OUr Earth is a student organization at the University of Oklahoma. Our purpose is to educate the OU community on environmental issues of all types affecting the campus, state, nation, and world and to encourage the active participation of members in activities relating to such issues.
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  • OU’s Involvement

    Here is a compiled list on OU’s Involvement with sustainability.

    OU’ Sustainability Report Card : C   (Check the full report here)

    This is a great source to understand what we can do as students to help change Oklahoma’s power usage.

    NPR’s Visualization of the Power Grid

    Oklahoma Coal Fighter

      The University of Oklahoma

      Sustainability Plan

      The Commitment

      OU embraces the purpose and practice of sustainability because OU is committed to:

      • the attainment of clean air for all people;
      • the conservation of physical and financial resources for this generation; and
      • the ensuring of the abundant availability of resources for the generations to come.

      The OU Norman campus covers over 3,000 acres and comprises approximately 325 buildings that encompass more than 10 million square feet. Current enrollment exceeds 20,000 students. They are taught by 1,400 faculty and supported by more than 4,300 staff. Because of its size and importance as the state’s flagship university, OU solemnly assumes a leadership role in advancing sustainability.


      OU’s sustainability plan postulates that OU’s actions and programs should provide for its students, faculty, and staff awareness of and progress toward sustainability. The plan addresses seven areas:

      1. Cost minimization // Value maximization
      2. Resource conservation
      3. Waste minimization
      4. Emission reduction
      5. Academic programs
      6. Research for renewable and cleaner energy sources
      7. Campus and community awareness

      The plan establishes objectives that OU should reasonably be able to achieve.

      Energy sources used by the University of Oklahoma include electricity, (which, in Oklahoma is generated primarily from coal) steam and natural gas, which are billed by building. OU continues to explore alternative fuel sources and is currently purchasing a portion of its electrical needs from wind generation sources.

      Under the direction of President David L. Boren, OU became the first public academic institution to join the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) and is a charter signatory to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).

      On September 10, 2008, OU signed an historic agreement with Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company (OG&E) to purchase 100% of its OG&E-supplied electricity from renewable energy sources. This commitment is instrumental in enabling OG&E to build the OU Spirit Wind Farm – along with the required distribution lines to the grid – in northwestern Oklahoma. Nearly a decade ago, OU researchers had the foresight to create the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative. Today, wind energy has the potential to create more than 15,000 new jobs with appropriate investments in research and job training.

      OU offers baccalaureate and post-graduate degrees in Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment and conducts sustainability related research in the area of biofuels.

      While recycling first came to campus in 1991, President Boren directed a significant expansion of the program in 1998 to include the collection of aluminum, plastic, newspaper and cardboard across campus. OU Recycling and Refuse was recognized by Oklahoma City Earth Day in 2000 and was given the Environmental Excellence Award. Since then the program has continued to thrive. Now more than eight materials are accepted, including batteries and toner cartridges. Old files can even be shredded and recycled upon request.

      This spring more than 20 outdoor trash cans were refitted with a blue dual-purpose lid for a new trial program. This new lid features slots for both plastic and aluminum, in addition to a slot for non-recyclable materials. Under each of these new lids are separate receptacles for recyclables and trash.

      This year OU recycled 932.55 tons of material, compared to 774.40 tons in 2008. That marks a 20 percent increase in recycled material during one fiscal year. In addition to the increase in recycling, OU reduced refuse more than 13 percent.

      RecycleMania is an integral component of the ACUPCC. OU participated in the national initiative for the first time in Spring 2009, recycling 14.25 pounds per capita during the 10-week competition. OU ranked first in the Per Capita Classic Benchmarking Division among participating Big 12 schools. Among all participating public universities and colleges in the Per Capita Classic Benchmarking Division, OU ranked in the top 15 percent.

      Complementing the paper recycling efforts, more than 4,000 trees have been planted on OU’s three campuses over the past five years.  Many of those trees have been planted as part of OU’s annual Arbor Day week celebration.  OU’s landscaping department uses non-potable water for irrigation purposes, thereby avoiding demand on the potable water supply.

      In addition to an extensive project to retrofit lighting and related controls, OU conducts energy audits of its buildings. The audit of each building identifies those renovations and improvements that, when made, increase the building’s energy usage efficiency. The cost-avoidances achieved through these efforts are then used to pay for the audit and the improvements. “Smart” features are also being incorporated into buildings, including the addition of water-free and low-flow urinals and light sensors that turn off lights automatically when people are not in the room.

