University Community

Sustainability Day on Nov. 14 aims to spur local action with a global impact

The Climate and Sustainability Ambassadors want to raise awareness about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and how students can translate these global issues into local action in the Athens community.

The ambassadors and the Ohio University Office of Sustainability are hosting Sustainability Day on Monday, Nov. 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Baker University Center third floor south atrium.

This education and outreach day on all things sustainability includes:

  • A recycling themed area (in partnership with Campus Recycling and Bobcats Go Green)
  • A United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) area (in partnership with the Center for Campus and Community Engagement)
  • An up-cycling area (in partnership with the Office of Sustainability)
  • Research highlights from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service

Students can walk around and engage with these activities and enjoy some pizza (while supplies last), and learn about compositing their food waste.

Are UN Sustainable Development Goals attainable at OHIO?

The United Nations has 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but the ambassadors have a few goals that they think OHIO students can focus on locally. Those include responsible consumption and production (goal #12), zero hunger (goal #2), and peace, justice, and strong institutions (goal #16).

Dominic Straquadine, portrait
Dominic Straquadine

For Dominic Straquadine, who's spent the last few years volunteering in Columbus and Washington, D.C., the UN goal of "zero hunger" has a special place in his heart.

"All the goals seem unattainable because of the need for governmental action and cooperation, but a lot of them require local action. Zero hunger is a pathway that is already being explored and acted upon by a number of different groups around Athens, including Community Food Initiatives. With the number of opportunities available in this area for action, including farmers markets, produce auctions, food pantries, and so many more, students are well-positioned to have an active and powerful hand in how Southeast Ohio achieves food security," said Straquadine, a master's student in the environmental studies program at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service.

Maya Clouse-Henry emphasized that "the goals most accessible to OHIO students are peace, justice, and strong institutions, quality education, and responsible production and consumption. As students, we have a lot to worry about, and sometimes don't have the financial freedom to choose sustainable products, but there are little things we can do, especially as far as advocating for change." Clouse-Henry, currently in the environmental studies graduate program, graduated last spring with a B.A. in Environmental Biology and an Environmental Studies Certificate from the College of Arts and Sciences. She currently works in the Voinovich School on environmental education, specifically water quality.

Maya Clouse-Henry
Maya Clouse-Henry

Era Bakia also focused on responsible consumption and production as "something we all should be working on improving in our lives at this time. Limit your water use, avoid single-use plastics, and start thinking about eco-swaps you came make to your daily routine," said Bakia, a senior biological sciences major in the College of Arts and Sciences who is doing wildlife research on amphibians such as wood frogs and hellbenders in the Viorel Popescu lab and is going on a study abroad trip this spring break to the Bahamas to learn about animal diversity and ecology in the Caribbean.

"Once we all start thinking green individually, we can start making green changes as a community. This relates to goal #11, sustainable cities and comminutes. This is where I see OHIO students excelling on local impact," added Bakia, who puts leadership into action as president of Bobcats Go Green, vice president of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and a member of Beta Beta Beta Biology National Honors Society, Wildlife Club at Ohio University, Sierra Student Coalition, and Plant Club.

What brings these three students together with others as Climate and Sustainability Ambassadors is UN goal #4, quality education. Their goal for Sustainability Day is greater student involvement in the little local actions that can make a big global impact.

Why some hesitate to take action

"I am a firm believer that many people want to be part of the sustainability solution, but they just don't know the best ways to be part of it. Students could seem overwhelmed by the amount of areas in life that need to be addressed using a sustainability or triple bottom line approach (an approach that prioritizes social well-being and governance, economic growth, and environmental stewardship)," said Straquadine, graduate assistant to the ambassadors.

"The great thing is that there are so many groups working on a lot of different things. Students have the ability to get involved in a number of ways—and they don't have to be all-consuming or big things. By simply looking up ways to get involved, you can find food pantries that need help (you have to make sure the food is ready and prepared for the folks that need it), environmental groups that are doing invasive species removals and tree plantings (you have to make sure that the local ecosystem has what it needs to thrive), or political groups that are working for more environmental protections (policy work strengthens the work of non-profits). No matter what you do or where it is, students can rest easy in knowing that their work is needed and any action is good action," Straquadine added.

Clouse-Henry said a common mistake is students feeling like their actions don't matter. She joined the ambassadors because she felt like she wasn't doing enough for the community.

"No matter how big or small, your decisions impact climate, and to think differently is what hinders the collective ability to create change," Clouse-Henry said.

Bakia noted that students can get involved in sustainability one step at a time.

"I think students feel they need to improve everything in their life at once to be more sustainable. I feel this is the wrong approach, because it can lead to eco-burn out. Don't overwhelm yourself with a complete lifestyle change, start instead with small improvements and work your way up. This is why I live by the mantra, 'You cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do,'" Bakia said.

Climate and Sustainability Ambassadors lead on sustainability

Ryan Fogt, professor of geography in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the Sustainable Administration Hub coordinator and advises the ambassadors, applauding their outreach on Sustainability Day to show that sustainability is more than being environmentally friendly.

"With the help of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, participants will get to see the many social and economic aspects of sustainability as well,” he said. “While governments and large corporations can and should make big progress on many of the UN SDGs, individuals—including students—can all do their part. The outreach will explore aspects of water quality, upcycling, and recycling, which tie into many of the SDGs, and what individuals can do. Other social and economic aspects — gender equality and reduced inequalities, for example — can be advanced by individuals by creating awareness, continuing the conversation in your communities, and informing policymakers that these issues matter.”

When the Office of Sustainability announced the new Sustainability Hubs in 2018, the idea of a Climate and Sustainability Ambassadors program wasn't on the idea board yet.

But Sam Crowl, associate director of the Office of Sustainability, which is co-hosting the Sustainability Day, said the the ambassadors have contributed tremendously to campus and community sustainability over the past four years.

“I’ve been very impressed with the Climate and Sustainability Ambassadors this semester," Crowl said. "We have had a record number of new ambassadors, and they have been volunteering for everything from litter pick-ups to campus storm drain marking to Bobcat Bike Valet at home football games. They arrived on campus ready to get engaged and have contributed immensely to our campus community,” Crowl said. "The outreach event at Baker Center on the 14th provides the group an opportunity to spread their passion to others, including information on how to get involved.”

November 9, 2022
Staff reports