Making a Collective Sustainable Change

By: Elizabeth Weber

As Miami University’s Earth Week comes to an end, the University’s sustainability efforts continue with the focus of the many sustainability-focused organizations, leadership, and collaboration with the City of Oxford. This year, there were several exciting events to celebrate Earth Week, including Cooking Demos by L.E.A.P., Greenhawks Media Trivia, and EcoReps’ French Fries at Miami’s Farm. 

Overview of Earth Week Events presented by the Student Sustainability Council

         Beyond Miami’s many sustainability-focused organizations, the University has made progress in its own focus of committing to carbon neutrality and climate resilience through the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments (PCLC). The co-chairs of the Carbon Action Task Force, Dr. Jonathan Levy and Adam Sizemore, are working on ambitious strategies to reach carbon neutrality. They call on students to continue to put pressure on the administration to become more sustainable through social media, petitions, and working with the various sustainable organizations. The University has already achieved a substantial decrease in non-renewable energy usage through its focus on utilizing more reusable energy sources. For example, Miami University fossil fuel use has decreased by 54 percent as the University has fully switched from coal to natural gas. Overall, electricity use has been decreased by 13 percent and this is due to the utilization of the geothermal plant resulting in an energy usage decrease of 23 percent . These efforts represent just one way that Miami University has been able to strive for a more sustainable future.

Miami University has also collaborated with the City of Oxford to coordinate planning for their respective task forces. I was able to work with the City last September to learn about their pledges to a sustainable future; however, I wanted to learn more about Miami University’s goals and how they work with the City. The City of Oxford has made great strides to create initiatives after signing the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM) in September 2019. As they have worked to create their resilience plans, some of their major goals have been aided through the dedicated work of Miami students in the Masters’ of Environmental Science Program (M.En. Degree Program).

         I was able to talk with Allison South, M.En. student, about how she has been able to work with her team to help further the City of Oxford’s and Miami’s sustainability efforts. The City of Oxford and Miami University have been working diligently on climate resilience planning in tandem. With stakeholders from both groups sitting on the various task forces, such as the Oxford Climate Action Steering Committee, and Miami’s Climate Action Task Force, there have been great strides to create plans to combat climate change coming from both entities.

         For South’s PSP experience, she has worked on the PCLC and the GCoM resilience reporting requirements. Some of her work has included presenting background information on the commitments, creating workshops on climate hazards, and working to create more collaborative efforts between the City of Oxford and Miami University. For each of these presentations or workshops, her team has worked with City officials who have provided great feedback and helped with the progress of the work. Through the efforts of her team, Miami University and the City have been able to gain a better understanding of their two resilience reporting requirements. This has included looking at the likely climate hazards in the area and the necessary mitigation plans.

         Her team will have a final presentation on April 30 with a final report in mid-May. These strategies, that her team helps to develop, will aid Miami University and the City with their resilient planning. The future of the project for the two entities holds more research and finding additional ways to mitigate the climate hazards that this area will face.

The Oxford Municipal Building

         The City of Oxford has also begun several programs to help residents reduce their waste and environmental footprint. This includes the continuation of their Food Scrap Recycling Program, the ability to purchase renewable energy credits through the Electric Aggregation Program, and the BCRTA bus service for students and residents. The City has also started to develop several other initiatives, including a solar field project, a more robust community-wide micro mobility program, and planning and design on Amtrak platform. These initiatives have paid off as Oxford recycles more per capita than any other city in Butler County! 

         Earth Week helps to illustrate the importance of protecting our planet and raise awareness in our community about climate change and global warming. It represents a collective effort to teach others about living a sustainable lifestyle and making a conscious effort to conserve our environment. Miami University’s and the City of Oxford’s collective efforts are one way that we are making strides to combat climate change; however, it is also necessary that, as an individual, we make a committed effort to be an advocate for the environment. Miami and the City are being great leaders and we need to ensure that we are all doing our part to protect the environment!

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Weber and the Student Sustainability Council.

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