City Club’s Look at Portland Resilience

City Club of Portland has recently released a draft report that looks at economic, environmental, and social resilience on the scale of our city, with an eye to preserving this special place despite the great threat of a Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) Earthquake that looms on the horizon.  Here is a link to the report and a host of other information:

http://www.pdxcityclub.org/Files/Reports/Earthquake/EarthquakeResilienceExecSummary-CityClub.pdf

http://www.pdxcityclub.org/earthquake

If you’re interested in how we can make Portland more resilient at a neighborhood scale, check out our upcoming Sustainability Summit on Saturday February 25 that will be focusing on how we can respond together after an event has taken place.   Steven Eberlein from the American Red Cross will be on hand to deliver the keynote presentation.  While the quest for resilience can help to ensure our long term sustainability, a short term benefit is that we get to become even more socially connected as a community and build our own self-reliance at the community scale.  Hope to see you there!

Coming in February: Energy & Carbon Footprint Workshops

Concerned About Climate Change?  Take Action!

Governments around the world are developing policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide and methane. Portland and Multnomah County are leaders, with the 2015 Climate Action Plan calling for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Per person, that means reducing carbon from 10 tons per year to 2 tons.
Sounds like a radical change, and it is. To achieve this goal, every government agency, business, household, and individual will have to make deep cuts in their use of energy from fossil fuels. Overlook Neighborhood Association and Trillium Charter School are co-sponsoring this pair of small-group, two-hour workshops to help you determine your personal carbon dioxide emissions, and second, identify practical actions and choices to reduce them.

Workshop 1. What’s Your Carbon Footprint?
Monday, February 227-9 PM at Trillium Charter School
The term ‘carbon footprint’ includes all the carbon dioxide (CO2*) you put into the atmosphere—directly or indirectly—by using energy generated from fossil fuels, including electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, auto and airplane fuels; and by purchasing food and products made using fossil fuels.
Almost no one knows how much CO2 they create, because we don’t get feedback about our energy use in terms of CO2 equivalents. For example, looking at an electric utility bill, we see how many kilowatt-hours we used, but not how much coal or natural gas was used to generate that much power. Both PGE and Pacific Power generate electricity with fossil fuels, so when we cut our electricity use, we also reduce our CO2 emissions.
Before the workshop meets, we will get free copies of our past year’s bills from our electric and gas utilties, and/or fuel oil supplier. At the workshop we will translate those into CO2 emissions. We’ll use receipts for gasoline or diesel fuel, or estimate gasoline use from miles driven. We will also estimate CO2 from air miles traveled. We’ll add these up to determine our total household emissions. We will compare our results with others in our group, and with Portland averages. Finally, we will consider what it may take to cut our carbon to meet the goal of 80% reduction by 2050.
By the end of this workshop, you will have a much better idea of your household greenhouse gas emissions, or ‘carbon footprint’.

Workshop 2. Reducing Your Energy and CO2
Wednesday, February 247-9 PM at Trillium Charter School
Each family is unique in how it uses energy, so we need specific ways to reduce that are practical, sensible, and fit their lifestyle and budget.
We will look at each of the biggest energy users in our homes and identify specific ways to reduce energy use, including home heating and air conditioning, water heating, kitchen and laundry appliances, lighting, and electronics. We’ll also examine auto and air travel use. Our priorities will be: No. 1, changing our behavior and choices, No. 2 no- or low-cost measures, and No. 3, long-term investments, such as weatherizing a house or replacing a furnace.
By the end of this workshop, you will have a customized kit of tools and strategies to help cut your household energy use and CO2 emissions. You will also have a clear sense of your challenges and opportunities.
* ”Carbon” is shorthand for CO2, the carbon dioxide molecule with one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. CO2 gas is a byproduct of burning coal, oil, gasoline, diesel, airplane fuel, natural gas or propane. CO2 and methane are the primary causes of global warming and climate change.

Workshop Leader
The workshops will be led by Overlook neighbor Mike O’Brien, a teacher and advocate for energy efficient buildings for over thirty years, most recently as the City of Portland’s Green Building Specialist. He and his wife Vana built their new house at 1905 North Alberta Street in 2007—it’s red and has plants growing on the roof. If you have questions about the workshop, please phone or text him at 503-819-8991.
Registration
In order to have sharing time among participants, group size is limited to 12 people, so don’t delay!
Workshops are free.
 
Nora will email you instructions for items to bring to the first workshop, including 12 months of electric and natural gas bills, and/or gallons of fuel oil; gallons of gasoline OR auto mileage and MPG, and air travel over the past year. She will provide contact information for your utility customer service. Please bring a journal or pad of paper to record notes.

