Road Scholar Program in Portland, Oregon – Sustainability issues

Portland, a great place for a Road Scholar program on sustainability

Portland, a great place for a Road Scholar program on sustainability

Road Scholar Portland

March 16, 2012

Road Scholar
11 Avenue de Lafayette
Boston, MA 02111

Attention: Domestic Program Development


My parents have been enjoying Road Scholar programs for many years. When planning to visit me in Portland, Oregon recently they were interested in combining their visit with one of your programs. It occurred to me that Road Scholar could offer a program around what this city is really excelling at – sustainable development, urban planning, mass transit and other related topics. I imagine participants might be interested in exploring these topics and taking some of what Portland has learned back to their own communities.

Portland has attracted some of the brightest minds in the sustainability movement. Their exciting work is creating a stir worldwide. I find living here fascinating (watch an episode of the new IFC show, Portlandia, and you’ll quickly see what I mean). I imagine some of your participants would enjoy visiting the “real” Portlandia and learning what all of the buzz is about.

Portland’s excellent food and natural attractions such as the Columbia Gorge would help make such a program quite popular.

Here are a few of the courses/topics I propose for a Portland Road Scholar program:

  • Community Gardens/Orchards
  • City Repair – a local group that works to make the city more livable
  • Mass Transit – light rail/streetcars/buses = Livability – streetcars? – we make them here!
  • Depaving – removing pavement and adding in community gardens –
  • Neighborhood Councils – Portland has more than any other city and they are effective at creating change
  • Neighborhood Art Walks: Last Thursday on Alberta St., 1st Thursday in the Pearl, and more
  • Reviving main street – small businesses thrive in Portland – Buy Local Movement
  • Bike Culture – seeing Portland by bike
  • Tree planting (Friends of Trees) and other eco-conscious ways that the City’s infrastructure is being improved – stormwater, bioswales…
  • Hi-tech: Portland is a center for technical innovation. Participants could take part in social networking classes, learning how to document their Portland experience and share it with friends. I’ve been teaching classes in this since 2009 and I would love to offer my services.
  • Portlandia behind the scenes – why is Portlandia funny? A Portlandia screening in an old movie theater and then visits to some of the places shown in the series
  • McMenamins– This thriving local empire restores local movie theaters, chapels, and lodges into thriving brewpubs, restaurants, and hotels. Their success speaks to Portland’s appreciation of history and culture of creative reuse.
  • The Re-Building Center – the reuse of building materials
  • Portland’s quality-of-life values: getting rid of the freeway separating downtown from the river led to many other improvements and helps make Portland one of the most livable cities in the United States. See also: our amazing urban growth boundary
  • Farmers Markets, food carts, local restaurants
  • Ecstatic and Tango dance – both are experiencing steady growth in Portland (we are also the center for NIA and other body movement therapies)
  • Alternative medicine –Portland’s alternative healthcare scene is thriving (acupuncture, massage, watsu, etc.)

These are some sample topics. I can imagine many more which could contribute to an evolving program for those who visit Portland.

As a 10-year Portland resident (17 in 2018) and an avid networker, I have contacts with many experts on the above topics who would serve as excellent teachers. I would be glad to coordinate any and all aspects of this project and am also excited to collaborate on another Portland skill! I have long had an interest in teaching retired people life skills and this course could include tracks in financial management, alternative healthcare choices, and other later in life skills.

Portland is a special place. It’s repeatedly listed as one of the most desirable places to live in the United States. If this idea interests Road Scholar let’s discuss the idea further. I hope we can make a Road Scholar Portland Sustainable City program happen. And, I’m sure my parents; Rich and Hannah Kaufman will be the first to sign up!


Albert Kaufman

2020 Update: I resubmitted this idea to the organization which has a local office in the Portland area. Still, no dice.


  1. has a different perspective.

    Portland Metro is planning about twelve billion dollars in highways.

    Bike lanes and light rail and microbrew beer are great, but that is not where the bulk of our “common wealth” is being allocated.

    The Columbia River Crossing gets some attention (although the primary opponents don’t mention that Peak Oil means Peak Traffic). However, this is only a small part of the proposed highway expansions. The Sunrise Freeway was rubber stamped as one of Gov. Kulongoski’s last acts. Sunrise would be a new freeway through Clackamas County, six to eight lanes wide plus massive widening of I-205 (where it would have a huge interchange). I-84, I-5 and other roads are also slated for substantial widening.

    Portland is certainly better than the average US metropolis but if the food delivery trucks stopped coming everyone would quickly see it’s not really “sustainable.”

    A picky point: I prefer the word cooperation to collaboration. I’ve read too much 20th century European history to use the latter word.

  2. Hey Albert… How about intentional living communities, ie. Columbia Ecovillage, Tryon Life Farm, and others? We have lots of interest from retired folks, and talking about community, consensus, and sustainability in this arena is something lots of us do all the time anyway.

  3. great comments, Mark and Barbara, thank you!

  4. Albert, you are the KING of brilliant networking ideas, and the Road Scholar courses you propose sound like a perfect way to both educate and bring some much needed dollars to Portland.

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