Ohio University

Sustainability Project Laboratory

The Sustainability Project Laboratory is a program which will identify and engage faculty interested in incorporating a multi-disciplinary, outcomes-based approach in their courses similar to the existing EcoChallenge program. As part of their coursework, students from different classes will form teams to identify sustainability issues within themes; engage stakeholders for data collection and analysis of potential solutions including their impact on the sustainability triple bottom line of People, Planet and Prosperity; choose a solution, and pitch the idea to the University or local community for implementation.

Propose a sustainability project that will result in a simultaneous benefit to people, planet and prosperity

Request a sustainability project for an Ohio University course

Please contact Dave Bayless (bayless@ohio.edu) or Elaine Goetz (goetz@ohio.edu) for information if no contact information is listed in the hyperlink.


Title Possible Academic Connection Project length Experiential Learning? Community Engagement? Brief description

Hammock Stand Survey

Recreation & Sport Pedagogy; Urban Planning & Sustainability

semester Yes No Survey and determine the costs for the best, most popular places to put hammock stands
Green Roof Project Engineering, Communications, Public Health, Public Policy, Business, Economics month, semester, week Yes Yes Broad opportunities to create projects related to green roof infrastructure.  Engage students in public health, policy, business and economics while exploring benefits of green roof infrastructure.

Plant-based Burgers Survey

Human & Consumer Sciences; Nutrition; Restaurant, Hotel, & Tourism

semester Yes No Reduce meat consumption by running a survey and taste-test of plant-based burgers made of beef and mushrooms
Increasing Active Transportation Marketing; Psychology semester Yes Yes Increase healthy, active transportation (particularly commuting) among University employees and WellWorks members
Barn Renovation Civil Engineering multi-year Yes Yes Design and renovate the abandoned barn at Hebbardsville Farm using sustainably harvested wood and recycled corrugated metal roof
Determining Carbon Emissions from Commuting – Average Distance GIS/Geography or Environmental Studies < month (repeated annually) Yes No Utilize GIS data from Parking Services to determine average distance commuted by Ohio University faculty, staff and students
Outdoor Recycling Implementation Operations Research or Management Courses semester Yes Yes Reduce the overall number of waste locations by developing a multi-tier plan to co-locate recycling at every location.  
Educating Faculty Researchers on 'Sustainability Research' Definition Teacher Education semester Yes No

Create a plan to educate Faculty Researchers on the definition  for sustainable research, and to encourage them to conduct research which meets the definition. 

Determining Carbon Emissions from Commuting- Mode Share Determination  Civil Engineering - Transportation group semester Yes No  Set up a transportation study on campus to determine mode share (% of walkers, bikers, SOV, carpoolers, bussers).
Solar PV Panels for Groundskeepr Shed near Clippinger Energy Engineering semester Yes No The project would be to size the PV installation needed to power the electric equipment and to estimate triple bottom line costs for the installation. 
Reforming Plastics - Equipment ETM and Mechanical Engineering semester Yes No Build and/or optimize use of shredders, melters, extruders to create recycled plastic feedstock 
Reforming Plastics - Usage COFA, Mechanical engineering, Public Administration, Environmental Studies semester No No Determine circular economic use of recycled plastic feedstock 
Energy Reduction: Increase use of Natural Light Interior Architecture; Pyschology semester No No Why do faculty/staff/students turn on lights in buildings with plenty of natural lighting?  Which buildings could be targets for lighting use reduction, and how could this be achieved? 
Energy Competitions - Planning Energy Engineering; Sustainable Marketing semester No  No How do we best encourage energy efficiency on campus (behavior change) with Energy Competitions?  What metrics can we/should we collect; how do we group buildings for competitions; how do we market the competition; what rewards should there be for the winning building, if any? 
Energy Competitions- Implementation (annual) Energy Engineering annual No No Track progress and results from energy competitions. 
Food Share System: Prevent Food Insecurity and Food Waste on Campus Computer Science semester Yes No Develop a food app, social media platform or texting system that allows for notification of waste food on campus.  Identify obstacles to implementation, including policy and procedural obstacles.
Carbon Emissions from Investments Finance; Environmental Studies MS project Yes No Determine the carbon emissions from OHIO Foundation investments. 
LEED Lab CE4540/5540 semester Yes No Evaluate existing buildings on campus for LEED certification 
LEED Lab - Energy & Atmosphere Section Energy Engineering semester  Yes No Use SAM and the TBL CBA framework to determine costs and benefits of various renewable energy systems for campus. 
LEED Lab - Sustainable Sites Section Geography semester Yes No Design a stormwater BMP for a building on campus, considering water retention, potable water use replacement, feasibility of cost and maintenance (only should convert already maintained grounds to BMPs that need maintenance), etc. 
LEED Lab - Water Efficiency Section Civil Engineering Hydrology Course semester No No Determine flow/flush rates needed in fixtures and toilets for the water line slopes found in buildings on campus. 
Hebbardsville Farm: Business Plan for Sustainable Tree Harvesting Plant Biology; Business School semester Yes No Create a business plan for sustainably harvesting mature trees at Hebbardsville Farm and reusing timber to renovate barn on site. 
Video Projects:  How to recycle, compost and landfill at OHIO  Visual Communications; Journalism  semester Yes No Create a short, fun video for orientations about handling waste on campus
Video Projects:  Stormwater Management at OHIO  Visual Communications; Journalism semester Yes No Create a short, fun video about stormwater management at OHIO for EPA stormwater permit regulations 
Storm Drain Outlet Sampling Civil Engineering semester Yes No Have students locate dry weather storm drain discharges; sample and analyze for pH, alkalinity, fluoride, E. coli, etc., and produce report. 
Transportation on Campus:  What are the best routes and small mobility devices to choose to navigate campus?  Civil Engineering; Urban Planning & Sustainability  semester Yes No Create maps and recommendations for non-automobile travel on campus.  Record travel times for walking, bicycling, e-scootering, etc. from select locations to select destinations  
Surface water hydrocarbon sampling & analysis Chemistry; Civil Engineering; Environmental Studies; Urban Planning month Yes Yes Design sampling plan, sample and analyze samples along the Ohio River valley for community group
Triple bottom line cost-benefit analysis tool GUI Computer Science  month Yes Yes Create GUI for a open access triple bottom line cost-benefit analysis tool
Green bikes program Sport & Recreation Pedagogy semester Yes No Create loaner program for used bikes, and a bike maintenance shop, both staffed by volunteers 
Plastic Bricks  Civil Engineering; any course semester Yes Yes Partner with service organizations and community groups to create plastic bricks, determine best use, and incorporate into structures
Pollution Prevention Challenge Environmental Studies; Environmental Health & Safety one week Yes Yes Students participate in the Pollution Prevention Challenge (part of US EPA Pollution Prevention Week)
Tree Inventory or Drone-based Tree Inventory Plant Biology; Environmental Studies; Geography/GIS thesis Yes No Determination of species, size and diversity of trees on Ohio University campuses
Canopy Cover Plant Biology; Environmental Studies; Geography/GIS semester Yes No Quantification of greenhouse gas emissions reduction potential and ecological services provided by trees on Ohio University campuses; use i-Tree

