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2011 Solutions Generator


In 2011, we offered funding for student, faculty, and staff teams.

Social Equity and Environmental Health for Sustainable Cities: A Search for Solutions

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Eileen Brennan, Veronica Dujon, Jana Meinhold, Marion Sharp, Barbara Dudley, Mary King, John Ossowski, Leroy Patton, Cassie Cohen, Amanda Leece.

Our research will seek solutions to social inequalities in health by answering the following questions: (1) In the Portland Metropolitan area, which social determinants of health are linked to social inequities and poorer health outcomes? (2) Which Portland programs that support social equity based on the social determinants of health also support environmental sustainability? (3) What are the common strategies used by these programs to address inequities in environmental health outcomes? What are the barriers these programs face? How can these barriers be addressed? To answer these questions, a team of students, faculty and community partners will synthesize existing quantitative and qualitative data on social determinants of environmental health in Portland, identify 6-8 model programs, and conduct in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in these initiatives to determine the connections between their work, social equity, and environmental sustainability. We anticipate our results will be a compendium of strategies and exemplars of practice that further both social and environmental justice and offer practical solutions.


Grassroots Gardening Project at the Learning Gardens Laboratory

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Heather Burns, Judy Bluehorse-Skelton, Megan Kupko, Ellen Skinner, Weston Miller, Tim Vogt, Liana Harden, Julie Sheen, Jen Twohig, Teresa Gaddy, Cate Clother, Ryan Smith, Jacob Sherman, Keith Nevison.

The Learning Gardens Laboratory (LGL), an extension of PSU campus, needs to have a greater impact in creating community food systems and addressing social equity in the highly diverse low income Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood where it is located. PSU educational programming at LGL could be more holistic by inviting and including more low income neighbors/families at this garden-based education site in a neighborhood that lacks access to farmers markets, grocery stores, and healthy locally grown produce. The Grassroots Gardening Project seeks empower LGL neighbors and PSU students to work together towards developing an inclusive and equitable local food system that provides community food security for the neighborhood. The Grassroots Gardening Project will establish the following: 1) A Salad Bar Garden which will provide fresh local salad greens directly to Lane Middle School and will involved middle school students and families in the growing of these greens 2) A Multicultural Craft and Medicinal Garden which will provide plants for craft and medicine making by local students and families 3) the expansion of the Lane Family Garden to provide free garden plots, training, and materials for neighborhood families to grow their own organic vegetables.


Farm Partnership with Wealth Underground Farm

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Nolan Calisch, Chris Seigel, Harrell Fletcher

Many universities across the country have seen the importance in cultivating direct relationships with organic farms and have set a precedent for institutions who value sustainability and socio-ecological awareness. This proposed farm partnership would bring this rich opportunity to the PSU community. We envision the partnership to be an ongoing one, wherein, we collaborate to progressively develop opportunities that best serve both the university and the farm. Our specific goals as follows:
A) Solar powered outdoor classroom/kitchen: Design, construction, and completion of outdoor class/kitchen structure up to ADA standards. B) Open tours: Development and initiation of open tour schedule. Students, faculty, and visitors to the PSU community can visit our working organic CSA farm and receive an informative tour. C) Cross-discipline class use: Work with our current and future PSU connections to encourage teachers from other departments to formulate curriculum based around access to the farm and surrounding wilderness areas. Classes can also visit on a field trip basis. D) Exclusive PSU farm internship: Development of an exclusive PSU student internship.


Educate, Access, Thrive: Underserved Populations and Healthy food (EatUp); An Equity and Community Food Systems Project

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Renee Bogin Curtis, Kyle Curtis, Jennifer Allen, Shanna Eller, Alan DeLaTorre, Betty Izumi, Barry Messer.

