Message to the UP community from Fr. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C.

President

July 7, 2017

Dear Members of the University of Portland community,

During these beautiful summer months on The Bluff, we are reminded again of how blessed we are to live in the Pacific Northwest, with its pristine forests, mountains, and coast.

But we also know that our environment is increasingly fragile. We too often take for granted the mild temperatures, the clean air we breathe, and the pure water we drink. It is our commitment to social justice that calls on us to be good custodians of the planet and its resources, not only for our own community, but also for people everywhere and for generations to come.

Pope Francis called upon us all to be stewards of the land, not masters of it. “Our Earth needs constant concern and attention. Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for creation, this precious gift which God has entrusted to us,” said the Pope. “Respect for the environment, however, means more than not destroying it; it also means using it for good purposes.”

I believe higher education has an obligation to educate students about environmental responsibility, as well as to use this knowledge to inform the decisions that are made.  Recently I know there has been concern expressed on campus about the loss of several sequoias to allow for the construction of Dundon-Berchtold Hall. The decision to remove these four trees was not an easy one. The trees have been a familiar part of the Eastside Quad for many students, faculty, and staff since 1967.

And yet the need for new classrooms, lecture spaces, and faculty offices has become critical. Our student population has grown by 30% over the past decade, but classroom space has remained the same. Our campus has not had a new academic building in over 22 years.

The Steering Committee for Dundon-Berchtold Hall, which included a diverse group of faculty, met for over a year on the location and design of the building. Finally, when it was apparent that any alternative location would have required giving up equally valuable greenspace or much-needed parking space, I asked the architects to explore changing the siting of the building to lessen the impact on the environment. I am pleased to share that, by altering the size and design of the building, we were able to save half of the sequoia trees in that area. With this knowledge, the Steering Committee reached a consensus of support for the new design.

Jim Ravelli and the University Operations team met with the College Ecology Club as well as Environmental Ethics & Policy faculty and students to hear their concerns about the building plans. They also met with the staff of The Beacon twice to discuss the plans, and engaged the University Park Neighborhood Association, who, even with the removal of trees, has written a letter in support of the project.

Although we will lose four sequoias, the campus is still home to 87 more of these trees. In addition, we are continuing to add to our tree canopy with 121 trees being planted this summer, 54 in the main parking lot area and 67 along the River Campus. Furthermore, in remediation for the trees that are being removed, we have contributed funds to the City of Portland, which we have requested be used to reestablish large trees in Portsmouth and Columbia Parks in the University Park neighborhood. I have also directed University Operations staff to continually look for opportunities to enhance the number and the species of trees on campus.

I want to assure you that we did not make this decision lightly. I am confident we reached a thoughtful, informed, and inclusive decision, involving many members of this community. These discussions have also reinforced the importance of following the words of Pope Francis and being responsible stewards of the Earth and its resources.

As a pledge of my commitment to this challenge, I have joined the presidents of nearly 200 colleges and universities by signing the “We’re Still In” statement on the Paris Climate Agreement. Campuses, along with cities, states, and businesses, are declaring their intent to continue to ensure the United States remains a responsible, global leader in reducing carbon admissions. The University of Portland is stepping forward to join their effort to ensure America meets its emissions pledge under the Paris Agreement. You can read the statement at www.WeAreStillIn.com.

Sustainable practices, energy conservation, and other ethical approaches to lessen our impact on the environment have long been a hallmark at the University of Portland. Annually, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sustainability, comprised of students, faculty, and staff, identifies continuous opportunities for sustainable objectives. Their goal is to identify two to three doable action items each year.

I am proud that the University of Portland has, over the years, taken many steps, both operationally and academically, to address sustainability on the campus. You can find out more about the University’s actions by reading the information below.  

I invite you to join me as we follow the words of Pope Francis and be stewards of this precious Earth that God has entrusted to us.  

Sincerely,

Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C.

 

Sustainability and Climate Action at the University of Portland

Physical Plant

  • The University purchases a portion of our electricity from renewable sources:
    • Approximately 30% of our power comes from low-carbon hydroelectric sources.
    • 5% of our electrical use is “green electricity.”
    • The University is recognized annually for its participation in Portland General Electric’s “Clean Wind Renewable Power” program.
    • Every year, UP self-directs the maximum amount of its public purpose charge toward the purchase of Clean Wind power. In 2015, UP purchased 1,681,317 kWh of Clean Wind power, resulting in the reduction of 2,253,534 pounds of CO2 emissions, which equates roughly to 2,514,712 miles not driven or 173 trees planted annually.
  • In conjunction with the construction of several new buildings in recent years, we regularly review and evaluate the placement of new campus trash and recycling containers, along with the location of existing containers, in order to encourage desired behaviors and maximize participation in recycling efforts.
  • An energy-efficient appliance procurement policy was adopted that requires the purchase of Energy Star certified products in all areas for which such a rating exists.
  • In 2015, Physical Plant completed phase 1 of a multi-year steam decentralization project, removing four campus buildings from the centralized steam plant and eliminating approximately 1,070 linear feet of direct-buried steam and condensate piping. This project resulted in the immediate avoidance of approximately $1.1M imminent repair costs and reduced CO2 emissions by 604,203 pound annually, equivalent to removing 53 cars from the road or planting 75 acres of trees every year. The project also resulted in $38,000 annual energy savings, the cost of which was offset by $104,024 utility incentive awarded by the Energy Trust of Oregon.
  • Throughout 2015-2016, the University joined and actively participated in a 2-year “Strategic Energy Management” (SEM) cohort sponsored by the Energy Trust of Oregon, resulting in significant reduction in consumption of both electricity and natural gas. The SEM initiative intentionally targeted a diverse cross-section of campus buildings (i.e., residence hall, classroom/office building, athletic facility, science/laboratory building, etc.) and is now being expanded to include additional campus buildings.
  • In conjunction with these efforts, the University earned four (of four possible) $1000 milestone incentive bonuses from the Energy Trust of Oregon. Additionally, the university received an additional $7,918 incentive check for having saved 377,968 kWh (electricity) and 1,789 therms (natural gas) in 2016.
  • In 2016, the campus-wide recycling program was expanded to include a student-led initiative to establish food compost recycling in the residence halls.
  • In 2017, Physical Plant began work on phase 2 of the multi-year steam decentralization project. This phase will remove two additional buildings from the centralized steam plant, eliminating approximately 457 linear feet of direct-buried steam and condensate piping. This will result in the avoidance of approximately $460,000 eventual repair costs, while at the same time reducing CO2 emissions by 283,990 pounds annually, equivalent to removing 25 cars from the road or planting 35 acres of trees every year. The project will result in an estimated $85,000 annual energy savings, the cost of which will be offset by $85,317 utility incentive awarded by the Energy Trust of Oregon.

