Green at Oberlin

Student and Faculty Engagement

Student and Faculty Engagement

During Orientation, new students engage in Day of Service projects, many of which focus on preserving and enhancingthe local environment such as weeding public gardens, assisting local farmers, planting trees, and restoring wetlands. During the academic year, students volunteer across Lorain County, including at the Lorain Metro Parks. Many students volunteer at George Jones Memorial Farm, a small farm that grows a third of the produce served on campus. For campus jobs, students work as recyclers, or staff the Living Machine, a wetland-based wastewater treatment system that treats and then recycles 70 percent of the water used in the Adam J. Lewis Center for Environmental Studies.

A quarter of all students eat in the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association or OSCA, a student-owned and managed cooperative dining system that buys a majority of its food from local vendors. Clubs such as the Resource Conservation Team and the Ohio Public Interest Group promote environmental stewardship on campus, keep the student body informed, and engage in environmental advocacy work on and off campus. Students and community members teach Experimental College classes on a wide variety of issues related to the environment such as Bicycle Repair, Vegan Cooking, Environmental Films, Permaculture and Grassroots Organizing. To get to class or around campus, students rent bicycles from the Bicycle Co-op, a nonprofit, student-run bicycle shop located in one of the residence halls. When we have new ideas on how to conserve energy, the student-run Green EDGE fund provides the financial backing to put our ideas into action.

In the classroom, professors offer courses that integrate sustainability across many disciplines—economics, art, history, physics, politics, and chemistry, to name a few. For example a geology class on Coral Reefs spends a significant portion of time discussing the human effect on reef ecology. A recent First-Year Seminar in Field Writing focused on the intersection of narrative nonfiction and ecology. Environmental studies is among the most popular majors, but no matter your major, it’s easy to integrate sustainability into your studies.

We view the built environment on campus not just as place in which learning occurs, but also as a fundamental component of a curriculum emphasizing environmental stewardship. Oberlin has received national awards from the U.S. EPA, National Wildlife Federation, the Great Lakes Protection Fund and Energy Efficient Markets for its Campus Resource Monitoring System. This is a technology developed by students and faculty that provides residents of student housing with instantaneous feedback on electricity consumption via websites and glowing “energy orbs” and enables the annual dorm energy competition, the Ecolympics.