The PSU Climate Action Plan recommends alignment of the University's food policies with the Multnomah Food Action Plan (MFAP). An analysis of organizations which support the MFAP and pledged actions reveals a lack of commitment to three main goals: Goal 5 (Create Environments that Support Health & Quality of Life); Goal 8 (Increase Awareness of Food and Nutrition Programs); and Goal 13 (Develop Regional Food Economy & Infrastructure). EatUp will partner with Multnomah County's Sustainability Department and Aging and Disability Services to pursue aspects of all three goals through an outreach effort directed towards under-served members of the University and neighboring community. Access to healthy, local food is a problem for low-income populations. Low-income earners among PSU's student body must maximize their food dollars, yet need access to healthy, nutritious food while living the high-stress college lifestyle. PSU also has neighboring senior populations near campus who are eligible for food assistance programs, yet like students, may be unaware of nearby healthy food options. With EatUp, we’ll work with on and off-campus partners to inform eligible student and senior participants about the Portland Farmer’s Market’s SNAP matching program and thereby increase awareness about healthy food options as well as support regional food systems through increased patronage at the market. Additionally, EatUp will attempt to identify other healthy food resources and educate targeted student and senior populations about those options, as well as support community engagement of those under-served populations.


4th Annual Earth Day Festival: Sustainability in Action!

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Hanna Davis, Steph Stettler, Kirk Rea, Al Maslowski, Margret Harburg, Kevin McWhirter, Ben Burton, Jenni Goldstein, Abigail Rincon, Keith Nevison, Minuette Drew, Laura Schaefer, Katie Jundt.

The PSU Earth Day Festival is a fully student driven project that celebrates the university’s great progress and perspectives in sustainability. The festival invites all university groups, organizations, faculty, administration, classes, community groups and individuals to share and express, “What does sustainability means to you”? This project strives to demonstrate sustainability in action by producing a fully sustainable event, building community and collaboration, supporting creative arts and expression, and by encouraging sustainability education. The first annual PSU Earth Day Festival was launched in 2008, and built a small student coalition, basic organizational structure and design process. In 2011, the festival aims to boost campus participation, institutional memory, and stronger investment on campus.


Enhancing Social Equity by Creating a Campus that is Friendly for All Ages and Abilities

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Alan DeLaTorre, Margaret Neal, Jost Lottes, Polly Livingston, Melissa Cannon, KD Henderson, Alexis Jewell, Rene Bogin Curtis, Nickole Cheron, Nyla McCarthy, Ian Stude, Mark Lear, Anthony Nobel

This project will bring together pertinent students groups, PSU faculty in the Institute on Aging, administrative bodies at PSU, and appropriate experts from city-wide bureaus and commissions in an attempt to: better understand the issues of accessibility in and around PSU as it pertains to an aging society and persons with disabilities; connect student groups, PSU institutions, and community organizations in an attempt to build interdisciplinary synergy around the issues of aging and disability; and work together to identify barriers, opportunities, and possible solutions that ultimately improve accessibly on campus. To achieve these goals, two campus-wide events will held: (1) an intergenerational, cross-ability forum focused on the issues of age, disability and creating an accessible PSU; (2) an innovative design charrette that will address an accessibility issue on PSU campus. This charrette has the potential to become a model that can be used at PSU and beyond. It will serve PSU’s campus as well as showing how those with diverse ages and abilities can work together to create a sustainable and equitable environments.


Take Back the Tap at Portland State

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Honore Depew, Andy Eiden, Lisa Meersman, Jake Coppola, Catherine Howell

For the past two years, Take Back the Tap at Portland State has been actively dedicated to reducing bottled water consumption at the university. Through ongoing education and outreach events, distributing more than 600 reusable water bottles, and increasing the number of filtered water refill stations on campus, we have demonstrated determination to change behaviors, helping the PSU community make more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable choices. While significant progress has been made, much work remains in developing lasting solutions to the problem of unsustainable bottled water consumption at Portland State. Recognizing the impact of social diffusion, Take Back the Tap has chosen to work closely with student groups. Through these efforts, we will secure commitments to maintain bottled water free events, meetings and offices. By leveraging the strong community support enjoyed by Take Back the Tap at Portland State (demonstrated by over 1500 sympathetic petition signatures), we will work with the student senate to pass a resolution calling for “discontinuing the use of PSU funds for the purchase of bottled water, and discontinuing the sale and distribution of bottled water on campus”.


