Sustainability Successes 2017

Sustainability at Ohio StateTwo years after the establishment of university-wide sustainability goals, The Ohio State University continues to make progress toward meeting the pressing challenges of sustainability and in evolving a culture of sustainability through collaborative teaching, pioneering research, comprehensive outreach, and innovative operations, practices and policies.

The most notable 2017 accomplishment was the establishment of an unprecedented energy efficiency partnership to modernize our 485-building campus to meet our sustainability goal of 25 percent improvement in energy efficiency within 10 years. The university also increased sustainability-related education and activity opportunities for students and the local and state community and received significant state and federal grants for university research in energy, environment and sustainability.

Examples of 2017 sustainability successes include:

Teaching and Learning Goals

  • The new W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Bobby Moser Food Security and Sustainability Learning Community offers learning experiences on food production, food policy, hunger, food safety and sustainable agricultural practices. The new learning community, expected to begin in the upcoming academic year, is the second at Ohio State related to sustainability; the SUSTAINS Learning Community (Students Understanding Sustainability and Taking Action to Improve Nature and Society), established in 2014, helps first- and second-year students explore and engage with sustainability topics and human interaction with environmental challenges.
  • Ohio State at Mansfield used support from the Ohio State Sustainability Fund to establish a micro-farm (photo, right) that will serve as both a research and community outreach project. While engaging students of any major, the farm will help promote successful urban agriculture as a vehicle for teaching and a way to deliver food security to food desert areas in Mansfield.
  • We continue our commitment to sustainability in the classroom, where 340 courses focus on sustainability issues; more than 700 additional courses feature sustainability topics.
  • Students focus academic studies in sustainability through a major in Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability; enrollment has increased from 25 in 2012 to 220 in 2017.

Research and Innovation Goals

  • Through the Discovery Themes Initiative, Ohio State has hired 48 new faculty members with expertise related to sustainability since 2015.
  • More than $234 million in sponsored research was awarded to faculty and laboratories conducting energy and environment research since FY2014: $32 million in FY2014, $63 million in FY 2015, $70 million in FY2016 and $69 million in FY2017.
  • Ohio State received a $10 million grant from NASA to form a multi-institution team to address transitions to low-carbon propulsion, specifically the introduction of electric machines in the commercial aircraft fleet.
  • Ohio State researchers in arts and sciences, engineering, public health and other disciplines are working with nine other universities across Ohio to help state and regional agencies better prevent and manage drinking water issues caused by harmful algal blooms (photo, left/Ohio Sea Grant). Lake Erie harmful algal bloomsSince 2015, the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI), led by Ohio State and the University of Toledo and managed by Ohio Sea Grant, has provided $8 million in research funding from the Ohio Department of Higher Education and participating universities. For the 2017 cohort, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency among others is providing matching funds for research and monitoring activities undertaken as part of the statewide effort.

Outreach and Engagement Goals

  • Hundreds of Ohio State students attended World Food Day on Oct. 16 and sampled food from local vendors that supply Student Life Dining Services facilities. The event also provided an opportunity to educate students about Zero Waste, recycling, composting and trash.
  • The Student Sustainability Council and Undergraduate Student Government hosted Time for Change Week in April to promote the varied ways we address, improve and raise awareness of sustainability at Ohio State. Time for Change Week brought together student organizations as well as entities across campus, such as the Office of Energy and Environment, Student Life, University Marketing, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, and the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Community entities who collaborated included the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Ohio State Parks, Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, Roll Bicycles, Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed and Green Columbus. As a result of these efforts, the Student Sustainability Council received the Green Collaborative Achievement Award from MORPC in November.
  • The family-friendly West Campus Science and Technology Festival, held May 20, offered a look at the many science labs and research centers housed on Ohio State's West Campus. In addition to displays and hands-on activities (photo, right) highlighting research at Ohio State, there were tours of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Lab, enCORE Solar House, Center for Automotive Research and Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center. Community organizations such as COSI and the Franklin Park Conservatory provided hands-on activities.
  • Ohio State hosted visits from notable experts in energy, the environment and sustainability, including:
    • Julia Sloat, President, AEP Ohio
    • Judith Hartmann, CFO, ENGIE
    • Vic Sahney, Sustainability Chief, REI

Resource Stewardship

  • The university initiated a public-private partnership to modernize the university’s 485-building Columbus campus, create substantial academic benefits and establish a major center for energy research and technology commercialization. ENGIE North America and Axium Infrastructure (ENGIE-Axium) formed a new consortium, Ohio State Energy Partners, to combine their expertise for this project. The total value of $1.165 billion includes a $1.015 billion upfront payment to the university and a $150 million commitment to support academics in specific areas requested by students, faculty and staff during the bidding process. This is the largest single investment in Ohio State’s academic mission.
  • In FY2017, renewable wind energy accounted for 20.6% of the university’s total purchased electricity.
  • Ohio State's campuses at Lima, Mansfield, Marion and Newark all received a Silver rating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating Systems (STARS) program from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for the second consecutive rating period. STARS helps to assess Ohio State's focus on sustainability from a comprehensive view, validate our progress and identify future goals.

In November 2015, Ohio State announced university-wide sustainability goals to guide the university as it develops durable solutions to the challenges of sustainability and in evolving a culture of sustainability. The goals, developed by students, faculty and staff, impact all aspects of the university mission: collaborative teaching, pioneering research, comprehensive outreach, and innovative operations, practices and policies.

Sustainability at Ohio State

Ohio State Sustainability Goals