Sustainability Committee

The Sustainability Committee is dedicated to long-term human security, wellbeing, and health in our neighborhood. We recognize that sustainability requires democratic, socially-responsible institutions; vibrant, urban ecosystems; and a biodiverse, healthy planet. We work to maximize our local resources to integrate our neighborhood into natural cycles thereby providing for our basic needs while minimizing our collective environmental impact.

Listed below is information regarding our monthly meetings, upcoming events, current and developing projects, our definition of sustainability, our focus for action, and links of interest. For more questions, comments, suggestions, etc., please email Callie Jones at calliejoh13@yahoo.com. Please join us!

Monthly Meeting

The Sustainable Committee’s monthly meetings are last Wednesdays of the month, 7pm at Townshend’s Tea, 3531 SE Division.

Current and Future Projects; We Need Your Input, Energy and Involvement

The Sustainability Committee has two projects it would like to continue this year:  Annual Seed Swap and Harvest Coordination Team.  Due to the the former Chair, Bruce Marron, stepping down, we are reaching out to those who were involved in these projects last year to help carry them forward.  Please contact Callie at calliejoh13@yahoo.com if you want to work on these projects.

We are looking for people interested in organizing or helping with other and new sustainability-related projects; for example:  Clean Up Day/helping with Richmond Cleanup (we need a new Cleanup Coordinator), ecology-minded projects (recycling/composting/energy conservation), gardening related projects, graffiti removal, disaster preparation, etc. … the possibilities are as expansive as the  ideas, energy and motivation of committee members.  If you have professional experience, ideas for a community-minded sustainability project, or just want to get involved, contact

As the Sustainability Committee moves forward to action, we need your input. Specifically, what do you think about our definition and our focus? What neighborhood actions and systems are aligned (or not) with our focus? What new neighborhood actions and systems (if any) should be researched, developed, and implemented? How should new and existing neighborhood systems and actions be measured (bench marks, metrics, time scales, etc), evaluated (type of analysis), and reviewed (by the entire neighborhood, by the RNA board, by the Sustainability Committee) for sustainability?

Our Definition of Sustainability and Our Focus for Action

There are well over 100 definitions of the word “sustainability.” Probably the most well-known is, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” which was published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in their 1987 report, “Our Common Future.” This report (also known as the Brundtland Report in honor of the Commission’s chair, Gro Harlem Brundtland) laid the foundations for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

For many us, though, the words “sustainable,” sustainability,” “sustainable development,” and the like, have lost their potency in addressing real and ongoing environmental devastation because of questionable application and vague, undefined metrics. Academics like Marshall and Toffel (2005) have tried to sort out the tangles by analysis of the roots of the (often competing) definitions and have provided what we believe is a solid framework for a definition of, and a focus for “sustainability” as used by the Sustainability Committee of the Richmond Neighborhood Association. Our definition (below) is based on the definition of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their Third Assessment Report (IPCC 2001). Our focus (also below) is a very practical, measurable, action-based, first step in applying the definition of “sustainability” to our neighborhood.

Our definition of sustainability is, “The transformation of our ways of living to maximize the chances that environmental and social conditions will indefinitely support human security, wellbeing, and health.”

Our focus of sustainability is, “To increase the sustainability of the Richmond Neighborhood by applying local and neighborhood inputs of readily available (mostly renewable) energy resources to maximize food production and native biodiversity through the practice of organic urban agriculture.”

Our definition of sustainability includes the concept of enlightened self-interest for human beings: should extreme perturbations in environmental conditions occur because humans, by their actions, consume beyond regenerative rates or emit wastes beyond nature’s assimilative capacity, then we will perish. From this it follows that planetary ecosystems must be maintained in the best of health to ensure that they continue to provide the goods and services necessary to support human life, human health, and species viability.

Our focus of sustainability is on direct action: we link sustainability to those direct actions that will increase urban food production and native biodiversity in our neighborhood because the term “sustainability” acts as an operator to evaluate the viability and longevity of human actions, systems, and policies. We have applied the “sustainability operator” by evaluating the sustainability of the outcomes that would occur if actions were taken to implement the focus of the Sustainability Committee. That is, we asked ourselves, “What if others acted as we do? What if neighborhoods all over Portland adopted our focus? What if neighborhoods all over the U.S. adopted our focus?” The outcomes from such an evaluation are not only sustainable but are truly remarkable and provide a realizable vision of hope for us all. A partial list of the benefits from sustainable organic urban agriculture operating at the neighborhood level include:

  • A decentralized food production system that creates increasingly local food security and thus, national food security.
  • The empowerment of individuals to mitigate the global problems of climate change, planetary ecosystem collapse and extinction, and resource over-consumption
  • The empowerment of individuals to increase their own vitality and health by eating fresh, organic food and by reconnecting to the natural world.
  • The empowerment of individuals to reinvigorate the traditional American values of self-reliance, independence, and community culture.

References

Marshall, J.D. & Toffel, M.W., 2005. Framing the elusive concept of sustainability: a sustainability hierarchy. Environ. Sci. Technol, 39(3), 673–682.

IPCC, 2001. Third Assessment Report – Climate Change 2001. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001 Available at http://www.ipcc.ch.

Recommended Links

Community Food Security Coalition–North American non-profit organization dedicated to building strong, sustainable, local and regional food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for all people at all times. Detailed guidebooks and reports. Headquartered here in Portland.

Organic Consumers Association — An activist organization with up to date information on organic and sustainable issues.

Water Footprint Network — Dutch non-profit organization that promotes the transition towards sustainable, fair and efficient use of fresh water resources worldwide by advancing the concept of the ‘water footprint’, a spatially and temporally explicit indicator of direct and indirect water use of consumers and producers. An amazing gallery of product water footprints and a water footprint calculator for you to determine your own water footprint.

Related Links

Plant Trees! Friends of Trees

Weatherize your Home! Community Energy Project

Save Energy! EnergyTrust

Start Biking! Bicycling Transportation Alliance

Recycle Beyond the Curb! Far West Fibers

Save Water! Downspout Disconnection