Oberlin's environmental policy is largely shaped by the following four commitments:
Environmental Policy Statement
In March 2004 the Board of Trustees adopted the following Environmental Policy Statement, proposed and approved by the General Faculty Planning Committee:
The core mission of Oberlin College is the education of its students. One aspect of such education is the demonstration by its actions of the College's concern for, and protection of, its physical environment.
Oberlin College must be a responsible steward of the environment. As such, the College will seek 1) to reduce the rate at which it contributes to the depletion and degradation of natural resources; 2) to increase the use of renewable resources; and 3) to consider other measures that can enhance the physical environment in which we live. The development of priorities and the implementation of decisions regarding energy production and use, the use and development or our grounds, facilities construction, modernization, maintenance, transportation, and materials use will be informed by the environmental impact they have. The President or delegated officials will periodically advise the community of the College's progress in this area.
This policy statement comes out of the work of the Environmental Policy Advisory Committee (EPAC). Then-president Nancy Dye appointed this committee to produce a comprehensive report with recommendations and goals for the College's environmental stewardship. This report will serve as the basis for Oberlin's implementation of its environmental policy.
Climate Neutral by 2025
Oberlin College took a leadership role in environmental stewardship when former President Nancy Dye established Oberlin as one of the nation's first institutions of higher education to accept the goal of climate neutrality by signing the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).
As a charter signatory, Oberlin was one of the first four schools in the United States and the first in its peer group to sign the ACUPCC, an environmental initiative developed by Second Nature, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and ecoAmerica to address what they term "the defining challenge of our century—the twin crises of energy sustainability and climate change."
Signatories to the ACUPCC pledge to commit their institutions to making the transition to a climate neutral society a major priority.
LEED Building Policy
In June 2006, the Oberlin College Board of Trustees adopted a policy that all new construction and major renovations on campus have to be designed and built in accordance with the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver standard. The adoption of this standard will significantly reduce the use of resources on campus in the future, as the built spaces will both be built more efficiently and perform more efficiently.
During the 2003-04 academic year, Oberlin initiated a strategic planning process focused on developing a plan that would ensure academic, artistic, and musical excellence as well as financial sustainability in the years ahead. The Strategic Plan was approved by the General Faculty and unanimously adopted by the Board of Trustees. The plan charts a course that will strengthen Oberlin’s future. One of the key components of the strategic plan is a commitment to move towards environmental sustainability.
Strategic Direction: Move toward Environmental Sustainability
Rationale: Oberlin is in a favorable position to be a national leader in promoting sustainability on and off campus. The College has already committed itself to pursuing the goal of sustainability, as expressed in the “environmental policy statement of Oberlin College," adopted by the Board of Trustees in March 2004. It should abide by this commitment by continuing to work toward developing an environmentally sustainable campus. Justifications include the unprecedented environmental challenges our students will face in the future; the great importance attached by current and prospective students to efforts to achieve sustainability; the learning experiences afforded to students as a result of these efforts; and the continuing example Oberlin can set for other institutions, academic and otherwise.
- Seek to reduce the rate at which the College contributes to the depletion and degradation of natural resources, to increase the use of renewable resources, and to consider other measures that can enhance the physical environment in which we live.
- To the extent practicable, develop and implement state-of-the-art standards for building design, construction, and performance, and for land use, consistent with the above goals of energy efficiency and prudent resource use.
- Work toward environmentally sound as well as aesthetically pleasing means of maintaining the physical plant, the landscape, and their surroundings.
- Enhance and develop further opportunities for students and faculty to participate in the continuing “greening" of the campus and the wider community through promoting course work in various curricular areas, independent research projects, and community service.