Tag Archive for: sustainability

Rating system give SOU gold

SOU achieves “Gold” in prestigious sustainability rating

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has jumped from a “Silver” to a “Gold” rating for campus-wide sustainability achievements, as measured by an evaluation system developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and used to grade colleges and universities worldwide.

Gold rating from AASHE“It is an honor for SOU to be recognized for its contributions to heal and preserve our environment,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “Achieving the ‘Gold’ level is a huge accomplishment that reflects our commitment to sustainability.

“We still have several projects in the works or in development that I am convinced will make our university even more of a national model – and will lift us to this rating system’s very highest level,” Bailey said. “We are very grateful to Becs Walker and all of the staff members and students who lead us in these important efforts.”

Participants in AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) can be recognized simply for reporting their sustainability achievements, or for rating at the organization’s bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels. STARS is used by more than 900 participating institutions in 40 countries, rating their sustainability efforts in five categories: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.

SOU first achieved the system’s silver level in 2017, and that rating was reaffirmed in 2019. The new gold rating takes into account the university’s ongoing efforts to attain its sustainability goals. STARS assesses environmental factors, along with social and economic considerations. SOU has demonstrated progress in many areas related to sustainability in achieving the gold rating, including governance of sustainability, health and wellbeing, protecting the environment, equity, social justice and community engagement.

SOU has completed eight new green building projects over the past three years, for instance, with four of them including new solar arrays. Three buildings on campus currently fall under the “net-zero” category, meaning they create more energy than they spend. President Bailey and the SOU team are also working to secure funding for solar projects that would eventually enable SOU to produce all of its own electricity, and potentially to sell excess power production.

“SOU’s gold STARS rating demonstrates leadership in sustainability across the SOU community,” said Becs Walker, SOU’s sustainability and recycling manager. “Sustainability is not just about doing something that has a positive impact – or negates an adverse impact – on the environment. It is about system change for the economy, society and the environment. We are continuing to challenge ourselves in building a better way of doing things here at SOU.”

The upgraded STARS rating from AASHE is the latest of many recognitions of the university’s sustainability efforts in recent years. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities recognized SOU in 2019 as the organization’s Excellence and Innovation Award recipient for comprehensive sustainability and sustainable development. The university also received an honorable mention that year at the Presidential Climate Leadership Summit.

SOU was the nation’s first certified Bee Campus USA and has maintained that certification, has been named a Tree Campus USA for five consecutive years and has been recognized for the ninth year in a row as one of the nation’s top 30, “Best of the Best” LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities by Campus Pride – a nonprofit that supports and improves campus life for LGBTQ people on campuses nationwide.

AASHE is a nonprofit organization that helps colleges and universities work together to create and lead the way to a sustainable future. Its STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.


SOU's Earth Day Extravaganza will highlight Earth Month

SOU Earth Month features Earth Day Extravaganza and more

Southern Oregon University and community partners are offering an “Earth Day Extravaganza” and a packed schedule of events during the last two weeks of April in observation of Earth Month 2022. Opportunities to learn, take action and celebrate will take place both on campus and in the community April 19 through 29.

Environmental and social sustainability are among SOU’s core institutional values, and the events offered by the Social Justice and Equity Center’s Student Sustainability Team will highlight SOU’s contributions in these areas and offer opportunities to get involved in making a difference. Campus events will include a free screening of the film “Necessity 2: Climate Justice and the Thin Green Line,” the Light Up Your Bike Night Ride and Workshop, the Earth Day Extravaganza and the Arbor Day of Service. All of SOU’s events are free and open to the public.

Events hosted by community organizations include the Bear Creek Stewardship Day, Earth Day celebrations at the Ashland Food Co-op and Temple Emek Shalom, the Run Wild Ashland Color Dash and the Rogue Valley Bike Swap.

Details on the full Earth Month line-up are available online.

SOU’s Earth Day Extravaganza will be held this year from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on April 22, in observation of the 52nd Earth Day. The Student Sustainability Team (formerly ECOS) has been hosting a similar version of the event for more than 20 years – historically, in the Stevenson Union courtyard. The Student Sustainability Team is moving the event to The Farm at SOU to help fill a void that was left when the Rogue Valley Earth Day event, traditionally held at the neighboring ScienceWorks, was discontinued.

