Tag Archive for: sustainability

Sustainability Collective at SOU

New Sustainability Collective serves fun, sustainability and SOUPS

A new group of passionate activists is meeting weekly at SOU to create sustainability initiatives, write magazines, bond over shared interests, listen to music, and make friends over soup and banter. The Sustainability Collective gets together at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Stevenson Union’s Social Justice & Equity Center.

The Sustainability Collective’s aims are to create a culture of empowerment and start projects on campus with the help of the SOU Green Fund. The collective may be a good fit for students who have an interest in connecting with campus resources, and would like to seek internship or volunteer opportunities.

The group encourages interested students to participate in its workshops – including but not limited to radical sexual liberation, foraging and disaster preparedness.

The collective will be publishing a magazine titled SOUPS (Southern Oregon University Peoples’ Sustainability). It will have a monthly edition, featuring art, poetry, essays and testimonials from Sustainability Collective attendees. SOUPS will include a list of contacts for local organizations that students may want to get in touch with, relevant upcoming events, and both local and international projects.

Finally, SOUPS magazine will include recipes for soup! The magazine will be featured at the Oregon Fringe Festival on April 26. Those interested in submitting material to the magazine should contact Liz Adkisson (adkissone@sou.edu), who started the group in September.

Adkisson is a sustainability major and serves as Events and Student Outreach Coordinator for the SOU Sustainability Office. She felt there was a space for students of different skills and passions to get together to discuss sustainability and create projects, and she wanted to find a way to meet people and have fun while discussing sustainability in a relaxed environment. Her vision was to create tangible change and a better quality of life for future generations.

Adkisson’s main focus is activism. She intermixed concepts of mindfulness and self-care, and has worked to encourage Sustainability Collective participants to connect with their community.

The collective encourages students to tell their friends and bring their most “grounded” selves!

Story by Angelina Caldera, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a participant in the Better Climate Challenge

SOU joins DOE program, commits to greenhouse gas reductions

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has taken a bold step toward sustainability by joining the Better Climate Challenge – a public-private partnership, led by the U.S. Department of Energy, to encourage organizations to decarbonize and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The university has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% within the next 10 years and decreasing its energy intensity by 25%. The reductions will be measured from a 2018 baseline.

“This commitment is consistent with our university’s goal to produce 100% of its own electricity within 12 years through an aggressive build-out of solar arrays throughout campus,” said Becs Walker, SOU’s sustainability director. “By making conscious efforts to operate sustainably, we can also achieve fiscal responsibility and efficiency.

“We can – and will – serve as a leader in conservation and environmental stewardship while at the same time expanding students’ access to our programs by carefully managing our costs.”

SOU is already known for its commitment to sustainability, with initiatives including solar power generation; reduce, reuse and recycling programs; energy efficiency; water conservation; Bee Campus and Tree Campus certifications; and sustainable food production at The Farm at SOU. The university is also a GOLD-rated institution in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS) from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

SOU is one of at least nine colleges or universities across the country that have committed to the DOE’s Better Climate Challenge, which was launched last March and now has a total of more than 120 partner organizations. Other Oregon entities that have signed on to the challenge include the city of Hillsboro and Bend’s Deschutes Brewery.

Participants in the challenge will help lead the way to a clean energy economy and a better future, according to the program’s website.

As a partner in the challenge, SOU will share its progress and strategies with others to help promote sustainability. The university will work with the DOE and its peer organizations to turn the threat of climate change into an opportunity to innovate and create a better planet.


pre-consumer waste is composted at The Farm at SOU

“Pre-consumer” composting closes loop at SOU dining operations

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Hawk dining commons at Southern Oregon University is now addressing the issue of potential food waste at both ends of the food service stream, after beginning a new program this month to collect and compost scraps generated in the preparation of student meals. The composted “pre-consumer” waste is used to enrich soil at The Farm at SOU – and grow more produce for the dining commons.

The dining facility – operated by Aladdin Campus Dining and used primarily by students in SOU residence halls – tackled the issue of post-consumer waste three years ago by using a small grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to replace 10.5-inch plates with nine-inch plates. The larger plates tended to encourage diners to take more food than they could consume in one sitting.

“This composting program is just another step in our efforts to create a more sustainable dining operation on campus,” said Daniel Kelly, marketing and sustainability coordinator for Aladdin’s SOU operations. “Switching to a smaller plate size a few years ago was an effort to generate less post-consumer waste. This is just another avenue for us to tackle the same issue of reducing waste … but this time it’s in the area of pre-consumer waste.”

The new program will result in the composting of about 400 pounds of food preparation waste each week – materials such as egg shells and scraps from fruits, vegetables and bread. The two-step collection process begins with compostable waste being deposited in specially marked green bins adjacent to the Hawk’s kitchen prep tables; that waste is moved to larger, secondary containers when the smaller bins fill, and the larger containers are transported by truck on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to The Farm, a few blocks to the northeast.

Aladdin plans to expand the composting program to all other dining locations on campus – Elmo’s and Einstein Bros. Bagels in the Stevenson Union, Southern Grounds at the Hannon Library and the Landing at Raider Village.

