Apr 27, 2011
By Jessica Fangman
Through its Zero Waste project, local nonprofit Rural Action is empowering Ohio University students to join community efforts toward a more sustainable future for Appalachian Ohio.
The organization is building a student body task force to develop the project to its full potential. Student volunteers involved in the Zero Waste initiative are helping to develop a set of recommendations on the kinds of investments and activities the region will need to reduce waste and create jobs.
The Zero Waste initiative focuses on eliminating waste by reducing, reusing and recycling materials. Waste elimination can dramatically improve the local economy and help businesses and families save money on expenses that would otherwise be used to bury these resources, according to the Rural Action website.
Kyle O’Keefe, waste stream development organizer, began collecting student input during winter quarter, working with OHIO's "Communication and Campaign" course.
"To be honest, I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into," said senior communications major Amber Hawkins, who participated in the class. "I've always cared about Athens and the environment, but I had never really involved myself in some of the issues. Learning more about the Athens community and what we, as students, can do to keep it beautiful has really given me a different perspective."
The project extends beyond waste elimination. It is also a great way for students to develop their passions, and it could lead to further job opportunities, according to O'Keefe.
“Some of the subject areas the student task force would include are communications, business, engineering and various other fields. This would allow students to have active participation in a real world application that is innovative, empowering and has the chance to make a difference in the world,” he said.
Through its mission to actively develop solutions to environmental, economic and social issues, Rural Action aims to create a unified network of Athens residents and Ohio University students.
By working together, Athens County has the potential to develop solutions to global issues that can be implemented in our own backyard, said O'Keefe.
"Communities are products of their environment," he continued. "The two are intricately connected. It takes building awareness about the benefits communities can have by collaborating on issues that could ultimately improve their quality of life."
In addition to the Zero Waste project, Rural Action focuses on topics of agriculture, forestry, watersheds, alternative energy and environmental education.
"All of these topics I see as crucial for this region to better understand how to provide most or all of its own needs in a sustainably productive and abundant way," O’Keefe said.
For more information or to get involved with the Zero Waste project or other Rural Action programs, visit www.ruralaction.org or contact Kyle O’Keefe.
Rural Action will be holding a Bike Path Cleanup for the Adena bikeway on Saturday, April 30 at 8:30 a.m.
One group will start in Athens at the Community Gardens on West State Street. The other group will start in Nelsonville at Robins Crossing at Hocking College.
Both groups will meet at The Eclipse Company Store, where there will be local snacks and refreshments. At the company store, there will be a presentation and discussion on the Zero Waste project.
The event will end by 2:30 p.m. Transportation will be provided back to the starting points. For more information or to get involved with the cleanup efforts, contact Kyle O’Keefe.