American Heritage magazine called it “one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy.”
What the magazine was referring to was the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, 38 years ago. All across the country there were demonstrations, clean-ups and discussions on the importance of the environment. In the interest of full disclosure, I remember this day like it was yesterday. Over the years, the green movement waxed and waned as a national political issue in the United States — but for me the importance of the concepts of stewardship and personal responsibility helped me move toward ecology, for both my education and my career.
Since those heady times, many individuals, non-profits, and communities began recycling programs, planted and sold organic foods, studied ways to save energy and cleaned up their collective back yards. As a graduate student in Colorado, I became much more aware of Oregon as the state became a national leader in these efforts. In 1967, led by Gov. Tom McCall, Oregon passed legislation declaring the state’s ocean beaches public. In 1971 the state legislature passed the country’s first container deposit legislation, known as the Oregon Bottle Bill.
In recent years the green movement has reemerged in the U.S. under a new banner of sustainability, the idea that climate, agriculture, industry and other vital human and natural systems can and should be self-sustaining and perpetual. Practically speaking, that means reducing energy consumption, increasing recycling and reducing waste destined for landfills. It also means buying local produce and goods whenever possible. In sum, sustainability embraces stewardship and personal responsibility.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of students, faculty and staff, Pacific University started down the road to a more sustainable future five years ago when we made the commitment to build the new Library to LEED standards. Soon after, “Greening Pacific” began as a program to reduce paper waste in our offices and to purchase more green office products. Most offices now also have receptacles for glass, cans and many plastic items. In addition, primarily driven by student requests, our food service in the University Center now purchases organic foods and meats and recycles pre-consumer food scraps at the nearby B-Street Farm. The campus also has a new recycling center to help process and compact paper, cardboard and other recyclables, reducing trips to campus by recycling and garbage trucks.
There are many other ways Pacific has joined the green revolution. We are committed to build new buildings consistent with LEED-based guidelines for energy efficiency and environmental impact. We have constructed four such projects and our new residence hall will be the fifth. I am also proud to have joined university presidents and administrators across the country in signing the Talloires Declaration, expressing concern over the state of the environment, and pledging our institutions to raise awareness of these issues and to do our best to reduce our own impact. And, I’m proud to announce that this issue of Pacific magazine will be the first one published with recycled paper.
There are several reasons why we are doing all this and will do more. First, as an educational institution, it is our duty to model responsible behavior for our community. Second, we should do all we can to reduce consumption and waste, to reuse, recycle, to plant, and sustain, and to reduce our impact on our fragile blue planet. By being responsible we also lower our operating costs. But the best reason to be green is it just makes good sense — what better legacy can we leave than a place that is better than we received it?
I invite you to join us in this effort in your homes, workplaces and communities.
Please drop me a note.
Phil Creighton, President