May 29, 2011

If the posters lining the wall showed how visionary the Sustainable City Year model can be, the Salem city officials attending the May 20 reception testified how practical it can be as well. The reception recapped the work of the second Sustainable City Year, now drawing to a close.

Sustainable City Year is a program of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, one of three OTREC initiatives. In the program, 500 students on two campuses worked on 16 projects to help Salem meet sustainability goals.

Although work continues in Salem and at the University of Oregon and Portland State University, May 20 was an opportunity to thank the participants and punctuate a second successfully year, following the inaugural efforts in Gresham, Ore. Next year’s Sustainable City Year will focus on Springfield, Ore.

Linda Norris, Salem’s city manager, couldn’t say enough about the contributions the program made to her city. Students in 29 classes on the two campuses put in 80,000 hours of time. Sustainable City Year’s choosing Salem was like magic, Norris said.

The students didn’t just treat their work as a hypothetical problem to solve; they poured themselves into the projects and the goals behind them. “When we heard how seriously they were taking this, and how much they cared about this community, it really did give me goose bumps,” Norris said.

Salem did not have money to get many of the projects started without Sustainable City Year, Norris said. But now that...

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