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Lewis & Clark: No. 1 in Sustainability

May 28, 2015

Lewis & Clark is the nation’s top-ranked college in sustainability, according to the Princeton Review.

Frank Manor House GroundsFrank Manor House Grounds

At Lewis & Clark sustainability is not a hip trend—it is an ethos for living and learning on campus, shaping the ways students, faculty, and staff engage with the world from the classroom to the campus and beyond.

In April, the Princeton Review recognized Lewis & Clark as the nation’s No. 1 college in sustainability in its 2015–16 Guide to Green Colleges, the first time the college has topped the rankings of this annual report (see related article on page 28). While the Princeton Review takes into account a plethora of stats related to sustainability initiatives, the key to Lewis & Clark’s ranking was a student survey that found an exceptionally high level of awareness and support for environmental awareness and conservation.

Awards and Rankings

  • Green Rating Honor Roll, Princeton Review —2015
  • Sierra Club’s Top 5 “Coolest Schools”—2014
  • City of Portland Sustainability at Work Gold Certification
  • EPA Green Power Partner
  • Salmon-Safe certified
  • Associate for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System participant
  • Four LEED-certified buildings

Lewis & Clark bases its sustainability efforts on the best available scholarship and practice, recognizing the importance and interrelatedness of ecology, economy, and equity. “Sustainability is embedded in everything that goes on here,” says Amy Dvorak, the college’s sustainability manager. “Our faculty and students are very much interested in having a positive impact on the world.”

To better understand that impact, we’ve assembled a sampling of the many ways in which Lewis & Clark acts on sustainability, a core value of the college.

Sustainability in the Classroom

Excellence in sustainability is a hallmark of academic programs across the college. “Sustainability is directly connected to our educational mission,” says Jay Odenbaugh, associate professor of philosophy and a longtime member and former chair of the college’s Sustainability Council. “I really see it as part of the lifeblood of the college.”

  • Lewis & Clark Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law program is ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. In addition to a comprehensive menu of environmental law courses, the law school offers students the opportunity to develop practical skills in hands-on legal clinics, including the International Environmental Law Project and the Earthrise Law Center.
  • The ecopsychology certification program in the Graduate School of Education and Counseling prepares counselors to study the connections between mental health and the natural world.
  • The College of Arts & Sciences’ environmental studies program is a popular major or minor for undergraduates. Faculty and students strive to situate environmental problems and solutions in a scholarly context, working alongside other academic disciplines to build a more livable world.
  • Sustainability themes run through coursesin a range of disciplines, from Biology 114: Origins of Life in the Universe (team-taught by biology, physics, chemistry, and geological sciences faculty) to International Affairs 257: Global Resource Dilemmas. Nearly 75 percent of Lewis & Clark’s roughly 3,500 students graduate from an academic program that has adopted at least one sustainability learning outcome. And almost a third of research faculty are engaged in research related on some level to sustainability.
    Biology 114: Origins of Life in the UniverseBiology 114: Origins of Life in the Universe
  • With more than 60 percent of students going on overseas study programs , many explore sustainability issues in their studies abroad. Whether they travel in Latin America to learn about economic development or in Africa to study tropical ecology, they get an opportunity to see how sustainability is defined in different parts of the world. Students who opt to go on Alternative Spring Break trips have worked on sustainability- related service projects in locations ranging from Havana to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
  • A new sustainability internship offered to undergraduate and law students places interns in jobs in the wider community, from the Willamette Partnership, a nonprofit conservation coalition, to Bamboo Sushi, a popular sustainable sushi restaurant in Portland.

Sustainability on Campus

At Lewis & Clark, sustainability starts at home. “It is critical that we as a campus community show that we’re not just teaching about sustainability in the classroom, but that we’re also putting our priorities into practice,” says Law School Associate Dean Janice Weis, head of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program and chair of the Sustainability Council. “It just makes sense that we have much more power when we work together.”

