OSU students demonstrate sustainable practices at new center

July 27, 2007

CORVALLIS, Ore.—This summer Oregon State University students and community volunteers are turning an old house into the new home of the OSU Student Sustainability Center.

Volunteers are renovating the OSU owned house from the inside out and creating an educational center for people interested in learning more about environmentally sustainable practices such as solar energy, organic gardening, composting, and the protection of native plants.

"We want to make it like the other cultural centers that are on campus," said Shayna Rogers, an environmental sciences student and an intern at the center. "At the same time, we want the center to be a demonstration of green building."

Renovations will be held throughout the summer as students develop the 1920s bungalow into a demonstration of sustainable practices inside and out.

For example, Reade Northup, an OSU graduate student in interior design, is in charge of interior renovations. She will focus on paints that contain low levels of toxic volatile organic compounds and low-toxicity treatments to strip and protect the wood floors.

Intern Violet Depoe, an OSU student in environmental sciences, is working on a project to restore a nearby creek. Matt Pennington, an OSU student in natural resource management, is creating a sustainability purchasing guide for departments on campus.

Some students are working on a solar trailer to display at the center; and others will be working with the College of Forestry to care for the center's urban trees.

In addition, the OSU Student Sustainability Center will help the university maintain a vacant lot located next to the center, where students are working with the College of Agricultural Sciences to plan an organic garden and compost demonstration.

Support comes from the OSU Student Sustainability Initiative, a broad-based initiative funded by a $1.85 per student, per term fee. According to Justin Fleming, faculty adviser for the initiative, 100 percent of the money goes back to students through internships, jobs or projects.

"We've had this internship program for several years," Fleming said. "We have had interns from nine of OSU's colleges and from 15 different majors. So it's a cross-discipline program."

The term sustainability refers to choices people make that affect how environmental resources are used, Fleming said. Food in grocery stores transported from thousands of miles away may have a cheaper price tag than food grown locally, until additional “costs” are factored in – such as how much fuel it takes to deliver the food, or how much air pollution is created by the vehicles that transport it, he added.

"I try to emphasize to students that sustainability means a series of decisions about our impact on the environment," Fleming said.

Although the new sustainability center is a student organization, there are numerous opportunities for qualified mentors to share their time and expertise, according to Fleming.

"This land is on the OSU campus boundary, so it lets us serve the students and lets us bridge the gap between the university and the community," Fleming said.

After a summer of renovations, the OSU Student Sustainability Center will be inaugurated on Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 1 to 4 p.m. The event will be open to the public.

For more information about the center and its opportunities, visit the OSU Student Sustainability Initiative.

Author: Bryan Andersen
Source: Justin Fleming, Shayna Rogers