Rural Action, a membership-based non-profit organization in Southeast Ohio, is helping to promote environmental and economic advancement through various efforts in the region. 

Rural Action focuses on harnessing the potential of local communities based in the southeast and central eastern counties of Appalachian Ohio. Its mission is to help build up the area’s assets with economically, socially and environmentally-friendly and sustainable ways. 

Rural Action works in a variety of different sectors, including watershed restoration, sustainable energy, agriculture and forestry, zero waste, social enterprise, environmental education and national service. 

“We ground this work in the wisdom of the people of the region, and work together with people in the local communities to build solutions,” Debbie Phillips, chief executive officer for Rural Action, said in an email.

Climate change is an issue that was recently addressed in the Ohio House of Representatives. House Bill 242, which was introduced into the House in May, would prohibit local governments for taxing or charging a fee for single-use plastic items. 

“We are not a policy-advocacy organization, and as such we don’t often engage in legislative advocacy work. We are generally supportive of steps that businesses and consumers can take to reduce overall waste and single-use plastics,” Phillips said in an email.

In response, Athens City Council stated its opposition to the bill and asked the state government to consider the implications single-use plastics have for the environment, according to a previous Post report.

Phillips said that Rural Action helps local farmers prepare for and manage more severe climate disturbances due to climate change. It also helps landowners understand how to control invasive species on their properties.

“We promote a lower carbon footprint through the purchase of local goods and services,” Phillips said in an email.

With funding from the Sugar Bush Foundation, the Voinovich School of Leadership, in collaboration with Rural Action, has developed the Ohio Zero Waste Initiative. The initiative focuses on making a difference on campus by initiating behavioral changes that push for a more zero waste environments through waste reduction, recycling and composting.

“This year (the zero waste initiative has) taken on kind of a specific effort with athletics. All football games are working toward zero waste, and that involves a lot of different units on campus working together,” Jen Bowman, director of environmental programs at the Voinovich School, said.

Rural Action runs a separate program called the Zero Waste Pledge Program, which encourages local businesses to commit to using natural resources sparingly, become more environmentally conscious and reduce their waste.

Many of the programs at Rural Action are geared toward sustainability and environmental awareness. The Sustainable Energy Solutions program promotes the use of clean energy throughout Appalachian Ohio. 

Rural Action also has an environmental education program that raises awareness about climate change among children. Youth Climate Action Teams are part of an initiative which supports high school student leaders in their attempts to reduce their carbon footprints.

Zero Waste Event Productions is one initiative that Rural Action developed to combat climate change. The company is a spin-off company of Rural Action that helps large outdoor festivals reduce their waste production. Over the summer, that team diverted landfill waste to recycling and composting.