Just Sustainability: Hope for the Commons (Jesse Pettibone)

January 31st, 2015 | Kimberly


We were able to stay with some organizers I knew who work on fossil fuel divestment at Seattle University. One night, we created Butterfly Talks, a TED Talk like experience where we challenged ourselves and each other to speak for one minute straight about any topic ever, on the fly. Topics ranged from favorite foods and actual butterflies to building solidarity with folks from many identities around the fight for climate justice.

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend the Just Sustainability: Hope for the Commons conference at Seattle University with Nazario, the SSI’s summer intern focussed on articulating the connection between environmental and social justice at Oregon State. This opportunity was a perfect fit with the Student Sustainability Initiative focussing on expanding the breadth of its work beyond just the environment and into social and economic justice, completing the three pillars of sustainability, or as we say at the SSI, the key to a holistic and healthy community. Coming from a background with a more environmental focus and just beginning to deeply explore the intersections of social justice, the benefits were bound to be multiplied being able to attend the conference with a comrade who had a social justice background and was beginning to expand into environmental aspects.

In the months since the conference, I’ve spent considerable time thinking about what I got from the experience. There was a slough of mundane sessions about public utilities and some folks talked about environmental policy. However, the most valuable experiences from that weekend in Seattle came from one particular keynote and the conversations it spurred afterward.

The ending keynote compiled a panel of people from around the world to talk about how environmental disruption and intersected with social issues impacting communities. In one particular example, a community had been moved to a small peninsula after the state took their land for reasons I wish I could remember but likely had something to do with racial displacement. Climate change was threatening the land their community had been forced to move to, and the state was refusing to support this community in finding a new home. Bonds were broken as people left the community to find anywhere they could afford or potentially find new jobs. The low-lying peninsula will likely be completely underwater by 2020, like so many low-lying areas already are. This is reflective of so much of how climate change is impacting people globally. Those most susceptible are the least capable of adapting.
The part of the keynote that struck me the most was a discussion around indigeniouty, or being indigenous to a place. The panelist, from one of the Hawaiian islands spoke of the rights to share the stories of others as tools for our own agendas, people’s personal stake in determining their own identity, and the value of a sense of place. The panelist did organizing around social justice issues in Hawaii and noted how people talked about homelessness. There was someone who lived along the shore and was completely happy, even though others took pity. This person chose to live that way and live in harmony with the land. It sounds idyllic and there is a lot to extrapolate from that generalization — unfortunately my notebook has since been stolen and I may never recall all the specific details about the session. It sparked discussion and, being at a university, we talked about the education system and how sweeping curriculum across an entire country is dangerous because it separates people from the reality of the very specific place they live in. From that, people are conditioned to make assumptions about the world: that those who don’t fit a certain archetype of dwelling are homeless, that their education would be applicable on their walk home or their job which probably would be place-based, that there are very specific bounds on the identities they can have, and an implication that the history of their actual locale was not valuable, even though it shaped the world around them. The panelist called on us to question why we shun those who drop out of school, as if our education system is really that conducive.

It was relieving to have someone finally step out of the routine of content I had been hearing and really challenge the system. I like to think of my education around justice and systems of oppression and social change as a journey because I know it is ongoing. I left that keynote with more questions than answers but I think that’s what is supposed to happen. We cannot expect to be spoon fed the ways to challenge the system, we have to actively seek it out. In the past few weeks since 2015 began, I’ve seen #StayWoke a few times and it’s really been striking me. It’s almost ironic because even in our sleep we become complacent. The system is designed to eat the things that challenge it. #StayWoke is a call to action. It acknowledges that the world changes a lot every day and it is difficult and often overwhelming to think critically about injustices. We have to keep reflecting on the things we learn and we have to keep seeking out new opportunities.
I think the SSI’s Professional Development Grant is important in that it allows us submerge ourselves in these experiences. We can and should read books and articles, think critically about current events, and have conversations with people around us. But the experience of being able to go to a conference and challenge ideas with hundreds of other people doing related work is an important opportunity that everyone should seize.

Take the Initiative. Join the Initiative.

January 29th, 2015 | Jesse Pettibone


Want to get involved creating environmental, social, and economic justice?
Always wanted to know more about the Student Sustainability Initiative?
Looking for volunteer and internship opportunities?

We’ve got all of that and we’re looking for you TONIGHT!

At 6PM tonight in Owen 103, Take the Initiative. Join the Initiative. is your opportunity to get answers to all of your burning questions. SSI staff will be around to personally talk with you about current campaigns, volunteer opportunities, potential internships, available resources, the best ways for you to get involved, and so much more!

