Is Individual Sustainability enough? An insight into the sustainability of the Rouge Valley In the 21st Century.

Kelli Albert
7 min readMar 3, 2022


Being next to one of the highest states in recyclable sustainability makes Oregon look a little on the negative side. Although this data below tells a different story.

Since the focus is set on Oregon, Being the fourth state on this list, Oregon has many properties that show they are working hard toward changing the percentage of recycled materials to be in the same area as California and Maine. The focus of this story is Ashland, OR. Ashland Oregon is a town that holds itself upon the high standards of sustainability. The main detail of sustainability in Ashland is seen when walking around the town. You see many garbage cans with baskets on them for any sort of recyclable bottle or can. There are many things that a town can do to be sustainable, but if no one works together to make everything sustainable, that sustainability is useless. Besides knowing that Oregon itself has many recycling laws such cities with over 4000 people are required to provide recycling services.

Kristina Wexler is a recycling woman in a recycling town. Living in Ashland, Oregon, Wexler is all about saving money and the planet. Her household is very set on cutting out single-use plastics and likes to have reusable plastics such as Tupperware and cups in her home to keep her from using those single-use plastics.

We use reusable plastic bags, we have reusable wrapping paper, We have reusable saran wrap.”

To listen to Kristina’s Interview, Click here:

Wexler and her three roommates also work hard to make sure they recycle as much as they can when using cardboard and plastics. Since their household is a multi-person household, they try to conserve their electricity the best that they can. One main issue is leaving lights on while no one is home, this can cause overuse of their electricity and is not something they try to do often. Wexler also notes that there are two air conditioning units in their apartment but are not turned on unless it is absolutely necessary. The roommates also tend to use their own personal heaters instead of the baseboard heaters that are in the apartment since they use way more energy than the personal space heaters.

Despite all the individual responsibility demonstrated by Wexler and other avid recyclers in Ashland, data that shows the meaningful impact of their efforts is hard to come by. Although as you can see below, there is also a Transfer station in Ashland that offers to split up what you bring to try and make sure it goes to the correct place and doesn’t harm the environment. Below are some examples of items that you can bring and they will be disposed of properly. Courtesy of the Ashland Recycling Center.

Since this is just the city of Ashland, they are very sustainable as a community, but in all reality the US s struggling and on town can’t make a difference by themselves. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 30 percent of U.S. solid waste (i.e., the waste that is normally handled through residential and commercial garbage-collection systems) is recycled. About 15 percent is incinerated and about 55 percent goes into landfills. This is difficult to help the whole country when most of the recycling is going to the landfill. Ashland residents are not the only people trying to make a difference in this community.

Standing Stone Brewery prides itself on sustainability in the making of their ales and lagers on-site at their restaurant, and their focus on high-quality, locally sourced organic ingredients from family farms. One main step you will notice that standing stone takes to be sustainable in the selling of their food is having a farm one mile away. As they discuss in the about us section of their website they say, “There we raise cattle, chickens, and lambs that give us lots of local protein for our kitchen. We value knowing our own Standing Stone employees raise these animals humanely, with care to their environment and diets. They graze around our 265-acre pasture in a rotational system, benefitting the land and animals with natural farming methods.” Within this farm, they also have grass-fed beef. They use this to sustain a better and smarter protein option for their consumers. They say that grass-fed beef has been shown to have less overall fat and calories and a higher Omega 3 portion than their grain-fed counterparts. Because of energy-saving improvements Standing Stone has made, the Oregon Department of Energy has called Standing Stone a leader in restaurant energy conservation.

When talking to general manager Nechelle Lalonde, at Standing Stone Brewery, she gave some insight on how they are sustainable as a company as well. Nechelle was asked how the company reduces food waste in the restaurant:

“We compost our food scraps. Turn our “old” bread into our house croutons, we give our spent grain after brewing to a farmer who lives in Rogue River.”

Standing Stone is very set on making sure that give back while not wasting food. Since they give grain to the farmers, this provides the farmers with grain to feed animal livestock and can also be used for human food as well. Being able to give grain to farmers helps the farmers save money. According to grain farming is high mechanized and costs a lot of money, time, and investments. Being able to get this from Standing Stone helps the farmers do better and save a bit of time and money. Nechelle also gave an insight on their sustainability program, and how they stay sustainable.

“We recycle our paper products, as well as normal recycling and soft plastics. We are part of a strategic energy management program through Energy Trust of Oregon, we offer water and straws only by request, we converted our paper menu into QR to save on paper waste, although we still have paper menus for those who ask. We are currently looking into upgrading our solar panels. Our to-go products are compostable. We are constantly trying to find operational saves, some examples being dimming lights and setting strict HVAC temperatures.”

Standing Stone also likes to use it's weekly, local sources such as the Rogue Valley Grower and Crafters Market. Where they purchase local, organic and sustainable products as much as possible. Facebook was used as another way to collect data about Grower's Market. I asked the Ashland Peeps Facebook group why they think it is more sustainable for their lifestyle to buy from the growers market instead of the grocery store. Here are some responses.

Rogue Valley Growers Market — photo taken by Kelli Albert

“Buying anything locally sourced makes for a viable local economy. The local market also indeed helps those on the fringes who are trying to get by. The retirement community also uses the Market to buy all their fresh veggies as well.” -Mateo Goely, Ashland Resident

“I feel it is more sustainable because not only are we helping our local economy, but small local farms have more humane treatment for animals. It also makes a much smaller carbon footprint. As well as the market accepts food stamps.” -Sunny Sumner, Ashland Resident

Photo by Kelli Albert

As we continue with this idea of sustainability, Danny Hernandez, An event assistant at Belle Fiore Winery here in Ashland. Danny was able to give us some insight into the precautions the business takes to be sustainable. Belle Fiore tries to source all our products local to southern Oregon and local farmers markets in the area. While some locations may not have all of the necessary items/ingredients, we source our items through all-natural or organic vendors. There is a huge similarity between Belle Fiore and Standing Stone, that being how they both try and get their food from the local growers market and local farmers. This seems to be a huge pattern for businesses in the area. Belle Fiore also uses Costco sometimes to source their food, when they are in need, this may be a quick and easy fix but the issue that arises is you choose to help the local farmers, instead, you use ones that are making millions instead of locally grown and cared for products. They also try to advise their guests of the size of certain entrees and menu items as some are more practical to share. In the kitchen the Chef prepares meals ensuring he uses all the produce and items won’t go to waste while also recreating new dishes with products he may already have. Belle Fiore is really good at being sustainable and trying to use all produce they get a not let anything go to waste.

In the final thoughts of it all, It seems sustainability is worth it, only if people work together in this area. Everyone in the community must work together for it all to happen. In the end, sustainability will be a huge help for many towns around the globe, but it looks like Ashland, Oregon has it covered. The hope is that it moves into the rest of Oregon and the US will help it become more reasonable in the end.



Kelli Albert