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Ohio University students gather on campus for an event to promote recycling.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Office of Sustainability

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Ohio University named one of America’s Greenest Universities by Sierra Club


Ohio University has been identified as one of America’s Greenest Universities by Sierra Club. The list, which was announced on Aug. 11, rates institutions based on performance in the following areas: co-curricular, energy, investments, food, innovation, academics, planning, purchasing, transportation, waste and water.  

OHIO, which was ranked the 93rd “greenest” institution in the nation, received one of its highest category rankings in the “investments” category.

“I am very pleased to see that we received a high ranking in the area of investments,” said Elaine Goetz, sustainability specialist at Ohio University and advisor to the Sustainable Investing Advisory Committee (SIAC). “We have worked hard over the past year to establish our Sustainable Investing Advisory Committee as a unique opportunity for our students. The University Foundation Board disclosed its investments this past spring, and with that, we expect to see even higher rankings in the future.”  

The Ohio University Foundation Board established SIAC in 2014 as a student-managed portfolio focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing strategies. It is the only known program of its kind that allows for a significant amount of money to be managed by undergraduate students focused on ESG guidelines.   

“Overall, though, I have to say how proud I am of the entire campus for making this particular ranking possible,” said Goetz. “Sierra Club is widely recognized on college campuses as a leader in sustainability-related conversations. This ranking is utilized by prospective students, current students and professionals throughout the country when considering an institution’s sustainability profile.” 

Institutions are included in the scoring of the Sierra Club’s ranking based on responses supplied in a comprehensive sustainability rating tool called Sustainability Rating, Assessment and Tracking System (STARS). STARS requires institutions to respond to multiple questions within each of more than 70 topic areas from categories such as academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration.  

“Participating in this STARS submission was exceptionally helpful for the University as we plan the future of sustainability programming and infrastructure,” said Annie Laurie Cadmus, director of sustainability. “We were able to identify a variety of strengths and opportunities after viewing our final score and comparing our responses to our peers.” 

Cadmus identified institutional strength in the areas of academics and campus engagement. Additionally, the diversity in the responses and support from various institutional departments such as Culinary Services, Grounds, University Planning, Institutional Research, Residential Housing and the OU Foundation. Comparison research has allowed the Office of Sustainability to create goals that focus on academic course offerings, sustainability-related research, waste reduction and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.  

When asked about future goals for rankings such as this, Goetz replied, “We’ve been challenged by the Voinovich School to have the best ranking in the MAC next time, and we’ve accepted that challenge.” 
Such an effort will require the involvement of faculty, staff and students across campus. See the sidebar for more information about how to get involved with sustainability initiatives.  

The full Sierra Club ranking can be found online at http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-5-september-october/cool-schools-2015/full-ranking

This article was provided by Ohio University’s Office of Sustainability.

Get Involved

The Ohio University Office of Sustainability is dedicated to supporting sustainable behaviors, programs and policies within Ohio University by ensuring the University’s actions are inclusive of the triple bottom line: people, planet and prosperity. To learn about various sustainable efforts that departments and other groups are exploring at OHIO, please check out Sustainable Ohio University Leaders. More information about SOUL and the Office of Sustainability can be found at www.ohio.edu/sustainability or by calling (740) 593-0460.