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SOU sustainability and recycling manager Rebecca Walker

Rebecca Walker hired as SOU’s new sustainability and recycling manager

Southern Oregon University has hired Rebecca Walker, who has worked for the past 15 years with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, to serve as the university’s new sustainability and recycling manager. She will begin at SOU on Friday, Nov. 8.

Her mother is from Maine, but Walker has spent most of her life in Scotland and gained an appreciation for environmental work and nature.

“I am in awe of the beauty of nature and our world,” Walker said. “We are here temporarily for a very short time and it feels right that when we are here, we should be acting in a way that ensures future generations will also see and enjoy such a beautiful place…. I wanted to be part of this.”

She received her master’s degree in environmental technology in 2001 from the University of London. She began working in the field and then in 2004 found a long-term employer in the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

SEPA is a public agency of the Scottish government that focuses on the sustainability of Scotland’s natural resources and services. It tests pollution levels, develops and enacts legislation, partners with other agencies to make the environment a priority, and even runs Scotland’s flood warning system.

Walker started with SEPA as a technical support officer, reviewing policy and supporting waste strategy area coordinators. She then became a waste strategy area coordinator and eventually worked her way up to the head of materials and sector planning. Her responsibilities included setting priorities, implementing policy, mentoring newer employees, managing budgets and coordinating with businesses – all while running four waste and landfill teams from a previous position.

“SEPA has been a brilliant place to work for 15 years of my career and I have had various roles in climate change, circular economy, management and senior leadership,” Walker said.

But she didn’t want to stay with SEPA forever and felt the time was right for a change.

“Something I have always believed is that change and pushing boundaries outside our comfort zone is how we grow,” Walker said. “I have worked in government for most of my career and so the idea of doing something different is exciting.”

With U.S. citizenship and “the desire to have a change of job and lifestyle,” she started looking for jobs in America and particularly in higher education.

“What particularly attracted me to education is the opportunity to work with those who are our future,” she said. “Not only do students have new, fresh and energetic ideas on how to tackle problems but they are also the future innovators, entrepreneurs, workers, teachers … and if sustainability is built into everything we do as a society and in our work and it is no longer an afterthought, real progress can and will be made.”

SOU’s previous sustainability and recycling manager, Roxane Beigel-Coryell, left the university in July to take a similar position at California State University, Channel Islands. The vacant position attracted more than 30 applicants – “one of the strongest applicant pools for searches that I’ve conducted recently,” said Drew Gilliland, director of the Facilities, Maintenance and Planning Department.

He described Walker’s application and presentation as “outstanding,” and she was hired for the position.

“When I was researching for my interview, I was overwhelmed with what had been achieved to date,” Walker said. “My predecessor has (left) big shoes to fill and the students were energized and active in so many areas of sustainability. To be part of this and to build on this is exciting.”

SOU recently received a prestigious “Excellence and Innovation Award” for sustainability from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The university’s numerous other awards and recognitions for sustainability practices include an honorable mention two years ago at the Presidential Climate Leadership Summit and the national Best Case Study sustainability award in 2015 from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

“My initial plan is to talk to as many students and staff as possible to understand their views of the opportunities, challenges and barriers (to sustainability),” Walker said. “I am keen to work … with staff and students to look at our long term goals and the actions we need to put in place to achieve these and to look at this holistically in terms of where we focus our efforts.”

Some of those goals include improving the management of plastic, food and electronic waste. But Walker said it will take many people on various fronts to effectively address the problems of sustainability and climate change.

“We need to try things, push boundaries and see where it takes us,” she said.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Kyle Riggs uses a battery-powered leaf blower on the SOU campus

New battery-powered landscape equipment reduces campus noise and pollution

Leaf blowers may seem somewhat comical: gangly plastic tubes that push air to corral bits of dead trees. But the pollutants they emit, the gasoline they waste and the hearing-damaging noises they produce are no laughing matter, so SOU is working to replace them and other gas-powered landscape tools with battery-powered versions.

Some communities have considered outright bans on gas-powered leaf blowers, in particular, but SOU landscape supervisor Zack Williams has initiated a more gradual phase-out.

