Small Changes, Big Impact - January 2013

If you were born after 1970, you are probably not familiar with the anti-pollution campaign featuring a cartoon owl. But most likely you are familiar with his famous saying “Give a hoot – don’t pollute!” I remember the first time I heard this cartoon owl make his poetic proclamation during a Saturday morning cartoon in 1971. It was the beginning of a nationwide movement to clean up our environment. The campaign targeted young children, and I was one on whom it had an impact. 

Additionally in 1971, the Oregon State Legislature introduced the Oregon Bottle Bill, encouraging individuals to not throw away their bottles and cans on the sides of our roads. It promoted returning the containers to the store and reclaiming the nickel deposit. This statewide campaign was clearly targeted at adults. But as my friends and I quickly learned, you also could earn a pretty penny (or nickel to be specific) picking up and recycling those discarded bottles and cans. 

Forty years later, it is amazing to see how far society has come in cleaning up the environment …and keeping it clean. And as I wander the University of Oregon campus, I am continually amazed to see how far the university has grown in its sustainability efforts and how our alma mater continues to increase its commitment to sustainability.  

  • The Lewis Integrative Science is certified LEED Platinum
  • Matthew Knight Arena is certified LEED Gold
  • The Cheryl Ramberg Ford and Allyn Ford Alumni Center and the Lillis Business Complex are both certified LEED Silver 
  • Sierra Club's Cool Schools project – one of two national ranking programs – ranked UO 13th on their list of greenest schools in 2012  
  • UO Architecture was ranked the country's #1  Green architecture program in 2012
  • The ASUO recently funded the new Student Sustainability Center to lead Earthweek activities, manage the Student Sustainability Fund, and help coordinate the efforts of 16 environmentally-focused student groups on campus
  • The Student Sustainability Fund has been distributing 35K annually to student groups since 2006.  Dozens of projects (bike sharing, commuter apps, community carbon offset initiatives, solar installations, and local food projects) have received support  

Affecting change in a big way can sometimes seem daunting. But I am reminded of how I convinced my dad to lean on the horn of his Ford Ranchero every time I saw a “litterbug.” (He honked the horn a lot in my labor to take Woodsy’s words literally and “hoot” to keep people from polluting.) It was one small effort on my part. However, the collective whole of the anti-pollution campaigns in the seventies resulted in less roadside litter. This eventually led to the realization that we shouldn’t pollute the very world in which we live.  

As we move forward in our sustainability efforts, let’s remember that it only takes small, incremental changes to ultimately make a dramatic difference. 

Happy New Year,