SOU: The “S” Stands for Sustainability

SOU students pose for a photo with their recognitions for being a sustainable school (Photo Credit: Southern Oregon University’s Website)

Now more than ever the world needs to come together and make changes so that tomorrow there is still a world for generations to come. But this world must be more equal amongst all humankind and the United Nations has its goals in hopes to make this a reality.

Countries as a whole, businesses, schools, corporations, families, and each individual have to help if the UN is to reach its 17 sustainable development goals. One school that is putting in their part is Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. Their many efforts on campus are inspiring their students and community to do better and work together to create not only a more sustainable campus but also a world.

Directly from the university website, “SOU was recently honored with the Best Case Study Award by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education”. When looking further into what this award means it is given to institutions of higher education who successfully make changes at their campus to help achieve sustainability. The criteria to win this award includes overall impact, innovation, replicability, breadth of impact, stakeholder involvement, and clarity and coherence. It is commendable, to say the least, that Southern Oregon University has been able to achieve all of this and in turn making their campus and community a better place.

When looking at what the UN’s sustainable development goals are it is clear that SOU is making an impact in helping achieve these with their campus projects. The university is doing its part in trying to accomplish goal seven of the UN, which is “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. SOU is accomplishing this by installing solar panels around campus to help power some of the buildings. They more than 1,000 panels on their campus that are helping them accomplish using fewer greenhouse gases and create more clean and renewable energy.

For many reasons using solar energy instead of fossil fuels is the way to go. SOU knows it too! Benefits of using solar energy include the reduction of greenhouse gases, cleaner air, and less pollution, helps fight climate change, not having to depend on nonrenewable energy sources which are only in limited supply, and it also cuts down on water usage.

The UN’s twelfth goal is to “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. Although consumption at a sustainable level is ideal to reach this goal it is not something as easy to push along in places like the United States that consumes so much. The next best thing is to manage what happens with products in one’s everyday life after they are done with them.

SOU has a recycling program on campus that helps to manage where student and staff’s waste goes once finished. Not only do they have a recycling program but they also have a recycling center that was started and continues to be run and managed by students. This center sifts through the recycled items and picks what is the best material to go out and be recycled. So if you are a person who has ever been unsure of where your recycling was to go, don’t worry, they still look through it after you’ve put it in a designated spot.

The first things that come to mind when thinking about recycling are items such as glass, cardboard, paper, etc. But SOU’s program does more than just the basics. They also have places around campus for students and staff to recycle, “ink toner and cartridges, batteries, lamps and lightbulbs, electronic appliances and equipment, books, paint, oil, furniture, wood, scrap metal, marker pens, pens, and mechanical pencils and spray cans”. This allows for more products to be disposed of or recycled correctly that otherwise would have just gone straight to the landfill.

Another great thing about Souther Oregon University is that they have what they like to call a student sustainability center. This center gives paid and unpaid internships to students who want to get involved in the school’s many sustainability projects. The idea of this center essential is to “…inspire a student body that is environmentally, socially, and economically responsible through educational programming, collaborative partnerships, and innovative initiatives.” This place is great for students who want to make a difference in their school, community, and their own lives.

This university is doing amazing things to be as sustainable as possible with its different programs and initiatives such as the recycling program and adding solar panels to their buildings. These initiatives are not run solely by the school itself but they make sure to incorporate the students themselves along the way. This university is an excellent example of environmentally conscious decisions being a possibility in today’s modern world. If more schools, businesses, and communities across the country acted like SOU there is no doubt that the United States could be on track to fulfill the UN’s goals.

SOU student, Mexican American, and proud daughter of immigrants.