April 2016 eNewsletter

From the desk of OES:

Elementary students marching through campus as part of the torch relay to kick off Oberlin Ecolympics 2016!

Breathing is powerful. Well, of course, it is. Breathing is how we know we’re alive; yet how often do we take notice of our breath? to the fact that we are alive? These are some of the thoughts that keep recirculating in my mind amidst a month of madness (April) as blends into May and the imminent close of the semester.

First the return from spring break, then the 3-day Global Issues Symposium, followed Oberlin Ecolympics, which in itself featured 30 events in the two weeks of the competition. Not only that, but OES continued to make progress on carbon neutrality planning, transportation, reporting, and office engagement (to name a few). On the last day of Ecolympics — Earth Day — I attended the Earth Day Yoga class. I was struck at how nice it was to literally take a few minutes of the day to breathe. To slow down. To let the frenzy of work subside. Taking this time actually allowed me to return to my work with greater focus and clarity, a newfound stability.

It seems to be a fitting time to share this reflection given impending final exams. Students are cramming to study for their tests, write their final papers, and practice semester-end presentations. Faculty are wrapping up their courses with a rush of grading and semester-end advising. Staff are preparing for Commencement/Reunion weekend where the whole town floods with people celebrating the special things that happen in Oberlin, from the accomplishments of the graduating class to the relationships cultivated in this place. There’s a lot to prepare for, but there’s also a lot to celebrate.

Speaking of celebration, please join us this Friday, May 6 at noon in Wilder 101 to hear the OES interns share their final presentations and celebrate all they accomplished this year. I would also like to congratulate the winners of this year’s Ecolympics competition, especially Prospect Elementary for their third year on top in the electricity reduction competition with an impressive 31.8% reduction! They were followed closely by Eastwood Elementary with an amazing 29.1% reduction. You can read more about the competition and event series here. A big thank you to all of the people and organizations that organized and sponsored this year’s activities.

The collaborative spirit that fuels much of the success of Ecolympics – and many of our programs – we aim to celebrate all year. This week attending various final presentations, I am struck by how much outcomes are improved by working together. The introductory Environmental Studies courses with community-based experiences components enable students to work on a project proposed by a community partner. In these relationships, students gain a deeper understanding of sustainability issues, get involved in the community, and connect with new folks and initiatives. Meanwhile, the partner benefits from the work of enthusiastic, engaged students. Through collaboration, we learn more, we are more effective, we contribute our strengths, share ideas, and build relationships. Now that’s sustainable.


– Bridget Flynn, Sustainability Coordinator

News & Announcements:

  • Oberlin Ecolympics Complete: Earth Day marked the conclusion of the 2016 Oberlin Ecolympics competition and event series spanning from April 8 – 22. Congratulations to our Ecolympics competition winners! Allencroft was the biggest reducer in the college dorm electricity division; East won in college dorm water use; Harkness took home the cake with the most participation at events. For the third year in a row Prospect Elementary demonstrated the greatest electricity savings in the public schools, followed by Eastwood Elementary. In the schools’ water competition, Langston Middle School made a splash in first place. In just two weeks, Ecolympics featured 30 sustainability-related events! From hair recycling to bike maintenance, from film screenings to career workshops, hundreds of people were impacted by these terrific programs. Raffle prizes were drawn at various events and those who attended the most events will also be handsomely reward. For more information, including a thank you to all of our sponsors, read our recap article here.
  • Commencement/Reunion Weekend: The 2016 Commencement/Reunion Weekend is coming up May 20-23. We celebrate the achievements and stellar learning of our graduating class, we reunite with old classmates, and enjoy the connections to people and place found in Oberlin. This glorious weekend features many sustainability initiatives and opportunities to engage with the diversity of activities Oberlin College has to offer.

Packed house at Carol Adams’ Ecolympics presentation on the Sexual Politics of Meat

Upcoming Events:
For a full view of events visit the Environmental Events calendar: http://new.oberlin.edu/office/environmental-sustainability/events/May 6OES Intern Final Presentations @ 12:00PM in Wilder 101 – The Oberlin College Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) is powered largely by the tremendous energy, enthusiasm, talent, and insights of our team of student interns. Each intern has a completely unique position inspiring sustainability on campus. You’ll hear from each intern about their project and accomplishments from the year. Snacks and refreshments will be served. [Calendar] [Facebook]
May 9: Environmental Studies Honors & Capstone Presentations @ 4PM in AJLC: Hear from graduating seniors about their academic endeavors. From 4-5:30PM students will present their honors projects covering a range of exciting topics from wastewater to nematodes to Medieval agriculture. From 5:30-7PM Lorenzo’s will fire up their pizza truck during the ENVS capstone presentations.
May 20Bike to Work Day @ All Day: It’s national Bike-to-Work-Day May 20! Those in Oberlin are welcome to join in by biking to work and take a photo (safely!) of you and/or your bike and send it to sustainability@oberlin.edu. A lucky winner will receive bike lights.
May 21: Solar Array Tour @ 11:30AM-12:00PM at the Solar Array: Come rain or shine for the opportunity to see the largest solar array on any liberal arts college campus. About the same size as Tappan Square, this array generates about 12% of the college’s electricity. Join the Office of Environmental Sustainability for a walk to view the 2.27 MW solar array. The group will meet the Sustainability Coordinator in front of the Philips Physical Education Center and walk together to the south side of the array (off Prospect St.) where the group can learn about the array and have the opportunity to ask about sustainability initiatives at Oberlin more generally. Please wear comfortable shoes. If wet, the site might be muddy. This program is in conjunction with Commencement/Reunion Weekend.

See more events or add yours to the Environmental Events Calendar here: http://new.oberlin.edu/office/environmental-sustainability/events/

Downtown Oberlin adorned with an Ecolympics banner

Recently we learned that not many people on campus know much about our carbon neutrality commitment. Here’s the numbers.

Oberlin College’s Community-Based Social Marketing (CSBM) research team currently has 10 students apply social psychological principles to behavior change campaigns. This semester, one team surveyed faculty and students to gauge their awareness of the College’s carbon neutrality commitment. 41% of students and 22% of faculty said that knew nothing about the College’s carbon neutrality commitment.

An ENVS 101 group working with OES also asked students about their awareness this semester. Through their conversations they found that 49% of students had heard of the carbon neutrality commitment whereas 51% were unfamiliar. Of the students asked if they wanted to learn more about the College’s carbon neutrality commitment, 77% said they would like to know more.

Given this information, Office of Environmental Sustainability and the Committee on Environmental Sustainability will be working to better educate and engage the campus community on this topic.

Did you know?

Commencement/Reunion Weekend makes a great effort to make their activities green. Here are a few of the ways they take social and environmental considerations into account:

  • Programs are printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper.
  • Local and organic foods are served. The kickoff dinner and champagne luncheon being fully compostable.
  • Bent rentals are available through the Bike Co-op.


Green Tips

  • Early to Sprinkle, Early to Green: If you water your lawn, 30% of the water you apply can be evaporated if you water in the heat of day. Try watering early in the morning or in the evening.
  • A Pair of Savers: As the temperatures creep up, keep in mind that pairing a ceiling fan with your air conditioner saves much more energy than just turning up the AC. Over a month, this pair is estimated to save up to $30 dollars on your utility bill.
  • Cool of Body, Cool of Mind: To fight the temptation to crank up the AC in the summer, try wearing clothes with natural fibers that “breathe” and avoiding carb-heavy, warm food. These will help you reduce that terrible sticky feeling and keep your body from additional warming in the summer heat.

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