Ohio University is revising its Climate Action Plan in hopes to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

The Office of Sustainability at OU is required to review the sustainability and climate action plan as a part of their carbon commitment. Part of that carbon commitment is always having a current Climate Action Plan. The original plan stated that OU will be carbon neutral by 2075. 

The process for the Climate Action Plan takes three to four years to finish, Elaine Goetz, director of the Office of Sustainability, said. 

First, the Office of Sustainability comes up with goals for the next five years. After the goals are shown to responsible parties and altered to be achievable, the goals are opened up to the public to allow for comments. Once the comments are closed, the Office of Sustainability then incorporates the comments where they think they can apply and also responds to each of them explaining reasons for their inclusion or rejection in the new plan. 

The new plan is taken back to the responsible parties to then go over the changes. If the parties agree to the new plan, then it will be taken to the Board of Trustees and President Duane Nellis for review and approval.

Right now the Climate Action Plan is in the middle of the process and is waiting to hear back from the responsible parties if the new comments make the plan an achievable one, Goetz said. 

There are 16 different sections that are helping with the new plan and with decision making, Goetz said. Goetz also said the office makes decisions that simultaneously benefit people, the planet and prosperity. Some of the 16 sections include building energy, water waste, transportation, food, student life, investments, procurement and human resources. Each of those 16 sections have individual targets to help meet the goals of the plan.

The use of local food on OU’s campus exemplifies its goals. Last year OU bought 14% to 15% of its food locally, Goetz said. The university’s old goal was to increase its purchasing of local food by about 0.5% every year between 2011 and 2016, according to the OU Sustainability Plan. The new plan wants to increase the amount of local foods bought to 15% to 17% in the next five years.

One strategy in place to reach those goals involves the Office of Sustainability working with the Procurement Specialist and directors at Culinary Services.

The university cannot buy food from local farmers without making sure they are GAP, or good agricultural practices, certified. Farmers must also follow United States Department of Agriculture regulations, Goetz said. Those restrictions mean it is not possible right now for OU to buy 100% local food because there are not enough local farmers that are certified.

Abbey Rodjom, a Sustainable Infrastructure Hub Graduate Assistant, is working on an individual project to help the university. The Triple Bottom Line Cost Benefit tool is a cost benefit analysis that looks at the environment, society and economy simultaneously. 

Rodjom said there is a social conflict that comes up with the analysis.

“How do you put a dollar sign on clean air? What is the value of that? So there’s just a lot of research into just how valuable is clean air, how valuable is clean water, or, how valuable are these social services?” Rodjom said, “I’m trying to get some of those numbers and make kind of a spreadsheet tool.”