BGSU students urge larger clean-energy commitment


BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University officials are pursuing plans to cut greenhouse gases by taking a look at building projects, campus shuttles, and other energy saving endeavors.

The steps follow the university’s decision last fall to join the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a national initiative supported by 665 institutions to tackle global warming.

BGSU sustainability coordinator Nick Hennessy said the university is undertaking several environmentally focused efforts as it works on a longer-term “climate action plan” to decrease emissions. Such a plan could take several years to develop and could include researching alternative energy, he said.

In the meantime, BGSU is committed to pursuing certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council for university building projects, looking for ways to expand campus shuttle ridership, and creating a purchasing policy for energy-efficient appliances, Mr. Hennessy said.

The university also participated in an eight-week recycling contest in which it tracked recycling and waste.

But a student group contends that doesn’t go far enough, soon enough. Leaders of Environmental Action Group, an organization with about 30 members, said they collected 2,700 signatures from students and faculty asking the university to commit to using 100 percent clean energy. The group wants energy from wind, solar, or geothermal sources in place by 2020.

“What we are saying is they need to do more than just these bottom-line things that are happening,” said the group’s president, Josh Chamberland, a 20-year-old sophomore from Cincinnati who is studying environmental policy and analysis.

He noted that not all campus-related construction will obtain the building council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, which recognizes projects designed to conserve energy.

Wood County Hospital won’t pursue that certification for a new student health center expected to open this fall, but “it will be a highly energy efficient building,” BGSU spokesman David Kielmeyer said. The university will pursue LEED certification for all new buildings or major renovations for its own projects, he said.

Students met recently with university administrators who declined to pledge to use 100 percent clean energy in seven years, a goal Mr. Chamberland called “ambitious” but said would show the university considered it a top priority.

A statement from BGSU called the students’ goal “an arbitrary deadline” and said the university is working on a plan to reduce its carbon emissions.

“There’s a lot of things we’d love to do, but how do you pay for it?” Mr. Kielmeyer said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Hennessy said taking time to develop an emission-decreasing plan, a step it committed to when it signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, allows the university the chance to research funding sources and alternative energy possibilities.

“They don’t want you to make it up. They want you to put things in this plan to commit to,” he said.

Brooke Scarborough, 19, a marketing student from Westerville and the student group’s media coordinator, said it will continue to seek support.

The University of Toledo took the same climate pledge in 2009, and conducted greenhouse gas emissions inventories. BGSU also did its own preliminary inventory.

Brooke Mason, UT interim sustainability specialist, expects to finish Toledo’s climate action plan by January.

She said the plan will focus on energy efficiency, conservation, and sustainability education, including upgrading facilities and encouraging students to carpool or walk to campus.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: or 419-724-6065.