The Ohio State University at Marion

Scarlet, gray, and green future

January 8, 2018

Ohio State Marion plans to expand after national organization recognizes sustainability efforts

Take a stroll across the Marion campus and you’ll get an indication of the planned commitment Ohio State Marion personnel have made toward being good stewards of the environment. From energy efficient LED lighting in parking lots and buildings to solar panels, Ohio State Marion continues to find ways to save money and reduce its carbon footprint, explained Ohio State Marion Assistant Dean, Leslie Beyer-Hermsen, who spearheads sustainability tracking efforts for the campus.

According to Beyer-Hermsen, campus sustainability initiatives are a team effort. Facilities and maintenance staff ensure buildings are equipped and maintain energy efficient heating and cooling systems. Special water fountains have been installed that are equipped for easy refill of plastic water bottles. Campus development personnel are running a campaign to raise funds to expand bicycle and walking path on campus, hence reducing motor vehicle traffic, and students, faculty, staff, and visitors all contribute to the campus’s innovative Zero Waste recycling initiative, a partnership with Marion Correctional Institution and Sims Bros. Recycling, Inc., These are just a few of the ways Ohio State Marion reduces its carbon footprint.

For these and many other efforts, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (ASHE) recently recognized the campus with a Silver STARS rating for their sustainability efforts. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

“Quite honestly, we are talking climate change, said Beyer-Hermsen. “Young people, the ones that are going to be living through this, more so than you or I, need to get involved," she explained.

“A lot goes into it,” Beyer-Hermsen said, in terms of sustainability tracking and reporting, “from the number of faculty you have doing sustainability research, to what kind of courses you teach, your HVAC systems, and community outreach. We even have charging stations for electronic cars,” she added.

This is the second silver rating Ohio State Marion has received. Although Beyer-Hermsen was proud Ohio State Marion is one of only 420 higher education institutions across the country to earn STARS recognition, she believed there was room to expand efforts.

“It definitely is terrific to get the silver rating,” said Beyer-Hermsen, but the campus is not satisfied to stick with silver.

“I have had conversations with Ohio State Sustainability Manager, Tony Gillund to find out how our campus can be more proactive with our sustainability efforts. I told him that I didn’t want to wait until 2020 to report our snapshot,” said Beyer-Hermsen. “We’re meeting in January to try to figure out how we can get a platinum or gold rating.”

Beyer-Hermsen insisted that involving students in sustainability efforts is also paramount to both the campus and university goals.

“Quite honestly, we are talking climate change, said Beyer-Hermsen. “Young people, the ones that are going to be living through this, more so than you or I, need to get involved," she explained.

“They’re going to be the leaders, and then their children and their children after that, so universities have a responsibility to help them get the education they need for those kinds of jobs,” added Beyer-Hermsen.

“We have quite a few courses that count as sustainable courses; anthropology, earth sciences, and environment and natural resources to name a few,” said Beyer-Hermsen in reference to preparing students and the campus STARS rating.

Beyer-Hermsen also shared that campuses like Ohio State Marion can become economic drivers in the field of sustainability by trying to bring green jobs into the area.

“Marion could have an economic comeback if green jobs started coming into the area and maybe the university could be a part of that,” said Beyer-Hermsen.

Future efforts to boost area sustainability partnerships include a working summit on climate change to be held at Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware on Jan. 20 David Orr is going to be the keynote speaker.

According to Beyer-Hermsen, the goal of the summit is to bring Westerville, Delaware, and Marion together to flex our muscles together to try and see what we can do sustainability wise.

The effort marshals the expertise of Ohio State Marion, Ohio Wesleyan, Otterbein, Methodist Theological School of Ohio and the communities.

“My big hope for Marion is try to get green jobs and revitalize the Marion economy,” said Beyer-Hermsen.

Ohio State Marion Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences, Joel Barker and Associate Professor of Anthropology Anna Willow are the advisory board for this summit.