Successful collaboration plants seeds for sustainability

Sustainability, the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, has two promoters on campus.

The Department of Environment and Sustainability and BGSU’s Office of Campus Sustainability work together to support environmental and sustainability issues and projects across campus and in the local community.  Examples of the close collaboration between the two units run from the simple, sharing a membership in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, to the complex such as organizing Earth Day. This close collaboration has made it possible to transform Earth Day from a single April day celebration to Earth Week and now a monthlong movement that is focused on channeling human energy toward environmental issues. Forty-six years after the first Earth Day, BGSU celebrates the cause and plays a significant role in educating the next generation to be inspired, challenged, and motivated to make all human life on Earth sustainable.

The Department of Environment and Sustainability, in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the academic arm of the environmental movement on BGSU’s campus, preparing students to make meaningful contributions to the world's environment. Students can major in either environmental policy and analysis or environmental science within the department.

Students majoring in environmental policy and analysis focus on the social sciences: geography, economics and political science. They often find work that involves the use of laws and regulations to change patterns of resource use, protect wilderness, restore land and preserve unique areas and endangered species. Employment opportunities include environmental organizations, planners, park rangers, sustainability positions at large corporations, cities or universities, naturalists and recreation leaders, or they often go on for advanced degrees.

Environmental science majors study the natural sciences: biology, geology and chemistry. Students learn how to investigate, document and solve environmental problems. They look at issues such as land use, resource depletion, land restoration and water pollution. Students who graduate from this program find jobs in government agencies such as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, soil and water districts and environmental consulting firms.

The BGSU’s Office of Campus Sustainability is the operations arm of the environmental movement on campus as is part of Campus Operations. It has a similar interest in environmental and sustainability issues, especially within the university environment. The office plays a significant role in helping to spread the word about sustainability, striving to make BGSU a sustainable institution. The two units on campus work in tandem to provide an abundance and variety of academic and non-academic programs.

According to Dr. Enrique Gomezdelcampo, chair of the Department of Environment and Sustainability, the partnership between the academic department and the operations' Office of Campus Sustainability creates a family of resources for students interested in the environment and sustainability.

Dr. Nicholas Hennessy, sustainability coordinator and head of BGSU's Office of Campus Sustainability, works closely with the faculty and staff in the Department of Environment and Sustainability, Gomezdelcampo said. Hennessy often teaches for the academic department and always has projects for student capstone projects. Through capstone projects, students and faculty have helped him determine the sustainability potential of different ideas such as small scale rooftop solar panels; LED lighting for the Reed Street Warehouse to save electricity as well as emissions, and a carpet recycling program to cut down on solid waste.

“There is a seamless connection between the two units,” Hennessy said. His office can offer internships for students, allowing students to get academic credits and/or pay as a student employee. “I recruit through the department, looking for students who have a strong interest in sustainability.”

Programs such as Friday Night Lights have become a weekly activity for majors and non-majors, who are interested in environmental and sustainability issues. Since 2010, teams of students meet every Friday night to turn off lights in academic buildings across campus, saving energy and money for the university.

Earth month events happening this week include activities such as a guest lecture Monday on the environmental accords in Paris by Dr. Henry Pollack, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize; the screening of the film “Billions in Change” on Tuesday including a panel discussion after the film; the BGSU Eco-Fair on Wednesday in the Union Oval; a critical-mass-bike-ride on Thursday; and Earth Fest, a music concert on Friday. For a complete list and times of Earth Month activities at BGSU, which are free and open to the public, visit bgsu.edu/campus-sustainability/earth-month.