Environmental Wellness

Table of Contents

Push for the Construction of Composting Facility and Proper Disposal of Organic Waste

The Problem

OSU’s Sustainability Goals state that we want to be diverting 90% of our total waste from landfills by 2025 (their definition of zero waste). According to a draft of the university’s diversion report, we were only at 31.9% in 2019 and 37.0% in 2020. While there is some composting in certain dining locations on the Columbus campus, several locations have no or limited composting and there is limited composting in residence halls and libraries. OSU’s Sustainability Institute has cited limited funds, lack of space, aesthetic concerns, and limited capacities of external facilities to handle all of the university’s compostable waste as reasons for not having sufficient composting on the Columbus campus. Not having a composting facility on or near campus gives students studying sustainability, soil science, and related fields limited access to study composting directly, despite the necessity of composting in the near future.

Off-campus students, especially those living in apartments, have few opportunities to compost the waste they create in their homes. Many students lack the funds and knowledge necessary to successfully compost, which increases the waste of the off-campus living area and wastes the nutrients from food waste that could be used.

Our Plan

Maddie and Sri will continue the Sustainability Committee’s work towards having all compostable waste on campus be composted in a way that also supports research and education at Ohio State by working with the Sustainability Institute, the Office of Student Life, Dining Services, and other areas of the university to:

The Impact

Composting on- and off-campus, as well as on regional campuses, will help the university do its part in getting the world to a sustainable future that doesn’t rely on landfills and waste energy and nutrients from compostable waste that could be used.

Fight for Increased Accessibility, Clarity, and Consistency of Recycling On- and Off-Campus

The Problem

While recycling bins are relatively widespread across campus, signage clarity and accessibility vary significantly. There is currently no standard across campus, which leaves many people confused and has led to recycling contamination that negatively impacts OSU’s “Zero Waste by 2025” goal. All recycling signage is only in English, making recycling more difficult for non-native English speakers. There is also no Braille, color-coding accessible for colorblind people, or high contrast signage that would make recycling accessible for disabled students, staff, faculty, and visitors, leading to even more recycling contamination.

Off-campus students often have no access to recycling at all because many landlords do not provide it. OSU and the City of Columbus currently have no programs encouraging landlords to provide recycling to residents. On campus, there are still more trash bins than recycling bins, especially outside, making recycling less accessible even for the average on-campus student.

Our Plan

Maddie and Sri will push for the accessibility of recycling and sustainability education by working with the Sustainability Institute, the Office of Student Life, and First Year Experience to:

The Impact

Clear, accessible, and consistent recycling as well as recycling and general sustainability education will reduce the amount of contaminated recycling that has to be sent to landfill and therefore work towards the university’s goal of diverting 90% of waste from landfills by 2025.

Push for Increased Renewable Energy Use and Ambitious Sustainability Goals

The Problem

OSU’s current goal is to be carbon-neutral by 2050, which is not very ambitious considering the new presidential administration’s plan to move completely away from fossil fuels for electricity by 2035 and reach carbon neutrality for the entire country by 2050. Given the current predictions made by climate scientists, including those doing research at OSU, reaching carbon neutrality for the university by 2050 is not fast enough to keep global warming below critical limits. The large majority of our heating and electricity is currently provided by fossil fuel sources, and a significant amount is from coal. As an influential university with important climate research happening in its own laboratories, OSU should be providing an example for the rest of the country to move towards renewable energy sources and carbon neutrality instead of dragging behind.

Our Plan

Maddie and Sri will fight for ambitious carbon emissions goals for the university by working with the Sustainability Institute and university administration to:

The Impact

Ambitious sustainability goals and investments in renewable energy will allow OSU to become a leader and do its part in the fight against climate change.

