From the desk of OES:
I was lucky enough to attend and present at the annual AASHE Conference and Expo held Oct 9-12 this year in Baltimore, Maryland. I was joined by three other Oberlin students involved in sustainability. Bridget, Sustainability Coordinator in OES, told us that AASHE is the biggest and best sustainability-in-higher-education conference. We didn’t know exactly what to expect from the experience, but we hoped to hear about other institution’s challenges in campus sustainability from a mainly student perspective. The theme of the conference was “Beyond the Campus”, which means that the conference focused on “the dissemination and implementation of [sustainability] solutions in surrounding communities and the world.” We went into the conference aware of Oberlin’s progressive reputation, and comprehensive dedication to developing a community culture that embodies sustainability at every level, especially as we aim to achieve carbon neutrality.
The first day of the conference was the Student Summit, a day set aside for student leaders to come together and exchange sustainability ideas, but mainly revealed to us that Oberlin excels even more than we realized. Compared to other small liberal arts colleges and public institutions present at this year’s AASHE conference, Oberlin’s academic community has gone to great lengths to understand what motivates all types of staff and students to reduce their energy usage. Beyond that, rather than just focusing on energy efficiency and measurable outcomes implementing technology, we have a more integrated, cultural approach. I was struck at how much more intersectional our approach is than at many other institutions. Sustainability and social justice are integrated into our campus fabric and into our local community. We talk about pronouns, we talk about privilege, we talk about accessibility, and we talk about renewable energy. While I feel like there is room for improvement in terms of infrastructure or technology, such as unleashing more of the potential of the Environmental Dashboard, I feel more confident in Oberlin’s conscious effort to address sustainability in a more inclusive and collaborative way. Sustainability at Oberlin acknowledges and includes many diverse stakeholders as opposed to just some economists or engineers making complex carbon calculations on behalf of the students.
The rest of the conference featured a plethora of more organized and professional presentations. I attended a number of talks from a variety of experience levels working in on-campus sustainability efforts. (The rest of the interns and I tried to divide and conquer because so many different types of initiatives and topics were being presented on – it was a little overwhelming!) I went to a presentation on a behavior-change campaign, similar to one I am developing in Kahn Hall, on tracking student shower usage in real-time. In between talks, I checked out the Expo Hall downstairs where a number of different vendors were exhibiting technologies, products, and programs related to sustainability. I also attended a panel on internal carbon pricing, a much more advanced discussion between representatives from Swarthmore, Vassar, and Yale to display the challenges higher-ed campuses may face when it comes to developing economic policy instruments aimed to reduce GHG’s. Later in the afternoon, I presented a poster with my fellow OES Intern, Gabe, about the power of involving students in the process of decision-making when it comes to these issues. Taking a look at the other posters being presented made me really appreciate that my internship in OES gives me the opportunity to work directly with administrators and facilities operators who are directly involved in infrastructural and mechanical improvements here, in addition to other students and professors.
As OES Interns, we have more exposure to the interconnectedness of our carbon neutrality efforts, so our responsibilities are inherently more demanding (and exciting) than being part of a sustainability-related student group. All in all, my experience learning about other student projects at AASHE revealed more of the intricacies of Oberlin’s own approach to sustainability as it fits into our community culture.
News & Announcements:
- After Fossil Fuels: the Next Economy Conference: During the first weekend in October, the After Fossil Fuels conference took Oberlin by storm. A slew of amazing people culminated in Oberlin for challenging discussion about the post-fossil fuels economy. Economists, activists, philanthropists, academics, and visionaries gathered for stimulating presentations and discussion. For those who couldn’t attend, videos, photos, and presentation slides available at: http://new.oberlin.edu/events-activities/after-fossil-fuels/.
- Bike-to-Work Day: OES partnered with the Community-Based Social Marketing Research Team and Human Resources to carry out an October Bike-to-Work Day to encourage faculty and staff to ride to work. It was a fun day for participants, some of who submitted great photos of their ride which can be found here; check them out!
- AASHE Conference: This year four students, three Oberlin College staff, one faculty member, and one local teacher attended the annual Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. From October 9-12, they joined thousands of students, sustainability officers, and businesses in higher education will gather to discuss hot topics in sustainability, to share our successes, and learn from others. Oberlin was featured in multiple presentations. More on the conference and presentations can be found here.
- Resilience Planning: Oberlin College signed the resilience commitment at the end of 2015. Recently task force has been established to discuss and plan for greater resilience in the Oberlin community. Members of the task force include representatives from Oberlin College, the City of Oberlin, the local superintendent, the industrial park, the Mercy-Allen hospital, and others. The group will meet quarterly and will determine outcomes to be reported per Second Nature guidelines.