The SOU Earth Day Extravaganza has adopted some of the more popular features of Rogue Valley Earth Day, in partnership with the event’s past organizers – including educational exhibits by more than 30 sustainability and social justice-minded organizations and businesses; the Earth Day Ecoquest, in which participants of all ages can complete activities to earning prizes; and musical performances by campus and community groups including the SOU Salsa Band, the Creek Side Strings and Elbow Room Taiko. Other additions include mini-workshops hosted by students from SOU’s Environmental Education master’s degree program, farm and art tours, lawn games, crafts and food trucks.

ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum will be extending its hours on the day of the event to 6:30 p.m., and will also offer free admission that afternoon.

Guests are asked to walk, bike, carpool or take a bus to the Earth Day Extravaganza, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit parking congestion. Limited on-site parking is available in the ScienceWorks parking lot and overflow parking at Willow Wind Community Learning Center is also available. Guests that walk, bike, take a bus or carpool to the event can stop by the Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD) exhibit to receive bonus Ecoquest tokens to be used toward Ecoquest prizes.

SOU’s Earth Day Extravaganza is made possible by contributions from campus and community sponsors, including Café Mam Organic Coffee, the SOU Social Justice and Equity Center, Sustainability at SOU, the SOU Environmental Science and Policy Program, True South Solar, the Ashland Food Co-op, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now and many other partner organizations.

Please visit the Earth Day Extravaganza website for more information.

Sustainability Month lasts through October

SOU celebrates Campus Sustainability Month

Southern Oregon University will participate in Campus Sustainability Month throughout October. The annual event, hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), celebrates higher education sustainability achievements while raising awareness of the value of sustainability in higher education.

To celebrate and kickoff a new year of sustainability advancements, students and staff from SOU’s Social Justice and Equity Center, Facilities Management and Planning, and The Farm at SOU are hosting the following events:

  • Equity Roundtable: Barriers to Higher Education, Oct. 19, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., on Zoom. The world of higher education is filled with barriers, both physical and cultural, that leave many students in the dark. Come discuss how these barriers affect students at SOU and different ways to help.
  • Raiders Ride! Bus and Bike Day at SOU, Oct. 20, 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Parking Lot 3 on the corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Wightman Street. Bring your own bike, learn some new maintenance/repair skills and discuss preparations for fall and winter riding. There will also be an RVTD bus you can explore, information about the free fall bus pass, and games and giveaways!
  • Fall Into the Garden Volunteer Day, Oct. 22, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., SOU Community Garden. Meet new people, get your hands dirty and help tuck in the Garden before winter during this fun volunteer day.
  • Campus Sustainability Tour, Oct. 29, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Starting at the SOU Community Garden and ending at the SOU Farm, you’ll have a chance to meet campus sustainability leaders and find out how to get involved. Visit sustainability sites such as solar installations, pollinator habitat, the recycling center and more!
  • Fall Farm Fest, Oct. 29, 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., The Farm at SOU, 155 Walker Ave. Visit the Farm at SOU for an afternoon of autumn delights! Sample farm-fresh soup and festive drinks, play games and dress to impress, to win prizes for spookiest costume. Featuring live entertainment from the SOU Chemistry Club, Dance Club, Music Department and more!

Jill Smedstad, SOU’s Equity Coordinator for Sustainability and Basic Needs Resourcing, works closely with students planning these events.

“Sustainability is one of SOU’s core values, and this month is a great opportunity to celebrate our university’s achievements and look ahead at how we can work together to model a socially just and environmentally sustainable institution,” Smedstad said.

For more information and to register in advance for in-person Sustainability Month events, please visit www.tinyurl.com/SOUsustainmonth, and follow #sousustainmonth on Instagram.

About Sustainability at SOU
Southern Oregon University is committed to sustainable practices, environmental stewardship, and research that advances our understanding of local, regional, and global environmental issues. SOU offers degrees emphasizing sustainability in a wide-range of programs from art to business, and opportunities for student sustainability engagement outside the classroom including  a community garden, an organic farm, student organizations and clubs, a sustainability projects fund and more.

