Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 4: Our Week of Sustainable Paradise!! (Impacts)

Now that we are coming to the close of the week, we wish to share what has impacted us the most on this Destination trip:

My week flew by... Before I knew it we were packing up for the ride home. I want to take time right off the bat to say how thankful I am to the Destination program for giving me this opportunity and allowing me to be part of this experience. I would agree that the services we gave to the community are very important and changed me forever as a young sustainable planner, (stream restoration, Rebuilding Center volunteer), but I have had an experience of another kind that has impacted me more than the sustainable efforts we made this week. What other experience could this possible be you may ask? Well, I have made life long friends this week and I can't explain how much the connection between me and my fellow trip members has expanded and grown in such a short time. I am so excited to have 10 new life friends that can share the same experiences and values, that I took out of this trip, with all the other people around them. I would never trade this experience for anything in the world!! : )
"Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods."
~ Artistotle
-Ricky Hoffman

Being on this trip the biggest impact has been being around the high energy atmosphere and seeing how a work place can really thrive when the workers are extremely passionate about their jobs.  And they not only passionate and care about getting their task done, but they also go out of their way to make everyone feel appreciated and welcomed when coming into The Rebuilding Center no matter what their background is.  This experience has affected me tremendously and I'm grateful for all the memories made and knowledge gained. 
-Laura Rogers

What has impacted me the most on this trip is learning about all the different sustainability options. It is amazing how many can be brought back to River Falls. It was also impressive seeing how passionate people are about being environmentally friendly. The workers at The Rebuilding Center were so optimistic about being sustainable while enjoying their job. At the beginning of this trip I was not aware of the many options we have to be sustainable but now I can confidently say I am more informed.
-Amy Lonsky

"Building better communities, with building materials." This is a saying that we heard often during our service trip and has impacted me the most. The meaning behind this saying is that in order to make a difference in society, we must start by creating relationships with the people around us. As a volunteer in The Rebuilding Center, we heard story after story of how the communities in Portland have become more sustainable by the people first getting to know their neighbors, which led to a stronger connection to their community, which ultimately propelled the green movement. At our second site, working with SOLV, the organization invited community members to get involved by with the restoration projects or simply walking the trails. Having a connection to the people and the area, the community supported the watershed projects. Though sustainability is our key focus, a larger lesson learned on our service trip and that has impacted me, was the message to build strong relations to create social change.
-Stacey Kunde

Meaning and perspective can be derived from many moments in our lives. I've been on three Destination trips and although I've learned a lot about service from my previous two trips, this trip was the most impactful. As I reflect on the last seven days, I realize that the moments I have experienced on this trip create a beautiful mosaic.  Through the organizations, The Rebuilding Center and SOLV, I have learned the true meaning of sustainability. I've learned that to be sustainable you must build community, maintain the environment, foster growth, ethically develop, and create opportunities. When you are truly sustainable, you care about the people, the place, and the things, not just about the profit. Beyond the intellectual, I've found that the personal development and growth I've gained from this trip was very impactful. My trip had the right people on it, we worked with the right organizations, and we stayed in the right hostel, everything has been so righteous!! Through constant team work and humorous outbursts my fellow Destinators and I have become a tight knit group of volunteer extremists taking on any task given to us. At the end of this week, I'll go into sheer panic mode, a state only die hard procrastinators can appreciate. But as I attempt to finish all the homework assignments I put off until after Spring Break, I'll remember Portland and the amazing people in my Destination group, the brilliant ideas that energize this city, the vibrant people and places we've encountered and the feeling of accomplishment I felt throughout this experience.
-Nikki Shonoiki (the non-stop comedic reliever)