“When I began working for the university in January of this year, we had several battery tools, and I’ve expanded our fleet,” Williams said. “As the technology and power output improves, we’ll continue adding until we can replace gas-powered tools completely – perhaps in another two to three years.

“The benefits are obvious: zero emissions and low noise.”

An hour of gas-powered leaf blower use produces pollution equivalent to about 1,100 miles driven in a 2017 Toyota Camry, according to the SORE (small off-road engines) Fact Sheet, published by the California Air Resources Board. Similarly, the automotive review and shopping website Edmunds did an emissions test in 2011 which showed that half an hour of leaf blower use created as much pollution as 3,887 miles driven in a 2011 Ford Raptor.

Gas-fueled blowers, trimmers, mowers, chainsaws and other landscape equipment create environment-damaging emissions due to their engine design. A 2017 New York Times article, “On Banning Leaf Blowers,” said the two-stroke engines they use “are light enough to carry but produce significant exhaust and noise.”

“The gas and oil mix together, and about a third of it does not combust,” the Times story said. “As a result, pollutants that have been linked to cancers, heart disease, asthma and other serious ailments escape into the air.”

The story also cited a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said as little as two hours of unprotected exposure to a leaf blower can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Williams – who oversees landscape maintenance as part of SOU’s Facilities, Management and Planning Department – said battery-powered tools address nearly all problems associated with the gas-powered versions. They cut down the noise to non-damaging levels and release no emissions to harm the environment, students or others. The batteries are also easy to use.

“Wall-mounted chargers are at our shop,” Williams said. “We remove battery packs from the tools and plug them in to charge.

“They are high amp-hour output lithium-ion batteries that last for many years,” he said. “At the end of their life cycle they are returned to the manufacturer for recycling – but that hasn’t occurred yet, and some of our batteries are almost five years old.”

One downside to battery-powered equipment is that it isn’t as powerful as gas-powered counterparts and there are some instances where that power is a necessity.

“We have not converted all of our landscape power tools to electric … this category of tool is not yet comparable to gas-powered equipment in performance, and we use a mix of both depending on the needs of the project/site,” Williams said. “We’ll favor battery-powered tools if noise is a concern, or if the job is appropriately sized. We use battery-powered chainsaws for tree pruning, but will opt for larger gas saws for tree removals or large limbs.”

There’s also the matter of cost – Williams said battery-powered equipment is at least double the cost of gas-powered equipment. The gradual conversion won’t add to students’ expenses or take away from other SOU departments or services, but has required a shift in Williams’ budget and that of Facilities, Management and Planning.

Williams expects the issues with battery-powered equipment to be resolved over time.

“Like electric cars, as market adoption increases, and technology improves, the price will come down,” he said. “When electric vehicles can be purchased for the same price as conventionally-fueled vehicles, we’ll see the same situation with smaller tools.”

Even now, he said, the benefits of battery-powered tools outweigh their shortcomings.

“I think (the adoption of electric tools) meshes well with our values – low-noise, zero emissions,” Williams said. “SOU’s sustainability initiatives certainly call for this.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Students learn about excellence and innovation in sustainability at SOU

SOU receives national “Excellence and Innovation Award” for sustainability

(Ashland, Ore.) — The American Association of State Colleges and Universities recognized Southern Oregon University today as this year’s recipient of the organization’s Excellence and Innovation Award for comprehensive sustainability and sustainable development.

The AASCU program, now in its sixth year, honored member institutions for excellence and innovation in 2019 by announcing award recipients in each of eight categories. SOU and the other winning colleges and universities will receive their awards this month at AASCU’s annual meeting.

AASCU recognized SOU for developing “a comprehensive and impactful sustainability program by collaborating across operations, academics and engagement.” The higher education organization noted that SOU has achieved energy savings of 121,000 kilowatt hours annually, an increase in campus solar electricity generation of 319 percent in the past five years and reductions in drive-alone trips of 24 percent for students and 15 percent for employees. SOU is the nation’s first university to offset 100 percent of its water use with Water Restoration Certificates purchased by student government.