Make Environmental Justice a Priority in Sustainability Projects and Policy

The Problem

Around the world, environmental injustices affect millions of people, including many Ohio State students. The environmental justice movement seeks to create a more fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens that currently disproportionately negatively affects poor, Black, and Indigenous communities and communities of color. Students that grew up or live in poor and/or BIPOC communities are more likely to experience or have experienced the negative effects of pollution, climate change, and environmental hazards such as increased cancer rates and maternal and infant mortality rates. They also are less likely to get the positive physical and mental health benefits of clean air and proximity to nature. International and first-generation immigrant students, especially those from Africa, Asia or South America, may have experienced environmental injustices perpetrated by the United States government and American companies that use poorer countries to dispose of recyclable and electronic waste, which may have directly or indirectly impacted them, their families, or their communities. OSU and USG have not presently made fighting environmental injustices a top priority in sustainability education and activism, which perpetuates the racism, classism, and xenophobia at the heart of environmental injustice and makes achieving a sustainable and carbon neutral world harder for everyone.

Our Plan

Maddie and Sri will prioritize environmental justice by working with USG’s Sustainability Committee and the Sustainability Institute to:

The Impact

Making environmental justice a priority will help our community decrease the discrepancies in health outcomes and ecosystem quality between privileged and underprivileged areas and people, as well as help the process of creating a sustainable world by providing all communities with the opportunity to build that world.

Push for Less Plastic, More Local Foods, and More Transparency in University Dining Locations

The Problem

As anyone who’s worked in University Dining knows, an exceptional amount of packaging is used by producers of food being served on campus. The prevalence of non-recyclable plastic is especially problematic. While an effort has been made to recycle as much packaging as possible, there has been little effort by Ohio State to pressure their food producers into using less packaging. The university also does not donate most of its safe leftovers, and everything that is currently donated is only done through the work of student organizations like Food Recovery Network.

According to OSU’s Sustainability Goals, we plan to have 40% of food from Dining Services be “local” (within 275 miles from campus) by 2025. While this is a great goal, the university has not updated students on its progress since 2018, when we were only at 9.5% local food use, and there is also not a public goal to raise that amount beyond 40%. Students are also not able to access information on where their food is coming from, and Dining does not currently label local foods as such. When many students are required to have a university dining plan, they deserve to be given as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions about how they choose to eat.

Our Plan

Maddie and Sri will fight to make University Dining Services more sustainable and transparent with students by working to:

The Impact

Decreasing the packaging and increasing the amount of local food used on campus will contribute to lowering the amount of waste we send to landfills and decreasing our carbon footprint. Creating more transparency in dining will allow students to make more informed and sustainable food choices that they are currently not able to make.

Protect Green Spaces and Old, Historic Trees on OSU Campuses

The Problem

Our university’s 150-year-old Columbus campus currently covers 1,674 acres, and all OSU campuses combined total around 16,095 acres that the university controls. Green spaces such as the Oval on the Columbus campus are beloved spots used for games, studying, and relaxing, and they are significant for the mental and physical health of students, which is why their diminishing size is so concerning. OSU campuses are also home to many large, historic trees that have been around nearly as long as the university. In 2019, a 100+ year old American sycamore tree on the Columbus campus was cut down with the construction near Arps Hall. Students were not consulted or even told in advance about the removal of this tree, despite its large size and impact on the area’s ecosystem. Some universities have historic tree programs that protect their oldest and most important trees both for their cultural and environmental impact, but OSU does not currently have such a program.

Our Plan

Maddie and Sri will protect our green spaces and influential plant life by working to:

The Impact

Students will benefit from green spaces and a historic trees program mostly from their positive effects on mental and physical wellbeing. These areas and trees also support the ecosystems that allow students to enjoy the abundant plants and wildlife on campus, which has inspired several student organizations over the years.

Increase Civic Engagement Among All Students

The Problem

Young adults, including most college students, are the age demographic currently least likely to vote in political elections. However, civic engagement among young people is extremely important for creating a future that’s better for everyone. OSU students are still required to attend classes on Election Day, lowering access to voting, especially for students that work or live far away from their polling place without transportation available. When students don’t vote, our representation in local government is even more limited, and students are already underrepresented in local government. Protests on campus also happen every year, and this First Amendment right must be ensured by the university.

Our Plan

Maddie and Sri will work to increase civic engagement and ensure students’ First Amendment rights are protected by working for policies and projects that:

The Impact

Equitable access to civic engagement and our constitutional rights allows students to engage in our government to make the United States a better place for all of us to live.

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