See the original story with photos in the AOR January Newsletter. (Page 6)
For the past 20 years, Community Environmental Services (CES) has been conducting research and service projects in solid waste, recycling, transportation, program evaluation, and other areas of environmental resource management. The organization has provided hundreds of students with knowledge about solid waste and recycling, leadership opportunities and hands-on experience creating and delivering programs.
Community Environmental Services is a research and service unit within the Center for Urban Studies in the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University. Shanna Eller, who succeeded Dan Blue as head of CES, says these are times of great opportunity for the organization.
“I’m excited that the concern for sustainability has evolved since I came to PSU,” Shanna says, adding that the
university is “hanging its hat” on sustainability issues. “We see ourselves as part of the bedrock of these initiatives.
We’re excited to do so many projects that are providing so much experience for so many students,” she says.
Shanna says that CES’s role is to support existing programs, try out new programs and solutions, and fill in the gaps when clients need support. Current and recent projects include working with the Portland airport on recycling, waste reduction and organics; providing on-site feedback to residential customers about correct and incorrect recycling behavior; and supporting Recycle at Work initiatives for Metro and some local governments in the Portland metro area.
Because the students employed by CES are passionate about sustainability issues and knowledgeable about local and regional programs, they provide great value to the clients that contract for their services. For example, for the Portland residential recycling project, ten CES staff members worked with haulers to visit tens of thousands of single-family households throughout the Metro region over a one-year period for a budget of $150,000. Follow-up research showed that the direct and very specific feedback they provided residents – more so than regional advertising campaigns – were successful in changing behavior.
Student staff members also bring fresh eyes and creative solutions to problems. For example, at the Portland Airport, because travelers can’t take liquids on board, thousands of full or partially full beverage containers are being tossed in the trash. To address the problem, CES staff developed a “Drain Before You Plane” program (CES’s description, not the Port’s), and now travelers can empty their water and juice bottles into a container before putting them into the recycling barrel. This reduces the liquid weight that the Port had been paying to landfill, and also increases recycling of beverage containers.
CES staff also pointed out opportunities to put recycling containers at the passenger drop-off area and in the
parking garages, and they are thinking about ways to address the huge amount of paper hand towel waste.
“One student told me this is the best job he’s ever had,” says Shanna. “He said that instead of working at Krispy
Kreme, he’s making a real difference in the community.” The experience CES staff gains often stays in the community: many local government staff developed their recycling chops at CES.
Shanna says that she’d like to share what CES has learned and developed over the years with other universities, governments and businesses outside the region. “We’d like to be a resource in areas where waste practices are less developed. There’s no need for them to reinvent the wheel.”