March 4, 2014
Last year, Oberlin's Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) updated the environmental policy, installed new bike repair stations across campus, laid plans to update waste stations across campus, and hosted more than 30 events as part of the Ecolympics, the annual three-week competition between dorms to see who can reduce their water and electricity use the most. This year, the office hopes to expand on that success, with Meghan Riesterer, as its new assistant vice president of energy management and sustainability, at the helm.
As she acquaints herself with campus, Riesterer will work with Oberlin's facility operations, capital planning, and construction teams to ensure that the school's physical infrastructure is as environmentally friendly as possible. Additionally, she'll work with students and faculty to help develop their own ideas to promote sustainability, and oversee the work of other OES employees.
Tasked with implementing Oberlin's environmental policy—a commitment written in 2004 to preserving natural resources, increase renewable energy use, and explore other methods of improving the environment—OES works with staff, faculty, and students, to address environmental concerns in all aspects of life at Oberlin. Be it a new HVAC system or a course curriculum or the car share program, OES is there to address how the college's activity affects the environment.
Riesterer brings years of experience with sustainable energy management to this position. Prior to Oberlin, she served as the energy administrator for the city of Colorado Springs, and as the director of sustainability at the Medical Center Company, an energy utility owned by a number of non-profits in University Circle on Cleveland's east side.
Having heard about Oberlin while a student at MIT, where she studied city planning, Riesterer made visiting campus one of her first outings after relocating to Cleveland for her position with the Medical Center. "I heard amazing things about this small town in Ohio that is incredibly progressive and sustainable," she says. Over the course of subsequent visits with the Green Ohio Energy Tour, a tour of alternative energy facilities throughout the state, she fell in love with the place. When a coworker pointed her to Oberlin's open position in the Office of Environmental Sustainability, she jumped at the chance.
Riesterer explains that the large degree of cooperation between Oberlin College and the City of Oberlin provides an exciting opportunity to promote sustainable energy usage on a wide scale. "For someone formally trained in city planning, to have the college and the city work so closely," she explains, "that was an attractive feature."
This upcoming semester will provide Riesterer with a number of opportunities to address sustainability within Oberlin's infrastructure, with large scale projects like a new athletics complex, the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center, and renovations to the central heating plan all scheduled to occur. She will also continue the work of moving Oberlin College toward carbon neutrality.
Bridget Flynn, the OES's sustainability coordinator, has been working with students and faculty to promote sustainable behavior since she joined the office in July of 2012, says she's already impressed with Riesterer's work. "Meghan brings a fresh perspective and a unique vision," she says. "Having expertise as a city planner and seeing sustainability holistically, she brings strengths in working with diverse stakeholders, which is really critical to OES's mission."
Not only is the natural world central to her work, Riesterer spends her free time enjoying it through activities such as cycling and snowshoeing. "Sometimes when you're snowshoeing you're able to get to places that you would never hike to or that you could never ski too," she says. "You get the feeling when you're snowshoeing that you're seeing a vantage point of this world that nobody else has ever seen."
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