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Chemeketa celebrates international Campus Sustainability Month

The Marion Polk Food Share Youth Farm is one way Chemeketa promotes sustainability. Photo by Matthew Skog.

By Matthew Skog

Campus Sustainability Month reminds us that small changes can have a huge effect on the world around us.

The international event highlights activities that the average student or staff member can do in order to reduce their impact on the environment.

“Sustainability is one of these really large concepts that helps people understand where the wold is going,” Steph Fregosi, Chemeketa’s sustainability coordinator, said. “It’s one way to resolve questions people have about how we can solve social problems, what our role in the universe is as human beings, and how we impact others.

Campus Sustainability Month is a time when members of the Chemeketa community come together to raise awareness about sustainability issues.

The event features a number of challenges geared towards college communities. Students and staff members interested in participating can sign up on the event’s website to log their progress and earn points for their campus.

“The first event is a statewide drive less challenge,” Fregosi said. “It’s sponsored by the state of Oregon. You can log in and say ‘I’m taking the bus this number of days per week’ and this program will tally up how much carbon dioxide and other emissions that we’ve saved as a community by not driving.

“The second event is the EcoChallenge. It appeals to anybody because you can choose your own challenge.  They have categories you can choose from like health, transportation, food, energy, or water. You pick your own thing you want to work on,  join the Chemeketa team, and again it will tally up our impacts and tell us at the end of the month the impact that the little things we did individually made as a community. I think that’s a really powerful statement.

“The website for that is 2016.ecochallenge.org. Just search for the Chemeketa team.”

In addition to two challenges, Chemeketa will also participate in a series of special events throughout the month.

One special event is a day of service learning on the farm.

“With the addition of the Marion Polk Food Share Youth Farm to our campus, it presented a really great opportunity for our students to be involved with food issues and food equity,” Fregosi said. “We know from previous student involvement that students are concerned with local hunger. The youth farm is another way that students can get involved in local food issues.

“It gives people not only a connection to campus, and a connection to a sense of place, but it also gives them that tangible hands-on feeling of ‘I did something and I made a difference.’ That’s very empowering and I think it’s very important for students to understand that even though there are millions of problems going on in the world, you can still do something about it.”

Another special event will involve guest speaker Jared Hibbard-Swanson.

“Jared is both the coordinator of the youth farm and the community garden, so we’ve asked him to come talk about both,” Fregosi said. “He’ll talk about the role that these play in our local food system.”

Fregosi said that sustainability has become priority for the college.

“We’re working on an environmental stewardship plan,” she said. “It’s a value of the college. We’re always working on taking new steps forward. I think this college has accomplished a lot in terms of conservation, green buildings, reducing chemicals on campus, recycling efforts  – I think we’ve accomplished a lot.”

Fregosi hopes that all members of the Chemeketa community realize the impact, for better or for worse, that each of us can make.

“Be mindful of your actions,” she said. “We live in an age where information is always at our fingertips. We make instant decisions. It’s hard to be mindful of what you’re doing. It’s easy to make an impulse buy. We’re all guilty of it. Slowing down and disconnecting is important because it gives us a chance to digest information. It gives us a chance to connect to the natural world. The more connected we are to the natural world the less likely we are to harm it. If you’re not in tune with the natural world you’re far more likely to disregard it as something not important. It’s like with air: we take the air that we breath for granted until it’s completely polluted. Being mindful is one way that everyone can make a difference.”

For more information about Campus Sustainability Month and how you can make a difference, contact Steph Fregosi at steph.fregosi@chemeketa.edu.