Activists Hold Green Summit
“It was an interesting thing to look at our energy bill and see ‘zero,’” said Nick Sippl-Swezey, a College first-year, describing one month in which his family’s solar panels produced as much energy as the house consumed.
Zero is a number that Oberlin College and the city of Oberlin hope to see soon: Both have formally pledged to become carbon-neutral within the next few years.
Sippl-Swezey and speakers from seven energy-related organizations spoke to an audience of both Oberlin students and Oberlin residents during an Energy Symposium at Peace Community Church Friday evening.
Each speaker gave a short description of his or her organization’s recent actions and plans for the future. The idea was to help groups find allies and work together to reduce energy use in Oberlin.
“Our main goal was to get College environmental groups as well as community environmental groups together...so that people in the community are aware of what’s going on with environmental groups on campus and vise versa,” said Jenny Lang, a double-degree senior who co-organized the event with first-year double-degree student Heather Kirkconnell.
College organizations represented at the summit were the Environmental Policy Implementation Group, which works to bring environmental groups and projects together on campus; the Recycled Products Co-op; the Oberlin Recyclers; SEED House, an environmental program house that will be up and running next year; and Ohio Public Interest Research Group, which is helping students campaign for environmental activist causes.
From the town were Burgess Electric, the local company that installed the solar panels at the Adam Joseph Lewis Center; City Wheels, a local car-sharing program; and Oberlin Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, a religious group that works for sustainability in the community as part of its religious tenets.
The evening was filled with cooperation between college organizations and town groups. The College’s Recycled Products Co-op offered town residents access to its office supply shop in Wilder and its Free Store, and all the organizations were quick to invite their College or community counterparts to their respective events.
“We’re really looking for community members to get involved,” said College sophomore Amanda Medress, one of two speakers for SEED House. According to Medress, the theme house hopes to become a nexus of sustainability action both on campus and in the community.
The event also called attention to the cooperation that is already happening between College and community groups. A City Wheels representative said that he would be “remiss if [he] didn’t mention the College’s involvement” in getting the company running.
He especially thanked College senior and EPIG member Andrew deCoriolis for helping secure a grant from the College. The company offers a reduced rate to College students and employees.
Cooperation is also taking place within the Oberlin Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Cindy Frantz, who spoke for the group, is an associate professor of psychology at the College. She is teaming up with College sophomore Amy Kane to create a workshop on sustainability for Fellowship members or other interested people.
“We’re drawing from environmental studies and psychology,” said Frantz. “We have a team of environmental studies students working on this with us. It’s a really great meshing of values and humanitarian concerns and academic growth.”
Most attendees seemed grateful to see so much cooperation, and hoped this communication could continue.
“I thought it was productive. It’s good to see community members and college students interacting and talking about projects they can do together,” said Amy Burgess, a community member whose husband owns Burgess Electric. “I’d like to see more of that…A lot of times those lines don’t touch as much as they should.”
Mary Hammond, co-pastor of Peace Community Church, agreed, “There’s room for a lot more. The College and the community are on such different schedules. We just need to find ways to really be in touch and publicize things.”
Staying in touch is also one of the things Kirkconnell said was most important about the Energy Symposium. “No matter how much you know there is always more to learn…Part of being in college here is about being part of the community here,” she explained.