“We are all very well aware of our commitment to sustainability and the natural environment, but it is gratifying to be recognized by an organization with the stature of the AASCU,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “This is not the finish line. Our students, faculty members and others on campus will continue to achieve, innovate and lead in the field of sustainability – just as we do in many other areas that benefit our students, our region and the world.”

Other institutions recognized with this year’s Excellence and Innovation Awards are California State University-Bakersfield, for excellence in teacher education; California State University-Fresno, for civic learning and community engagement; Columbus State University (Georgia), for international education; Oakland University (Michigan), for leadership development and diversity; State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, for regional and economic development; Northwest Missouri State University, for student success and college completion; and Millersville University of Pennsylvania, for innovative sustainability projects.

“Each year, I am inspired by how AASCU institutions move the bar to serve their students and advance the economic and cultural development of their communities,” AASCU President Mildred García said. “These Excellence and Innovation Award winners truly demonstrate how our members serve as ‘stewards of place,’ prioritizing student success and leaving a lasting impact on their regions.”

AASCU said all of the winning programs had top-level administrative support, connected with their institutions’ mission and strategic agenda, contributed to significant institutional improvements or programming, were grounded in research and incorporated best practices.

SOU has received numerous awards and recognitions for its sustainability practices in recent years. The university received an honorable mention two years ago at the Presidential Climate Leadership Summit and won the national Best Case Study sustainability award in 2015 from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) for collaborating with Bee City USA to establish a Bee Campus USA designation. SOU has been named a Tree Campus USA for three straight years, was named a Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists and a year ago was named the nation’s top pollinator-friendly college by the Sierra Club, as part of its “Cool Schools” rankings.

SOU’s Lithia Motors Pavilion and adjoining Student Recreation Center earned LEED Gold certification this year from the U.S. Green Building Council – the fifth SOU facility to earn a LEED designation. The RCC-SOU Higher Education Center in Medford earned a LEED Platinum certification, the Green Building Council’s highest sustainability rating, and the McLaughlin and Shasta residence halls, and The Hawk dining facility, all have been certified as LEED Gold.

Roxane Beigel-Coryell, who served as SOU’s sustainability and recycling manager for the past several years, left the university in July to take a similar position at California State University, Channel Islands. A new sustainability and recycling manager is expected to be announced later this month and begin work at SOU on Nov. 8.

SOU President Linda Schott and Board of Trustees member Sheila Clough will receive the university’s  Excellence and Innovation Award at the Oct. 27 opening session of AASCU’s annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

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SRC solar installation-LEED Gold

SOU’s Lithia Motors Pavilion/Student Recreation Center strikes LEED Gold

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s Lithia Motors Pavilion and adjacent Student Recreation Center have earned LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, joining a growing list of SOU facilities to be recognized as sustainable.

The athletic pavilion and recreation center complex, which opened last spring, was awarded all 68 points that were sought on the Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) checklist. The SOU facility was recognized for sustainability elements including a design that allows the capture and treatment of storm water runoff, significant reduction of both energy and water consumption, and building practices that diverted more than three-quarters of the construction waste away from landfills.

“This certification recognizes not only the hard work of our facilities staff and contractors, but also the dedication of our university to live and operate sustainably,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “Sustainability is an ideal that is expressed throughout our Vision, Mission and Values. It is a key part of who we are as a university, and it reflects our commitment to a better future for our students and region.”

The Lithia Motors Pavilion and Student Recreation Center facility is the fifth at SOU to achieve LEED certification, and a sixth application is in progress. The RCC-SOU Higher Education Center in Medford is LEED Platinum, which is the Green Building Council’s highest sustainability rating. The McLaughlin and Shasta residence halls, and The Hawk dining facility, all have been certified as LEED Gold, and LEED Silver certification is being sought for SOU’s recently renovated and expanded Science Building.

The nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council provides a sustainability rating system that takes into account elements of a building’s design, construction, operation and maintenance.

