By Megan Fuerst
On April 6, Turning Green arrived at the largest campus on their program’s schedule, The Ohio State University, to host a Conscious College Road Tour stop among the 60,000 students that call Columbus, Ohio, home. As one of those students and the president of Turning Green’s first Chapter, Project Green OSU, it was incredible to witness the stop live up to its full potential of inspiring, motivating, and engaging hundreds and hundreds of students to enact meaningful change on our campus. One day was all it took to change the lives of many, and the feedback we received from our fellow peers left our team in awe.
We kicked off the Road Tour stop with the Conscious Information Station on Wednesday morning, conveniently set up at the entrance of a sustainability fair that was taking place in the Ohio State Student Union, our central hub for students on campus. The beautiful display of sustainable eco-products and corresponding info-graphic boards caught the attention of nearly every passerby, and volunteers were kept busy informing the audience about key sustainability themes. The volunteers were members of our TG Chapter, and it was such an incredible experience to be able to share the information that we normally talk about in meetings with other students, staff, and community members. Each volunteer had the opportunity to interact with people and urge them to consider the impacts that their clothing brands, food ingredients, household cleaning and body care products have on workers, their health, and our environment. We explained the different tools necessary to start the transition from a conventional to conscious lifestyle, and distributed sample products to help initiate that change.
In the evening, students were invited to join us for a Town Hall Meeting, where we brainstormed different areas in which our school could be more sustainable while enjoying a Chipotle dinner. We asked the audience, ‘if you knew you could not fail, what would you like to see change on campus and why?’ With about 50 students gathered, meaningful conversation was abundant as nearly every student had an opinion as to where Ohio State was falling short in sustainability efforts. After listening to a wide variety of ideas, the room landed on four key topics: Sustainability Starter-Kits for freshman, Pollinator Safety measures, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, and Greening the Dining Hall/Food System on campus. It was clear students felt passionately about these issues and wanted to see change.
At this time the audience was broken up into four groups corresponding with the topics listed above, each person deciding which initiative was most interesting to them and joining that group to brainstorm specific goals and means to reach those goals. The dialogue that filled the room filled us with hope for the future of Ohio State. The Freshman Starter Kit team listed key items that every incoming student should receive as soon as they become a Buckeye to uphold the “sustainability norms” of the school: a reusable water bottle and coffee mug, To-Go Ware, a reusable shopping bag, and a discount for the Bike Share program on campus. The Pollinator Safety team developed an elaborate plan to integrate a “Pollinator Day” into Green Week, which takes place the first week of April, and to work with on-campus coffee shops to increase the price of coffee for a day to raise awareness that pollinators are needed to provide most of the foods and beverages people rely on daily. The group that focused on energy identified areas where Ohio State could certainly become more energy efficient, some solutions as obvious and easy as turning off the Ohio Stadium lights when not being used, which the school keeps on at all times in efforts to meet their goal of being seen from space! Lastly, the Food System team presented ways in which the audience could add momentum to help the student organization ‘Real Food OSU’ reach their goal of getting administration to sign onto the Real Food Campus Commitment.
The evening was full of innovative ideas, productive communication and planning, not to mention true passion for a more sustainable future. The Conscious College Road Tour as a whole definitely created a ripple effect on campus, and there is no doubt that change is already happening. The most exciting part was listening to students gush over everything they had learned, and how they can’t wait to join the movement. Most students were appalled by the lack of regulation in the United States for what is allowed in every-day household items, especially when compared to other developed countries. Every person who attended either the Conscious Information Station or the Town Hall Meeting learned something new, and left with a new-found desire to live consciously and help create a future of environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
Megan Fuerst is a junior at The Ohio State University majoring in Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability with a specialization in Policy Analysis. She founded the first Turning Green Chapter at her school, and is involved with a variety of other sustainability student organizations and initiatives. Upon graduation, Megan hopes to become an organic farmer, specializing in industrial hemp.