New leadership advances PSU climate action goals
Author: Laura Gleim, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Posted: July 16, 2012

Each year, Portland State produces as much greenhouse gas as approximately 20,000 cars. And if all the paper PSU uses each year was stacked, the pile would nearly reach as high as Mt. Hood.

In an effort to rein in Portland State’s ecological footprint, the PSU Climate Action Plan Implementation Team (CAP-IT) recently named two key sustainability leaders as new co-chairs. Jennifer Allen, associate professor of public administration and director of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, and Alison Dennis, executive director of the Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability, assumed leadership over the team
in June.

Jennifer Allen and Alison Dennis, the newly
appointed co-chairs of the PSU Climate Action Plan Implementation Team (CAP-IT).

“We hope to bring increased visibility to the group through the new chairs’ experience and expertise,” said Molly Bressers, program and outreach coordinator for the campus sustainability office.

CAP-IT was created in 2010 to advance goals of the Climate Action Plan, which outlines a path for the University to reduce its environmental impact and achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. The team has already initiated a variety of projects, from reducing energy use on campus to decreasing emissions from university-related travel. But until recently, the team didn’t have any faculty or student members—it consisted solely of administrative staff.

Allen and Dennis represent an expansion of the team’s focus to incorporate CAP-IT goals into more departments and groups across the University—coordinating with faculty researchers, instructors, and students.

“One of the key strategies in the CAP is to leverage student and faculty resources to tackle tough problems and develop innovative solutions to challenges the staff can’t address alone,” Allen said.

In addition to expanding through new leadership, CAP-IT is increasingly gaining support from top University administration. President Wim Wiewel recently became a member of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Steering Committee, which provides direction for institutions to address climate change on their own campuses.

“Before, departments were willing to come to the table and talk about what they could do, but nobody felt empowered to make change. Now we have this new commitment from the top,” said Jenny McNamara, sustainability coordinator and CAP-IT implementation lead. “There’s more support and justification to say ‘this is a valuable use of your work time.’”  

The first student joined CAP-IT this spring, and the team is currently working on an application process to provide more students the opportunity to join the team in the future.

“The goals in our plan are aggressive—too aggressive for any one person or part of Portland State to accomplish alone,” Dennis said. “The more diverse the people are who come together and share the plan’s goals, the greater the results of our collective action will be.”

Find out what climate action you can take today, this month, and this year (pdf) »