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A tour of Portland’s greenest: coffee, basketball, beer

Coffee. Basketball. Beer. Portland has a lot of great things to offer, but these are three of our best. Mix in a ride on the Streetcar, and you have yourself a true Portland experience. As part of the Oregon Higher Education Conference last week, I led a group of students and staff from three different Oregon universities on a tour featuring three of Portland’s greenest local businesses. And, of course, we did it all by public transit.

Beginning on PSU’s campus—the busiest transit hub in the entire Portland metro area—the group caught a bus across the river to Portland Roasting, where coffee aficionados blend and roast direct trade beans that will be distributed by bike, electric vehicle, or biodiesel van. The company works closely with coffee growers to ensure living wages and healthy working conditions for workers both overseas and here in Portland. They only distribute compostable cups, use only 100 percent post-consumer recycled shipping boxes, and purchase carbon credits that fund the planting of shade trees in coffee growing areas. Because of these and other efforts, Portland Roasting has been a carbon neutral company since 2008.

After a short ride on the new eastside Streetcar, we visited the Rose Garden Arena. The Portland Trail Blazers are founding members of the Green Sports Alliance, which is an organization aimed at helping sports teams, venues, and leagues reduce their environmental impact. After completing renovations, the arena was the first major league sports facility to be certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2010.

Standing on the ground level of the arena looking up, I was amazed at all the small things the building managers have done to make a big difference for both the environment and the arena’s bottom line: they’ve updated all the light fixtures with cost-saving, high-efficiency bulbs, use bikes and electric vehicles for on site operations, and have a tremendously successful recycling and compost collection program. 

As we approached happy hour, we hopped on the yellow line MAX to head over to Widmer Brewery—which will soon be one of only five restaurants in Portland with a Green Restaurant Certification. Despite having unlimited access to Portland’s fantastic water supply, Widmer brewers use less water in their brewing process than most. They also repurpose their spent grains and yeast into cattle feed, and use locally-made bottles that are thinner and lighter than industry standard—saving fuel and money during shipping and recycling.

After enjoying a classic Northwest IPA, knowing it was brewed responsibly and sustainably, we headed back to PSU on the MAX. Coming full circle, it was great to return to our own green university campus. And after all, isn’t school just as cool as coffee, basketball, and beer? Yep.

Fletcher Beaudoin is the sustainability partnerships director at the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions.