By utilizing a new Presidential Task Force on Environmental Sustainability, President David Hodge hopes to create a greener Miami University.
According to Hodge, he appointed faculty, staff and students to the committee in order to create measurable goals to sustain the environment and to continue doing so on a regular basis.
According to Hodge, Miami has plenty of great events occurring on campus, but the university needed to set up an activity that would incorporate environmental goal setting.
“The No. 1 goal of the task force is to make sure to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts,” Hodge said, referring to environmental action on all three of Miami’s campuses.
Kate Waller, president of the Environmental Action Coalition, was the one to originally approach Hodge with several environmental initiatives. Due to Waller’s enthusiasm, Hodge appointed members to the task force and has met with a steering committee.
The entire task force will hold its first meeting with Hodge at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Engineering Building.
“The chairs of the task force are taking leadership roles,” Hodge said. “They have remarkable insight and vision.”
According to Thomas Klak; a geography professor and co-chair of the task force, along with Waller and faculty member Tony Ferraro; the task force will first look at what is already happening on campus that has to do with sustainability initiatives and by the end of the school year will have a report for Hodge with several recommendations on how to institutionalize sustainability.
“The underlying goal of the task force is to make the university more eco-friendly and do it in a cost effective manner,” Waller said.
Waller and the other co-chairs are already developing ideas to help Miami go green.
“We are coming up with goals that range from the lower fruit hanging in the tree, such as putting recycling bins everywhere, to more medium goals, such as making the Miami Metro run on biodiesel fuel,” Waller said.
Last year, members of the student organization Green Oxford (GO) proposed several similar initiatives to Hodge, along with the Presidential Climate Commitment, which Hodge declined to sign. He cited several issues with the initiative including a portion making Miami carbon neutral by 2015.
Two student representatives from GO are members of the task force along with Adam Harris, a member of GO and an Associated Student Government (ASG) representative.
According to Harris, the main reason Hodge did not sign the Presidential Climate Commitment was because on a short-term basis, the university can’t afford to shift to renewable resources overnight.
“The administration determined that they do want to improve the environment and campus, but the Climate Commitment locked the university into a commitment we can’t meet on a short-term basis,” Harris said.
Instead the task force hopes to develop initiatives on Hodge’s terms to make the campus sustainable. Overall, the task force plans to achieve many of the same outcomes.
“We are keeping the Climate Commitment in mind and how we can make it work for Miami,” Harris said. “It’s the standard model for hundreds of universities, but it would use a lot of university resources and there would be a lot of wasted energy on it. The task force is looking at what works best for the university.”
According to Waller, the task force’s charter was written with the Presidential Climate Commitment kept close at hand and the task force hopes to create goals that will be achieved in the same spirit as the initiative.
In terms of student contributions outside of the 34-person task force, members hope to hold a type of town hall meeting with Hodge in January to allow students to offer their input. Currently, 10 students representing several different student organizations are represented on the task force.
“With so many different people involved from staff, faculty and students, this is an exciting moment with an unclear outcome,” Klak said. “I’m looking forward to seeing our priorities evolve.”
According to Waller, the task force consists of five subcommittees-energy use, sustainable architecture, waste management, academic integration and community outreach-that intend to address the multiple areas where Miami could become more environmentally friendly.
The task force is also creating a team of people who would be able to market the group and its initiatives.
“About five to 10 people will do anything from developing press releases for local papers to creating a buzz on campus about Miami going green,” Waller said.
Waller believes that making students more aware of the task force’s initiatives will beneficial.
“There are a lot of things in the university that a lot of people don’t know about,” Waller said. “The more people, the more successful it is going to be. The marketing committee will help the task force and the task force will help the university.”
Waller tapped into the department of communication as well as the journalism program and PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) to find students with expertise in marketing and public relations to hopefully increase the visibility of the task force, as well as create an image of Miami as a leader in environmental sustainability in higher education.