Where do we start? Everyone is talking/writing “sustainability.”
by Ray Siderius, OSM Director

The Oregonian, the Portland Tribune, the Portland Business Journal…and just about every other print and on-line media has sections or frequent articles on sustainability. Sometimes it looks a bit faddish, sometimes I think businesses are more drawn to the prospect of extra dollars and not so in touch with the real meaning…treating the environment in which we live so that future generations have a place to live. This brief article is intended to introduce the reader to the notion that sustainability is a complex issue which can be approached from many different perspectives only one of which is healthcare. I hope it leads to some dialogue…add your comments.

I’m also giving the reader some information about the more specific things we do at Oregon School of Massage, including a Sept 21 Massage Connections at Old Wives ‘Tale.

Is sustainability important? Is it urgent? Attempts to answer that can reflect various perspectives. In this blog I am referring to some economic/financial/political issues and including a comment about healthcare. I future articles I hope to look at other pieces of the picture.

A recent FastCompany article (See “It’s Time For Breakthrough Capitalism [1]”) is critical of economics, stating: “The science of economics, for one, is fundamentally flawed. It’s based on outdated assumptions and systematically fails to take account of emergent realities generated by seven-billion-and-counting people with an appetite for five–or even six–planet lifestyles.”

An article by money manager Joe Keefe in the Summer 2012 issue of the “Green Money Journal” (See “From Growth Capitalism to Sustainable Capitalism [2]) makes a similar point: “The problem is an economic system that makes no distinction between capital investments that destroy the environment, or worsen public health, or exacerbate economic inequality, and those that are aligned with earth’s natural systems while promoting the general welfare..” The article also points to a political dimension: “The notion that we can tackle any major public policy issue, let alone undertake the epochal transition to Sustainable Capitalism, while politicians and regulators are captive to the very interests they are supposed to regulate, is beyond naïve. We will not be able to reform capitalism if we cannot reform Congress.”

Another perspective could be through the eyes of healthcare. Integrative medicine, the wise and efficient use of scare medical resources, is a sustainability strategy. On a positive note, a November 10, 2011 The Lund Report (See “Central Oregon Sees Early Successes in Coordinated Care Model. [3]”) describes the saving generated by an integrative model: “The recent publication of the Health Integration Project’s first annual report shows startling results: among the project’s initial cohort of 144 people, there were 541 or 49 percent fewer visits to the emergency room during the first six months of 2011. That translates into roughly $750,000 in savings.” While that article catches our attention with the substantial amount of money saved it can also be read as saving a lot of expensive medication, supplies and high-tech labor.

Again, as to the many other sustainability-supporting concepts and strategies…later…to be considered in future blogs.

Back to…Is sustainability important? urgent? If we are consuming planetary resources at a pace that would require five or more planets we may be well past the point of the question. If our economic theories and financial decisions are ignoring the issue we have an incredibly complex challenge. If a new strategy of healthcare delivery can save $750,000 with a cohort of 144 patients in six months there are steps we can take now. And I haven’t even touched a variety of other related pieces of this issue…science, spirituality, psychology, etc.

Going from the global to the more mundane I’m happy to say Oregon School of Massage is acting…we recycle plastic, glass, metal and paper. Sometimes the paper is used more than twice (i.e., even after a piece of paper has been used twice, if there is usable space on one side we use it again). We have reduced our garbage considerably the past several years, some by composting much of the biodegradable waste. We have eliminated paper cups by using washable ones. When we can, in our store we favor local and organic products. We encourage public transit by making discounted student bus tickets available. While these may not be earth-shaking they reflect a consciousness and a significant commitment on the part of the OSM community. Join us in these endeavors.

Steps to be given more consideration include monitoring our supply chain more closely…i.e., what are our service and supply providers doing to support sustainable practices?

There is a thread of sustainability which runs through our curriculum also…promoting the idea that integration saves. By including some elements of self-care and personal growth in many of our classes we think it is possible to promote living more lightly on the planet…specifically, a broadly based mind/body/spirit approach to learning massage increases the likelihood that our students, graduates and staff remain healthy and become more savvy users of whatever resources they consume.

Here’s something you can participate in:
Greening Your Practice
Friday, September 21st, 8:30-10:00 am
Held at: Old Wives Tale, 1300 East Burnside Street Portland, OR 97214

Patricia Murphy, a Portland Naturopath, will talk about simple ways that you can create a work space that is healthful for you and your clients as well as for the environment. Patricia will discuss what a sustainable practice is and why these issues of environmental health are important.

If you are planning to attend and haven’t contacted us please do so by calling the Oregon School of Massage at 503-244-3420 or by email to Alexis Reale at ar@oregonschoolofmassage.com ).

[1] http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680529/its-time-for-breakthrough-capitalism
[2] http://www.greenmoneyjournal.com/fall2012/from-growth-capitalism-to-sustainable-capitalism-the-next-20-years-of-sustainable-investing/
[3] http://www.thelundreport.org/resource/central_oregon_sees_early_successes_in_coordinated_care_model

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  1. Great article! I liked this question “what are our service and supply providers doing to support sustainable practices?”. Let’s take it to the next level. Thank you!

  2. Tom Magnus says:

    Probably the best term paper I’ve read in years Ray. I recognize several issues you elaborate on from our weekly phone chats – very well done my Friend – I will share and encourage more folks to “Like” OSM!