Office of Residential Education

Sustainable Initiatives

The Office of Residential Education Housing is committed to sustainable practices.

Through support of programs like the Green EDGE Fund and EARRTH House, we offer students a chance to live in green environments. Kahn in First Year Residential Experience (FYRE) is also one of the dedicated buildings with sustainability initiatives.

Mission Statement:

To spread ecological living practices to the rest of the student body and the college, to the Oberlin community, to colleges around the United States, and to other appropriate outlets. We aim to help educate, assist, and inspire. To reduce our ecological footprint through lifestyle and technological changes, as much as practically possible. To create a healthier, more personal environment by fostering healthy environmental conditions and a greater connection to place. To nurture our personal development in all aspects of our lives.


Over the years, residents have changed EARRTH House physically and socially. Finding funding to replace drafty windows, sharing sustainable laundry methods with the Oberlin community, composting in the backyard, and attempting to reduce and reuse water are activities that residents have engaged in the past. EARRTH House is the ideal place for students who are interested in being empowered to affect tangible changes in their resource consumption and sharing information about leading a more sustainable lifestyle with their peers. By working together in a shared living space, residents often find support and a renewed sense of dedication to environmental activism.

Oberlin College is a leader in the higher education Green Cleaning movement, dedicated to reducing the environmental impact made. The Facilities Management Department works closely with our vendors to ensure that the products used on our campus are on the cutting edge of sustainability.

We continue to implement items and training that will help our staff to be informed and proficient in Green Cleaning practices.

Green products currently being used:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner with less harsh chemicals. Green Seal Certified chemicals
  • Paper towels and toilet paper made from recycled fibers
  • Restroom soap dispensers all across campus are stocked with Green Seal Certified soap and newly renovated dorms with Green Seal Certified foam soap.
  • Floor entrance matting made from recycled materials. Every square foot of a ECO walk off mat eliminates 4 - half liter drink bottles from the waste stream, so when a 3 x 5 mat is used approximately 60 bottles are recycled.
  • Entrance Carpet top: is 100% Post consumer recycled PET polyester fiber reclaimed from drink bottles
  • Entrance Rubber backing: 15% Post consumer recycled rubber Reclaimed from Tires.
  • Cleaning rags are  made from recycled clothing and bath towels


  • Continued re-lamping of older T12 lamps to more efficient T8 lamps throughout Res Halls.
  • Re-lamping of both Lord/Saunders and Noah to the first LED hallways on Campus.


  • New additions to our fleet of vacuums with the following guidelines:

LEED qualifying with CRI SOA Silver Performance and noise levels less than 70 dBA. Improve indoor air quality with standard HEPA 3-stage filtration.

Composting presents a sustainable alternative to landfills. Composting is a process in which food waste is recycled into soil through aerobic decomposition. Residents in Robert Lewis Kahn Hall separate and recycle their food waste through the Kahn Compost Project. The project was designed by Oberlin students in the Compost Working Group, with support from Residential Education and Facilities Operations, as a pilot to test the feasibility of a student-run, residential compost system, and to measure how much food waste a typical residence hall produces. The system is coordinated by student leaders, known as Compost Captains, and overseen by a student worker from the office of Environmental Sustainability.

Kahn Hall’s food waste is emptied several times a week into a tumbler behind the building. The tumbler is a large container that holds the waste and spins, or “tumbles,” it to provide oxygen. Carbon is added through dried leaves and branches that are collected from around the building. The finished product is used at the on-campus garden or applied to the trees and shrubs surrounding the dorm, supplying college grounds with a no-cost and chemical-free fertilizer.

Residents in Kahn Hall do everything from creating a compost work chart, emptying the compost, washing the bins, and applying the finished product to the ground. In fall 2010, more than 65 residents participated in the project, composting an average of 40 pounds of food waste per week. The Kahn Hall Compost Project is a testament to the creativity, initiative, and awareness of Oberlin students. It is a model of sustainable living that provides residents with the opportunity to make a positive impact every time they throw their food waste in the compost bin instead of the trash.

The Green EDGE Fund finances environmental projects on the Oberlin College campus and occasionally in the Oberlin community. Funding for the EDGE Fund comes in part from the college administration, which has asked that fund be invested in projects with clear financial paybacks from increased efficiency. We call projects funded with this money efficiency loans. Another part of our funding comes from activity fees paid by the student body, which supported using the funding for either efficiency projects or general sustainability projects. Projects funded with this money are called sustainability grants.

The Residential Education office's commitment to green practices transfers into our furniture purchasing policies. We purchase residential hall furniture from Foliot Furniture  and Southwest Contract .

Foliot and Southwest Contract are committed to environmentally conscious practices in their administrative and manufacturing practices.  

Foliot's furniture products are created using a newly pioneered system of engineered wood. Lumber mills recycle residue from their milling operations consisting of wood shaving, wood chips and sawdust...these elements are combined to create engineered wood. Whereas procuring solid lumber utilizes only 63% of a tree, the manufacturing of engineered wood and other products ensures 95% of the tree is put to good use. (Source: USDA Forest Service)

To find out more about Foliot Furniture's green practices visit their website. To find out more about Southwest Contract's green practices visit their website.