Skip to main content
Emma Russell's avatar

Emma Russell

Capstone Spring 22


  • 0 TODAY
  • 296 TOTAL

participant impact

  • UP TO
    traveled by bike
  • UP TO
    pounds of CO2
    have been saved
  • UP TO
  • UP TO
  • UP TO
    spent outdoors

Emma's actions

Consumption and Economy

Watch a Documentary

I will watch one of the films suggested in the additional resources and discuss it with friends or family.



Go by Bike

I will commute by bike 5 mile(s) each day this week and avoid sending up to 44.44 lbs of CO2 into Earth's atmosphere.



Meet My Neighbors

I will meet 2 new neighbor(s) this week.


Visions of Sustainability

Join An Outdoor Project

I will join an outdoor restoration project in my community.



Learn About My Watershed

I will find local resources for learning about my watershed and the particular water issues my region faces.



Watch a Documentary

I will watch a documentary film about food with family and friends and talk about what we learned.


Ecological Principles

Practice Gratitude for Earth

This week, I will spend 30 minute(s) each day outside, practicing gratitude (prayer, meditation, journaling, etc.) for Earth and the nature surrounding me.


A Call to Sustainability

Explore My Area

I will explore at least one new hiking trail or nature walk in my area.


Participant Feed

Reflection, encouragement, and relationship building are all important aspects of getting a new habit to stick.
Share thoughts, encourage others, and reinforce positive new habits on the Feed.

To get started, share “your why.” Why did you join the challenge and choose the actions you did?

  • Emma Russell's avatar
    Emma Russell 5/30/2022 9:53 AM
    This week, I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer with Forest Park Conservancy! I joined a restoration effort to maintain the forest by pulling invasive ivy species. It was a great experience getting involved with such a great cohort and tackling the ivy infestation. Many people who were out walking and running on the trail thanked us for our efforts, which was so kind to hear.
    The weeding was extremely satisfying, and I was able to connect with nature through the process. Hiking is a great way to appreciate nature, and I was surprised to experience the same appreciation while I was on my knees weeding. It made me think about how communities can be more sustainable, and I feel like giving back is one of the best ways to do that. By volunteering my time, I was giving back to the trails that provided me peace, and am helping extend the lifetime of these paths. Environmental conservation is a great way to keep the parks looking beautiful and preserve our natural forests.

    On BuildAbroad's website, they state that: "Sustainable volunteering is about ensuring that the organization you are supporting is conducting themselves in an ethical manner, from administration through to projects and monitoring their long-term impacts." I like this idea of making sure you are volunteering with an organization that is ethically providing the change you desire. Forest Park Conservancy is very transparent and is doing many great projects to better the large urban park we all love. I'm glad they provide opportunities to give back.

  • Emma Russell's avatar
    Emma Russell 5/19/2022 9:24 AM
    For this week's challenge, I watched a few short documentaries about the economy. What I really wanted to watch was a documentary discussing the impacts of capitalism and consumerism, but was unable to find any for free. What I ended up watching were an episode of Explained on Netflix, titled Billionaires. This episode discussed the unequal distribution of wealth and how billionaires gain their wealth, ultimately pay less in takes for capital property, and find ways to work less for their money. It was really interesting to understand that the shift from income received from working is taxed more than income from capital. This means ownership of things gets taxed less. People who are wealthy end up making more money on their capital than their work, therefore paying less taxes than they would if all their income came from work. Additionally, I learned that there are tax havens, certain countries that don't have income tax. By hiding some of your money in these countries or buying multiple apartments, these people can hide their wealth even more and avoid taxes. Bernie Sanders in this episode talked about the fractured system that allows someone to make so much more money than others. By having this ability to make SO much money, one is ultimately hogging the wealth, not paying taxes and reducing the public's money, and has no obligation to share their wealth. 

