Sustainability outside of the classroom: Environmental organizations on campus

Haley Stark, News Reporter

Oregon State University is consistently ranked one of the most sustainable college campuses, achieving a gold rating under the Sustainability Tracing, Assessment and Rating System for every year since 2011. 

A large portion of OSU’s environmental success comes from the wide selection of sustainability-focused organizations on campus. With clubs ranging from the Ecological Engineering Student Society to the Organic Growers Club, students of all disciplines can engage in making their communities greener. 

The Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team is one such organization, allowing student-athletes to get a unique opportunity to take environmental action in their area of interest. 

According to BAST President Jordan Spradlin, a former thrower on OSU’s Track and Field team, the group is dedicated to serving not just campus, but the Corvallis community as a whole.

“We work a lot with the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, whether that’s land restoration around creeks around Corvallis or tree-planting in areas that need them,” Spradlin said. “Within OSU specifically, we’ve been working to limit waste production from the games.”

With the help of BottleDrop — Oregon’s bottle and can recycling program — BAST undertook one of their largest projects yet this fall term: sorting through the recyclables from every home Beaver football game. Over the course of the season, the organization sorted through over 76,000 cans, generating $7,700 in revenue that goes back into funding other sustainable initiatives in the athletic department. 

While BAST was specifically created for student-athletes, there are many other environmental organizations open to everyone. The Organic Growers Club is one of the largest of these groups, including students from nearly every major and community members from outside the university.

Operating across multiple farms in the Corvallis area, the Organic Growers Club gives volunteers the chance to get their hands dirty and support their community through cultivation. 

All produce grown by the club is sold at the Corvallis Farmers’ Market or goes towards OSU’s Community Supported Agriculture program, which allows customers to act as shareholders to local farms.

“The way that it works is that at the beginning of the season, usually most farms will have it between January and the end of February, you sign up for their CSA,” Organic Growers Club President Aurora Ashkar said. “You pay a lump sum amount for the whole season, and then every, or every other week, depending on the farm, we do ours every week, you pick up a box with a variety of produce.”

The Organic Growers Club offers a wide variety of produce to choose from, including peppers, collard greens, blackberries and fennel. All proceeds made go back into funding the club, and waste produced from processing vegetables is composted for future use.

Managing and reducing waste is a big focus for many environmental organizations on campus, a goal that couldn’t be more true for the OSU Waste Watchers Club, which takes a unique approach in accomplishing this.

According to Administrative Program Specialist Kaylee Smith, who advises multiple environmental organizations at OSU including Waste Watchers, the club emphasizes the “reduce” and “reuse” tiers of the waste hierarchy. A major way Waste Watchers promotes these ideas is through the Repair Fair, an event they hold during spring term, which a date has not been set for yet this year. 

“It’s where we have volunteers from the community and campus come in with some sort of repair skill, like sewing, mending… anything you can think of to repair something,” Smith said. “People can show up with a broken item, and they’ll sit down with you and teach you how to repair it and give you some of the supplies as well.” 

Supplies given out at the Repair Fair include sewing needles and yarn, giving people the ability to continually restore their items and reduce the amount of waste going into landfills.

Aside from her efforts with Waste Watchers, Smith also founded the new environmental class on campus. After graduating with a BS in business administration and a minor in sustainability last year, Smith and a few of her undergraduate friends formed the Sustainability in Business Club in response to new trends involving environmental consciousness in the corporate world.

“There’s this shift in a lot of the corporate environment and even small businesses, too,” Smith said. “There’s a need for people who are not only educated in sustainability, but know how to apply that in the business context, and so that’s kind of what we started this club for.”

Though the club is still new, they have built a small community of both on campus and Ecampus students through discussions held with guest speakers who apply a sustainable framework to their own businesses. The group also attends various events on campus, including the recent Washington Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference and the Zero Waste Game hosted by BAST.

With so many sustainability organizations around campus, clubs have begun to come together to form a collective. Unofficially known as the Sustainability Council, the group consists of Waste Watchers, the Environmental Science Club, Greeks Go Green, and Sustainability in Business.  The group is not currently recognized by the university, but does bring together each organization every other week to discuss the collective’s future.

“(Clubs) can have representatives come to this council meeting, and we can get a temperature check on what everybody is doing across campus and see where there’s overlap or redundancy and kind of work together to either put forward initiatives or lend each other volunteer help,” Smith said.

The group aims to be recognized by OSU as an official organization by the end of this spring term, when it will then be able to begin pursuing another major goal: amplifying student voices around sustainability.

“We also, at some point, are interested in having it be a place for students to come and present an idea like implementing some sort of new initiative on campus, and then using the power of all these clubs as a way to either lobby (the Associated Students of Oregon State University) or talk to (University Housing and Dining Services),” Smith said. “This is a more efficient and effective way to create or take action outside of just your club’s goals.”

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