While Ohio State University dwarfs smaller schools with its vast resources, students and funding for environmental programs, their Office of Energy and the Environment (OEE) can still provide some lessons for smaller universities like Ohio Wesleyan.
According to Communications Director Gina Langen, OEE cover five areas: assisting faculty research, promoting student energy literacy, bringing speakers to campus, assisting with green campus operations and offering advice on state and national policy.
“We help faculty find research funding,” Langen said.
In particular, OEE helps connect professors with suitable state and federal grants that they can apply for. About 450 professors at OSU offer courses that include green themes, she said, out of 1,800 total professors – more than the student population of OWU.
OSU also offers 600 courses on sustainability and 80 clubs or organizations that have a green mission.
“They do humanitarian and environmental engineering work,” Langen said. “For instance (one) group goes to Haiti every year and installs solar panels in different parts of Haiti to produce electricity so we communicate weekly with those student groups.”
Part of the education they want to offer all 50,000 OSU students is energy literacy – knowledge about where energy power comes from, which in central Ohio is often a coal plant or possibly a windmill farm.
“We bring sustainability speakers to campus, we bring movies, just anything to get students exposed to that there’s more to life than just driving your car and plugging in your electric devices,” she said. “There’s a cost involved, there’s a knowledge that’s needed on that.”
They also work with the Ohio Energy Project to bring energy literacy to students in the 3rd through 12th grades.
OEE also works with the Office of Energy Services and Sustainability on ensuring OSU’s facilities fall in line with green standards.
“They do most of the mechanical things on campus, you know, metering buildings and monitoring how much electricity is used, those types of things,” Langen said.
The work includes recent installation of a solar panel array on the roof of their physical activities building.
“We’re trying to diversify our energy sources as much as possible and also make sure we’re building our buildings as efficiently as possible,” she said. “…We have what we call a green build policy on campus where any new building or a renovation of a building over $4 million has to follow LEED criteria so they’re as efficient as possible.”
“We work with the federal government and the state government if there’s legislation that’s come up, either federally or state-wide, that has an impact on energy,” Langen said. “We get a lot of calls from legislators.”
Her boss, interim director Kate Bartter, was recruited in 2007 for her work with former Gov. Bob Taft’s office, where she assisted with energy policy.
“Ohio State said to her that they’d really like somebody with her expertise to come on board – they’d really wanted to improve their energy and environment efforts on campus,” Langen said.
OEE also provides support to groups with a sustainability focus in the city, state and regional area.
“Some of our people serve on different boards around town and around the state,” Langen said. “Kate has served on a Great Lakes conservation group so I’d say our office has a presence not just on campus but in Ohio and even regionally.”