Reduce bottled water waste

How many of you drink single-serve water, such as Dasani? Well, in the United States we consume millions of bottles of water that equals billions of dollars. These plastic water bottles often end up as litter or in the landfill. Studies find that in fact only one in five bottles gets recycled. This costs America tons of money that could be spent elsewhere. The Ohio State University is one of the largest universities in the country, and if we can reduce our bottled water usage we could help set an example for the rest of the country.

At most restaurants tap water is free, but most people would still rather pay a couple of dollars for bottled water. Yes, bottled water is more convenient and some say it tastes better, but in fact studies have shown bottled water is not any healthier or even less healthy than tap water, and that there is no difference in taste.

There are several alternatives that the university could implement to help reduce the amount of plastic bottle use on campus. The best alternative would be to educate and provide reusable water bottles to students to fill with water at refilling stations. The next step would be to increase the number and availability of refill stations throughout campus.

The environment will only continue to degrade unless plans become implemented not only at the Ohio State University, but throughout the whole country. Implementing a plan at the university would be a good case study into finding out what alternatives work and what don’t. It is not a quick process but will take time and finding the right alternatives and providing the correct information.

Photo by team member Bex Pelishek during a water taste test on campus.


How local is local? Gardening at the RPAC

Ohio State has made great strides in making its dining facilities more sustainable, but what about its foods? Although Ohio State currently buys 30 percent of its food from local sources, there is room for OSU to incorporate more local, as well as organic foods. By integrating these sustainable foods into its dining operations, OSU can only further emphasize its commitment to ensure a more sustainable, eco-friendly campus.

To help expand Ohio State’s dedication to sustainable practices, our group decided to research the possibility of restarting an organic garden at the university’s Recreation and Physical Activity Center (RPAC). This garden would not only provide a limited supply of produce for RPAC’s dining facility, Courtside Café, but also serve as a case study on how local and organic foods affect a university community. In our research, we found that, together, local and organic foods can inspire wellness, education, and a sense of community.

Since the RPAC is already conducive to wellness, implementing nutritional options at the facility would only emphasize its mission. The dining facility, Courtside Café, serves 2,000 customers daily, so the switch to organic and local foods would reach a wide audience. Since college students are transitioning to independent food choices, this proposal hopes to create more positive attitudes towards sustainable foods.

In our research, we found that many universities around the country have already incorporated local and organic foods into their on-campus dining facilities. The benefits that these universities have experienced range from social to economic benefits in the long run. Along with these human benefits, many schools also experience a total reduction of carbon emission from transporting food, which provides an environmental incentive for the university’s reputation. By following these examples, Ohio State can also reap the multiple benefits of local and organic foods.

Food court at Ohio State's RPAC. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Photo from Wikimedia Commons,

Biphasic rain garden could reduce harmful runoff

Students in Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources have a plan to improve one of the most polluted sections of the Olentangy River. By installing a rain garden next to Ohio Stadium, harmful chemicals from the stadium parking lot would be intercepted by the garden, improving the water quality of the river.

East campus is covered by 70 percent impervious surfaces. This means that large amounts of stormwater runoff enter the Olentangy. There is enough runoff on campus each year to fill 900,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Using breaking stormwater management technology developed by professors at Ohio State, a biphasic rain garden could be installed near Ohio Stadium to reduce harmful runoff. A biphasic rain garden is a two-column system where the first column drains into the top of the second column via a PVC piping system. This system creates a saturation zone in column one that creates conditions (anerobic) that favor denitrification. The second column provides an unsaturated zone that allows aerobic processes to occur. Biphasic rain gardens remove over 90 percent of many major contaminants.

While the stadium is our main focus, we hope to create a template for rain garden installation across the entire campus. With such a rain garden installation, Ohio State would not only have the best damn band in the land, it will also be the a leader in sustainability.

This photo of the Ohio Stadium was taken from the bank of the nearby Olentangy River. Photo by Mark Jepsen.

Sustainable paths taken

Meet Quentin Wheeler, as featured by The Atlantic. He’s a professor in Arizona State’s School of Sustainability. A senior sustainability scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability. And a three-degree graduate of Ohio State. What can an OSU undergrad class in entomology do for you? (Answer follows question #8.) Also, this repor … t: How Wheeler honored a comedian with a beetle, or maybe the other way around. (Photo by Charles Kazilek, ASU)

Potential for an Education, Outreach Center under university’s Framework Plan

Within its Framework Plan, the Ohio State University has visions of constructing a new “Science and Technology Gateway” on what is currently the St. John Arena land parcel, and relocating CFAES into the district within the next 10 to 20 years. This district would be designed so that it could maximize educational opportunities by using the adjacent river corridor to create a dynamic learning environment.

A new Environment and Natural Resources facility will be located within the district (shown in the accompanying image). Aside from the traditional classroom and laboratory functions, this facility has the potential to integrate an Education and Outreach Center focused on local ecosystems and sustainability that can serve both the campus and Columbus community.

We suggest that the new facility feature a lobby that mimics the natural transition from a riparian to a riverine ecosystem as you move from the front to the back of the building. Educational signage can then be clustered where it is most relevant within an ecosystem, enabling visitors to exit to the corridor taking the information they learned with them.

This facility also has the potential to implement involvement programs and form strategic partnerships in an effort to get students and community members to participate in activities in the adjacent river corridor that foster will appreciation of the local ecosystems.

To this point, there has been very little discussion on this topic and there still needs to be considerable planning put forth in order to make this vision a reality. If implemented this center can provide an array of learning tools that help people connect local ecosystems and sustainability to the “bigger picture.” This new facility can serve as a “Gateway to the Olentangy Corridor” and serve as a model of education and design to the rest of the university.

Image from the One Ohio State Framework Plan. For information, see

‘Back to our roots’ with native landscaping

Although the striking image of bright blooming tulips that dot OSU’s campus during the spring is quite a sight, the short lifespan of these plants left some students curious about what to do with these flowerbeds for the other months of the year.  After noticing these empty spaces on our daily commutes, we chose to research the implication of installing native landscapes around campus and, in fact, ended up finding much more benefit than we originally thought possible. From providing basic needs for indigenous species, to potentially serving as a research space and even a field trip destination, all sorts of people and animals can enjoy local flora.

Native landscaping can also aid the university not only in its public image, but also (where some may argue matters most) its wallet. By opting out of the labor-intensive process of continual heavy maintenance on these spaces, and instead installing plants that naturally grow in Ohio, the university can instead provide year-round color at a fraction of the cost.  Even by just replacing the annuals around one single building, native plants could provide a savings of about $3,000 a year.

With the university’s “One Framework Plan” and the accompanying overhaul of the campus area on its way into implementation, now is a perfect time to be considering changes that benefit all aspects of campus life. From aesthetics and personal experience to research opportunities and economic perks, native plantings just make sense. Let’s get back to our roots, Columbus.

Photo by Liv Vincent, taken at Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon, Ohio