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Overview & History

About and History

About the Office

Ohio University defines sustainability as the capacity to simultaneously benefit people, the planet and prosperity over a life-cycle. Life-cycle analysis, life-cycle costing, social financial proxies, and multi-criteria decision analyses are tools that are used to evaluate sustainability. Also used at Ohio University is a popular but less actionable definition, adpated from the Bruntland definition of sustainable development: sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

It is the philosophy of the Office of Sustainability (OoS) that sustainable behaviors are everyone's responsibility and should be seen as an opportunity to grow our institutional programs and our personal well-being. As such, the OoS prides itself in its ability to serve as a platform of support for others to create, host, or enforce sustainable behaviors, programs, and policies. The Office if Sustainability gathers reporting from various institutional entities regarding progress made toward the institution's Sustainability Plan and Climate Action Plan each year. After assessing annual progress, additional efforts are then made by the Office to provide recommendations to and support for other offices and entities to produce increased implementation the following year. 

The OoS maintains large-scale efforts, such as management of the OHIO Ecohouse, tracking of the 35 benchmarks within the Sustainability Plan (more information under "Campus Initiatives") and the Climate Action Plan. Additionally, the office chooses to host a small number of sustainability-focused programs annually that can contribute to the sustainable growth of the institution and local communities, including Earth Day and Campus Sustainability Month festivities.

In addition to programs and events, OoS works alongside the Ecology and Energy Conservation Committee as the "monitoring agent" to the Sustainability Plan and Climate Action Plan. Staff within the office work throughout the year to collect data from various offices at all OHIO campuses in an effort to compile, analyze, and report accurate data in these annual reports. In fact, in 2012, the Chillicothe campus took a strong leadership role in this effort by hiring a regional campus liaison that works with the Office of Sustainability to gather much-needed regional campus data and implement relevant programs and OU Southern has worked (and continues to work) as a strong advocate for sustainability tracking and implementation. As a signatory to the Carbon Commitment [formerly the American College and Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC)], the OoS strives to provide timely and accurate reporting to Second Nature as well as the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).  Ohio University is a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) Silver Institution.

In addition to the ACUPCC, Ohio University is a member of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). As a member institution to AASHE, any individual with an OHIO email address has the ability to register on the AASHE website and gain access to exceptional resources. The Office of Sustainability encourages all Ohio University students, faculty, and staff to increase their knowledge on the subject of sustainability by utilizing this opportunity and/or contacting our office directly.


Ohio University’s Office of Sustainability facilitates the implementation of the Ohio University Sustainability and Climate Action Plan by providing services and support to the campus community and ensures fulfillment of institutional commitments to environmental, social and economic well-being. 



In 2005, Ohio University welcomed a new office to campus: The Office of Resource Conservation. Under the direction of the Resource Coordinator, Sonia Marcus, this office thrived as it worked to promote sustainability and energy conservation efforts across its campuses. It was in that year that the OHIO Ecohouse, the University's premier sustainability living residence, was created. Many other important educational projects also occurred during this time.  


When President Roderick McDavis signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2007, he assumed a strong leadership role by announcing the institution's intention to become a carbon neutral campus by the year 2075. Such a commitment allowed the Office of Resource Conservation to transition to the Office of Sustainability and begin the planning process involved in obtaining such this goal. Ohio University then became the first public institution in Ohio to hire a full-time Sustainability Coordinator (Sonia Marcus), who remained in that position through 2010.


In 2011, the University's first formal Sustainability Plan was adopted under the direction of Interim Sustainability Coordinator Erin Sykes. Implementation of that plan began at the same time that the Office of Sustainability welcomed its new Director of Sustainability, Annie Laurie Cadmus.


In that 2011-2012 academic year, some of the high-level programs conducted by the Office of Sustainability included:

  •    Development of a Climate Action Plan and implementation of the Sustainability Plan
  •    Support of the development of the Common Experience Project on Sustainability
  •    Sustainable Tours of the OHIO Ecohouse, Compost Facility and The Ridges
  •    The development of an online publication, Routes
  •    Structured professional development opportunities for student staff

In 2015, the Office of Sustainability expanded by welcoming two new Full-Time Equivalent positions to the team: the Sustainability Specialist (Elaine Goetz) and the Sustainability Project Coordinator (Sam Crowl). Goetz focuses her efforts on issues of climate, energy, water, research, reporting and investing; Crowl is dedicated to sustainable construction practices, alternative transportation, zero waste, athletics and sustainable scholarship, and; Cadmus is now focused on student programming through the newly created Sustainable Living Floor and the OHIO Ecohouse, food initiatives, University grounds, alumni outreach, engagement and grant writing.  

This office is constantly evolving to adapt to a changing environment, culture and economy. Students, faculty, staff, and community members who have recommendations for the future roles played by the Office of Sustainability are invited to become involved by visiting our office or sending an email to sustainability@ohio.edu.


Ohio University is an EPA Green Power Partner

Green Power Logo

Ohio University is a recognized EPA Green Power Partner
as a result of purchasing green power in amounts that meet EPA's requirements


Here in Appalachian coal country, Ohio University has taken a bold step by discontinuing use of coal in the on-site power plant and by purchasing 50% of electricity from Green-e renewable energy certificates (RECs, likely from Texas-based wind projects). 

This initiative has landed Ohio University the honor of being ranked #89 on the Green Power Partnership National Top 100 List, and #14 in the Top 30 College and University List!


As of Dec. 1, 2015, Ohio University is purchasing 60,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind renewable energy certificates (RECs) annually. In 2010 and 2011, a committee of over 70 faculty, staff, students and community members created a Sustainability Plan which includes a goal to increase renewable energy generation and sourcing to 20% of all campus energy use by 2020. The REC purchase allows Ohio University to meet this goal by December of 2015, significantly decreases scope 2 carbon emissions, and complements the transition from coal to natural gas as a heating fuel that occurred in November 2015. Purchasing green power gives legitimacy to Ohio University’s efforts to become the most sustainable university in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). 


“Transitioning to 50 percent renewable electricity will enable Ohio University to exceed the goals of our 2011 Sustainability Plan and significantly reduce our carbon footprint. The shift is reflective of Ohio University’s deep and continued commitment to environmental stewardship,” said President Roderick J. McDavis


Ohio University is one of only three universitites in Ohio, and the only university from the Appalachian tri-state area (OH, KY and WV) on the Green Power Partner List. The institution hopes to demonstrate that even, or especially, in coal country, the switch to renewable power can be a positive step toward sustainable economies, environments and societies. By requiring green power from its electricity provider, the institution is demonstrating local demand, and encouraging the pursuit of additional renewable energy resources in the region which the institution resides.


The purchase of RECs is being financed through an extensive energy efficiency program, named the Energy Infrastructure Project (EIP).  One of the first steps in the EIP program was to repair leaks in the district steam tunnel system. The result of the steam tunnel project repairs was decreased fuel and water usage to the power plant.  The savings from the decreased usage financed the additional cost of the RECs. The EIP project is financed through a Century Bond program.