Sustainability at SOU
The Greening of Southern Oregon University
(Ashland, Ore.) Southern Oregon University (SOU) has reached a new milestone in its growth as an environmentally-conscious campus. The new issue of Sierra, the bi-monthly magazine of the Sierra Club, ranks SOU #26 on its “Cool Schools” annual list of America’s green colleges and universities.
Although Sierra has been ranking “Cool Schools” for seven years, SOU has participated in the process in only the last four. During that time, SOU’s rank has gone from #99 in 2010 to #38 in 2011 to #45 in 2012, and now to #26 this year.
The ranking increase coincides with SOU’s deepening commitment to environmental sustainability. In April 2007, SOU President Mary Cullinan established theSOU Sustainability Council. Soon after, President Cullinan was one of the original signatories to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. “SOU is strongly committed to sustainability initiatives that bring profound benefits to our region,” says SOU President Cullinan. “Our students, faculty, and staff are passionate about preserving our environment locally and globally.”
The RCC-SOU Higher Education Center in Medford, co-owned and operated by SOU and Rogue Community College, opened in 2008 as both the first LEED Platinum-certified building in the Oregon University System and the first platinum-certified building in southern Oregon.
Meanwhile SOU students voted to tax themselves to pay for renewable energy credits (RECs) that offset the natural gas and electricity consumed on campus. SOU’s “green tag” campaign caught the attention of both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U S Department of Energy (DOE). In July 2010 theEPA ranked SOU #14 among colleges and universities in the nation that offset energy use with green tags. In 2011 students opened a recycling center on campus. Last fall the DOE featured a video of SOU’s commitment to sustainability on its home page.
Last spring, SOU students initiated two more major sustainability projects. Students transferred their renewable energy credits from gas and electricity to water, making SOU the first campus in America to offset 100% of its water usage. In June, students voted to pay for a new Center for Sustainability on campus.
That’s not all. Enrollment continues to grow in SOU’s Environmental Studies academic programs, and SOU faculty members such as Professor Greg Jones, a world-renowned climatologist, make headlines regularly with projections on the effects of climate change.
This fall SOU will open its new 700-bed North Campus Village, the largest construction project in Ashland history, expected to merit LEED Gold certification. Next month SOU will launch new interdisciplinary learning communities called the House Experience. One of the initial learning communities is the Green House with seminars and community activities focused on sustainability, adventure, leadership, and applied research.
"This is an exciting time for SOU as students, staff and faculty work together to advance sustainability throughout university operations, administration and curricula,” says Roxane Beigel-Coryell, SOU Sustainability & Recycling Coordinator and Co-chair of the SOU Sustainability Council. “This collaborative approach has fostered innovative programming and initiatives, strengthening the campus culture of sustainability. We are so proud to achieve our highest ranking in the Cool Schools list to date. And we’re inspired to continue expanding our sustainability initiatives on campus and in the community."
About Southern Oregon University
As the public liberal arts university of the West, Southern Oregon University focuses on student learning, accessibility, and civic engagement that enriches both the community and bioregion. The university is recognized for fostering intellectual creativity, for quality and innovation in its connected learning programs, and for the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power, and it is the first university in the nation to balance 100% of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.
Students, Faculty, Staff and Administration Represent SOU at Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference
On January 31st and February 1st students, faculty, staff, administrators, and industry and community members from every corner of Oregon including seven representatives from SOU met at Portland State University (PSU) for the Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference (OHESC) 2013. Over 350 leaders in sustainability gathered to share ideas and network in the name of sustainability for our institutions. The energy and enthusiasm of those in attendance was palpable and undoubtedly fueled by a commitment to create positive change in higher education. Everyone’s commitment was made apparent by the amazing display of innovation, progress and results in sustainability presented at OHESC.
One of the most talked about themes at the conference was socially responsible investing (SRI) for our institutions. SOU led the SRI conversation, with outspoken students pushing the topic to the forefront of the conference at every chance. SOU Students Winston Friedman and Caitlin Mezger-Sieg presented on the subject in a session titled “Let’s Put Our Money Where Our Mouth Is”. In the session they outlined the history, strategies and the performance of SRI in the market, but more importantly they issued a call to action for institutions of higher education to align their stated values with where they actually put their money. Excitingly, the call was heard. After the presentation representatives of PSU, OSU, U of O, Lewis and Clark, and SOU signed up to start an Oregon higher education SRI working group, dedicated to working together to create SRI for our institutions. Research from SOU Student Shaun Franks suggests that Oregon University System schools’ investments make up about $1.53 billion, punctuating the potential impact of this group. SOU professor Dr. Vincent Smith remarked, “Our students have made a memorable contribution to the State of Oregon this weekend. We owe them our gratitude.”