SOU has been a national leader in sustainability in higher education for more than a decade. SOU was the first campus to offset 100% of it’s water use through water restoration credits in 2012. SOU won a “Best Case Study Award” from AASHE in 2014 for the development of what is now The Farm at SOU. SOU consistently earns high rankings as a Bicycle Friendly University and a Tree Campus USA, boasts several LEED certified buildings, and was the first university in the nation to certify as a Bee Campus USA in 2016. SOU won the Excellence and Innovation Award for Sustainability and Sustainable Development from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in 2019. SOU has added three new solar array installations this year and now has a total of 12 installations on campus. SOU also expanded its on-site recycling center this year to help promote further diversion from landfill through recycling, reuse and reducing waste.

Want to stay connected and be the first to hear about opportunities to get involved in campus sustainability? Sign up for the sustainability-involvement listserve at https://tinyurl.com/SJECinfo.

Wetlands are being restored at The Farm at SOU

SOU shows commitment to sustainability, restoring wetlands at The Farm

Southern Oregon University is demonstrating its commitment to sustainability and helping to preserve a portion of Oregon’s remaining wetlands with its ongoing effort to restore a “wet meadow” at The Farm at SOU.

“We have already noticed impacts from our work,” said associate professor Vincent Smith, director of The Farm. “The area is alive with the sounds of frogs and I personally watched a blue heron land in the site yesterday for a bit of rest.”

The wet meadow was previously overgrown with blackberries and other invasive species, but Smith and his team of 13 student workers have triggered a turnaround at the site. Much of the unwanted brush has been cleared and replaced with wetland plants that are native to the area, and a new boardwalk now extends into the meadow from the adjacent Thalden Pavilion.

“Much of the wetland walkway is now completed,” Smith said. “Students have planted over 100 new wetland plants and work weekly to reduce pressure from invasive species.

“One of the biggest challenges we have faced is the removal of invasive species, namely blackberry, without the use of chemicals.”

Funding for the restoration project has been provided by local philanthropists Barry and Kathryn Thalden of Ashland, whose earlier donation paid for construction of the pavilion that bears their name.

The wet meadow – part of a 5 ½-acre parcel that encompasses The Farm and the SOU Center for Sustainability – will become a hub for research and education when its restoration is complete. Students and community members will have opportunities to observe and research the beneficial ecosystem of a functioning wetland.

Wetlands – areas of land covered by fresh or salt water – used to cover 2.3 million acres of Oregon, and are home to numerous species of mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates. More than a million acres of the state’s wetlands have been lost to agricultural and urban development, leading to issues of water filtration, storm protection and flood control.

About 40 percent of Oregon’s wetlands have been drained, and 22 states have lost at least half of their wetlands.

The Farm’s restoration project has a long way to go – physical removal of invasive species will continue for several years.

“We will not see the full environmental impacts until later this year and next year,” Smith said. “Our construction will limit wildlife returning for now. I expect by late summer, we will begin to see extensive growth of native plants and hopefully begin to see additional wildlife on the site.”

Managing and maintaining the project has been a collective effort. The Farm has hosted seven work days, during which volunteers from SOU have contributed hundreds of hours to site preparation, planting and weeding. Two student interns in particular – Erin Wheeler, an Environmental Science and Policy major at SOU, and Katy Tarr, an intern from Chico State University – have made an impact as leaders of the restoration effort.

“Perhaps one of my favorite experiences during the restoration project so far was watching the two interns leading the project take pictures after planting was completed,” Smith said. “Watching students figure something out in the classroom is a beautiful thing … but watching students accomplish something outside of the classroom is why I come to work every day.”

The Farm, on Walker Street in Ashland, serves as a venue for organic agriculture and a source of healthy, sustainable food for the SOU community.

Story by Kennedy Cartwright, SOU Marketing and Communications assistant and student writer

Centralized trash cans and recycling bins will be the focus at SOU

Initiative to reduce trash cans – and trash – continues despite COVID-19

COVID-19 has reached so deeply into everyday life that it’s affected even seemingly unrelated procedures and initiatives – such as a project to reduce waste at SOU by eliminating individual trash cans.

The program – launched in January by sustainability and recycling manager Rebecca Walker – is continuing, but at a different trajectory and pace.

Walker, who became SOU’s sustainability and recycling manager in November, launched the initiative to remove individual trash cans from rooms across campus, starting with the Facilities, Management and Planning building.

