Sustainability Coalition shows off successes, looks to future

2014-03-11T08:30:00Z 2014-03-11T17:21:13Z Sustainability Coalition shows off successes, looks to futureBy JAMES DAY, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times

The action was constant at Monday’s Sustainability Fair and Town Hall event at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center.

You had to keep moving or you would miss something at the sixth staging of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition celebration

Over here Dave Eckert of the coalition’s water action team was demonstrating what happens to water when it rains on the Oregon State University campus.

The juice goes to one of four places: Oak Creek, the Willamette River, the city’s water treatment plant or plants/groundwater.

Then Eckert used an 1851 vegetation map to show how more of the water gets to those four spots these days than it used to and at a much faster rate than it used to. Which means it is more loaded with pollutants.

For solutions, Eckert went to the source: OSU. The coalition is working with academic departments at the university, with students tasked with senior projects on stormwater modeling, analysis and design and rainwater harvesting.

“We want to hold water back,” Eckert said, “because that first flush includes the most polluted stuff. You want the pollutants to float to the bottom of the groundwater, which then can be used for irrigation.”

Nearby, Susan Morre of the coalition’s land-use action team was exhibiting the results of a mammoth volunteer survey that produced maps analyzing the walkability and bikeability of Corvallis’ streets.

The maps show where pedestrian and bicycle incidents are most likely to occur, indicates where there are barriers to people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers and even displays areas that might benefit from a grocery store or public gathering spots.

Morre and her team are hoping to earn grants to continue the work, perhaps publish a brochure and take some suggestions to the city for possible Land Development Code updates.

“I think a lot of people now are looking at Corvallis through different eyes,” Morre said.

Near the front door of the Alumni Center, Judy McNeece surveyed arrivals on how they traveled to the event, and was pleased to report that more folks were biking than driving alone.

In a conference room exhibit area, Tarah Campi of the Cascades West Council of Governments explained ride-sharing and car pool options in Benton, Linn and Lincoln counties.

And there was Scott Dybvad, sustainability coordinator for the city, discussing an almost-completed greenhouse gas inventory for Corvallis, which was aided by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Down the corridor was Megan Brothers, an OSU senior from Seattle with a double major in business administration and sustainability.

Brothers is part of the Student Sustainability Initiative, which is paid for by student fees. The 10-12 full-time employees and 10 volunteer interns are working on projects on energy, food, landscaping, transportation, waste reduction and water.

One recent drive by the student group was a “bring your own mug” campaign to encourage less use of disposable coffee cups.

Finally, in the main hall at the Alumni Center, the 500 participants discussed sustainability topics on a round-table basis, heard a report on climate change, laughed at author Vicki Robin’s keynote speech on local food, and watched a slide show on coalition accomplishments in 2013.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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