Guest Author | 03/29/2022 | Outdoor Recreation

How Corvallis Became a Nature-Friendly City

Oregon is quite the progressive state where sustainability is concerned. The state has a wide variety of related programs and educational initiatives in place. And while Portland justifiably gets a lot of credit as one of the leading sustainable cities within the state's broader efforts, plenty of smaller towns have also become go-to spots for the eco-conscious –– with Corvallis being one of them.

Together with state-wide efforts, the city of Corvallis is also doing its part to preserve natural environments in any way it can. Here are just some of the ways in which the city has become so nature-friendly.

Since 2011, the Corvallis Transit System has operated free of charge to passengers. The money used for vehicles, fuel, and maintenance, among other transport-related costs, comes from the city’s taxes. It's a model that more cities should adopt, and one that has a significant impact on sustainability and the preservation of nature.

While riding bicycles and walking remain the best options in terms of lowering our carbon footprints, they aren't always feasible options. This is why there's an ongoing need to drive in cities and towns. Given this however, public transportation is still a far "greener" option than cars, as it helps to cut down on total emissions –– in some cases quite drastically. Free transit leads to more regular passengers, and as ridership on public transit increases, the number of personal cars on the road decreases. This makes for a cleaner environment.

Even 20 years ago, Corvallis was interested in cost-saving measures such as reducing energy consumption. However, it was in 2004 that the Corvallis government officially incorporated sustainability into its organizational efforts. The city’s framework currently includes action categories like social sustainability and sustainable facilities, making it clear that both the government and the people of Corvallis are prioritizing eco-friendliness.

There is a plethora of programs that the city is implementing in order to become even more sustainable. Some of the projects that are currently underway in Corvallis include “Solarize Corvallis," an initiative to have solar panels installed in as many public buildings as possible by 2025, along with “No Food Left Behind," a program that aims to educate residents and help implement strategies to reduce food waste. With programs such as these in place, eco-friendly habits become routine and residents learn how they can do their best to follow the guidelines put in place.

There are plenty of careers that have to do with eco-friendliness, and many of those that have studied in a related field have found good opportunities in Corvallis. The Conservation Biology Institute is the leading local organization in this respect, and is staffed with career sustainability experts in fields like environmental science, conservation science, and even Geographic Information System Mapping. Hiring for these positions brings "green" thinkers to the area, and leads the Conservation Biology Institute and other like-minded organizations to pursue solutions to keep both the local area and the environment more broadly clean, green, and protected.

Specifically, the CBI works with others in order to "support wise planning, policy, and management for biodiversity, ecosystems, climate, energy, and water resources." These aren’t simply pipe-dream initiatives, either. Some of the institute's more recent accomplishments include working towards the recovery of the Quino checkerspot butterfly, and working together with the Paulson Institute and the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China in order to "reduce negative environmental impacts as the result of Chinese development projects around the world."

For those who appreciate all of the above, and who like the thought of exploring destinations that are leading sustainability efforts, Corvallis also makes for a wonderful place to visit. This is true whether you’re looking to learn more about environmental efforts, or you’re simply looking for a nice place to spend some time that you also like the idea of supporting.

Regarding the learning side of things, it is particularly important in this day and age to see sustainability solutions. Even (and perhaps especially) in younger generations that are focused on climate issues, it is easy to grow accustomed to online-only action. Now, there have been some cases in which activism in the digital realm has produced real-world results: the #MeToo campaign, for instance. Where climate matters are concerned though, no strategic hashtag or number of retweets can replace the experience of seeing solutions in action. Visiting Corvallis, you can get a sense of what efficient city-wide transit is like, and how it cuts down on traffic; you can see solar power installations in action; you can hike through nearby areas teeming with nature that’s being actively preserved. In a sense, the city offers a real-world education that you won’t find in articles or Twitter threads about climate change.

At the same time, you can also enjoy a visit to Corvallis more, specifically because of some of the efforts being made to keep it livable and appealing. Visit Corvallis itself is funded through a lodging tax, which in turn funnels money into accommodations, visitor-related marketing, and tourism more broadly. Essentially, we participate in the production of a tax that helps to maintain the quality of the lifestyle throughout and around the city. This makes for something of a self-perpetuating cycle: Costs that go toward maintaining and improving the city’s quality bring in more tourists, who in turn enjoy their visits, and in doing so help to fund further efforts. The result, from a tourist’s perspective, is a city that’s a joy to visit.

It’s clear that Corvallis and the state of Oregon are nature-oriented, with the goal of sustainability in mind. From free transport, to local government initiatives, to a growing focus on work in environmental science, a lot is being done to make the city a green leader. For those interested in these same priorities, the aforementioned initiatives and the conditions they produce also make Corvallis a lovely place to visit.

Article by Alicia Adams. Keep up with Corvallis news, events and happenings by signing up for our email newsletter.

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