“This is a small change, but to me a critical one,” Walker said. “Studies have shown that removing individual trash cans has a number of benefits, including the reduction in the use of plastic liners, helping staff and students to think about how they handle their trash, increasing recycling rates … and reducing overall trash.”

It will also save money by reducing the amount of time the custodial staff needs to take out the trash.

The Science Building, Taylor Hall, and Churchill Hall had their trash and recycling measured in early January, before the initiative started. The intent was to allow Walker and the rest of the Facilities, Management and Planning team to check the initiative’s outcome by comparing measurements later. Unfortunately, COVID-19 threw a wrench into that plan – the reduced presence of students and employees on campus would skew trash comparisons,.

“We haven’t done any trash measurements since January,” Walker said. “And with less people on campus and a campus operating differently, we are going to roll out this program of work over a longer period of time.” 

It’s only small, individual cans found in classrooms, offices and other locations that will be removed. The centralized waste stations (the ones containing three bins for trash, paper, and glass) will still be in every building, a short walk from most locations. And Walker is prepared to make exceptions in some situations.

“Not all individual trash cans had been removed,” she said. “In some cases, it makes sense to keep a smaller trash can between a few people or an individual trash can. We need to put in place systems that work for everyone, and in some cases there may be a reason why someone has to keep an individual trash can.”

The initiative has temporarily slowed, but it isn’t going away. 

“We do intend to continue to roll out (the trash can) project – including centralized locations, signage and education and awareness for recycling – over the summer,” Walker said. “Recycling is an important foundation for any campus to have in place to achieve its sustainability goals.”

In the meantime, she has refocused her team on projects that can be completed predominantly online – such as a new, more ambitious SOU Climate and Sustainability Plan.

“I have been working with the Sustainability Council and students to initiate (the development of a Climate and Sustainability Plan),” she said. “We have exciting plans of getting as many involved as we can through Zoom workshops and social media to maximize participation and involvement in the current, more online community.”

Those who want to be involved or have ideas for sustainability and climate action at SOU should complete the form at (https://form.jotform.com/200288565040148) by Friday, May 15.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Use of RVTD bus passes is on the rise at SOU

Use of RVTD bus passes on the rise at SOU

Southern Oregon University’s free and discounted bus passes for the Rogue Valley Transportation District have seen a sharp increase in 2019, even as student enrollment has plateaued.

“Both students and employees have seen a notable upswing between fall 2018 and fall 2019,” said Daniel Kelly, student coordinator for the Transportation Options program. “The most dramatic increases are that student sales have risen by 37 percent and employee ridership has spiked by 73 percent, even though both populations have shrunk.”

RVTD bus passes are $15 per term for students – 90% off the usual cost – and are billed to students’ accounts, so immediate payment is not required. Directions to sign up for student bus passes are under “Bus Options” on the Transportation Options web page.

Term-by-term bus passes for staff and faculty are offered at no charge. Application instructions and more information are available on the SOU Service Center web page.

The reasons for SOU’s bus ridership spike are multifaceted, Kelly said.

“RVTD has been doing a lot in the past year to expand their services … better quality of service combined with a heightened desire to use personal vehicles less just naturally leads people to use public transit more,” he said. “We’ve also pushed our efforts to get people aware of the student bus passes at the beginning of the term, and even before school starts for the year.”

The expense and other issues with parking on campus could also be factors in the increased bus use, Kelly said.

“It only makes sense for the university and for students to find cheaper solutions to commuting, which is something that everyone has to deal with,” he said.

The Transportation Options program provides information, encouragement and incentives for members of the SOU community to use alternative transportation. Kelly works with environmental and community engagement coordinator Jill Smedstad, RVTD Transportation Demand Management Planner Edem Gomez and fellow student coordinator Danni Keys, who will take on Kelly’s duties after he graduates.

Kelly and Keys have used tactics including events in the Stevenson Union and informational brochures to increase awareness of the bus passes and other alternative transportation options.

“The SOU bus pass program is just one that we advertise, along with the Rogue Bike Share, SOU’s bike shop and the statewide ride-sharing and trip-planning tool, ‘Get There Oregon,’” Kelly said.

RVTD is the public transportation provider for Medford, Ashland, Central Point, Talent, Phoenix, White City, and Jacksonville, with bus routes that run from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

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.


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.”