by Jack Barger ‘01

It Matters.

This simple statement is at the forefront of plans that Orion Jones, the University of Findlay’s new physical plant director, and the faculty, staff, and students who share in his passion for the environment at UF, are enacting. And, he says, it should be at the forefront of the mindset regarding changing the campus culture.

This culture to which Jones is referring is one that revolves around sustainability and making the campus more environmentally sensitive, or more “green.” The idea has been embraced by Jones and many others at UF, particularly Amy DePuy, assistant direct of communication and co-chair of the Findlay Green Campus Initiative (FGCI); Ryan Smith, D.H.Sc., associate professor and chair of the diagnostic services department and member of FGCI; and Ben Dolan, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and director of natural areas and plant collections. It’s a movement that’s been on these and other people’s radars around campus for quite some time. Findlay Green Campus Initiative, for instance, began operating in 2007 alongside faculty members Michael Reed, Ph.D., Betsey Mascaro, Crystal Weitz, Dwight Moody, Ed.D., Diana Montague, Ph.D., and Gordon Gillespie, and has been operating steadfastly since then. UF has also been designated a “Tree Campus U.S.A.” by the Arbor Day Foundation for the past three years. Jones’s arrival, however, along with the extra attention being paid to the campus environment, seems to be bringing new momentum for embracing a greener philosophy.

Jones is a firebrand for sustainability. He has only been in his UF position for around three months, and, as a result of both, he said, he has been spending what little time he has had “constantly thinking” about ways to make the myriad of plans he has made become a reality for UF.  “The first step is putting an infrastructure in place,” Jones said. “And the goal is to eventually have the energy we produce equal the energy we consume. How can we reduce our waste, as well? Can we do that? I absolutely think we can or I wouldn’t be here.”

Jones further explained that he would like to see UF be a model for campus sustainability, saying that involves everything from waste management to, potentially, UF being independent with energy. With his ever-moving mind, and his gumption for sustainability, the likelihood that he’ll come up with a successful plan is considerable. The progress he’s making so far – in his head, for the time being – is as interesting as it is impressive, and the feeling that it won’t stay in his head for very long is hard to ignore.

Dolan has been making similar headway, recently reviving an interest in the many trees on campus, an interest that had been somewhat overlooked. “Obviously, we’ve had many great trees on campus for years,” he said. “But, as a whole, we just kind of ignored them for a while. Now, we do a much better job of caring for them.” He explained that, in order to be a designated Tree Campus by the Arbor Day Foundation, universities have to, among a few other requirements, have a “high-quality” tree care plan, host an Arbor Day event, and host a service-learning event for students, all good things that will keep attention focused on the importance of the hundreds of trees on campus that are cared for and maintained. He said that the committee that came as a result of trying to meet the requirements for the designation has allowed for there to be more proactive attention to the campus’ trees, rather than reactive. “We’re in a better position, for instance, to treat the trees as a preventative measure rather than as the result of a disease that has already taken over,” he said.      

Jones’ plans run the gamut from simple things like switching and changing the placement of trash and recycling containers, to having a centralized location for groundskeepers to take recycling. His vision for the latter is a grounds laydown yard similar to that of Litter Landing, a recycling facility in Findlay. “It’s all about how we can most easily reduce our waste 90% over the next three to five years,” he said. “If Ohio State, for instance, can produce zero waste during a football game and we, ourselves, can control every product that comes onto campus, why couldn’t we get there?  We just need a plan and things set up for someone to specifically lead it.” This goal of “zero carbon footprint” isn’t just aimed at recycling. Jones elaborated on the notion of UF having independent energy, for example. “How, eventually, can we create and maintain our own power? How about every building having battery backups with renewable energy tied in? We should be doing it. Every single time we build a building we should incorporate more ways to produce power,” he suggested.

Of course, the ultimate concern regarding all of this is the people of UF, more specifically the students, and how they can benefit from the shift in culture. Clearly, there are opportunities for them to get involved both with the various projects for Tree Campus, and with FGCI. There are, though, many other benefits for campus than just “doing the right thing.” For instance, according to Jones, the plans make as much fiscal sense as they do for other reasons. “We can save a lot of money,” he said. “Green equals green. And money saved will go back toward improving programs and recruiting students. And we’re teaching them lifestyle ideas.”

The interest is there, according to DePuy. “FGCI has done surveys that show that students want recycling on campus,” she mentioned. “In fact, they get excited about it.”

“Students already want to join in and assist with all of these things, but they’re more apt to jump on board when things are set in place,” Smith continued, referencing the planned infrastructure. “For recycling efforts, as an example, a more organized process from the top is needed. That way, when students graduate, new students can easily just slip in and know that ‘this is how we do it at UF.’”

“It all matters,” Jones said. “Let’s make it part of our culture. We need to make a grassroots cultural change as an organization. All of these things equal success and we all benefit from this common goal. If we use it, we reuse it. Let’s make this place even better. It’s our future.”