The athletic pavilion and recreation center complex was recognized for features including a bike-friendly infrastructure and electric vehicle charging stations, lighting that minimizes disturbances to night skies and wildlife, flush and flow plumbing fixtures that reduce water usage by 39 percent and efficiency measures that reduce energy consumption by almost 23 percent. Other elements that were cited include a rooftop solar installation that offsets 10 percent of the facility’s annual electricity consumption, the use of sustainable lumber products and recycled building materials, and the use of substances such as paints and sealants that emit only low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC).

“SOU is excited to expand the campus inventory of green buildings with the LEED Gold-certified Lithia Motors Pavilion and Student Recreation Center,” said Roxane Beigel-Coryell, the university’s sustainability and recycling coordinator. “This certification celebrates the many green building strategies implemented that will support ongoing energy efficiency, water conservation and improved indoor air quality – as well as modeling SOU’s commitment to sustainability.”

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SOU-sustainability-carbon pricing

SOU president backs carbon pricing initiative

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University President Linda Schott has joined about 50 other college and university presidents across the country in calling upon elected officials to address climate change and hold polluters accountable by enacting carbon pricing measures.

The “Put A Price On It” campaign is sponsored by Our Climate, a national non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young people to advance effective climate policy. The group is tapping higher education leaders to help convince local, state and national decision-makers that greenhouse gas emissions can be effectively reduced through economic penalties.

“Sustainability and environmental responsibility are key parts of our identity at SOU,” President Schott said. “Our vision, mission and values refer to those principles, and one of our guiding ‘strategic directions’ establishes the goals of modeling and promoting sustainability, and integrating it into all that we do.

“This initiative provides us an opportunity to act on our institutional beliefs,” she said. “We are proud to stand up and be counted as a leader in the carbon pricing movement.”

Carbon pricing regulations require those who emit carbon dioxide to either pay a tax or buy permits based on the volume of their emissions. The policies make dirty energy less affordable, and encourage both energy conservation and use of sustainable energy sources.

Portland State University is the only other Oregon institution listed among the initiative’s backers.

SOU is one of 130 U.S. higher education institutions identified by the Our Climate organization as potential strategic partners in the carbon pricing campaign. President Schott signed the Our Climate endorsement letter after researching the campaign and consulting with the university’s sustainability team.

“This is something that fully aligns with SOU’s values and supports the goals outlined in our Climate Action Plan,” said Roxane Beigel-Coryell, the university’s sustainability and recycling coordinator. “Putting a price on carbon holds large greenhouse gas emitters accountable for their contribution to climate change. It provides incentive to implement climate solutions from the top down, instead of putting the responsibility solely on individuals.”

Carbon pricing policies have been implemented in more than 40 countries, provinces, states and other jurisdictions around the world. The World Bank has endorsed the practice as a means of compensating for direct and indirect costs of carbon emissions, ranging from crop loss and flood damage to heat-related medical costs.

“By making carbon-intensive industries pay a fair share of the costs of their pollution, we will have cleaner air and healthier communities, and prevent the most devastating effects of climate change,” said the Our Climate endorsement letter signed by President Schott and other higher education leaders.

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SOU Resilience

Open forums introduce SOU’s Campus-Community Resilience Assessment

NEWS RELEASE
(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University will hold a pair of open forums to introduce a Campus-Community Resilience Assessment that will be conducted over the next few months to determine the local area’s ability to absorb or adapt to ongoing climate changes.

The forums, which are free and open to the public, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 26, and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The same information will be shared at both sessions, which will be in the Rogue River Room of SOU’s Stevenson Union.

SOU’s Sustainability Office is taking on the resilience assessment as part of the university’s Climate Commitment to the Climate Leadership Network, which is made up of more than 600 U.S. colleges and universities. SOU was one of just six institutions to be recognized at the Climate Leadership Network’s summit last year.

Member institutions in the network each commit to take action on climate issues and prepare students to solve current and future challenges. Members may make a “Carbon Commitment” to work toward carbon neutrality, a “Resilience Commitment” to focus on climate adaptation or – as SOU has done – a “Climate Commitment” to do both.

The Resilience Assessment is a response by SOU to the reality of climate change and the urgent need for action. It will provide a baseline of current efforts on campus and in the community to address changes in the climate, identify vulnerabilities and develop initial indicators of resilience.

