Lake Oswego Sustainability Network's annual celebration goes virtual
Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck referred to the history of prioritizing sustainability in the city as a "leftover." But when looking ahead to the future and a vision for 2021, the newly-elected mayor said "it is going to be the main course."
Buck was the featured speaker during the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network's annual celebration event Jan. 14. Buck discussed how the city plans to implement and prioritize the recently-passed Climate Action Plan in the new year.
More than 100 people — including folks outside Lake Oswego — registered for the event that included speakers from a handful of community groups including the Lake Oswego School District Board, Hunger Fighters Oregon, Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, LOSN Interfaith Group, Oswego Lake Watershed Council, Sustainability Advisory Board and Respond to Racism. Representatives from these respective organizations shared updates about the successes and challenges of 2020 relating to sustainability and their plans for this year.
Sara Pocklington, chair of the Lake Oswego School Board, shared the district's strategic plan and how sustainability is built into it. Pocklington said teaching and practicing sustainability is one of the district's four priority areas. She said the district hopes to achieve, preserve and sustain shared resources — which would involve finding durable materials for sustainable operations, limiting consumption and teaching students the science and psychology around climate change and climate justice — while also accelerating students' abilities to combat climate change.
"My hope is this prepares our students to be leaders in climate change," said Pocklington, adding that it's already happening.
She updated community members about the high school green teams and their partnership with Oswego Lake Watershed Council, which works to improve the condition and health of the Oswego Lake watershed and its stream network.
Jack Halsey, watershed coordinator with Oswego Lake Watershed Council, said educational outreach and working with green teams to help plant native species and pull invasive ivy is part of their ongoing work.
"We hit some roadblocks with COVID-19," said Halsey, "but we were still able to continue our habitat enhancement work and restoration."
Halsey said during the last year, the organization provided remote learning for students to learn about soil. This year, Halsey hopes to expand city-wide monitoring efforts around soil and tree health and improve partnerships.
"We've already planted hundreds of trees this year … We're really excited to have a strong year," Halsey said. "All in all (during) 2020, despite the challenges, we were still able to accomplish a lot of our goals and engage with the community."
Willie Poinsette, president and co-founder of Respond to Racism, recalled the rallies, protests and marches held throughout 2020 for racial justice. She reminded people of the first Juneteenth celebration held in 2020 to celebrate the anniversary of the day slaves in Texas discovered they were free.
"It was to honor our African American residents here and also to provide a little history," Poinsette said. "We launched our kid's storytime, featuring stories about BIPOC, Black, Indigenous, people of color."
Poinsette added that this year the group desires to do more around the intersection of sustainability and racism, and looks forward to working with the LOSN community.
Kim Clifton, member of Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, updated the community on their work to stay connected and provide services to businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In the coming year we plan to work with the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network to connect businesses with education and information resources to assist them in their efforts to become more sustainable," Clifton said.
Michelle McKinnon, United Methodist Church lead pastor, and Kristina Peterson, who is on the LOSN Board and helps lead the interfaith group, highlighted the coffee events which provide a platform for discussion around various topics of importance. One coffee event featured the Oswego Lake Watershed Council and focused on trees and volunteer opportunities.
McKinnon discussed partnering to start a sustainability committee at the church.
"I'm hoping post-COVID we can do that or maybe in the midst of COVID," McKinnon said.
In 2021 the interfaith group also hopes to focus on diversity, including having people of color speak at events and focusing on topics that deal with diversity, Peterson added.
Ami Joshi, president of Lake Oswego's local food pantry Hunger Fighters, shared the organization's effort to help those struggling during the pandemic.
"It would be an understatement to say that 2020 was a challenge," said Joshi, adding that Hunger Fighters' client numbers increased six-fold when schools shut down, and stayed high through June and July. Now, Joshi said the client numbers are about four and a half times higher than they were pre-pandemic.
Joshi said the organization is working to expand its capacity, resources and partnerships in an effort to reach more people.
Joshi said equity is a big part of sustainability.
"We also want to be more locally sourced and work on gardens we can partner with," she said.
One of the biggest accomplishments regarding sustainability in 2020 was the adoption of the Climate Action Plan. Kathleen Wiens, co-chair of the Sustainability Advisory Board and LOSN Board member, said now the city can now advance the plan, "giving updates, revision and providing annual progress reports in regard to the Climate Action Plan." Wiens also expressed the importance of electric vehicle adoption in Lake Oswego, the issue of gas-powered landscaping equipment and the need for a transition away from gas-powered leaf blowers to help with air and noise pollution.
As the featured speaker, Buck expressed the importance of creating a city culture around sustainability.
"We do that by involving people," he said. "We want sustainability to be an ingrained part of our life."
When people move or pass through Lake Oswego, Buck said he wants them to see a commitment to climate change around every turn whether it's through building designs or trash collection.
Buck said the Climate Action Plan focuses on large entities like the city and school board, entities that should lead by example. He added the importance of providing residents the tools to make individual changes in order to work together and make a difference.
He also expressed the importance of evaluating the Climate Action Plan through an equity lens and reaching people who aren't as vocal.
"It's important that the plan and its implementation ensure that it's a plan that elicits, enables and affords participation to each and every member of our community," Buck said. "Today's decisions are also our youth's future so it's critical that we heavily involve our youth as well."
With the upcoming City Council goal setting session, Buck said sustainability-related goals will be a top priority.
For the networking portion of the evening, community members were split into smaller groups to discuss their interest, passions and aspirations with respect to sustainability. Ideas community members shared included having green landscaping practices, communal composting, affordable housing, electrifying buses and more. To watch the recording of the event click here.
This event will be the first in a series of monthly events focusing on different sustainability topics. On Feb. 11, Rhys Roth, co-founder of Climate Solutions — a nonprofit organization that works to accelerate clean energy solutions — will discuss building partnerships and collaborating between urban and rural Oregonians during the online event "How Can Oregonians Come Together."
Executive director Ken Dragoon of Renewable Hydrogen Association — a nonprofit trade association in Portland that promotes using renewable electricity — will talk about hydrogen as a conveyor of zero-carbon energy March 11.
Events will later be announced as they unfold.
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