Following the 2008 Sagan National Colloquium on cultivating a green campus, Rock Jones formed the sustainability task force to advise him on whether he should sign the Presidents’ Climate Commitment (PCC).
The task force did not recommend President Jones sign the PCC, as they were concerned it wouldn’t lead to the expected actions, particularly carbon footprint reduction. As the commitment has no legally binding language, colleges are free to sign it without taking significant action and some have signed the document without following through.
The 684 signatories include OWU rivals Denison University and Oberlin College. See the full list here.
There had been some discussion whether it would be acceptable for the task force to recommend signing the PCC as a “pledge of goodwill.” Five years later, current STF chair Laurie Anderson, also chair in 2009, may recommend they lower their expectations to the goodwill pledge.
“I’d still like to see us have a concrete plan of how to make small, incremental steps forward than just sign it without any kind of plan at all,” she noted though. “I don’t feel comfortable with that idea (of not having a plan.)”
Professor Tom Wolber, last year’s chair, seemed to be in the ‘goodwill pledge’ camp.
“The PCC is an aspirational document, it’s a benchmark, you aspire, you pledge that you are working toward that goal,” he said. “You may never reach it, many institutions have not reached it yet and they have signed it.”
The decision came after lengthy research into university practices, including hiring a Texas-based consultant company that recommended energy efficiency changes they could carry out. The task force and university decided against a long-term contract with them because it didn’t appear to be a good investment, according to former task force chair Shari Stone-Mediatore.
Buildings and Grounds director Peter Schantz believes that energy efficiency is a vital step towards sustainability, and that OWU’s heating system – which uses natural gas – provides a huge advantage in cutting carbon emissions compared to coal-burning schools like Denison. He considers reducing carbon footprints one of the biggest challenges for the current generation.
“I want to be a part of that,” he said.
In any case, one of the expected requirements would be creating a campus sustainability plan, which the task force has not developed but may soon. Read more on it here.