    I also watched a video about fast fashion on YouTube called Fast Fashion - The Shady World of Cheap Clothing. This documentary discussed how fast fashion operates and how they are able to make clothing so fast and sell it for so cheap. Ultimately, the true cost of this industry is hidden in the low wages of workers and their poor working environment. Workers creating this clothing, either in our country or overseas, get paid almost nothing, have no job security, and are exposed to carcinogenic chemicals with no training. The documentary shared stories of workers using strong and dangerous solvents with no training and no PPE. This ultimately resulted in this worker having a heart attack. Communities around the factory also suffer from airborne pollutants. They also shared insight about the brand Zara, who actually asks their workers to go around and copy clothing items that other companies are making with just a few differences. It was so crazy to hear about what fast fashion actually means and how bad it can be for communities and the environment. 

    • Alexa Brattain's avatar
      Alexa Brattain 5/23/2022 5:47 PM
      Props to you for watching 2 documentaries this week! Shout out to you for looking into documentaries that connect capitalism with environmental impacts. Do you know if hulu offered any videos on this? I am curious about the second documentary you watched about fast fashion. It sounds interesting! I have also heard several negative comments about the clothing company Zara. Thank you for sharing this video with the class, I will be checking it out.

  • Emma Russell's avatar
    Emma Russell 5/12/2022 9:38 AM
    For this week's challenge, I decided to bike to campus every day. This isn't uncommon for me to bike, but it was nice to commit to a week of bike commuting to get around town, even when it's rainy. Biking, as I mentioned in my Reflection this week, is a great way to connect to my community and be more present when I am commuting. I get so stressed when I drive and also try to avoid using my car for environmental reasons. When I take the bus or streetcar, I feel more connected to what's around me, but sometime have negative experiences with other riders or feel concerned about being in close contact with riders. I have been using the Biketown's E-bikes to commute around town, and I am lucky to qualify for a free membership. This has been an amazing opportunity because my bike was stolen from my apartment building last year and I cannot afford to purchase another one. Having Biketown bikes all around Portland make it convenient and FREE to commute! They are also electric bikes, so they are less physically strenuous. I have had very positive experiences with biking, and have even added a fully waterproof outfit to my closet so I can also bike in the rain. I mostly feel good for not using my car and reducing my contribution to climate change. I think it would be the most environmentally friendly to use a regular bike, because no energy is being used. Maybe in the future, I can invest in a regular bike to further reduce my energy usage. I included a picture I took on the streetcar a few weeks ago.

  • Emma Russell's avatar
    Emma Russell 5/04/2022 10:01 AM
    For this week's challenge, I tried to meet a few of my neighbors. It can be difficult to meet your neighbors when living in an apartment building, which I do. The other day, I said good morning to someone I saw in the hallway and about an hour later, I ran into them at my local grocery store! It was great to see them again and get a real introduction. It also made me feel like I was a part of a community seeing them shopping as well. I've also been spending time in the apartment common areas because it seems to be a great way to open myself up to meeting others. It reminds me of a quote I read in this week's reading, where it states: “Common spaces offer chances for the everyday encounters that help to weave the social fabric. And when that fabric is strong and resilient, there is little we can’t do”. I am fairly new to my apartment community as well, so it was great to meet someone new. Although I was only able to meet one person this week, I hope to continue to meet more people as I spend time in the common areas and around the neighborhood.

    • Drasti  Patel's avatar
      Drasti Patel 5/04/2022 8:29 PM
      Emma this sounds amazing. It's funny how we all live in one place for so long but we don't know who our neighbors are. I hope you get to meet many more of your neighbors and hope you like your new apartment. 

  • Emma Russell's avatar
    Emma Russell 4/23/2022 3:10 PM
    For this week's challenge, I learned more about Portland's water supply. In this week's text, I learned that a watershed is defined by all the land that drains into the nearest body of water. I originally thought a watershed was a place we receive water from, similar to a reservoir, but I learned it is a very different thing. Portland is surrounded by rivers and is right next to the intersection of the Columbia and Willamette River. These two rivers, alongside Johnson Creek, Tryon Creek, and Fanno Creek, make up all of Portland's watersheds. The watershed in my region is the Willamette Tributary, which drains into the Willamette River.

    Historically, the Willamette River would become polluted by Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO), where extreme precipitation and storms would overflow the combined stormwater and sewer system into the river. This creates a severe health risk for those recreating in the river, but has since been reduced by 94% through the completion of the CSO Program in 2011. Despite this effort, however, sewer overflow into the Willamette River happened on 5 separate events in 2021.

