located under the GCC at the very end of the hallway(past the Reed Community Pantry near the graffiti hall). Swap shop is built with the clothing and other random, perfectly usable items, such as mirrors, fridges, etc., that are left in the dorms after people leave. In fact, so much is left behind that it fills up an entire unused campus building(and got the sustainability team a fire code violation). However, Vic Dudek-Tipton (Junior, ES-Poli Sci) and Ishi Shah (Sophomore, Physics), have tirelessly worked to clean, sort, and curate a centralized space for students to peruse and take any items they desire from a pile that would otherwise go straight to the landfill. They hope to rely on volunteers to run the Swap Shop, and are looking for more people to get involved in order to expand their hours of operation.
Percy Peterson, a senior sociology student, has been working over the summer and this semester to centralize Reed’s Greenhouse Gas data into a single document. The inventory includes all electricity and natural gas used on campus, as well as the carbon emissions tied to air travel and the food we eat on campus, among other things. The creation of a Greenhouse Gas Inventory is an essential first step to realizing many of the goals of the sustainability office, and is a complicated process of teasing out data from a wide range of sources.
Creating the Greenhouse Gas Inventory is a key credit for another large project at Reed: the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS). STARS provides a “transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance,” according to their website. Ena Hashimoto (Senior, ES-Bio) and Ava Willis (Junior, ES-History) have taken on the task of connecting Reed to the larger sustainability sphere through this system. STARS allows institutions to collaborate and track each other’s projects and ideas.
Alister Orozco, a sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology major, has been working to promote public transport and bike commuting to and from campus, hoping to lay the foundation for future campus transportation infrastructure. They will be leading a student bike ride on October 8th to Sellwood Waterfront Park and will be partnering with the Bike Co-op.
Kokoro Holcomb, a sophomore ES-Bio major, has begun working on expanding the energy management programs on campus. Holcomb hopes to apply sustainability practices directly to energy use on campus.
The sustainability team does not work alone; each project relies upon a vast web of broader connections, and they are always looking to make new allies with people within the Reed community and beyond. The team asks readers of the Quest to consider their own climate action. What is your skill set? What needs doing? What brings you joy? The team asks that anyone who would like to get involved with any of these projects, please reach out to either Rachel Willis or any of the sustainability interns, either via email or by stopping and chatting if you see them around campus.
About the Author
Mud is a seasoned Quest writer, an Environmental Studies student in their third year. Mud has kept up a weekly strange entertainment column for over thirty issues and has covered pressing sustainability and land-use stories for the past two years.