A few of the exciting topics we’ll cover:

  • Earth Week Events & Activities
  • OSU Fair Trade Campaign
  • Campuses Take Charge
  • Growing Food Security
  • Green Campus Coalition
  • Volunteer and Internship Opportunities

Check out the SSI’s Facebook to experience our journey across campus letting everyone know that sustainability is for everyone!

Initiative Assemble!

Meet the Menders: Chris Moser

January 28th, 2015 | Kyle Reed

The volunteers for the Repair Fairs come from an varied backgrounds: from students and OSU staff, to D.I.Y. enthusiasts from the Corvallis community. Following each Fair, we’ll provide insight into the people behind the repairs. This is…

Meet the Menders

Chris Moser - mugshotFor the January Repair Fair, we interviewed Chris Moser, a long-time repair volunteer for the housewares, appliances, and electronics sections.

What do you do outside of the Repair Fairs?

I am a retired oceanographic assistant. I still go back to work a little less than half-time doing oceanography.

How did you hear about the Repair Fairs?

It was a Master Recycling class that I took at OSU several years ago, and as a continuation of that Master Recycler class, you could gain community credit and Master Recycling credit by volunteering for things like the Repair Fairs, so I started doing that.

What repair skills do you employ?

A lot of luck, and a lot of counting on my other friends to help me out when I can’t figure out what the problem is… skills of just being confident enough to take some things apart without breaking them, and try to put them back together fixed.

Chris Moser - actionshotWhat are your thoughts on the Repair Fair?

The Repair Fair is wonderful! I think it should be encouraged, it should happen more often, I think that people are easily enticed into a one-way-throw-it-away mentality in a lot of the things that they use in this world and that is exactly what I don’t want to support. I want to support the repair side of reduce, reuse, recycle, repair. That should be the other r in the cycle of things.

Would you like to add anything else?

Never take broken for an answer.

This post is a part of the “Meet the Menders” blog series, where we feature the volunteers of the Repair Fairs. Interested in becoming a repair volunteer? Contact Kyle Reed.

9 Wastehacks to Reuse Everyday Things

January 26th, 2015 | Kyle Reed

Wastehacks [wāst-haks] pl. noun – any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that reduces waste in all walks of life.

This term, Campus Recycling and the Waste Watchers will share with you easy Wastehacks so you don’t waste time or materials.

Reuse Wastehacks

It’s easy to forget how long of a life our products have. Yet despite their long lifespan, our society uses a lot of stuff. According to the EPA, 32 million tons of plastic waste was generated in 2012. Meanwhile, we use more than 69 million tons of paper and paperboard each year. You can see how this adds up.

Wastehacks - Reuse - shareableWhile 9% and 65% of our plastic and paper products respectively are recycled in the US, many of these items were capable of being used for other purposes. Today’s Wastehacks will provide creative ways to reuse those everyday products:

  • Use old papers and assignments as scratch paper
  • Wrap postal packages or cover textbooks in the brown paper bags that you’ve collected
  • Use old magazines to create handmade cards and postcards
  • Cut up old cards to use as gift tags
  • Tear any letter-sized papers into quarters. Keep these quarters around whenever you need to write a quick note (Great for spam mail!)
  • Reuse aluminum foil as many times as possible
  • Become a hipster: Wash out jars and use them as drinking containers
  • Reuse containers for other things, liking store bulk items when shopping.
  • Use plastic bags as a makeshift, rainproof sleeve for laptops or binders.

There are a nearly unlimited number of ways to reuse your stuff. Comment with your own Wastehacks!

Wastehacks” is a weekly blog series where we share quick waste reduction tips. Tune in every Monday this term for more.

AASHE 2014

January 23rd, 2015 | Kimberly

Sustainable Universities at the AASHE Conference (Katie Kasabian)
The 2014 AASHE Conference took place at the Oregon Convention Center October 26th-29th. The conference was a wonderful opportunity to hear about what other universities are doing to foster a sustainable campus culture.

The Sustainability Hut
The University of Florida’s “Sustainability Hut” is a mobile unit that is used to educate students about sustainability through games and activities. The Hut has two solar panel “wings” which provide shade to students and is pulled by a bike. This self-sustaining vehicle is an innovative way to engage students in activities relating to waste, food, energy and transportation.