Increasing Active Transportation

Project contact:   Annie Laurie Cadmus, cadmus@ohio.edu

Project description:

Increase healthy, active transportation (particularly commuting) among University employees and WellWorks members.  

  • Encourage active transportation to the fitness center.  
  • Be able to track active transportation as a Check-In at WellWorks and/or to incentivize rides
  • Routes Evaluation:  safety, timing, etc.

Resources available to students/faculty to complete project:

  • WellWorks staff time

Project impacts:

  • Health benefits
  • Quality of life benefits
  • Productivity benefits
  • Gasoline savings
  • Parking savings
  • Reduction of carbon emissions 

Barn Renovation

Project contact:   Dominick Brook,  brookd@ohio.edu

Project description: 

Design and renovate the abandoned barn at Hebbardsville Farm using sustainably harvested wood, recycled corrugated metal roof, and paint created from acid mine drainage.  A renovated barn could be used as an education and events center for community and University sustainability activities.

Resources available to students/faculty to complete project:

  • Student and faculty time
  • Existing structure and land
  • Used metal roofing material
  • Sustainably harvested wood for flooring

Project impacts:

  • Educational benefits
  • Avoided costs of virgin materials
  • Faculty time

Green Roof Project: 

Project contact:  Kim Thompson, thompsk3@ohio.edu 

Project description: 

There are broad opportunities to create projects related to green roof infrastructure.  Currently students from many colleges are engaged in projects, even before the rooftop has been planted.  We hope to engage students in public health, policy, business and economics while exploring benefits of green roof infrastructure.  Please contact Dr. Thompson for more information about projects.

Resources available to students/faculty to complete project:

  • Green roof on Schoonover Center
  • Student and faculty time
  • Monitoring equipment

Project impacts:

  • Carbon sequestration
  • Carbon emissions reductions from reduced energy consumption
  • Cost savings from reduced energy consumption
  • Improved health 
  • Storm water management
  • Increased lifespan of roof
  • Improved air quality
  • Educational benefits
  • Community outreach benefits
  • Opportunity for use of innovative virtual technologies

Tree Inventory or Drone-based Tree Inventory: 

Project contact:  Susan Calhoun, calhoun@ohio.edu; Matt Riley, rileym3@ohio.edu 

Project description: 

Contribute to the campus tree inventory by determining species, size and diversity of trees and adding to existing database.

Resources available to students/faculty to complete project:

  • Equipment to measure tree size
  • Landscape coordinator and GIS technician assistance
  • Existing database
  • Drone and drone pilot

Project impacts:

  • Improved management of trees on campus, therefore:
    • improved carbon emissions sequestration
    • decreased tree replacement costs
    • improved air quality
    • improved ecosystem benefits resulting from shading and habitat