University Community

Greening OHIO Initiative increases sustainability for on-campus events

Nearly eight years ago, Nicole Kirchner, senior project manager for Energy and Environmental Programs at the George Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service (GVS), 2016 GVS Research Scholar Kate Blyth, and former GVS professional staff member Elissa Welch wanted to make the OHIO campus more sustainable. The three started small: spreading the word and advertising to various organizations about changes they could make to host environmentally friendly events. 

“It started off as offering one-on-one consultations and a checklist to make your events more sustainable,” Kirchner said. “And then it just felt like it needed to grow.”

In 2019, GVS Research Scholar Elle Dickerman took over the project with Kirchner. The two were working together on the Sugar Bush Foundation-funded, Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative (AOZWI), a project with community partner, Rural Action, that provides education and resources on local waste infrastructure, waste reduction, and informing students and community members on becoming active in the mission to reduce and divert waste. Kirchner said this initial outreach by AOZWI inspired the expansion of the checklist and led them to redevelop the Green Events Guide

The idea evolved, bringing in new collaborators and they decided to form the “Greening OHIO Initiative,” connecting various groups around campus such as the Office of Sustainability, Culinary Services, Catering, Campus Involvement Center, Campus Recycling, Conference and Event Services, and others to meet monthly to work together to brainstorm how each department could make changes to reduce the University’s waste footprint and help influence and inform planners on how to host zero waste events. 

One of the working group's primary focuses was on the enhancement of the Green Events Guide, which was initially implemented by Blyth in 2016. The guide’s purpose is to serve as a comprehensive resource for planners on campus to follow to minimize the environmental impacts of their events. 

“We turned it into a robust resource for event planners across campus and it’s tailored to the systems that we have in place and the types of events that we have on campus,” Kirchner said. 

The guide provides step-by-step instructions and suggestions for what to do in the planning stage, during the event itself, and after the event, covering the various requirements and materials needed. 

Sam Crowl, associate director of the Office of Sustainability, described the guide’s comprehensive quality. 

“The idea really is just to help anybody at the University to hold an event that can satisfy all of the objectives of any group for holding an event, but do it in a sustainable fashion,” Crowl said. “We recommend things like carpooling, mass transit, or just more sustainable transportation options. And we make recommendations for how to have a zero-waste event.”

Hannah Kresse, an environmental studies major and GVS Research Scholar, was assigned to lead the group after Elle Dickerman graduated in 2021. Kresse said one of the reasons she chose to attend Ohio University was the campus’ commitment to sustainability. 

“Green Events are one part of this equation, and the guide helps event planners consider their impact on the environment as well as showing them campus resources to reduce this impact,” Kresse said. “Being part of this group has helped me give back to the University and further its commitment to sustainability which drew me to university in the first place.” 

Samarra Wagoner joined the Greening OHIO Initiative in fall 2022 and will lead the group next year. Wagoner has worked on spreading awareness of the guide and the design of the Green Events symbol. 

“I appreciate the opportunity to be involved in the Greening OHIO Group because of the way it promotes sustainability to individuals who may not be as engaged in environmental awareness,” Wagoner said. “The guide is accessible for any University stakeholder to use whether they have an environmental background or not, which is my favorite thing about the guide.”

The guide, checklist, and symbol are available on the Office of Sustainability website, where organizations can also formally register their event as a Green Event. 

As the group’s projects have continued in the last few years, there have been numerous successes in integrating their efforts into OHIO’s campus. These successes have ranged from only making straws available upon request at the West 82 Food Court, a plastic-free utensil offering in the markets, and increasing the availability of compost bins. 

“We are aiming for a top-down commitment to Green Events by the University,” Kirchner said. “It’s a behavior change to make sustainable planning the norm that we’re working towards.”

With the committee’s plans and successes over the last several years, its members hope to spread awareness of their cause and make Green Events the standard for events to come. 

“In the future, we hope awareness of the Green Events Guide and the importance of Green Events increases on campus,” Wagoner said. “We are working to build relationships with colleges and university planners to achieve this goal and increase the number of Green Events happening throughout the Ohio University community.”

To learn more about the Green Events Guide and sustainability efforts on campus, attend the upcoming Green Events Webinar on April 19, 2023, from 4-5 p.m. Register here:

April 12, 2023
Lauren Serge