UF’s Sustainability Hut: http://sustainable.ufl.edu/students/sustainability-hut-2/


Steps to Sustainable Procurement

Portland Community College is one of the few universities that calculates their supply chain emissions from all purchases, then publically reports the results. This approach not only allows PCC to be transparent in their purchasing, but also provides data that allows them to take steps towards reducing their carbon footprint. One cool resource that PCC uses is Carnegie Mellon’s Free Lifecycle Assessment, which allows you to calculate how an institution’s different sectors influence everything from water withdrawals to greenhouse gases.

Link to Free Lifecycle Assessment: http://www.eiolca.net/cgi-bin/dft/use.pl

Campus Eco-Tour
At the Georgia Institute of Technology, they’ve taken the major steps to create an effective stormwater management system on campus. To educate students about stormwater management on campus, Georgia Tech created the “Campus Eco-Tour.” When students download this augmented reality tour app on their smart device, they are able to see sustainability features, like cisterns that students are typically unaware of. Since students created the app, the Eco-Tour is a great example of a university serving as living labs for students to learn through doing.

Georgia Tech’s Stormwater Management Plan: http://issuu.com/billyrayjohnson/docs/m2_designbrief


Get free fixes at the January Repair Fair

January 21st, 2015 | Kyle Reed

2015 01 repair fair FB event 714x264

Bring those broken or damaged items to the January Repair Fair, this Thursday from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. The event will be held at the OSU Recycling Warehouse, aka the OSUsed Store (644 SW 13th Street).

Volunteers will teach you how to fix your broken items; attend demos to learn more skills! See the list below for this month’s skills and demonstrations. The event is free and open to all.

Repair skills offered:

  • Appliances (small items only, please)
  • Clothing
  • Computer diagnostics
  • Electronics (small items only, please)
  • Housewares (furniture, ceramics, lamps, etc.)
  • Jewelry
  • And more!


5:45 – 6:30 pm: Low Car Diet: Cheap & Easy Ways to Go Car-Lite – Mystified by Corvallis travel options? Discover how you can simplify carpooling with a hands-on demo of the free “Drive Less. Connect” website. Learn the ropes for loading a bike onto a bus bike rack and practice right on-site. Stop by to learn these easy tricks and more about alternative transportation. (Leader: Alaina Hawley, Alternative Transportation Student Worker for the OSU Sustainability Office)

DSCN22886:30 – 7:00 pm: Here’s the Drill: Building a D.I.Y. Toolkit – Have you ever thought about making your own toolkit, but wasn’t sure what to fill it with? Stop on by to learn about the essential tools that can get almost any job done. (Leader: Chris Moser, Linn Benton Master Recyclers)

7:00 – 7:20 pm: Wormshop: Composting with a Worm Bin – Worm bins are a method of composting using red wrigglers to break down food waste. Attend this 20-minute presentation to learn how to construct and maintain a worm bin for your household. (Leader: Kyle Reed, Student Outreach Assistant for Campus Recycling)

Additional Details

Note: We don’t have spare parts, but will do our best to repair what we can and/or refer you to where you could find the parts you need. If you have parts already, we may be able to help you install them.

repair-fair-mapDirections: We are located at 644 SW 13th St. in Corvallis; see a map of the entrance and parking here; view our building on Google Maps here. Please enter through the warehouse gate on 13th Street, between A Ave. and the railroad tracks. City buses 36 and 8 stop within 2-4 blocks of our building while routes15 and 7stop 6 blocks away at 11th & Monroe (view full details on the Corvallis Transit System website or use Google Transit to find the best option for you).

Join this event on Facebook.

Save the Date: February Repair Fair

Can’t make it to the January event? Don’t worry: we will be hosting our second Repair Fair on Wednesday, Feb. 11 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. Repair skills and demos are TBA.

Corvallis makes Georgetown University Energy Prize quarterfinals!

January 20th, 2015 | Sam
GeorgetownCorvallis has made it to the quarterfinals for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a $5 million incentive to reduce energy consumption. Now that we’ve made it this far, we need everyone’s help to save more energy than the 49 other American cities in the competition.
The winning city will be judged based on reductions in energy use, innovation of approach, quality of community outreach, sustainability, and replicability.
The Corvallis application was submitted  in June, including letters of support from numerous local businesses and non-profits, Mayor Julie Manning, the Corvallis City Council, and all three utilities: Pacific Power, Consumers Power and Northwest Natural.
Members of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition’s Energy Action Team (EAT) and Energize Corvallis – a project of the Corvallis Environmental Center – spent months assembling the town’s application. The $5 million GUEP prize will be awarded to the community that reduces its residential and municipal use of metered electricity and natural gas more than any other contest entrant.