I firmly believe that it is people that make the world turn, and this trip has proven me right.  The ReBuilding Center and its parent organization were founded on the thought that one individual person and make a difference in another individual's life.  Simply letting someone know that you know that they exist and have their own life, their own story can sometimes make all the difference.  Social change is predicated on the idea that nothing happens without the willful investment of individuals working towards the benefit of as many people as possible.  The people we've met this week embody this idea.  Ella Rose, Rosie, Steve and Abby are change in motion.  Passion for their work, their communities and their world are what make them exemplars of these ideas.  More than anything, it is seeing the passion in their hearts that has influenced me.
-Zach Bodenner
From the moment I reached the Hawthorne hostel, the idea of working together as a community has inspired me the most. The goals the city of Portland has attained from a sustainability standpoint and a neighborly community standpoint are unmatched. The city has shown that when a small group of people come together for a common goal, it can be achieved. Seeing the resourcefulness of The ReBuilding Center, that was started by a neighborhood and has affected the entire metro of Portland, is proof. The many small communities of Portland are working their hardest to continue on their sustainability mission. This inspires me to be more sustainable and attempt to convince others to be more sustainable as well. The sustainable lifestyle is on the rise in the west. Hopefully I can help it continue throughout the rest of the United States and the world.
~Thomas Metry

The biggest impact I felt was the city of Portland and its community.  Before I was impacted by this Oregon community, I was able to make great relationships and friends with my own group.  Ricky has been an amazing team member to our group.  Ricky took the tasks of driving extra long hours as well as educating our group on his previous knowledge about sustainability.  He impacted me personally with his hard work ethic at all of our volunteer sites. The city of Portland's people we met were very special.  They showed me how much one person can impact others.  Sustainability and environmentalism is not just about preserving beautiful natural areas.  There are so many things locally we can do.  In Portland, people in need of building materials that can not afford them have The Rebuilding Center.  The most important thing I have learned is everything is connected.
"A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people."
Mohandas Gandhi

-Casey Kemper

I think that the discussions we had that accompanied each day of work on the trip really impacted me the most.  I believe this is the case because we were all learning so many new facts and taking in different experiences that by the end of the day we were all able to communicate those feelings collectively.  By forming the reflection sessions we were all able to share our own individual experiences and learn how our other group members felt about the trip as well.  This type of socializing is definitely a key part of the Destination trip and gives us all a chance to change our understanding of sustainability little by little each day.  There were many other parts of the trip that impacted me in other ways as well, but none that touched me nearly as much in the area of sustainability as the group reflections had.  This was the key topic of the trip, which initially made it the most important part of spring break to me.  I feel that I now know a great deal more about how to actually be sustainable in my hometown, but I would also have liked to have touched a little bit more on the economics side of the issue.  I think reflections helped cover this area a little, but I still would like to have learned more about this from the work experiences here in Portland.
-Tim Hackbarth

The city of Portland's commitment to sustainability has made the most impact on me. Through our service with The ReBuilding Center and SOLV - we have learned that sustainability is tangible. Our work showed us that with every nail we pull or tree we plant helps make sustainability a reality. These great organizations are just two of many businesses and people that are making a difference. Sustainability is a part of the culture of this city. From public transportation to local businesses to even our hostel, the community pitches in to make sure that sustainability is a priority here. Prior to Destination, I felt as though sustainability was more ideology than a reality. Portland proves that sustainability can be a part of our everyday lives.
-Jen Sell

What a week!  It has been quite a journey but by far my best Destination experience yet.  What has impacted me the most has to be the cohesiveness of everything experienced on this trip:  the location, the service, the people.  Everything is connected.  Sustainability has been implemented so well in the Portland area because of a strongly connected community and amazing people.  My group could not have fit any better with this trip.  I have ten amazing individuals that I have shared this experience with and they have impacted me in so many ways.  Seeing everyone get to understand one another on more personal levels through reflection and bumps in the road (literally sometimes), watching the group work together on service projects throughout the week, being able to see the difference we have made at The ReBuilding Center and SOLV, and hearing and witnessing the growth in each individual through this Destination experience have impacted me immensely as a trip leader and individual.  We have been learning about community and the importance of relationships and sustainability all week.  I now see this group as a community in itself and know we have made an impact and still will on our return to River Falls.  Being able to witness all of this growth and progress in our service and group is what has impacted me the most and I cannot thank the Portland community, The ReBuilding Center staff, and my fellow group members enough for everything on this Destination experience!  Love you all!
--Jenn Vogel

