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#SustainableOU: Leading the way

Bobcats work to make a difference in the community every day. One group of united leaders has started looking toward the future and is helping Ohio University implement the OHIO Sustainability Plan and Climate Action Plan. Collectively, their group is called Sustainable Ohio University Leaders (SOUL).

SOUL is made up of students, faculty and staff, and serves as a liaison between the Office of Sustainability, the Ecology and Energy Conservation Committee and the University.

"There's a lot of great energy and people willing to take on tasks. We have freshmen still trying to figure out how Ohio University operates, to experienced seniors and Ohio University employees. People with so many backgrounds have different perspectives, and I think that's something unique to SOUL," Campus Recycling Manager Andrew Ladd said.

Junior Katie Lasco oversees SOUL as the implementation manager. Lasco began volunteering at the Office of Sustainability her freshman year and took on her current role as a sophomore when SOUL was established in January 2013.

"SOUL differentiates itself by emphasizing professional development and focusing on collaborating with the administration and various units on campus," Lasco said.

The Sustainability Plan is made up of 35 benchmarks, which break down the plans into individual goals. Likewise, SOUL is broken down into four sub-groups to work on sets of related goals. These sub-groups are Built Environments, Outreach and Education, Waste Reduction and Energy Efficiency. Each group meets once a month. SOUL has all-member meetings twice a semester. These groups already started to make progress on some of the benchmarks.

Benchmark eight falls under the Outreach and Education Sub-group and is to "improve sustainability literacy of students, faculty, and staff." Office of Sustainability Graduate Assistants, Bradford Grant and Terese Phinney, launched a Call to Sustain campaign to start on this particular benchmark.

However, Lasco says there are still two major challenges in tackling the benchmarks.

"Effectively managing four sub-groups working on different projects for 35 benchmarks can be difficult, especially as the program is growing. Additionally, it is challenging to tackle the larger projects like benchmark one," Lasco said.

The Climate Action Plan focuses solely on benchmark one, which falls under the Energy Efficiency Sub-group and is meant to "reduce institutional greenhouse gas emissions."

Other than addressing benchmark projects, SOUL has a few organizational goals for the rest of the semester. These include engaging with key content experts, developing SOUL project leaders and increasing membership.

As a group that was established less than a year ago, membership is gradually growing. Matt Kovarik is a senior environmental biology major involved in SOUL.

"With not enough people, there isn't enough time in the day to get things done. We have made progress and there are a lot of ideas and excitement. One of the main challenges is dividing up the responsibilities to really get things done," Kovarik said.

Lasco estimates the group has between 15 and 20 active members. She encourages anyone interested in making a sustainability impact to join SOUL.

More information about SOUL, its sub-groups and meeting times and locations are posted on the SOUL website.