  • Many of Lewis & Clark’s campus initiatives are channeled through the Sustainability Council , made up of faculty, students, and staff from the college’s three schools.
  • Two years ago, Lewis & Clark became the first private college in the nation to achieve certification from Salmon-Safe, a Northwest nonprofit dedicated to salmon protection. The prized credential was the product of a campus-wide strategy that included managing storm water to protect streams and reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides. The college is also pursuing an intensive three-year program to eliminate invasive plants and replace them with native species.
    Invasive Ivy RemovedInvasive Ivy Removed
  • The Frank Manor House grounds are maintained according to Oregon Tilth organic standards (and a plan calls for moving the entire campus to the program.)
  • The college can boast of having four buildings certified under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards. All future new buildings on campus are required to meet LEED Gold standards or higher.
    Holmes Hall–LEED Gold standardHolmes Hall–LEED Gold standard
  • A close partnership with Energy Trust of Oregon has resulted in an array of energy- saving projects that have reduced the college’s carbon footprint and saved over $800,000 annually in electricity and natural gas costs. Recent projects include the addition of LEDs (70 percent more energy efficient than standard lights) at Griswold Stadium and solar panels at the law school.
    Solar Panels at the Law SchoolSolar Panels at the Law School
  • Lewis & Clark encourages green transportation optionsby offering a free eco shuttle between campus and downtown, a campus car-share program, electric vehicle charging stations, bike-friendly facilities, and more.
    Green Transportation OptionsGreen Transportation Options
  • Lewis & Clark, in partnership with its food service vendor, Bon Appétit, offers many locally sourced food options. Students are also involved in growing food in community gardens , and some of this produce ends up in the campus cafeterias. Any edible but unused food is donated to a local nonprofit, while remaining food scraps are captured in the institution’s robust composting program.
    Juniper GardenJuniper Garden
  • Undergraduates make a strong commitment to renewable energy by directing a portion of their student fees to the Green Power Initiative. These dollars are used to purchase renewable energy certificates that represent 100 percent of the undergraduate campus’ energy use. Any surplus funds are directed to the Renewable Energy Fee Fund. Students can then apply for grants to use the funds to engage in sustainability-related projects on and off campus.
  • The Manzanita residence hall is home to the Environmental Action Living-Learning Community for students who take a pledge of “personal responsibility” for sustainability. Campus groups such as Students Engaged in Eco-Defense (SEED) and Multicultural Organizations Seeking an Inclusive Community , to name just two, are deeply involved in issues at the core of sustainability.
  • Lewis & Clark’s campus often serves as a “living laboratory” for students who want to puts sustainability into action. In recent years, students have been involved in researching the energy efficiency of the college’s buildings, creating an invasive species campus map to direct restoration efforts, and promoting alternative forms of transportation such as cycling and carpooling for students who commute to campus. The college’s commitment to sustainability in the classroom and campus makes for a powerful combination.

Earth Day Celebration

On April 22, Earth Day, the Lewis & Clark community—along with state and local leadership—celebrated Lewis & Clark’s ranking as the top environmentally responsible college in the country by the Princeton Review. The ranking takes into account institutional data, as well as student surveys that asked about the college’s sustainability-related practices, policies, and academic offerings.

“This honor is validation of the progress we make when we work together in common purpose,” said President Barry Glassner. “Throughout our three schools, from our facilities to our academic offerings—including our top-ranked program in environmental law— we integrate research, learning, and action. At Lewis & Clark, we’re always building on our strengths.”  

Following a traditional Native American prayer sung by Warm Springs Tribe Chief Delvis Heath, Glassner welcomed dignitaries to the event, including Oregon Governor Kate Brown J.D. ’85, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, and (via video) U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer B.A. ’70, J.D. ’76.

Lewis & Clark’s environmental leadership reflects the values that we as Oregonians hold dear: stewardship, sustainability, and the spirit of collaboration.Governor Kate BrownJ.D. ’85

“I’m absolutely thrilled to see the work of the college recognized,” Governor Brown said. “Lewis & Clark’s environmental leadership reflects the values that we as Oregonians hold dear: stewardship, sustainability, and the spirit of collaboration.”

Mayor Hales praised the college for spawning new—and sometimes radical—ideas that can have a “profound effect on public policy.” Hales noted, “This award has a deeper meaning about the relationship between Lewis & Clark and the community you serve.”

Lewis & Clark recognized two partners—the Energy Trust of Oregon, which works with the college on an array of energy conservation initiatives, and Bon Appétit, the college’s sustainably minded food service provider—by planting trees on campus in their names.

To cap off the event, the college presented the Evan T. Williams Sustainability Prize, named after the late chemistry professor and founder of the environmental studies program, to the college’s retiring vice president for business and finance, Carl Vance.

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