Rollins Students Learn to Value Sustainability

Dr. Bruce Stephenson and students in Pearl District in Portland, Oregon.

Dr. Bruce Stephenson and students in Pearl District in Portland, Oregon.

Written by Dr. Bruce Stephenson

Sustainability, an amorphous term, appears in corporate slogans and civic metrics.  Last Fall Rollins students spent five days learning to value sustainability in Portland, Oregon, the nation’s most sustainable city.  With its walkable neighborhoods, European style bike and transit systems, and exemplar parks, residents drive less and spend more time outdoors. The city is green, profitable, and safe, especially for college students.  Auto accident fatalities, the lead cause of death for ages 18-24, are seven times higher in Orlando than Portland.

Students assessed and valued nine greenspaces based on criteria Dr. Bruce Stephenson established with a research grant. The class arrived at each site by foot or transit with a day spent at Zenger Farm, an organic farm in a food desert where access to fresh, healthy food is limited.

The 16-acre farm is a model of urban agriculture. Investing in growing organic produce for an underserved community has proved both profitable and enlivening—the definition of social entrepreneurship. Students spent the morning laboring in garden beds followed by a tour that afforded lessons on organic crop production, natural pest controls, native landscaping, stormwater management, and the raising of chickens and bees. The day ended with a trip to Zenger Farm’s annual farm-to-table dinner, where $87,000 was raised for the farm’s education initiative, the Urban Grange.

“Rollins students walked away having the chance to work on the farm, attend the dinner, and really see what farm to table means; brought my passions and studies full circle,” Kassie Berger noted. Rollins student Scott McMillan added that he “gained valuable insight into community supported agriculture. The quality of the food produced is only matched by the enthusiasm of the people involved with the project. I would strongly recommend this experience.”


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