Oh! Dam! (on the Olentangy)

The Fifth Avenue Dam is slated for removal in the fall of 2012. The City of Columbus has received approval and proper funding to go ahead with this massive undertaking. With the removal of the dam, two miles of the Olentangy River will be restored along The Ohio State University’s Columbus campus. The goal of the restoration is to rejuvenate areas of the river that have become unhealthy and increase the riparian habitat that shelters the river.

Education will be the major hurdle that the University must overcome to get the full support of the students and community. Many people use the Greenway bike path that parallels the River and many students cross the River going to and from classes. Educating people about the restoration project and the different phases that accompany a major restoration project will help to appease any unrest from seeing the River in its unsightly phases. Not only will education play a significant role in public relations but the restoration will provide ample opportunity for community involvement. Getting community members, as well as, students involved in various restoration projects will help to develop a personal connection with the River while accelerating the healing process.

We propose spreading the word about the dam removal and restoration phases through several University media avenues, such as official website, school newspaper, signs, information booths, and a photo timeline.

The Olentangy River, near the Ohio Stadium

Green horizons at Ohio State

As  Ohio State  moves toward more sustainable practices, green roofs can be one way to achieve this. A green roof is also known as a rooftop garden, and is a vegetative layer grown on a rooftop. Green roofs can provide numerous benefits both environmentally and economically that can help the city of Columbus decrease its overall impact on the surrounding environment. Benefits include a reduction the Urban Heat Island Effect, improved air quality, decreased stormwater runoff, and decreased energy use. The addition of a green roof will also significantly increase roof lifespan and decrease utility bills.

Although a green roof is in the planning stages for Howlett Hall, Ohio State remains the only Big Ten University that does not have a single green roof or a green roof research facility. In addition, governments in other countries have also been implementing green roofs in urban areas. For example, Germany has been a leader in green roof construction since the 1980s. With the growing popularity of adopting green roofs and green roof policies, and with green roofs fitting in perfectly with the university’s ideas regarding sustainability, why hasn’t Ohio State progressed further?

We propose that The Ohio State University One Framework Plan include a policy that would mandate that all suitable existing roofs that are undergoing roof replacement should be replaced with green roofs, and that all suitable new construction should involve the implementation of green roofs. We conducted a case study of Hitchcock Hall and discovered that the implementation of a green roof would result in a savings of roughly $100,000 over the lifespan of the roof. The benefits gained from the implementation of a green roof policy would allow Ohio State to become a leader in sustainability to ensure the future well-being of the university.

Photo of Grange Insurance Audubon Center's green roof in Columbus courtesy of Megan Welsh


Emphasizing Ohio State’s interest for increased bike ridership on campus

Through the One Ohio State Framework Plan, Ohio State has stated heavy interests in sustainability and developing a pedestrian-friendly campus. This entails institutional and cultural changes throughout Ohio State’s campus. Ohio State is already developing incentives to encourage bike ridership on campus. Our group in ENR 567 believes the university can still do more.

The Framework plan already has institutional changes that will occur in order to increase bike ridership on campus. This includes policies like moving surface parking to west campus and installing sharrows (shared lanes) to help bike riders feel safe on campus roads. Our group has developed suggestions that would expedite the cultural shift towards bike ridership on campus.

Many programs can be used in order to create a culture about biking at Ohio State. A bike riding phone application, tailored to Ohio State, would increase interest by providing features like maps, fitness utilities, and news feeds about campus bike routes. Ohio State could also highlight infrastructure which makes bike ridership an easier choice for those choosing how to commute to campus. Showers and lockers are available at places like the RPAC and Thompson library. While many students know this, they might not have made the connection between biking and these peripherals. Increasing educational programming is essential for highlighting these amenities. Such materials could also teach students how to bike safely on campus. These changes, along with many others, will make bike riding more attractive and help Ohio State towards its goals of sustainability.

Public photo from morguefile.com

Fill up on gas from garbage … at $2.25 a gallon?

OARDC, the research arm of our college based in northeast Ohio, is converting four of its vehicles to run on natural gas — but not just any natural gas. Gas produced locally from renewable, plentiful organic waste, such as chicken fat, rotten tomatoes, and the byproducts of making potato chips. Even better, the fuel costs only about two-thirds as much as gasoline and, when burned, emits about a third less greenhouse gas. Read more. (K.D. Chamberlain image.)


Testing if microbes can treat fracking waste

Can the microbes in fracking wastewater actually be put to use treating that wastewater? Angela Hartsock of the National Energy Technology Lab discusses her work this Friday (March 30). Her talk: “Microbes in Water Used for Hydraulic Fracturing of Deep Shale for Natural Gas Extraction.” It’s a free public seminar sponsored by the Environmental Science Graduate Program. 244 Kottman Hall, 2120 Fyffe Road, on our Columbus campus. Video link to 121 Fisher Auditorium, 1680 Madison Ave., at OARDC in Wooster. Info: 614-292-9762.

How fungi genes may help us make ethanol

Fungal diseases such as Stagonospora nodorum and Magnaporthe oryzae cause significant losses to wheat and rice crops throughout the world. Now a scientist with OARDC (the research arm of our college) is trying to use these bad fungi for good—taking some of their genes to breed bioenergy crops that could make ethanol production cheaper and more efficient. Read more …

What to do with that shoebox full of old batteries

Details on what you can recycle next month at our Wooster Campus Scarlet, Gray, and Green Fair. Recycling is just one part of sustainability, but how important of a part is it? “Far more important than people are inclined to believe,” says the University of Missouri’s John Ikerd, author of Sustainable Capitalism: A Matter of Common Sense. “We recycle for sustainability because we realize it is not a sacrifice to care about other people or to care about the earth, because these things make our lives better.”