Gonzaga goes to WOHESC!
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
GU Take Off to PSU
After studying late into the night, packing for 3 great days to come, and communicating to friends about sending me notes for class… I got up at the ripe morning time of 6:00am to finish my three-hour physics lab in one hour. Before I even knew it, we were heading to the Washington and Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference (WOHESC)!
Views along the Columbia
Jim Simon was our amazing van driver for the day and James Sulser was our music genius, DJ Sulser Smiles. Sitting to my left was the zag, the myth, the legend, @zerowastezag, Anna Belinski. The back seaters were food genius Serena Carmon-Hester and magnificent Space-X loving Meghan Lowry. From Spokane to Portland we experienced nothing but sunny skies and great views. During our ride we listened to many different genres of music, and best of all, we watched the flight of the Falcon Heavy live off of my computer! (If you haven’t watched the entire 30-minute video, I highly suggest it). Additionally, Serena picked the best taco truck in the entire state of Washington when we went through the Dalles for lunch.
Portland at first glance
Many of us had never been to downtown Portland for more than a few hours. And we had definitely never seen Portland underneath sunny skies. Once we arrived, all 10 of us Zags, Jim, Dr. Maxwell, Dr. Henning, James, Serena, Meghan, Anna, Dee Dee, Sarah, and I, met up to introduce ourselves and get our conference stuff and info. The name badge is probably the coolest badge I’ve ever had in my entire life, because sustainability. I’d never been to a sustainability conference before and I had been looking forward to it ever since I was invited to attend.
Right after we moved into our rooms for the week, we all parted ways to go on separate sustainability tours offered by the conference. I went to the Viking Pavilion and Karl Miller Center LEED Certification tour. As we entered the very colorful, open, and vibrant Karl Miller Center, everything seemed different… This was because half of the building was completely new and half of it was extremely old. The old side was an active system which had its floors redone on every level and walls colored, and the new side was completely passive (very unique for any building).
First, we toured the new classrooms on the passive side. Windows would open, close, and fans would spin to cool and heat the five levels of concrete classrooms. The system worked extremely well and took less than a minute to change the temperature of the rooms. Following this, we went to the roof to see the low energy HVAC system that regulates the temperature differences throughout the entire building (It was out of this world, I actually stepped inside of it, I could tell you everything amazing about it, but I know you want to keep reading on about the conference) and also saw an amazing view of Portland from the green roof space. If you ever go there yourself, you will easily understand how the center is Platinum LEED Certified. Every university needs a Karl Miller Center, wish I could’ve taken it back with me.
Next, we went to the Viking Pavilion, which is currently under construction. It will continue to function as the athletic center for PSU and will feature a super energy and environmentally conscious stadium with LED lighting and locally sourced wooden floors.
There’s no doubt that PSU is leading by example with this one of a kind LEED Gold Certified athletic center and its Platinum LEED Certified business school in the middle of Downtown Portland.
After walking across the entire city, we arrived at the LEED Platinum Certified, Oregon Health and Science University, where we were all given a warm welcome by Brian Gibbs, the Vice President of Equity and Inclusion at OHSU. No one said it better than him, we were all there to listen to others, share what we’ve learned, and bring greatness back to our universities to make the world a better place.
City of Bridges
After a great day of new beginnings, we walked from OHSU across the Tilikum Crossing Pedestrian Bridge to Pok Pok Restaurant for dinner, which was suggested by food master Serena. If you’ve never had fish sauce wings, I highly suggest the ones at Pok Pok. They were literally the best wings I’ve had in my life. Also, I highly suggest you go there for the paper straws which can be recycled or composted. To complete the day, we went to the famous Salt and Straw for ice cream. I guess Pear and Blue Cheese ice cream is amazing…
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Woke up as early as a high school student and went to our first local food truck coffee shop in Portland. That place made the best mocha I’ve ever had, and sure enough, the coffee used is grown from farms in countries that use healthy and natural practices that don’t harm the environment or reduce the coffee’s quality (very similar to Roast House Coffee in Spokane). Once we arrived at the conference we found the plates to be made of bamboo, utensils to be compostable, and food sourced from local farms. PSU leads by example, showing what it means to be environmentally responsible, providing the choice for us to compost and reduce landfill waste.