- Oberlin College Carbon Neutrality Update: Ever-Green Energy wrapping up the first phase of the carbon neutral campus resource plan, implementation strategy, and economic approach. The Ever-Green Energy team has evaluated Oberlin’s campus energy profile, met with many campus and community stakeholders to better understand local needs and opportunities. The initial findings and energy conservation and energy source recommendations are were reviewed and vetted for economic and technical feasibility. Recommendations and the scope of work thus far has been compiled into a report to be presented to campus stakeholders this month. Oberlin College has updated our greenhouse gas inventory and is working on submitting a comprehensive analysis of sustainability. More on these exciting developments next month!
For a full view of events visit the Environmental Events calendar: http://new.oberlin.edu/office/environmental-sustainability/events/November 1st – MRC Community Conversations: How to Vote Locally | 6PM @ Wilder 208: Join the Multicultural Resource Center student associates for FREE(!) dinner and a conversation about how to vote locally in the town of Oberlin. The conversation will feature guest speakers and professors discussing the importance of voting in a state like Ohio. [Calendar]
November 1st – Privilege, Power, and Oppression 101 | 8pm in Wilder TBA: This workshop will provide an introduction to privilege, power, and oppression. We will explore the basics as well as how these subjects manifest themselves on Oberlin’s campus. This workshop is a part of SIC Sexual Health Connections Week. [Facebook]
November 3rd – Biology Seminar: “More than Sand Dunes and Beaches: A Tour of Australian Plant Life” | 12:15pm @ Science Center A154: Peter Jobso, senior botanist at Northern Territory Herbarium, Alice Springs, Australia will be discussing his experiences with the unique plant life of Australia. [Calendar]
November 15th – Music and Environmental Activism: Spotlight on Indonesia @ 4:30 in Hallock Auditorium, AJLC: A lecture by Rebekah Moore, an ethnomusicologist, on environmental activism around music with a focus on Indonesia. Moore works out of AtAmerica: The United States Cultural Center in Indonesia in Jakarta. Sponsored by Luce Initiative on Asian Studies & the Environment (LIASE). [Calendar]
November 16th – Oberlin Community Services Networking Luncheon: Food Waste | 11:30am @ Oberlin Community Services Community Room: This luncheon will tackle the topic of food waste. Learn about the ways in which food waste perpetuates hunger in Oberlin. Listen to a panel of speakers discuss development of an Oberlin-wide food rescue program that will work to end food waste and bring together OCS, Oberlin College Dining Services, local restaurants, and a host of individual volunteers. A light lunch of pizza and salad will be served. We request that you bring a $5 donation to help us with these costs. To reduce waste, we also request that you bring your own beverage container (we provide the beverages).
November 18th – Lab Crawl 2016 | 11:30am with locations across campus: Have you always wanted to check out the mysterious equipment in one of the faculty research labs? Do you want to know more about the amazing student-faculty research taking place at Oberlin? Think you might want to be involved in research with a faculty member? Please join us for the Oberlin College Lab Crawl! The Lab Crawl is an open house that provides a fun and informal interaction with math and science opportunities that take place across campus. Students collect stickers at each lab station to redeem for free pizza and raffle entries. [Calendar]
See more events or add yours to the Environmental Events Calendar here: http://new.oberlin.edu/office/environmental-sustainability/events/
The fall is a great time for hot beverages. But you don’t need a Styrofoam cup to enjoy your warm treat. This month, we are considering Styrofoam packaging.
Did you know that Styrofoam is believed to take more than 500 years to degrade in a landfill, and some suggests it may actually never fully degrade. Along with other plastics, styrofoam constitutes over 20% of all landfill waste, and it is also a known neurotoxin shown that can cause chronic illness after prolonged exposure. 14.6 million tons of styrofoam are produced every year, but you can help to reduce demand for it by purchasing reusable and recyclable products instead.
- Daylight Saving Time ends on On Sunday, November 6. “Fall behind” by turning your clock back to enjoy an extra hour this weekend. You can learn more about this controversial practice here.
- Cleveland’s professional baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, are currently in the World Series! The last time Cleveland won the World Series was in 1948.
- Vote November 8: Next week is Election Day. Your vote determines local, state, and federal issues and leaders who shape our public policy. Get educated and exercise your right to vote.
- Make Halloween Green: Make Halloween a little less spooky by taking steps to reduce the amount of waste it creates. Whether you homemake your costume to avoid the resource cost of buying a new one, upcycle an old t-shirt into a candy bag, recycle candy wrappers through Terracycle, or buy pumpkins from a local farmer’s market, you’ll be reducing resource use. And don’t forget to compost your pumpkin.
- Can You Take the Heat?: With cooler weather in store, the heaters in dorms and offices across campus will be roaring to life. Help use this resource efficiently by moving furniture and removing any objects blocking vents or on top of radiators to ensure that air moves freely. If your room/office is too hot or too cold, call facilities instead of opening your window or using an energy-sucking space heater! Don’t forget to turn down the heat while you are away from your space.