The goals of the GUEP are to foster innovative approaches to energy efficiency, educate the public and engage students in energy issues, and to grow markets for products & services that facilitate energy efficiency.
The final stage of the two-year competition began on January 1st, and now it’s time for us to put our best foot forward to help make Corvallis a national leader in sustainability! Together with help from volunteers, the City, and community, Corvallis will have a good chance of becoming a finalist.
Learn how you can reduce your energy consumption here, and visit the Energize Corvallis website to sign up for some energy-saving actions that will improve efficiency in your home as well as the community.
Visit the Georgetown University Energy Prize website for more information about the contest and find out more about Corvallis’ entry in the Georgetown University Energy Prize here.

Rethinking our Wardrobe: Saving the World and our Wallets

January 19th, 2015 | Amy Salisbury

We all need clothes. Frequently, we find ourselves buying more clothes. We add to our closets when our old clothes don’t fit us anymore or are completely falling apart. We update our wardrobe for the new school year, to keep up with new fashion trends or when we get a new job. When we buy clothes, many of us look to malls, department stores and our favorite online shops. New clothes have become such a normality that we often forget to realize the negative impact of continuously buying new clothes.

Cosmic Chameleon in Downtown Corvallis

Cosmic Chameleon in Corvallis

What do you think when you hear the word new? When we buy a used car, we refer to it as our “new” car. Although it is not brand new to everyone, it is brand new to us. Just like they say, one person’s trash… Is another person’s treasure.

Now we just need to apply that same perspective to clothing. Clothes are not meant to be viewed as disposable. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the U.S. generates around 25 billion pounds of brand-new textiles per year. Around 85 percent of that eventually ends up in a landfill. That means that the average American trashes about 70 pounds of textiles every year.

It is time we start regularly buying used clothes. Although it’s very important to donate or sell our old clothes, it’s even more crucial that we buy secondhand items in the first place. Buying used items is a significant factor in decreasing our impact on the environment. The average t-shirt wastes 700 gallons of water during manufacturing! So, if every American repurposed just one more t-shirt, we would save over 220 billion gallons of water and we would also stop over 1 million pounds of CO2 from being released into our atmosphere.

Some may believe that shopping at secondhand stores is impractical, but in reality secondhand stores receive more clothes than they know what to do with. This means that they are constantly receiving new items, and that they have a very wide variety of goods in stock. You can find nearly everything you need (and want) at a thrift shop, not to mention everything is so much cheaper.

OSU Folk Club in Downtown Corvallis

OSU Folk Club in Corvallis

Thrift stores are a great alternative for new clothes but they are also a great alternative for other things such as household items, furniture and electronics. Instead of picking things up at a department store, you can grab stuff from the thrift store. For example, a desk lamp or dining room table, holiday decorations, phone chargers, a travel mug or a jigsaw puzzle for a rainy day. Chances are, you’ll find it. What about an awesome, inexpensive DIY (Do It Yourself) project? Your local thrift store carries all of your inspiration.

There are so many kinds of thrift stores, from unique vintage shops to non-profit organizations, and it can be so much fun. From the perfect work shoes to the ugliest christmas sweater you’ve ever seen, you will find practicality and stumble across the weirdest, oddest items. Whenever I travel, I always make sure to visit the local thrift shops because it’s such an exciting adventure.

Now is the time to rethink our wardrobes and find an alternative to new textiles. Look for your “new” clothes at your local thrift shops and consignment stores, get creative at funky vintage shops and even look for used clothes online. Clothes are not disposable and it’s time that we all become responsible shoppers.

Support your local secondhand stores:




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Question of the Week: Oregon E-Cycles

January 14th, 2015 | Andrea Norris

ChicoBag-win-meTime for our Question of the Week!

The first person to provide a correct answer will win a Beavers Reuse ChicoBag, like the one pictured here.

Submit your answer here (“Leave a Reply,” below) or on our Facebook page. Only one post per person, please.

Question of the Week

The Oregon E-Cycles program (which bans certain electronics from the landfill while also establishing a free recycling program for them) expanded to include additional items on January 1, 2015. What are all of the types of electronics items now covered by Oregon E-Cycles?


On January 1, 2015, Oregon E-Cycles expanded to include printers, keyboards and mice, making the full list of items:

  • TVs
  • Computers (desktops, laptops and tablets)
  • Monitors
  • Printers
  • Keyboards
  • Computer Mice

That means these items are illegal in Oregon landfills and can be dropped off for free recycling at Oregon E-Cycles drop sites. Learn more at http://oregonecycles.org.