First Conference Events
One of my favorite presentations at the conference and the one most relevant to my work at Gonzaga was the Transformative Energy Leadership seminar. It was inspiring listening to and learning about the renewable efforts universities across Washington and Oregon are taking. The most significant effort was the massive wind farm being installed for Western Washington University. Others such as the Distributed Energy Management Group and Energy Trust focused on helping universities and companies find renewable solutions. The drive I experienced from these individuals was inspiring and led me to bring some of this inspiration home to explain to my club and peers.
Our first Zag did amazing at the conference by leading the conversation about intersectionality within the Transitioning to Inclusive Sustainability in an Divided World seminar. This was the first seminar of the conference that opened my eyes to understand the many interconnected concepts of sustainability and social justice. Not only is resiliency something that can save our environment, its something that can solve our social issues and generate healthier societies with higher values.
Gonzaga Anaerobic Digestor
The Gonzaga senior design team of James, Meghan, Dee Dee, and Sarah presented their poster explaining how food waste could be used to make electricity for the cog (By far one of the greatest ideas to implement on Gonzaga’s campus). Their poster included information about what the COG does with its food waste (10,000 lbs every week) and a diagram of their air tight digestor. They completely nailed it! As experts came by and asked technical questions, they responded quickly with details. Many were impressed with the system design and the project presentation was a complete success.
Dr. Henning and Faculty Learning Community
As the movement continues, Dr. Henning discussed the integration of Sustainability across the college curriculum. A great representation of how Gonzaga is making changes to its common functions and leading by example to share with others. Check out Henning’s amazing work with the Divestment Group here at Gonzaga and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
My First Mediterranean Food Experience
Another great day of learning and understanding new concepts passed, and it was time for another Serena 5 star dinner. We walked downtown this time and arrived at a Mediterranean restaurant with unlimited pita bread and hummus. I ordered a chicken kabob (the best pieces of chicken I’ve ever had) and ate everything. The only food I left on my plate was this extremely strong and spicy garlic spread. Of course, I was challenged to eat it… So I did it… My mouth burned for the rest of the night when we went to Powell’s Book Store and caused me to brush my teeth 7 times (I had to throw away the toothbrush). Don’t ever eat Mediterranean garlic spread by the spoonful, use it accordingly…
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Sustainability for Reentry
During the morning keynote, Pandora Thomas from Southern California, shared the ideals of using environmental principles in social deign. In her program, Pathways to Resilience, she works with men and women returning from incarceration to adapt them to environmental principles, focusing their new and healthy lifestyle to make a difference in their community. They work together to design climate adaptive solutions for the Bay Area, something super unique and forward thinking. The program is very successful and results in these individuals completely turning their lives around and even getting employed. It fascinates me how much resiliency can do for the self and what it can do for the environment. Truly. Mind. Blowing.
Saving the best for last, I went to the Scalable and Adaptable Tools for Climate Action Planning seminar led by our very own Zag, Dr. Maxwell. Leading the way, he explained the composition of Gonzaga’s climate action plan and explained how others could do the same. Jim was the other author to the plan and made some comments, answering questions that the conference members had. Currently, they are both working on the second iteration of the plan. Any students or faculty can join in on the action and use it to implement projects on campus that meet its goals and requirements. I can’t thank them enough for the first iteration of the climate action plan. It has helped give a foundation to the very own group I founded, the Gonzaga Renewable Investment Group.
Anna and Green Fund
As I attended the seminar above, Anna presented about the Green Fund we have at Gonzaga. Again, leading by example, our university provides funding options for students to implement sustainable projects on campus. Congrats to Anna for all her hard work reorganizing and reconstructing the functions of the Green Fund. It’s so unique for students to have this great opportunity to make a difference.
Sadly enough, after the last seminar, the conference was over. We went back to the hotel, packed up, and got the car. It was a reflective ride home as I dwelled over all the possibilities and all the challenges to come during my time at Gonzaga and beyond. Luckily, I’m only a freshman and have quite a bit of time to do something special at Gonzaga and in all of Spokane.
I cannot thank Jim Simon enough for inviting me to go to WOHESC. It was truly a life changing experience. Being at a conference with so many likeminded people encourages me to take initiative in all the projects I pursue and gives me the confidence to make a difference. Also thank you to everyone else who went to the conference for their courage to present what they know to the state of Washington and Oregon. And most of all, thank you Gonzaga University for believing me and my dreams to make the world a better place through environmental awareness and action. I can’t wait to see all that Gonzaga does these upcoming years as our focus on resiliency continues to develop and flourish on campus and within the Spokane community.