Madrona Nurse Log Dedication this coming Wednesday

Madrone in 2003     Madrone on ground Feb 16 2015     Madrone Nurse log

 

Please join Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry, Overlook Neighborhood Association, and Sustainable Overlook to celebrate the famous and magnificent tree that was the namesake of Madrona Park.  As you may know, this sentinel tree fell down on a windless day in February and has now been brought back to the park to serve as a nurse log for the bluff’s fragile habitat.

This dedication will honor the Madrona tree’s cycle of life by celebrating with food, heritage tree coaster/necklace souvenirs, historical information and fun kids’ educational activities, as well as information about future restoration efforts and volunteer opportunities in the Park.

When: Wednesday, May 20  6:45 pm

Where: Madrona Park at 2499 N Wygant (limited parking please use Wygant, Humboldt or Alberta to access the park)

Learn more at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/530255

Sustainability Summit Recap

A message from Sustainable Overlook steering committee member and summit organizer Josh Cabot:

We want to send a BIG thank you to everyone that came out last month and participated in our neighborhood’s first Sustainability Summit.  There was so much to cover and so we just made a few first steps, but it’s a tremendous start!

A few of the big ideas that percolated out of the day included:

  • Local economy is strengthened by looping our material and monetary flows back into our immediate community.  Perhaps we can develop a directory and map, or other method, for listing all of our neighborhood’s local businesses so that residents can make informed decisions that encourage them to look locally first when seeking out goods and services.
  • As a community we need to take a more direct look at equity issues in Overlook and find ways to be more culturally inclusive.  A series of “courageous conversations”, as Cinda Jackson coined it, could be an especially direct way to engage communities of all colors and cultures here in Overlook.
  • Social Equity and Resilience (aka Emergency Preparedness) are strengthened as neighbors get to know each other better.  Block parties are great ways for each street/block to know itself and to stay coordinated as a small piece of our broader community.  While a lot of block parties already happen throughout the summer in Overlook, maybe it would be more productive and interesting to ask all blocks to try and host a party on the same day…much like the Yard Sale / Free Share that happens on the same weekend every year across the entire neighborhood.
  • We have the power to directly shape the world around us – particularly the physical environment.  Exercising thoughtfulness around the plants we put into the ground and the chemicals we use to amend our yards and gardens is especially key.  Being pesticide free as a neighborhood is entirely possible, and using native plants to transform our outdoor spaces into rich ecologies is a great first step toward that goal.  Identifying and protecting the existing natural spaces we do have on the edges of neighborhood, such as the bluff, can certainly improve Overlook’s natural beauty, but perhaps more importantly it allows us to do our part for the broader ecologic health of the region.

A more thorough summary can be found on the Summit page here.

If you have other ideas, please do share them with us!  Everything we talked about at this summit is achievable if we all lift a little bit.

If you did not get a chance to leave feedback for us about how the day went and how Sustainable Overlook is doing in general, please email comments and ideas to sustainable@overlookneighborhood.org

I hope this helps us sustain our momentum going forward toward greater health, livability and resilience.  Now go out there and help make it happen!

Agent of Change Training with the Center for Earth Leadership

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
– Margaret Mead

The Center for Earth Leadership is starting a new Agent of Change training in February. Sustainable Overlook’s founder Leslee Lewis has taken this training and been involved with the Center for a number of years and highly recommends it. Led by Co-Directors Jeanne and Dick Roy, Center programs empower participants to assume a hands-on leadership role in the Northwest sustainability movement by (1) being an intentional agent of change, (2) reducing personal impact on Earth, and/or (3) becoming an assertive advocate for Earth. Here are some details on the upcoming training. Register at their website.

NEXT TRAINING:

Dates: Five Mondays –

February 23, March 2, 9, 16, and April 13

Time: 6:00-7:45 p.m.

Location: Downtown Portland

Our cornerstone Agent of Change Program begins with a six-session training, “How to Be an Agent of Change in Your Circle Influence.” Over 1,000 adults have enrolled.

Each participant selects a circle in advance of the course (see the “Project Ideas by Circle” PDF for inspiration). During the training, each participant develops a plan to effect change, and, in consultation with other participants, takes first steps to implement it. After completing the training, through our Agent of Change Network, participants receive ongoing support, inspiration, and education.

Individually, our trained agents achieve tangible, visible results as they construct building blocks for a sustainable culture within their circles of influence. Collectively, they form a legion of trained agents fanning out across the greater Portland community to transform the broader culture.

Invasive Plants in Overlook

Here’s one of our articles from the latest edition of Overlook Views Newsletter.