Kelly acknowledged the unanswered question: why not compost post-consumer food scraps? That’s a bit more complicated, he said, because scraps from diners’ food plates are often mixed with materials such as meat that typically can’t be composed due to health and safety concerns. But potential solutions that may allow some form of post-consumer composting will continue to be explored.

In the meantime, all partners in the new pre-consumer composting operation – SOU Dining, The Farm at SOU, and Facilities Management and Planning – are pleased that the “closed loop” program will support the university’s sustainability goals while improving productivity.

“As we get more and more produce from The Farm in our dining operations, being able to take some waste back to The Farm to turn it into compost creates a circular aspect, as that compost later gets used to support the crops at The Farm to generate more produce,” Kelly said. “It’s a win for plants, the environment and all the people who interact with food on campus – students, staff and community members.”


Solar power production to be supported by state grant

SOU to expand solar power, move toward energy independence

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Oregon Department of Energy to expand solar power production on campus, in the next step toward its ambitious goal of becoming the first college or university in the U.S. to generate 100 percent of the electricity used on campus.

The award from ODE’s Community Renewable Energy Grant Program will add solar arrays to The Hawk Dining Commons and the Lithia Motors Pavilion/Student Recreation Center complex, and will pay for the installation of battery storage at the Hawk to support students, first responders and the broader community, if needed.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for SOU, and for our students and the Ashland community,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “This grant supports our campus-wide efforts to expand sustainability as an integral part of our everyday operations. It also is a significant milestone in our entrepreneurial mission to reduce costs and broaden revenue, easing the financial burden on students and their families.”

Solar energy production is a key element of SOU’s innovative plan to develop new revenue streams and reduce dependence on the two traditional funding sources for public higher education nationwide – tuition and state funding. The proportions of funding from those two sources has flipped over the past 25 years in Oregon, from two-thirds state money and one-third tuition, to exactly the opposite.

Energy self-sufficiency will save SOU at least $700,000 per year in utility costs and President Bailey plans to expand the program from there, with additional solar installations that will enable the university to generate income by selling electricity to local utilities. He achieved that on a smaller scale at Northern New Mexico College, where he served as president before being hired at SOU in January.

SOU is also awaiting confirmation of a $2 million federal grant for its campus-wide solar build-out. Oregon’s U.S. senators, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, have placed SOU’s request in the senate’s draft appropriations bill for the 2023 fiscal year, which is currently in a process known as “Congressionally Directed Spending.” The federal grant, if awarded, will pay for additional solar arrays on SOU’s parking lots and rooftops.

For the state grant that was awarded this week, SOU submitted its application in July for $1 million toward a project that will cost a total of $1.34 million. It is considered both a community renewable energy project and a community energy resilience project, under the definitions of ODE’s Community Renewable Energy Grant Program.

The program was created by the 2021 Legislature, which set aside $50 million for projects throughout the state over the next three years – with $12 million available in the 2022 funding cycle. The program – open to Oregon tribes, public bodies and consumer-owned utilities – drew a total of 56 applicants who submitted 68 applications, with 20 projects awarded grants in the program’s first round.

“These new solar projects at SOU will take our efforts to the next level,” SOU Sustainability Director Becs Walker said. “We are pursuing all viable opportunities to generate renewable energy on campus. This will help us financially as well as set us on the pathway to achieve carbon neutrality.  Our university is helping to lead the way for our community, region and the state of Oregon.”

SOU chose the Hawk Dining Commons and Lithia Motors Pavilion/Student Recreation Center projects for this year’s state funding based on site readiness, community resiliency and public welfare factors. SOU will continue to implement energy conservation and energy efficiency measures as it increases its solar.

The university currently has nine solar arrays on its Ashland campus with a total output of 455 kilowatts, plus an array at the Higher Education Center in Medford and a pole-mounted array installed last year by a nonprofit on land leased from SOU. The two new arrays supported by the state grant will increase SOU’s solar capacity by a total of 359 kilowatts.

SOU’s first solar array – a 6 kilowatt project with 24 solar panels – was installed on the Hannon Library in 2000. A total of five new arrays have been added in just the past three years, in projects funded through a combination of private investors, grants, the student body and the university. SOU’s Hawk Dining Hall & McLoughlin Residence Hall each have solar hot water systems installed to augment the natural gas domestic water heating, and the campus also has three net-zero buildings – they create as much or more energy than they use.

Solar energy production is one of four opportunities that SOU is currently pursuing in its effort to be more entrepreneurial in its approach to revenue generation. The university has also initiated a project to raze its vacant Cascade housing complex, which was completed in the early 1960s, and replace it with an innovative senior living facility that produces synergy between its residents and the university. Funding for the demolition has been approved by the state and is expected to begin in the next few months.

Other projects that will produce revenue or reduce expenses for SOU include the establishment of a University Business District in southeast Ashland – discussions are underway with the local business community – and replacement of its operational software with the cutting-edge Workday platform, which eventually will save the university about $750,000 per year in recurring costs.

The projects are part of an effort to “re-engineer” SOU’s financial structure, reducing expenses to better reflect current enrollment and academic interests, expanding revenue sources and positioning the university for strategic growth into the future.


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