Leading the Way: Developing Community Food System Leaders

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Jim Mignano, Adam Case

The American food system is unsustainable. Localizing it provides Portland an opportunity to model a socially and environmentally sound future. Our project will develop community leaders dedicated to localizing their food systems. The project is twofold. A partnership between PSU and Emma’s Garden—a local nonprofit organization—will outreach to local communities while designing a series of skills training workshops.


Greenspace Rehabilitation Project

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Hilary Olivos, Judy Bluehorse Skeleton

Portland State University (PSU) students from any discipline can participate in rehabilitating an urban green space. Thanks to the inspiring works by 2005 Diggable city project, PSU urban planning graduate students laid the path to accessing green space in our urban environments, by inventorying and evaluating public spaces for community garden sites within the city boundary of Portland. Greenspace Rehabilitation Project offers undergraduate students the opportunity to restore a parcel of land for garden use, either for decorative demonstration or for consumption, and work with a community-based or non-profit organization that is a stakeholder in the project’s completion. These rehabilitative efforts will provide an enriching learning experience for PSU students and provide bridging opportunities for community organizations to recruit future stakeholders.


Climate Change Impact of Food Purchasing, Preparation, and Waste in PSU’s Dining Services

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Mellie Pullman, Kumar Venkat, Robin Fenske

The production and consumption of food rank among the major sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States. Data from the US Department of Agriculture shows that over 30 percent of most food commodities are wasted at the consumer level. For this project, we will start by analyzing the current purchasing and preparation practices for the most popular food items in PSU dining services. This will be part of a class project in ISQA 458/558 (Food Supply Chain Management). Additionally, we will collect food waste data from dining services. The collected data for the various food items will be processed using the CleanMetrics FoodCarbonScope software to assess the total life-cycle climate change impact of food wasted in the dining services. This will include best estimates of GHG emissions from the production, processing, distribution, storage, cooking and disposal of the wasted food. The results will quantify, for the first time, the real impact of food waste in an institutional setting, linking it to food purchasing and preparation practices. We will use this information to develop guidelines that food service providers can use in purchasing, food preparation, dining practices, and deciding portion sizes. The study will allow purchasing and waste reduction efforts to be linked directly to the reduction of GHG emissions.


Spring Energy Challenge - PSU Campus

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Laura Schaefer, Noelle Studer-Spevak, Noel Mingo

Organize and execute an energy challenge between Broadway and Ondine residence halls during the month of April. The energy challenge will report weekly consumption of electricity data and allow residents to compare to see how much they are reducing energy consumption. Data will be gathered and analyzed appropriately to fairly reflect reductions (% change from April 2010, taking into account degree days). To educate and maintain awareness about the energy challenge, as well as foster a sense of sustainability in the student community, a series of four weekly programs will be hosted for students to learn more about saving electricity and energy. Programming topics will include small steps apartment dwellers can take to lower electricity consumption, as well as education about vampire/phantom energy, the role of hot water in electricity consumption, and embodied energy.


Education as Sustainability: Integrating Sustainability Education into the University Studies Peer Mentor Program

Principal Investigator & Co-PIs: Jacob Sherman, Dana Lundell, Heather Burns

In an effort to increase our understanding surrounding the teaching and learning of sustainability, this project will investigate how the Burns Model of Sustainability Pedagogy (BMSP) transforms University Studies Peer Mentors and impacts their understanding of sustainability. Working with faculty to educate approximately 3,400 undergraduate students each term, Peer Mentors are a strategic “leverage point” who could be used to better promote the university-wide learning outcome of sustainability. This project will examine the Burns Model when used to design and to co-teach two training courses for the University Studies Peer Mentor Program, in order to investigate how the model impacts students’ understanding of sustainability, deepens students’ comprehension and practice of leadership, and influences their intentions as future educators. At its core, this project intends to “teach the teachers” about sustainability so that these teachers can better help students conceptualize solutions to our ecological and social problems.