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 3: Outdoor Education

As we near the end of our Destination trip, we reflect our experiences so far. We had a very long car ride to Portland.  Monday and Tuesday we got to volunteer at the Rebuilding Center.  The Rebuilding Center saves landfills and provides the Portland community with affordable home building and renovating materials.  This place is the definition of sustainability.

As for today, we had a chance to be outside.  We helped restore the Carter Creek river way and plant trees in a city park watershed.  We worked with Abby and Steve, who work for SOLV (Sustainable Oregon Living through Volunteerism), which receives grants to restore water ways and parks. The Portland metro area of around 2.3 million people makes up 70% of Oregon's population.  This large population lives in a small land area - only 14% of Oregon.  Land use planning and storm water mitigation is critical in making sure the dense urban development does not pollute the tributaries. We learned it is important to plant natural species and remove invasive species so the native habitat can thrive and function properly.  We learned how things connect within the local ecosystem.  For example, if the Douglas Fir trees are surrounded and killed by invasive English ivy then the rivers will not be shaded and light will increase the temperature leading to the death of the many salmon which use them as a home.

We have had the opportunity to meet a variety of different people in Portland.  Their passion for the environment is threaded into the daily morals of the entire community.  The city takes pride in being sustainable and most local businesses are active in helping the environment.  It's great to see how tightly our world is connected.  Being progressive is important for our future no matter what the issue is.

Our experiences here have changed some of our view points.  We are becoming more mentally enable to make drastic changes within our society.  It didn't take long for our group to take a unit and a half of wood chips and cover a trail once we all worked together.  Everyday people are taking the time to recycle and reuse things that are obvious for being sustainable. There are also other small things we all can do to help reduce our carbon footprints.  By planting trees today, we reduced thousands of carbon emissions. It's also great to see the community here at our hostel in the Hawthorne District.  The Hawthorne District is made up of many small shops that are aware of their impact on the environment.  Ethnic restaurants, coffee shops, bicycle shops, among many other specialty stores make up the majority of the shops on the main drag of the Hawthorne district.  It really builds a community and becomes sustainable when you are able to work with one another.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
-John Muir 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 2: Oh, the People You Meet

Portland's ReBuilding Center is filled with a wild cast of characters from different economic backgrounds and cultures.  The cast includes people from as close as San Francisco to as far as Mississippi.  Being greeted by Ella Rose, our Mississippi representative, is a thoroughly entertaining experience.  Growing up with nine brothers and sisters, she has many stories to tell.  From being left in Colorado on their move north, to working 72 jobs in the city of Portland, her life experiences are one of a kind. 

Ella Rose had never heard of recycling until she moved to Portland in 1970, but after spending the last 40 years in the city she has jumped on board with the green movement.  She emphatically informed us that this city, this culture, has changed her life.  She is as much a part of the new ReBuilding Center as the warehouse itself.  Having been hired when the center opened as a greeter and cashier, she has accumulated a vast breadth of knowledge to become an expert in the field.  We watched her as she conversed with customers, priced their purchases, and cut deals with little prompting.  People like Ella Rose bring the ReBuilding Center to life.

Rosie, the volunteer coordinator and our personal guide, is another of these characters.  Entering the AmeriCorps after graduating from San Francisco State is her latest adventure.  She's on an 11-month journey from her hometown of Sacramento to experience the culture of Portland. Her goals are to raise awareness about the importance of community relationships and working towards a sustainable future. Her laid back yet assertive personality keeps the center running smoothly.  She doesn't know exactly what her future plans are, but hopes to remain in non-profit organizations.