Buildings

  • All new buildings on campus are designed to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver, gold, or platinum certification standards.
  • In 2015, the University of Portland was honored as a Champion of Sustainability by McKinstry, a full-service, consulting, construction, energy, and facility services firm with offices around the country.
  • Bauccio Commons, the student dining hall, is LEED Certified. Food waste has been reduced by approximately 70%, and a comprehensive composting plan has been instituted. Bon Appétit primarily uses locally-sourced products and has significantly reduced the amount of meat and cheese served, helping lower the University’s carbon footprint.
  • Donald P. Shiley Hall was awarded LEED Platinum certification – the highest possible rating – by the United States Green Building Council when it was built in June 2010. The award secured Shiley Hall’s status as one of the most energy efficient and environmentally sustainable buildings in the world. At that time, it was one of 15 buildings in Portland, one of 25 buildings on college campuses nationwide, and one of 313 buildings worldwide to earn LEED Platinum certification.
  • The City of Portland granted Shiley Hall a BEST (Businesses for an Environmentally Sustainable Tomorrow) Award in the Green Building category, recognizing the University of Portland’s commitment to excellence in sustainable building practices. 
  • Fields and Schoenfeldt Halls earned LEED Gold certification, making them the highest LEED certified dorms on campus.
  • The Beauchamp Recreation & Wellness Center and the Clark Library are LEED Silver certified. Lund Family Hall is in the LEED application process, but we anticipate it will be awarded LEED Silver certification.
  • As lights are replaced, LED lighting is replacing traditional light bulbs in all of the residence halls and other campus buildings.

Transportation

  • On campus, we are utilizing non-carbon using vehicles as much as possible (e.g. electric utility vehicles).
  • Bicycle usage at the University is at an all-time high among students and employees. Demand for bicycle parking has been so great that several new bike racks have been installed across campus. There are now at least 850 indoor and outdoor spaces on campus.
  • Use of the school’s MAX shuttle is at record levels, as is usage of the school’s Zipcars. The University’s monthly allotment of University-subsidized TriMet public transportation passes regularly sells out; dozens of campus community members take part in a carpooling program that provides financial incentives to those who rideshare; and, since 2006, the University has offered a highly successful and innovative home grant program that provides funding assistance for employees who purchase homes in North Portland with the expectation that they use alternative transportation when commuting to campus.

Education

  • The University offers several courses of study for students interested in issues surrounding the environment and sustainability, including a bachelor of science degree in environmental science; a bachelor of arts degree in environmental ethics & policy; a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering with a concentration in environmental engineering; a minor in sustainability for undergraduates; and a master of business administration degree with a concentration in sustainability.

Other

  • In 2010, the University of Portland became the first college or university on the West Coast to discontinue the sale of disposable plastic water bottles on campus.
  • The on-campus organic Student-Led Unity Garden (SLUG) helps provide food for local families in need.
  • The University of Portland hosted two highly successful conferences focused on sustainability: the 2010 “Confluences: Water & Justice” and the 2011 “Food for Thought.” Both conferences brought together national and local leaders on the topics of water and food, and featured keynote addresses from top global experts – international water activist Maude Barlow and best-selling food author Michael Pollan.
  • On May 9, 2013, the University of Portland co-sponsored two events with Maitripa College as part of the Environmental Summit, which featured three days of enlightening teachings and conversations with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and distinguished leaders of the Pacific Northwest environmental, scientific, policy, and faith communities. The Dalai Lama was joined in the University’s Chiles Center by religious leaders, including University of Portland president Rev. E. William Beauchamp, C.S.C., in an interfaith dialogue, “Spirituality and the Environment.” The Dalai Lama also offered a public address entitled “Universal Responsibility and the Inner Environment: the Nature of Mind.”
  • The University signed the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor on behalf of the University community. The St. Francis Pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes, organizations, and institutions to live their faith by protecting God’s Creation and advocating on behalf of people in poverty who face the harshest impacts of global climate change.

 

Contact

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