Student sustainability leaders host community carnival
On March 7, Portland State's Sustainability Volunteer Program hosted its first Spring Community Carnival at the Native American Student and Community Center. Ridhi D’Cruz, event organizer and social sustainability liaison for the Sustainability Leadership Center, described the carnival as an opportunity “to get to know the community and celebrate the work that students have put into promoting sustainability.”
The room buzzed with activists and activity, and like any carnival worth its salt, this one featured live music, food, games, and face painting. Heather Spalding, PSU sustainability leadership and outreach coordinator, staffed a table with two sewing machines and invited passers-by to practice some basic sewing skills by making napkins and pillows from repurposed fabric. Roughly twenty student organizations were represented at the carnival, including the Women’s Resource Center, the ReUse Room, the Environmental Club and Earth Week Coalition, and the Garden Task Force, which demonstrated marshmallow-making from scratch using egg whites, powdered sugar, pulverized mallow root, and elderberry syrup—a team effort, with no fewer than five people taking turns on the whisk.
Also in attendance were representatives from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, whose mission is to increase the participation of Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians in the STEM fields. Specifically, they were promoting the upcoming AISES Region One Conference that will be held in Portland this April. Chapter President Larrita Riggs said the conference, which is open to professionals, students, and community members, will include tours of PSU and OHSU laboratories, as well as trips to the Columbia River and the Bonneville Dam. The purpose of the tours, she said, is to “engage these students in more hands-on and in-field activity, making science fun for them.”
Occupying a table near the carnival’s entrance was Trash for Peace, a new nonprofit founded by PSU graduate student Laura Kutner. Kutner started the organization in part to change people’s concept of waste, and to that end, Trash for Peace uses discarded materials to build recycling and waste bins. Cabinet doors, towel racks, and repurposed plywood from the ReBuilding Center frame the bins, and their walls are comprised of plastic bottles linked end-to-end (imagine popcorn on a string) with strips of old bicycle tubes, spiral notebook bindings, and wire hangers. The idea, she said, is to encourage folks to reuse and then recycle.
Anthony Foster, who was tabling for the Environmental Club, said “We’re an organization of people devoted to creating opportunities for bettering society in a sustainable way.” Participants alternately called the carnival a networking event, an information-share, and a skill-share—and actually, it was all of the above. But with marshmallows.
Eleanor Piper is a graduate student in Portland State's MFA in Creative Writing program.