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Ideas and inspiration from this year’s Innovation in Sustainability Awards

Innovation in Sustainability Awards
This year the Portland Business Journal recognized 14 Portland organizations for their innovations in sustainability. The year’s award winners may seem leaps and bounds ahead of the norm, but in most cases, their trajectory started with many small steps.

Here are highlights of this year’s winners, along with some on-the-ground actions you can take, inspired by their work.

Transportation
Energy
Social Enterprise
Green Building 

Transportation

Oregon Health & Science University

What they did:

Get 20,000 people up and down a hill every day, through creative thinking outside the car.

  • The aerial tram — takes five to six thousand people to and from the hill every day.
  • Bike valet parking — easy, safe, and, thanks to OHSU, free to staff and the public. No wonder almost 400 bike commuters a day use it!
  • Staff bike incentives — $20 for every 20 bike commute trips.
  • Free streetcar and tram use for OHSU students, faculty and staff.

      What you can do:

  • Help your workplace look into setting up pre-tax transit passes for staff.
  • Encourage your workplace to provide a small cash incentive to bike, walk, or transit commuters.
  • Contact us — we can explain options, and how to make them happen.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance

What they did:

  • This year’s Bike Commute Challenge got 2,000 new riders to commute by bike.
  • Last year Safe Routes to School taught its 50,000th child.

      What you can do:

  • Start prepping now for the Bike Commute Challenge – here are seven ideas to get you started.
  • Reach out to teachers and schools to make sure they’re registered for the Safe Routes to School program.
  • Get involved in school Walk+Bike events in May and October.

Stacey and Witbeck Inc.

What they did:

  • Built Portland’s streetcar, and became one of the country’s top builders of light rail, commuter rail and street car systems.
  • Focused on re-use and recycling opportunities throughout their projects — like recycling asphalt and re-using street trees.
  • Tracked office sustainability by measuring water, energy, and recycling levels, and quantified all measurable emissions from their operations for a complete sustainability inventory

      What you can do:

  • Choose one thing — energy, water, waste — to measure.
    • Even if you lease your space, you can track the amount of paper your workplace purchases, or borrow our DIY Waste Sort Kit to measure recycling, trash and compost.
    • Once you’ve got an initial measurement, you’ll be able to set goals and show improvements.

Energy

Oregon Convention Center

image of wind turbinesWhat they did:

  • Reduced electricity use by 28% and natural gas by 18%, since 2009.
  • Upgraded to LED lighting, retrofitted HVAC and installed low-flow water fixtures.
  • Earned LEED Platinum certification last year.
  • Saved an additional 1,000,000 kWh of energy (close to 10% of their annual usage!) in four months through an employee engagement campaign.

      What you can do:

  • Be on the look-out for “low hanging fruit,” like making sure lights are off when no one’s around.
    • The OCC’s sustainability coordinator, Erin Rowland, said a surprising amount of savings come from these simple actions.
  • Challenge staff to change the way they think about their energy habits with an employee engagement campaign

Energy Storage Systems

What they did:

  • Developed a cost-effective, energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly battery system for industrial and commercial use.

      What you can do:

  • Does your workplace use batteries? Set up a rechargeable battery station — with a charger, containers for charged and depleted batteries – and let people know about the switch to rechargeables.

Waste

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

What they did:

  • Developed a sustainability how-to guide for creating museum exhibitions — ExhibitSEED — and shared it through workshops with over 200 museum leaders.
  • Thirty-five museum exhibits have already been planned following ExhibitSEED’s Green Exhibit Checklist.
  • OMSI also created a new long-term exhibit — Clever Together/Juntos somos ingeniosos — a bilingual exhibit helping visitors understand how sustainability can be integrated into their day-to-day choices.

      What you can do:

  • Visit OMSI’s Clever Together/Juntos somos ingeniosos exhibit — or plan a lunch time work field trip – to learn sustainability actions you can take at home or work.
  • Create a workplace sustainable purchasing policy, asking the same questions OMSI uses:
    • How durable is this product?
    • What’s the upstream environmental impact?
    • How safe is it for people to use?
    • Can we dispose of it responsibly when we’re done with it?
    • Is there a way to support local, women and minority owned vendors?

Oregon Department of Corrections

What they did:

  • Prisons have robust recycling programs — if anything used in the prisons can be recycled, it will be.
  • All 14 prisons have gardens, generating more than 210,000 pounds of produce for the prisons and the Oregon Food Bank.
  • Prisoners also cultivate endangered plants through a partnership with the Oregon Zoo and conservation groups.

      What you can do:

  • Help your workplace recycle everything it can:
    • Call us for a Recycling Refresher presentation.
    • Set up a “Bin of Confusion” for a week — tell people to put items in that they don’t know what to do with. Then contact us, or call Metro’s recycling hotline staff (503-234-3000) — they’ll tell you if, where, and how that item can be re-used or recycled.

Green Endeavor Inc.

What they did:

  • Help industrial clients replace toxic cleaning chemicals and degreasers with safer and more sustainable alternatives.

      What you can do:

  • Look at the cleaners in your workplace, used by either staff or janitors. Are there less toxic, more sustainable alternatives?
  • Consider setting up a green cleaning policy.
  • Talk with your property manager or cleaning service about switching to less toxic alternatives.

Social Enterprise

Happy Cup Coffee Co.

Happy Cup is a local coffee roaster that provides meaningful employment to adults with development disabilities. It now has three retail locations — including a coffee shop in City Hall!

      What you can do:

  • Go get a cup (or a bag) of coffee!
  • Look into products you or your workplace commonly purchase — how, where, and by whom are they made?
  • Create a sustainable purchasing policy for workplace. Contact us for help!

Oregon Environmental Council

OEC develops and promotes solutions to Oregon’s environmental challenges through their work with individuals around sustainable living, businesses around sustainable practices, and elected officials around policy. Their current focus areas are clean water, toxic-free environments, and climate protection.

      What you can do:

  • Sign up for their newsletter to stay informed (sign up is at the bottom of this page)
  • Volunteer to help with their initiatives.

Hatch Innovation

Hatch is a community innovation lab, providing education, office space and access to capital for social entrepreneurs. Springboard Innovation, the nonprofit that created Hatch, will soon become Hatch Innovation, with subsidiaries Hatch Lab, Hatch Purpose, and Hatch Capital.

      What you can do:

  • Check out their calendar of events
  • Or sign up for their newsletter to stay informed as they develop new offerings.

Green Building

Reuse is where it’s at! This year’s green building award winners all focused on repurposing and renovating rather than building from the ground up.

Venerable Properties has a long history of restoring old buildings, and has always focused on salvaging existing building components, rather than sending them to the landfill in favor of new replacements.

SERA Architects’ major renovation of downtown’s Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt building is a great example of the company’s integration of sustainability with the design process. 

Redside CRE is a real estate investment firm that focuses on revamping older buildings for efficiency and sustainability, rather than new development.

      What you can do:

  • Look for creative ways to reuse or recycle in your workplace.
    • Identify your workplace’s hard-to-recycle items
    • Call Metro’s recycling hotline staff (503-234-3000) — they’ll tell you if, where, and how that item can be reused or recycled.