Green at Oberlin

College at Work

College at Work

Photo credit Yevhen Gulenko

Oberlin’s Board of Trustees adopted a comprehensive environmental policy in 2004 that covers all aspects of campus management including buildings, food, energy, transportation, purchasing, and recycling. The Committee on Environmental Sustainability, a body composed of students, faculty, administrators, and townspeople works with Oberlin's Office of Environmental Sustainability to oversee implementation and further development of this policy.

In 2005, the college signed an innovative agreement with the local utility that ensures that approximately half of the college’s electricity comes from environmentally favorable sources. Oberlin requires that all new buildings constructed on campus achieve a minimum of a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The Bertram and Judith Kohl Building for jazz studies achieved a gold rating in 2010. Other LEED buildings are Robert L. Kahn Hall (2012),  Allen Memorial Art Building (2011), and Williams Field House (2009), 

The college’s A.J. Lewis Center for Environmental Studies has served as a showcase for green design. The building houses Oberlin’s nationally recognized environmental studies program. Its design-oriented curriculum helps students develop an understanding of the causes and consequences of the environmental predicaments and the creative problem-solving skills necessary to develop a more sustainable relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world.

In 2006, the college was also the first of its peers to sign on to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, a commitment that requires Oberlin to develop and implement a plan for achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Through the Farm to Fork program, we eat excellent locally grown foods in the dining halls: cheese without additives, milk free from artificial hormones, and chicken raised on a diet without growth stimulants or harmful products. At every dining hall, students may eat healthy vegetarian and vegan meals, with all prepared foods accompanied with a list of ingredients. Campus Dining Service welcomes student suggestions, and will change its ordering styles to adjust to student tastes.

Because of our innovations, the Sierra Club has consistently ranked Oberlin as one of its top schools in terms of sustainability work. Sierra magazine has, in 2016, ranked the college 13th of 201 undergraduate colleges and universities on its “America’s Greenest Universities” list. Oberlin also shared the highest marks on the College Sustainability Report Card with Dickinson College and Brown and Yale universities. The organization ceased data gathering in 2012.

In town, alumni founded socially and environmentally mindful companies such as Sustainable Community Associates, New Agrarian Center, and Full Circle Fuels.

Oberlin was recognized in 2014 by President Barack Obama’s administration for its efforts to become resilient to climate change and reduce greenhouse gases. The city is one of 16 local governments named a Climate Action Champion, a new designation from the Department of Energy.