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Ohio State wins sustainability championship

While the Ohio State men’s basketball team was competing in the NCAA Tournament, other members of the university community were working toward a different championship title.
OSU was crowned the winner of the second annual Environmental March Madness Tournament early Tuesday, defeating other schools in the “Sustainable 16” after filing out initial surveys.
The tournament pitted universities against one another based on each college’s environmental curriculum and sustainability efforts and was organized by Enviance, an environmental software company.
As the 2013 national champion, OSU will be awarded a $5,000 grant for its Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability (EEDS) program. Its director will also get an all-expense paid trip to San Diego to attend the 2013 Enviance User Conference and be a part of a discussion panel in April.
Neil Drobny, program director for EEDS, said he entered OSU in the tournament because of the numerous sustainability projects on campus.
“The establishing of the EEDS Program was probably (the) No. 1 (reason),” Drobny said, whose program was introduced last fall. Drobny said OSU’s Olentangy River cleanup, purchasing of wind power and Fisher College of Business’ sustainability cluster also influenced his decision to enter.
The other three schools in the contest’s “Finest Four,” narrowed down by a judging panel from 16 to eight in a style similar to NCAA eliminations, were Colorado State University, which made last year’s Finest Four, George Mason University and University of Washington.
To help their schools advance, students and faculty had to submit videos, essays and any other “testimonial material” regarding their university’s commitments to environmental advocacy, according to the contest website.
Ariel Miller, a fourth-year in environmental policy and management and anthropology, took part in a video submission that highlighted the OSU student organization Growing Green.
“We do environmental education and edible gardening with the after-school program at Indianola (Informal K-8),” said Miller, president of Growing Green. “Some of the kids I think really … take a lot away from it. I like that we can get them outside and interacting with the outdoors in some capacity.”
Miller said her student organization seems like it will have a lasting effect on the community – a factor judges considered.
“The school has been really open about having a garden, which I’m really happy about,” she said. “Student groups can be kind of fickle – every four years there’s different leadership – so I’m glad that it’ll be sticking around.”
The four finalists all showed sustainability efforts regarding food, energy, transportation and waste and water management, according to a university press release, but Enviance CEO and president Lawrence Goldenhersh said OSU fought hard for the victory.
“Ohio State competed with power in every area of our competition,” Goldenhersh said in a press release. “Their environmental and sustainability initiatives, including the ‘Zero Waste’ initiative at Ohio Stadium, demonstrated important real-world applications of environmental and sustainability concepts.”
OSU’s “Zero Waste at Ohio Stadium” campaign is a plan to eliminate from landfills at least 90 percent of materials discarded at the ‘Shoe.
As of the 2012 football season, the university diverted 98.2 percent of stadium waste. Ohio Stadium became the largest in the nation to achieve such a number, according to OSU’s Sustainability website.
Because of initiatives like these, some students said OSU has earned the championship title.
“What they do at the ‘Shoe is pretty impressive,” said Lance Akins, a fifth-year in economics. “It’s a good example for other colleges to try to do something similar to that.”
Other students, like first-year in architecture and South Campus resident Hannah Hirzel, said the innovation in OSU’s geothermal well installation could have contributed to the victory.
“(Geothermal energy on campus) is a new concept and if no other schools have started doing it, I think we deserve to win,” Hirzel said. “We’re a step ahead of the game using that geothermal energy.”
The $10.3 million project that was intended to use geothermal energy to heat and cool South Campus was delayed after ineffective drilling methods prompted the university to part ways with its original contractor. It is expected to be completed this fall.
Even if Enviance had crowned another victor, OSU would have continued moving toward a more environmentally friendly existence.
OSU President E. Gordon Gee told The Lantern in a March 25 interview that present sustainability efforts are important for future generations.
“It’s not so much about what we do, it’s the standard we set,” Gee said. “Our goal is … to be carbon-neutral, so environmentally very conscious.”
Gee also said the university is moving quickly in its quest to be environmentally strong, and Drobny said OSU will strive to maintain leadership in sustainability.
“(The win) is not an indication that our job is finished. It’s an indication that we’ve reached a level from which we can then reasonably expect to excel to the next,” he said. “We’ve got a campus designed for automobiles and we have to transition that to a forum for more sustainable transportation. We’ve graduated high school, now we can go to college.”

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