SOU representatives attending OHESC 2013 left energized and hopeful for the future. Dr. Smith spent his time in Portland exploring innovative strategies to develop interdependent learning opportunities for students that stress hands-on learning and adventure. Lessons learned from other universities will be used in the planning of The SOU GreenHouse program, a new innovative general education curriculum focused on sustainability being launched this coming fall and in the planning of a potential Center for Sustainability to include an educational farm.
One of the most powerful tangibles from the conference was a vision and action plan for sustainability in Oregon higher education created by the students. This vision and action plan will hopefully keep us energized and on track towards a better future. Below is the vision created at OHESC. Mr. Friedman remarked, “We hope that this inspires you as much as it does us, so that we can start to work together to create it.”
Vision for Oregon Higher Education
The vision of the students in Oregon is to empower and develop leaders through a culture of sustainability that fosters relationships between all campus constituents and the broader communities of which they are a part. A culture of sustainability includes:
- Expectations of inclusive and collaborative decision making processes, which include students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and the surrounding communities;
- Embedded sustainability throughout curriculum in all departments;
- An emphasis on active transportation, and a minimization of privately owned vehicles; and
- Physical spaces that reflect innovative understanding of systems and place-based, culturally responsible, identity;
- The establishment of structures to ensure the longevity of such practices.
From this date until OHESC 2019, we will partner with and expect our institution’s leadership to take action on the following tangible steps towards a true culture of sustainability.
Together, we will:
- Finalize a plan for a Zero Waste campuses that will be accomplished by 2025, which equates to 90% diversion from the waste stream;
- Formalize a commitment to transparent endowments, socially responsible investments, and a complete divestment from fossil fuels;
- Establish a Green Revolving Fund on each campus;
- Develop a requirement in each major that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the field of study;
- Halve the percentage of single-occupancy vehicles used to commute (students, staff, faculty);
- Create a system for access to affordable, healthy, and just food, which could include establishing a food pantry and/or garden plots for the campus community’s use; and
- Mandate programs that provide a holistic introduction to sustainability for first year students, new staff, faculty and administrators, which address oppression of both people and the planet.
Through this vision and the previous steps, the Oregon higher education students, will work with our campuses to build off of the work done at the 2013 Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference and bring innovative changes to our communities. We hope you will join us!
SOU Highlighted by U.S. Energy Department for its Investment in Clean Energy
Fourth video in the “Clean Energy in Our Community” video series
WASHINGTON – Today, the Energy Department released its fourth video in the “Clean Energy in Our Community” video series, highlighting clean energy investments by Southern Oregon University (SOU). The school’s investments in renewable energy, sustainability, and purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are benefiting residents and workers across Ashland, a city of about 20,000 people. SOU is working to reduce its energy waste and deploy clean, renewable energy projects both on its campus and throughout the Ashland community.
“Southern Oregon University is a leading example of how local institutions and communities can help lead the way in making sure that America wins the global clean energy race, while creating good local jobs and protecting the environment,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
SOU is nationally recognized for its involvement in sustainability initiatives through its membership in the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
The University is committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. SOU students created a self-imposed fee to support SOU's continued commitment to power the campus with clean, renewable energy. Funds from the student fee may be used for on-site energy generation or to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). SOU has also committed to purchasing Water Restoration Certificates (WRCs), becoming the first university to restore 100 percent of the water used on campus to a critically dewatered stream in the nearby Klamath River Basin.
“SOU's location in a beautiful mountain town surrounded by national forests and clear whitewater rivers and streams inspires our community and reminds us daily of the importance of preserving our natural resources,” says SOU President Mary Cullinan. “Our faculty teach sustainable practices. Our students are actively engaged in sustainable projects. And our staff and administration are dedicated to sustainable operations.”
SOU is also producing its own renewable energy through the purchase of a 56-kW solar photovoltaic array in 2008 that produces more than 70,000 kWh per year. This array helped the University qualify for a LEED Platinum certification for the Higher Education Center in nearby Medford. The certification is the highest level of LEED certification in the Oregon University system.
