With the third week coming to a close, our DukeEngage group is just starting to get a hang of nine to five workdays and Portland culture (although we still don’t understand why the restaurant service is so slow or why it rains so often). Emma and I may not work in a conventional office setting, but we have had a chance to get our hands dirty interning at a non-profit called SOLVE, an organization that promotes stewardship and environmental restoration through education and volunteerism. We are specifically working on vegetation monitoring of watersheds along the Willamette River (I am happy to say I can finally pronounce wil- LAMM-met like a true Oregonian).
Last Friday afternoon, the eight of us took time off work to volunteer at a non-profit organization called The ReBuilding Center. As the name suggests, this program salvages materials from buildings and resells them at affordable prices. The warehouse stores everything you might need for a home, from bath tubs and lumber to light fixtures and windows. The center also offers a convenient deconstruction service that provides people with a sustainable alternative to conventional demolition.
We did not know what would be in store for us upon arrival at the warehouse because no one had ever heard of a “rebuilding center.” Interestingly enough, the program started when a group of neighbors became concerned about the safety of their community and founded an organization called Our United Villages. The ReBuilding Center opened its doors in 1998 and is now the largest non-profit of its kind, with 100% of its operating costs covered by its sales of donated items. After learning about the history of the organization, we were each handed a pair of gloves and split into two groups. Half of us sorted wood in the warehouse while the rest were sent outside to work. After three hours of sorting lumber, I am proud to say I can now differentiate between regular siding and tongue and groove siding. The other group disassembled donated items such as doors and cabinets and sorted the screws, nuts, and bolts. While the tasks may not have been the most exciting, we could tell that our work was extremely beneficial for the organization.
After our afternoon of volunteering, we found a delicious ice cream place around the corner called Ruby Jewel where we held a discussion on sustainable buildings and architecture. We talked about ways in which Duke has become more sustainable, such as installing low pressure shower heads and building the Smart Home, the first ever Platinum dormitory in the country. Of course, we also love the clever puns posted around campus such as the phrase, ”turning off can be a real turn on,” strategically placed above light switches. Portland is also on the forefront of green living, with rooftop gardening becoming popular and talks of designing more bird-friendly buildings in the making. However, going completely green is harder than one may think, as it is extremely difficult to create buildings that are 100% carbon neutral.
We are now more than a quarter of the way through with the DukeEngage program and just starting our two weeks of vegetarianism. Wish us luck!