Holy Redeemer Parish photo
Volunteers begin removing more pavement from the parking lot at Holy Redeemer Parish in North Portland.
Holy Redeemer Parish photo
Volunteers begin removing more pavement from the parking lot at Holy Redeemer Parish in North Portland.
Holy Redeemer School in North Portland hosted another "tear up the pavement" party last month to further ongoing efforts at controlling storm water runoff. The volume of wastewater is a chief concern of local government.

Holy Redeemer contains 103,000 square feet of hard surface — roofs, pavement and walkways — that drain into the storm water system. Here is the problem: until recently, much of Portland’s storm water was combined with the sewer system, and during storms, the system overflowed, flushing sewage into the rivers.               

A committee on environmental sustainability at Holy Redeemer received grants from Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and the East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District. The agencies' mission is to reduce the amount of storm water that flows from a site, heading off problems like erosion of stream banks and elevated water temperatures unhealthy for fish.

Holy Redeemer School began its blacktop removal in the fall with the help of DEPAVE, a Portland non-profit that has removed 50,000 square feet of unneeded pavement in the city. Depave leaders encouraged Holy Redeemer to expand their project to include the playground.

The 4,000 square feet of asphalt removed from the play yard/parking lot will allow for 12 additional storm water retaining beds of native plants and trees — sometimes called bioswales — and will help contain traffic while defining play spaces for students.   

Another phase of the project included a new vegetable garden, made for the benefit of the on- site St. Vincent de Paul food bank. Volunteers and students built he garden on an underused corner of the lot.  

Two 5,000-gallon water cisterns, which art students will paint, were put in place last month, and will be used to store rainwater from the gym roof to help irrigate the new vegetable garden.

Summer session students planted the garden, honing their math and reading skills along the way in the great outdoors.  Many staff members, teachers, and students have participated in starting seeds, making signs, filling the raised beds, and helping with organization.

Partners in the project include Depave, City Repair, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and Providence Health Providers.

The work is the latest effort to make Holy Redeemer a green school that began with construction of a new classroom building in 2005. Pope John Paul II Hall, which includes a library and science lab, was the first K-8 Catholic school building in the nation to win certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

In the lunchroom, training helped students cut noontime trash from seven cans per day to one. Blue recycling bins sit next to copy machines and alongside every waste can. The number of plastic bags used at Holy Redeemer has dropped since classroom garbage is emptied once per week (or when needed) instead of daily.

Students and teachers are urged to turn off lights whenever possible and every other light fixture in hallways has been shut off.

Workers disconnected some downspouts from the church and controls on the heating system monitor hours of operation and temperature more closely, resulting in savings on heating oil.