Invasive Plants in Overlook

by Mulysa Melco

Have you ever noticed ivy smothering a tree or Himalayan blackberry engulfing an alley or fence line? These are common examples of invasive species in our neighborhood. Many plant species have been brought to Portland since settlers arrived, some intentionally introduced and others that have hitchhiked by various means. While many of these new species have been ornamental or useful, some have escaped cultivation and done too well here – outcompeting the native vegetation and causing a range of ecological and economic problems.

Overlook Neighborhood was once a patchwork of oak woodland, mixed conifer forest and wetland that was home to many species of birds, pollinators and other wildlife. Our neighborhood is on the Pacific flyway, a major migratory route, so it is also in the position to provide critical sustenance to bird species passing through. As a volunteer with Friends of Overlook Bluff, a group that is working to create a nature trail around a heritage oak and restore historic oak meadow habitat, and as a landscaper designer who gets a lot of questions about dealing with invasive plants, I wanted to know more about their impact in our area. I spoke with Overlook neighbor Mitch Bixby, the Early Detection/Rapid Response (EDRR) field technician with the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.

Mitch explains, “Invasive plants, by the definition we use, are species that change ecosystems. They’re not just “plants in the wrong place,” but species that cause ecosystems to fail in some objective, measurable ways. For example, overwhelmed ecosystems tend to have just a few kinds (or just one kind) of plant, all flowering at the same time, and then setting seed at the same time. These monocultures prevent insects and animals that depend on diversity (most of our native wildlife) from getting what they need. That’s one reason why plant diversity is so important.”

Another issue is stormwater, “We also have concerns about monoculture and infiltration. Diversity of plants leads to a variety of root systems, allowing water to soak into the ground. Having only one or two species means water is more likely to run off into the city’s sewer system, and that increases costs for Portland’s sewer ratepayers.”

Mitch’s role is to help catch new problem species before they become as established as ivy or blackberry. While it can be frustrating to see those species taking over areas while he addresses emerging invasive plant issues, “I think it’s an opportunity for folks to empower themselves on their own property.” I asked Mitch which invasive species have the biggest impact. “On a citywide basis, species like blackberry and ivy continue to do the most damage, though non-native clematis is now a faster-moving menace.  Lesser celandine and Italian arum fill spaces quickly and are difficult to remove, though not (yet) as widespread as the first group.” Tree of heaven, pokeweed, Japanese knotweed and butterfly bush are other problem species commonly found in yards.

How should a homeowner go about tackling an invasive plant problem?  Mitch says to “just keep chipping away. It’s what I do at my house. Start by clearing one area, continue keeping that area clear, and slowly expand your “territory.” Doing everything all at once can be exhausting; you have permission to let some stuff go for now!” There are many non-toxic ways to get ahead of invasives such as hand digging, sheet mulching and goats. For more management options check out the resources below.

While eradicating ivy or blackberry in Overlook may not be practical, homeowners can learn to identify invasives and do their part to control them on their property (and consider volunteering with efforts to improve the health of our green spaces.) Our efforts to create diverse habitat in our yards can be a big benefit to wildlife that have lost habitat to invasive plants.

Resources

BES invasive species information www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/invasives

Environmental Services City Green blog www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/citygreenblog

East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (EMSWCD) has fantastic gardening classes and workshops www.emswcd.org

The 4-County Cooperative Weed Management Area www.4countycwma.org is our umbrella organization and has many resources.

Bringing Nature Home: How You can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas Tallamy

Lesser Celadine, a common invasive plant in Overlook.

Lesser Celadine, a common invasive plant in Overlook.

Photo: Mitch Bixby

Creating a Pesticide Free Neighborhood video

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Sustainable Overlook’s Pesticide Free Neighborhood project was featured in a mini-documentary that was filmed last summer by Cooking Up a Story.  Check out the video, article and resources to get ideas about what you can do to make your neighborhood safer and healthier.

If you want to take the Healthy Lawn and Garden pledge, visit our Pesticide Free Overlook page. If you live in other neighborhoods are regions you’ll find resources and links to where you can pledge and get your own lady bug yard sign.

 

Want to get involved with Sustainable Overlook? Email sustainable@overlookneighborhood.org or check out our events page.

Upcoming Sustainable Overlook Meetings

Get involved with sustainability and resilience efforts in Overlook and help chart the course of preparedness and ecological living in our own neighborhood. Our meetings are a fun way to meet your neighbors, share ideas for sustainability initiatives and lend a hand with projects already underway. Mark your calendar for these dates.

Meetings are on 3rd Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

August – Summer break

September 18th – Steering Committee Meeting – Core group members will meet to plan 2015 events and budget. Email us to get involved!

October 16th  – Location TBD – General meeting

November 20th  – Location TBD