In Portland this summer, we quite literally are going to rock down to Electronic Avenue just like the song goes. Located on the campus of Portland State University (PSU), Electronic Avenue is where you’ll find electric cars pulling up to the one of the several street-side charging stations. This initiative is one of the latest sustainably projects launched to encourage the community to be able to travel the city without ever using a gas pump. “Plug in, Charge up, Drive on” reads PSU’s slogan for Electric Avenue. Electronic Avenue is just one example among many that we’ll see this summer living in Portland as we serve with organizations focused on environmental conservation, transportation and water issues, outreach and education, and law/policy.
Our Portland program also aims to be a forerunner among our 40+ DukeEngage group programs in efforts to lower our overall carbon footprint. Through the use of a carbon calculator developed specifically for the DukeEngage Portland group, we hope to observe first-hand the effects of our food consumption, electric use, and transportation choices on the environment. We have made the commitment as a group to eat vegetarian together for several weeks during the program as one step toward lowering our environmental impact and exploring alternative ways to think about our food choices. We want this experience to have personal impact. To that end, we have chosen specific lenses to focus on throughout the 8 weeks among these include sustainable living, environment and human health, and technology as it applies environmental problems and improving efficiency. These lenses alongside our volunteer activities through Hands on Portland will allow us to focus on areas that are important to us in the larger conversation surrounding environmental and sustainability challenges that we face today.
As mentioned earlier in the blog, our first weekend at Opal Creek set the tone for the program by encompassing many of the areas we hope to continue to focus on throughout the program. With no internet and cell phones, we centered our energy on team-building, learning about the conservation efforts surrounding the Opal Creek area, and taking part in a morning of service trimming a National Forest service access road. We also began to envision what we hope these 8 weeks will hold working with our six community partners, engaging in reflection, and taking part in activities that will introduce the group to Portland and the surrounding natural areas. After hiking in the ancient old growth forests of Opal Creek, I think we returned to Portland with a clear understanding and appreciation of the incredible beauty this world contains but also the fragility of our eco-systems. From observing newts and salamanders found under rocks, learning to identify the Douglas fir, and eating delicious home-cooked vegetarian meals while at Opal Creek, we are energized and ready to start what promises to be a challenging but engaging next eight weeks. And with that “We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue….”