Creator of SOU’s Waste Management Project
is Ashland’s Conservationist of the Year
(Ashland, ORE) – Southern Oregon University student Misty Munoz will be acknowledged at the Science Works Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 21, as the recipient of the Ashland Conservation Commission's "Conservationist of the Year" award for her efforts to launch a campus-wide waste management program at SOU. The program began operating last September and includes a recycling center on the Ashland campus, indoor and outdoor recycling bins for every university building, a fulltime recycling coordinator and student assistants.
Munoz, a senior majoring in Environmental Studies, launched the project through a classroom capstone project overseen by Environmental Studies Professor Mark Shibley, and Native American Studies Professor David West in order to fulfill requirements for the Native American Studies certificate. Students Christine Becker, Benji Nagel and Charlie Chao also worked on the project.
|Photograph by Judith Pavlik Photography|
“Hopefully this will put SOU on the path to having zero waste in five years,” said Munoz at the program launch. Munoz and other members of the Ecology Center of the Siskiyous (ECOS), an SOU student group, realized the need for an enhanced recycling program on Earth Day 2010 when students dumped a week’s worth of trash on the patio outside the Stevenson Union, then sorted through the pile to determine how much could be recycled. “We discovered that 75 percent of SOU’s trash is recyclable,” says Munoz.
That led Munoz and her classmates to create a comprehensive proposal based on a successful recycling program operated at the University of Oregon. The proposal included clear guidelines for sorting recyclables, a sorting facility and an administrative infrastructure to support the project. Funding came from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, SOU student fees, Ted Turner Foundation and the Ashland Food Co-op.
The Princeton Review Names Southern Oregon University to
“Guide to 322 Green Colleges"
Downloadable Book Profiles Most Environmentally Responsible Colleges
(New York, NY) – As the nation celebrates Earth Day, The Princeton Review (www.PrincetonReview.com), in collaboration with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) (www.usgbc.org), has released the third annual edition of its unique, free guidebook saluting the nation's most environmentally responsible "green colleges."
For the first time, Southern Oregon University is among the chosen campuses. Princeton Review cites SOU’s Climate Action Plan which promises a carbon-neutral campus by 2050, as well as SOU student-initiated support of a Green Energy Fee, which allows SOU to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to offset 100 percent of its electricity consumption and carbon offsets to offset 100 percent of its natural gas consumption. The publication also notes the LEED Platinum-certified RCC/SOU Higher Education Center (HEC) in Medford, the first building to achieve this highest level of LEED certification in the Oregon University system.
The Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2012 Edition" profiles 322 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada that demonstrate notable commitments to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation. The 232-page book— the only free, comprehensive, annually updated guide to green colleges—can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide and www.centerforgreenschools.org/greenguide.
The Princeton Review, well known for its education and test-prep services, first created this one-of-a-kind resource for college-bound students in 2010 in collaboration with USGBC, which is best-known for developing the LEED green building rating system. In 2010, USGBC launched its Center for Green Schools (www.centerforgreenschools.org) to increase its efforts to drive change in how campuses and schools are designed, constructed and operated so that all educational facilities can enhance student-learning experiences.
How Schools Were Chosen for the Book
The Princeton Review chose the 322 schools based on a survey it conducted in 2011 of hundreds of colleges across the U.S. and in Canada to tally its annual "Green Rating" scores (scaled from 60 to 99) of colleges for its school profiles in its college guidebooks and website. The survey asks administrators more than 50 questions about their institution's sustainability-related policies, practices and programs. The Company tallied Green Ratings for 768 institutions in summer 2011. The 322 schools in this guide received scores of 83 or above in that assessment. (Note: The Princeton Review does not rank the schools in this guide hierarchically (1 to 322) according to their Green Rating scores, nor does it include those scores in this book's school profiles.)
About Southern Oregon University
As the public liberal arts university of the West, Southern Oregon University focuses on student learning, accessibility, and civic engagement that enriches both the community and bioregion. The university is recognized for fostering intellectual creativity, for quality and innovation in its connected learning programs, and for the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU is the first university in Oregon – and one of the first in the nation – to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power.
About The Princeton Review
The Princeton Review (www.princetonreview.com) has been a pioneer and leader in helping students achieve their higher education goals for 30 years through college and graduate school test preparation, private tutoring, and more than 150 print and digital publications. The team includes over 5,000 teachers and tutors in the US and Canada, and a network of international franchisees. The Princeton Review provides students and their parents with the resources to research, apply to, prepare for, and learn how to pay for higher education. The company also partners with schools and guidance counselors worldwide to assist in college readiness, test preparation and career planning services, helping more students pursue postsecondary education.
