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Ohio State ‘green’ event promotes sustainable living

Kayla Byler / Lantern photographer

If a sustainability conference happens in the Union, but there is no one there to hear it, does it make a difference?

Although the crowd that attended a new green conference was small, the ideas that sprouted there were sustainably large, some attendees said.

Friday, the Ohio Union’s US Bank Conference Theater served as the backdrop for “Greening the Way,” a conference designed to inform students, faculty and staff about ongoing sustainable efforts at the university and as a way to brainstorm new sustainability ideas.

The conference, which Undergraduate Student Government and the President and Provost’s Council on Sustainability presented, was the brainchild of James DeFrance after he attended a panel last year about sustainability.

“There was a feeling that there could be more done and more talked about,” said DeFrance, a fifth-year in geographic information systems and Middle Eastern studies.

DeFrance said he wanted an event with more opportunities for depth that centered on what people could do at OSU. The depth came from the lecture element of the conference.

Corey Hawkey, OSU sustainability coordinator, discussed the impact of Ohio Stadium’s “Zero Waste” initiative for the 2012 football season.

“We generated 23.2 tons of trash for the whole season,” Hawkey said of the football season. “That was a 61 percent reduction compared to the previous season.”

Elena Irwin, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, spoke about the new economics, environment, development and sustainability (EEDS) major scheduled to be available this fall.

“The goal of the bachelor’s is to launch students who are interested in careers in sustainability,” Irwin said.

Irwin explained the new major would require participating students to choose from four focus areas, including sustainability and business, environmental economics and policy analysis, community development and international development. Completing the program would earn a student a bachelor’s in environment and natural resources.

Irwin gave an example of what students could do after graduation by choosing the environmental economics and policy analysis focus area.

“At some point we will have a carbon price and at some point businesses will be charged for the carbon they emit,” Irwin said. “Someone who’s trained in environmental economics understands that and they would understand how to advise businesses in terms of how they respond to a carbon price.”

The conference, however, was about more than past and present efforts for sustainability.

After the lectures, a group of students involved with sustainability, called the “Green Ribbon Student Panel,” spoke in the Cartoon Room about future improvements that need to be made to improve university sustainability such as decreasing the consumption of bottled water and a campus-wide composting initiative.

A breakout session was held in two rooms featuring lectures about how the university could become greener in academics and materials.

Hawkey once again held a conversation about materials, and was informed that some students are skeptical of the university’s recycling efforts. To combat the misconception, Hawkey suggested student tours of the Rumpke Recycling facility to see the process of what happens to the university’s recycled materials.

Students had various reasons for attending the conference.

“This past quarter, I’ve been getting really interested in sustainability and agriculture in the food industry,” said Ruth De Guire, a first-year in food science and nutrition. “So I saw (the topic) and was like, ‘Sign me up.'”

Molly Bergen, a third-year in social work, said she came to the conference to get informed.

“I’ve always been really interested in environmental issues and sustainability, and I see a need for that for our future,” Bergen said. “I like to keep up-to-date with what’s going on at OSU and to see maybe how I can get involved.”

The conference had about 30 people at its peak, including speakers and organizers.

“I don’t even remember how I found out about it, so maybe if they had gotten the word out a little bit better, there would’ve been a bigger turnout,” Bergen said.

Though the conference was small, DeFrance said he wants the takeaway of the conference to be the “how.”

“If we’re gonna have people who want to pioneer in making this university more sustainable, in doing things with energy, in creating new academic programs or starting organizations, they need to hear these stories on how,” DeFrance said.

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