Ella Rose and Rosie are only two of the many hard working individuals with their own unique personalities that keep the ReBulding Center running efficiently.
Thomas separating and organizing moulding and trim

Casey measuring door dimensions
A charging station in the middle of downtown Portland
The group at Mills End Park-World's Smallest Park

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 1: We Love This Place!!

Eight states, two days, many truck stops, and a blizzard later... We have arrived to beautiful Portland! Our travels out here have been filled with many obstacles, but the adventure and experiences that we are about to embark on are worth it all.

Today (Monday), we started our service projects at the Rebuilding Center. Walking on site, we didn't know what to expect. Rosie and Tom, two of the Rebuilding Center staff, gladly welcomed us to the center and showed us around. During the orientation, Rosie explained to us how the center came to be and the mission of the non-profit organization. The Rebuilding Center was established in the late 90's as a part of Our United Villages, "a community enhancement organization that inspires people to value and discover existing resources to strengthen the social and environmental vitality of  communities." At the Rebuilding Center, eight tons of recycled building material are circulated in and out daily. It carries the region's largest volume of used building and remodeling materials such as sinks, doors, windows, etc.

In order to help with the mission of the organization we were asked to help sort reusable parts like lighting, plumbing, electrical items, tiles, and more. Our work helped them to organize the donations received, so that buyers would not be discouraged from using recycled materials. After lunch, we helped in the lumber section by extracting nails from donated wood. This was an important task because less than one percent of the original Oregon forest still exists, so preserving the wood is preserving the history. The final activity of the day was a tour of the center that put into perspective the importance and beauty of sustainability.The Rebuilding Center is made up of reused materials, collects rainwater via a bio irrigation system, and has a permeable parking lot (meaning water is able to seep through the pavement).

To wrap up the day we reflected on our experiences, explored the hostel we are residing in, and  enjoyed a lovely dinner of stir fry and rice made by some of our fellow "Destinators." Tomorrow we head back to The Rebuilding Center but tonight we'll explore Portland. We learned that the slogan of the Rebuilding Center is "I love that place," and after today we can truly say "we really do love this place!"

Portland Here We Come!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Final Countdown

Less than 36 hours until our departure from Wisconsin!!

This is the start of our blog for Destination: Sustainability to Portland, OR.  Over this upcoming spring break week, you can follow our group as we will be posting about the non-profits we are working with, the amazing people we will meet, the experiences we will have, and the reflections on the service we are doing.

Our group has been meeting regularly since the end of January.  Through our weekly meetings, we have been learning more about what it means to be sustainable.  We have done research on ways we can be more sustainable in our own lives.  One of the meetings we went through a checklist of small things we do everyday that we can alter so that our actions are more environmentally-friendly.  We also had a prominent UWRF campus member in sustainability, Kelly Cain, come speak to our group.  The information he gave us was extremely enlightening and we learned a lot about how River Falls and our campus is working to be more sustainable.

Before we leave tomorrow, as of now our group has varying amounts of experience with sustainability.  Several members have worked with this issue before while for some of us this will be mostly a new experience.  It will be exciting for all of us to bond, learn, and work together with this social issue.  One of the things we are most excited for is to be gaining this experience in Portland because of its prominence and leadership in promoting sustainability.  We think our group will learn a great deal about sustainability and our own personal actions and bring it back to the River Falls and our own hometown communities.

At our last meeting this past Sunday, our group discussed our hopes and fears for this trip.  We hope to gain more knowledge about our issue through the service we will be doing with the ReBuilding Center and other non-profits.  We also hope to learn more about each other and to become a close knit group along with doing our service and seeing the impact we can all make.  Everyone hopes to gain a wonderful experience through service and to be able to bring it back home with us to implement in our lives and communities.  As for fears, we worry about the early mornings, the long car ride, crossing the Rocky Mountains, not doing good service, and being unable to see the connection with our lives.  We also fear putting service out of our minds when we return to River Falls due to busy schedules and other commitments.

We all hope you will continue to visit this blog throughout our week of service!  Keep an eye on us!