“At this time of year everything in Portland is dead,” said Portland State University student and Oregon native Rob Duran.
But his statement contradicts the landscape 15 Concordia students saw when stepping off the Amtrak train in Portland, Ore.
“It was a lot warmer than Fargo-Moorhead,” sophomore John Stelter said. “There were green things that seemed alien to the arctic wasteland that we live in.”
And “green” was exactly what the trip was designed to see.
The 15 students and a staff advisor embarked last week on a Spring Break High Impact Leadership Trip planned by seniors Megan John and Kelsey Kava. The trip focused on sustainability in the United States’ green capital, Portland.
The students toured some of the city’s multiple sustainability initiatives, talked with sustainability advocates about their roles in the city, and chowed down on locally grown foods from one of Portland’s many farmer’s markets.
Representatives from Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability talked with the group about steps the city has taken to become more sustainable. These steps have included providing citywide composting that’s picked up yard-side each week. This and other programs have the ultimate goal of reducing Portland’s carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
“I didn’t expect the government to be so involved with sustainability,” freshman Maddie Hyde said.
Hyde said that for her, the highlight of the trip was talking with Duran and other PSU students about sustainability action on their campus. The students have started the PSU Food Action Collective, raising awareness of the issues surrounding food, connecting students with farmers in the area, and learning how to cook locally and healthily.
But Portland wasn’t always sustainability’s city on a hill.
“We learned that about fifteen years ago, Portland was a lot like Fargo-Moorhead,” Hyde said. “They didn’t have all this crazy sustainability stuff. It all grew from there.”
In addition to learning how a city like Portland can be sustainable, the group learned to navigate a public transit system. The goal was to take public transportation experiences back to Fargo-Moorhead’s MAT bus, our local public bus system.
“Everything went exactly as planned, except for little mishaps with the transit system,” Kava said. “Sometimes it would rain or we’d miss a stop, but it helped us learn about navigating a big city like Portland.”
During the trip, students developed a new sense of sustainability and are now looking to bring ideas they learned to Concordia’s campus.
“Portland had a big influence on me,” Stelter said. “To be biblical, it peeled the scales off my eyes about sustainability.”
Hyde felt the same way.
“After Portland, I have this feeling that sustainability is possible and important,” Hyde said. “It’s not just about recycling. There are so many things we can do.”
With graduation around the corner, the seniors who were a part of the Portland HILT trip realized they have limited time to implement what they learned from the trip on Concordia’s campus.
“It was tough going on this trip as a senior,” Kava said, “but I now know that there are 10 underclassmen that are passionate about sustainability and getting involved in sustainability on campus. Hopefully, this trip will start a sustainability chain reaction.”