The assessment will draw input from five small working groups that will each focus on a specific topic: social equity and governance, health and wellness, ecosystem services, infrastructure and the economy. Nominations are still being accepted from those who would like to serve on the groups. Anyone who is interested may contact the university’s Sustainability Office at (541) 552-8139 or sustainability@sou.edu, or by attending one of the upcoming forums.

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SOU receives silver “STARS” rating for sustainability achievements


NEWS BRIEF (available online at https://goo.gl/xDT5yL)
(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has earned a silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for the university’s campus-wide sustainability achievements.
SOU reported its accomplishments through the AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), which rates the efforts of colleges and universities in five categories: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership. Participating institutions can be recognized simply for reporting their sustainability achievements, or for rating at the organization’s bronze, silver, gold or platinum levels.
SOU’s silver STARS rating is valid for three years. It is the latest of several recent recognitions of the university’s sustainability efforts. SOU received an honorable mention earlier this year at the Presidential Climate Leadership Summit, was the nation’s first certified Bee Campus USA, has been named a Tree Campus USA for three straight years, was named a Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists and offers LEED Gold campus housing at its Raider Village complex.
AASHE is a nonprofit organization that helps colleges and universities work together to create and lead the way to a sustainable future. More than 400 institutions have participated in the STARS ratings.
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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.

Climate action leader to discuss solutions at SOU talk


NEWS RELEASE (online at https://goo.gl/PT3tHz)
(Ashland, Ore.) — KC Golden, a longtime leader in the U.S. climate action movement, will visit Southern Oregon University on March 9 for a talk that explores the need to turn a corner on the climate crisis and focus on solutions.
His free presentation, “Climate solutions: We have met the hero, and it is us,” will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Room 151 of the SOU Science Building. The talk comes as the city of Ashland works on its Climate and Energy Action Plan, and just a few weeks after SOU was one of six U.S. colleges and universities recognized with Climate Leadership Awards at the Presidential Climate Leadership Summit.
Golden will talk about the movement toward climate solutions that has begun over the past five years. The climate crisis has become real, and the cost of impacts is growing too high to ignore. He says a clean-energy revolution has been launched by the strong, citizen-driven climate movement that is challenging the status quo use of fossil fuels.
Climate change is coming to be understood as a moral watershed for our times, and Golden asks how we can drive the transition as fast and as far as is necessary.
Golden, who will speak on Jefferson Public Radio prior to his SOU presentation, is the current board chair of 350.org – a worldwide organization that seeks collaboration among activist groups to focus attention on climate change issues.  The organization’s name is derived from the goal of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the current level of more than 400 parts per million to fewer than 350 parts per million.
He also helped Seattle City Light become the country’s first major, carbon-free electric utility in the late 1990s. He was named one of the “Power 25” most influential people by Seattle Magazine, and was the magazine’s “Eco-Hero.”
Golden has served as the Seattle mayor’s special assistant for clean energy and climate protection initiatives and directed Washington’s Energy Policy Office as an assistant director in the state’s Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development. He was the executive director of the Northwest Energy Coalition – an alliance working for clean, affordable energy – from 1989 to 1994.
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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.

SOU Students to Harvest, Reuse OSF Bricks


MEDIA ALERT
Who: Students from SOU’s Center for Sustainability
What: Harvesting bricks from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Green Show plaza
When: 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, and again on Saturday, Nov. 19
osf-courtyardWhere: Oregon Shakespeare Festival (brick plaza off Pioneer Street, between the Bowmer and Elizabethan theaters)
Why: The bricks will be reused, which is what the Center for Sustainability is all about (they’ll be used for pathways and other projects at The Farm at SOU, on Walker Street).
About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University is a medium-sized campus that provides comprehensive educational opportunities with a strong focus on student success and intellectual creativity. Located in vibrant Ashland, Oregon, SOU remains committed to diversity and inclusion for all students on its environmentally sustainable campus. Connected learning programs taught by a host of exceptional faculty provide quality, innovative experiences for students. Visit sou.edu.