About the U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost- efficient and energy-saving green buildings. USGBC works toward its mission of market transformation through its LEED green building certification program, robust educational offerings, a nationwide network of chapters and affiliates, the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, and advocacy in support of public policy that encourages and enables green buildings and communities. For more information, visit usgbc.org and connect on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
SOU’s full listing in the “Guide to 322 Green Colleges”
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, whitewater rivers, and some of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems in the world, students at Southern Oregon University (SOU) are reminded every day of the magnificence of nature. SOU is determined to preserve those surroundings, and is doing so by focusing on renewable energy. An ACUPCC signatory, SOU completed its Climate Action Plan in January of 2010, which promises a carbon-neutral campus by 2050. In order to help achieve this goal, students initiated a Green Energy Fee, which allows SOU to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to offset 100 percent of its electricity consumption and carbon offsets to offset 100 percent of its natural gas consumption. But the university is not only buying renewable energy, it’s also producing renewable energy—tons of it. In the fall of 2009, a massive 56-kW solar photovoltaic array (producing more than 70,000 kWh per year of useful energy) was installed on the roof of the Higher Education Center. The array helped earn the center LEED Platinum certification—the first building to achieve this highest level of LEED certification in the Oregon University system. Residence halls are in the process of receiving a water- and energy-conserving makeover with the installation of low-flow shower heads, joint insulation, lighting and temperature control equipment. Proactive students can join the Ecology Center of the Siskiyous (ECOS), a student organization that strives “to expand environmental awareness and environmental responsibility.” ECOS manages a productive and educational community garden, composts coffee grounds and food scraps, operates a bicycle program and sponsors educational events, such as Earth Day.
SOU Deepens Commitment to Sustainability
Southern Oregon University is now a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). AASHE is an organization of colleges and universities that are working to advance sustainability in higher education. You can see our school’s name on AASHE’s list of campus members.
AASHE membership covers everyone on campus and comes with a lot of excellent benefits. As members, all SOU students, faculty, and staff have access to AASHE’s online resources and opportunities for networking, information sharing, collaboration, and professional development.
SOU Ranks #12 on the EPA Green Power Partnership Top 20 College & University List
Through the student-initiated Green Energy Fee, Southern Oregon University purchases renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset its electricity consumption and carbon offsets to offset its natural gas consumption. In 2009, SOU purchased 33,300,047 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power, which amounts to 287% of total electricity use. SOU purchases 100% wind-generated RECs and carbon offsets through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
SOU is a member of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership. Among the 54 colleges and universities that are EPA Green Power Partners, SOU ranked #12 on the EPA's April 6, 2010 Top 20 College & University list.
The Top 20 College & University list represents the largest purchasers among higher education institutions within the Green Power Partnership. The combined green power purchases of these organizations amounts to more than 994 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, which is the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power nearly 87,000 average American homes annually.
President Cullinan Signs American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment
SOU has now committed to significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Sustainability Council recommends that President Mary Cullinan join the 284 college and university presidents who have signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.
This commitment will require the following actions by Southern Oregon University:
- Initiate the development of a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible.
- Within two months of signing this document, create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan.
- Within one year of signing this document, complete a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting, and air travel) and update the inventory every other year thereafter.
- Within two years of signing this document, develop an institutional action plan for becoming climate neutral, which will include:
- A target date for achieving climate neutrality as soon as possible.
- Interim targets for goals and actions that will lead to climate neutrality.
- Actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students.
- Actions to expand research or other efforts necessary to achieve climate neutrality.
- Mechanisms for tracking progress on goals and actions.
- Initiate two or more of the following tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gases while the more comprehensive plan is being developed.
- Establish a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver standard or equivalent.
- Adopt an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring purchase of ENERGY STAR certified products in all areas for which such ratings exist.
- Establish a policy of offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel paid for by our institution.
- Encourage use of and provide access to public transportation for all faculty, staff, students and visitors at our institution
- Within one year of signing this document, begin purchasing or producing at least 15% of our institution's electricity consumption from renewable sources.
- Establish a policy or a committee that supports climate and sustainability shareholder proposals at companies where our institution's endowment is invested.
- Make the action plan, inventory, and periodic progress reports publicly available by providing them to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for posting and dissemination.