The core mission of Oberlin College is education, which includes environmental education. Not only are sustainability lessons incorporated into classroom curriculum, but they are also incorporated into the rest of the campus environment – including its architecture, landscapes, and campus culture. Oberlin College constituencies recognize that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and as such, there are a multitude of projects to address these issues. An annual near-zero waste community block party; student work opportunities as living machine operators; a stormwater management student group; the student led Green EDGE Fund; a responsible investing group; a recycled products co-op, Free Store, and Big Swap move-out reuse sale; and the list goes on. As a leader in higher education, Oberlin College understands that it has a responsibility to prepare its students, faculty/staff, and local community to face and address the realities of a changing world. Through innovative curriculum, research and work opportunities, educational events and programming, the College aims to engage all members of its community with sustainability issues. This 2012-13 academic year, the College is sponsoring a four event dialogue series focused on its commitment to carbon neutrality. The sessions will focus on such issues as the replacement of the Central Heating Plant (CHP), the use of natural gas as a transition fuel, and long-term strategies for achieving carbon neutrality; including conservation and community commitment.
Removing coal from the CHP and developing energy zones will allow for adaptive renewable solutions as they become available; i.e. utilizing air-to-air and ground-source heat pumps. Other efficiency projects are underway including the lighting retrofit of 2 million SF of campus buildings, several LED parking lots, and LED area lighting.
The City and College have signed on to become one of 18 Clinton Foundation Climate Positive Development Program cities (one of only three in the US), thereby committing to create one of the first climate positive cities in the US. The City of Oberlin’s Municipal Electric Utility has committed to receiving 90% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015. The Oberlin Project was developed to integrate sustainability solutions across the campus and city, revitalize the local economy, eliminate carbon emissions, restore local agriculture, food supply and forestry, and create a new, sustainable base for economic and community development.
Through an innovative arrangement with a private developer, the largest solar array of any private, 4-year liberal arts college in the US was recently installed on Oberlin College property. The 2.27 MW PV array generates about 12% of the campus’s electric use. The College also has 160kW of solar on the AJLC rooftop and parking pavilion. The Oberlin College Adam Joseph Lewis Center has been named one of the “most innovative buildings of the 20th century.” In addition, the College has five LEED certified buildings, a green dorm room certification program, a green office program in the works, a bike co-op, engaging winter term research and internship projects, etc. Many of these projects involve students, faculty/staff, and the community.