    There are still many other water quality concerns for the Willamette. Habitat loss, reduced flood storage, and sediment contamination are some of the most important issues the City is addressing. Additionally, urbanization has led to more impervious surfaces and less vegetation, increasing runoff and changing the hydrologic cycle. These effects can reduce water quality and worsen riparian habitats locally.

    Links to references:
    Explore Portland's Watersheds
    About the Willamette Watershed
    Watershed Report Cards
    KGW8 News: Big Pipe Sewage Overflow

  • Emma Russell's avatar
    Emma Russell 4/17/2022 9:21 AM
    For my challenge this week, I watched Fed Up, a food documentary about how the American diet has changed and the overwhelming shift towards processed foods and extreme sugar intake. It discussed the intense uptake in child obesity and the beginning of child diabetes cases. It was difficult to hear stories of young children, from as young as 10, try to lose weight to reduce their health issues. They also talked about the fact that the common idea calories in = calories out doesn't necessarily apply anymore to the food children are eating. Because many of these foods are highly processed and very sugary, the sugar is turned instantly into fat and that can be a leading cause of children's unhealthy fat gain. It also discussed the failed attempts of the US government to increase healthy eating and to push for healthier lunch meals in schools. Although this didn't directly teach me about where my food is coming from, it really educated me on the best ways to eat healthy for me and to eat sustainably. I am currently a vegan, so my eating is already pretty sustainable. I don't consume any meat or dairy products, which increases my own health and reduces my economic contribution to those industries. I will say, however, that I do eat a lot of processed foods. I tend to eat a lot of processed breads and snacks for my lunches, mainly for fear of losing money when I buy fresh fruits and vegetables that can go bad very quickly. This documentary showed me the importance of reducing added sugar intake and processed foods. I am hoping to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet and completely cut out sweets. 

    • Leandra Reynoso-Valdez's avatar
      Leandra Reynoso-Valdez 4/20/2022 12:20 AM
      Hey Emma, I just watched a documentary on fast food and it also showed the obesity problem because we eat processed foods with so many fats, sugars, and salt. I learned that a lot more people and children are developing diabetes and other health issues due to fast food. I also learned that the new generation could possibly live shorter lives than their parents due to the amount of processed food intake. I think society and food industries are starting to become aware of this problem and are trying to produce healthier and vegan options.  

  • Emma Russell's avatar
    Emma Russell 4/13/2022 3:19 PM
    For this week's challenge, I decided to spend 30 minute each day outside this week. It was actually quite exciting to spend time outside because Portland received a bunch of snow, and I was excited to explore the city when it was nice and snowy. In fact, I biked to and from campus yesterday and the day before when it was super snowy and very rainy. Normally, the bad weather motivates me to take the bus to campus, but I was happy I put all my rain gear on and bike over. It was so peaceful and beautiful, and I couldn't help cruising and staring at the sky on my ride home. I feel very grateful to live in such a beautiful city and be able to stare up at the hills while in downtown. I also spent some time walking around on campus during the snow day, appreciating the flowers that survived the storm.

  • Emma Russell's avatar
    Emma Russell 4/02/2022 9:18 PM
    Today, I walked in an area of Forest Park that I had not been in before to complete the Explore
    My Area ecochallenge. I chose this task because I feel like I've been hibernating this winter and haven't spend much time outside exploring nature. It's easy to become overwhelmed with to-do lists and lose motivation to make plans to be outside in nature. When I was outside surrounded by the beautiful greenery and the blossoming flowers, I was reminded of how important nature is to mental health and wellbeing. Going outside into natural areas is always an important wake-up call to appreciate nature, especially those that are so close to the city. I am so grateful to have Forest Park so close to me and it is a place I should be spending more time in. I hope I can keep this feeling close as a reminder to appreciate nature and become closer to it.

    • Alexa Brattain's avatar
      Alexa Brattain 4/06/2022 8:49 PM
      It's so exciting that the weather is becoming warm again! I understand how winter can be hard on mental health because we're all cooped up inside. I am hoping that in this course we can all go on nature walks together. It would be fun, as a class, to sit out in a field and make daisy chains. Nature is healing and I am glad you were able to enjoy some sunshine.