Trips help create a sustainable community on campus

Four years ago just before fall term, 12 incoming University of Oregon freshmen camped out on Willamette Valley farmland, where they learned about organic agriculture and picked 1,000 pounds of tomatoes.

That first Summer Sustainability Trip, known as Project Tomato, spawned a new trip each of the last two years. This summer, as many as 45 incoming freshmen are expected to go on one of four sustainability trips on the eve of fall term.

And for the first time, students who attend the trips will be living together in a sustainability-themed hall in the Walton complex. 

Living together will allow the students “to continue the experience through out the year,” said Shelley Bowerman, coordinator of the sustainability trips in the Office of Sustainability.

The idea is create a community of students who understand the importance of environmental sustainability, and who want to take on the environmental challenges. Activities include films, lectures, sustainable meals and weekend excursions related to environmental studies.

"Students can get connected to exciting people and projects from day one," she said.

Students get their hands dirty working on Project Tomato.After Project Tomato in 2009, H2Oregon was added in 2010, which featured a two-day backpacking trip along the McKenzie River and a day and a half exploring Eugene’s water works. The idea was to follow Eugene’s drinking water from its source in the Cascades to the tap.

Last year, they added the Pedal Project, in which students built their own bikes with help from the UO Bicycle Program, participated in an alternative-transportation-themed scavenger hunt and rode out of town for a bicycle camping trip.

This year, organizers added a trip called Coast Conscious. Students will take a four-day tour of Oregon’s shoreline, hiking coastal trails, perusing tidepools, enjoying beach bonfires and meeting beach denizens who rely on healthy oceans and coastal ecosystems.

Tim Christie