Editor’s Note: Olivia Miltner is the Research and Development Director at The New Political.
The Office of Sustainability continued its Climate Action and Sustainability Plan meet and greet series with a “finance and grounds-themed” discussion Wednesday afternoon. Four representatives from the office were in attendance, along with two employees of the Ohio University Procurement Team.
The procurement department in OU’s finance offices makes suggestions for which brands the university should purchase from and manages employee purchasing cards, among other administrative duties. Diana McGrew, assistant director of Strategic Sourcing and Operations, believes the Office of Sustainability could use its resources to rely on internally-driven changes to university buying practices.
“I don’t have a specific feeling one way or another for how it’s spelled out (in the Sustainability Plan) other than that we’ll be able to do our best to report on the things that end up in the plan, and we’ll come up with some other ways that we can participate perhaps,” McGrew said. “Just like with any initiative.”
One Sustainability Plan benchmark asks that OU minimize the purchase of consumable and disposable goods and services. Another recommends preference to be given to sustainable good and services, prioritizing those that are locally sourced.
“Procurement is where the power really is,” Elaine Goetz, a sustainability specialist, said.
She encourages the condensation of the six or seven benchmarks that have to do with procurement into one generalized statement that incorporates all purchasing goals.
“If you are purchasing things, that’s how you’re saying what your priorities are,” she said.
Sustainability Implementation Coordinator Olivia Miltner, a senior journalism and war and peace double major, suggested the procurement team focus its efforts on specialized goods, like water bottles.
“The Take Back the Tap campaign was something that happened on campus a couple years ago, that was like ‘Let’s not use single-use plastic water bottles after this,’” Miltner said. “So that’s something that students are thinking about, that could be potentially something, or rather, on the other side we could always encourage reusable water bottles.”
McGrew warned that while reusable water bottles can be encouraged, the university’s costly Pepsi contract means plastic bottles have become a staple in concessions offices and vending machines around campus.
“I think from an office standpoint and maybe a classroom, or in residence halls, I think you could probably certainly provide mitigation for that, meaning a bottled water effort, making water sources available where you can use your own vessel,” McGrew said. “But I just keep going back to concessions being a challenge, for things like basketball games. We certainly could pose the issue, but I don’t know if we could get there 100 percent.”
The final revisions for the five-year-old Sustainability Plan are expected by May 1, 2017. The office will then review the plans over the summer, compile them and remove areas of weakness and propose them to the Ecology and Energy Conservation Committee, a faculty panel that will then suggest revisions to the Office of the President.
“Our guess is that process will take most of the fall and be submitted to the new president at the end of next year,” Goetz said. “And we have no idea what the new president will like and whether they’ll say ‘I don’t like sustainability plans at all.’ It’s a possibility that all this work will go to the new president and he’ll say no or he’ll say ‘This sounds great.’ We don’t know what to expect.”
The Office of Sustainability will continue to hold meet and greet task force meetings throughout the spring semester, event invitations to which can be found on its Facebook page.