      With regard to new building construction, OU adheres to the International Energy Code, requiring that energy efficiency be integral to the related design and engineering specifications, consistent with the requirement that the building be aesthetically harmonious with the campus’ architectural heritage.

      Recent renovation to residence hall restaurants included the installation of energy-saving equipment.

      OU’s Parking and Transportation department last year used about 24,000 gallons of compressed natural gas (CNG) in its specially equipped vehicles, which translates to an equivalent amount of diesel fuel that was not used. The department uses 21 CNG vehicles, 42 Ethanol-capable vehicles, 2 gasoline/electric hybrids, and 40 electric vehicles with plans to further configure its fleet to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. University Fleet Services has the capability of fueling vehicles with compressed natural gas.  Ethanol and bio-diesel fueling capabilities became available with the opening of the new Transportation Operations Center which opened March 2009.  OU’s Physical Plant is testing two battery-powered tricycles. The Vehicle Alternative Fuels Policy requires that any new vehicle must be capable of using an alternative fuel unless it is a special-usage vehicle that cannot be adapted.  The policy also states that any new small utility vehicle must be electrically powered.

      OU is considering plans to participate with the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG) for a ride sharing program. OU promotes the Cleveland Area Rapid Transit (CART) as an alternative to personal transportation. Ridership on CART increased 14% for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2008. OU conducts a promotion: “Dump the Pump,” which features a fare-free day, green t-shirts, a prize drawing, and a free concert at Andrews Park in Norman, Oklahoma. Ridership doubled that day.

      The University of Oklahoma Student Association offers a free “bicycle library,” restoring used bicycles and checking them out to students to use for a semester. Additionally, OU is in the process of constructing a network of bicycling, walking, and jogging trails, which will connect the main campus with the University Research Campus and other parts of the campus. It will also eventually connect with the City of Norman’s Legacy Trail for biking, jogging, and walking. OU has formed a committee to help enhance the “bicycle-friendly” campus.

      OU’s Information Technology department (OU IT):

      §     Has initiated a “green space” endeavor that integrates more environmentally friendly systems and processes into facilities and operations;

      §     Installed kinetic energy (flywheel) generators for uninterruptible power supplies so that the use of batteries is no longer required, and the cost and risks of disposal are eliminated;

      §     Replaced individual uninterruptible power supplies with facilities-sized units needing less power and cooling;

      §     Consolidated multiple data centers to improve power and cooling efficiency;

      §     Achieved energy efficiencies by grouping redundant components;

      §     Uses “virtualization” to shrink server footprints and reduce power for cooling by 30%;

      §     Builds strategic partnerships that provide managed services for academic and administrative departments and enable server consolidation;

      §     Designs energy-efficient airflow space plans;

      §     Where possible, captures the waste heat of the data center to heat other areas;

      §     Deploy new, more powerful servers that have up to 60% less power consumption;

      With regard to its managed computer labs and classrooms, OU IT:

      §     Converted to “Energy Star” compliant workstations that run up to 70% more efficiently;

      §     Standardized on “Energy Star” compliant printers with low-power mode and double-sided printing;

      §     Replaced the print billing system to achieve an approximately 30% reduction in printing;

      §     Recycles toner cartridges and discarded printouts;

      §     Replaced paper-based systems with online services such as payment, enrollment, course management, e-portfolios, document management, and enterprise resource planning systems.

      OU’s custodial staff uses environmentally friendly products.  They have purchased new vacuums and automated machinery that protect the air better.

      An OU official serves on the board of directors of the Educational and Institutional Cooperative (E&I). E&I is the purchasing consortium that is owned by a large membership of higher education institutions throughout the United States. Its mission is to bring competitively awarded and negotiated contracts to the member institutions through which a wide variety of products and services can be acquired by those institutions and their departments. Important contracting criteria are the sustainability characteristics of products and sustainability practices of suppliers.

      With the abundance of agriculture in Oklahoma, OU purchases many items locally. OU Food Services (OUFS) works with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture to identify and contract with local produce growers. OU purchases cage-free eggs and organic fair-trade coffee. OUFS is developing a compost program.

      OU has an active sustainability-focused student organization. OUr Earth’s purpose is to educate the OU community on environmental issues and to participate in related activities.

      OU Printing Services (OUPS) converted to a process free lithographic plate that produces no harmful discharge. OUPS is one of very few printers in Oklahoma leading with this technology. Inks now emit zero volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) into the air. Use of recycled paper has long been emphasized at OU. Official stationary and calendars are printed on recycled stocks.

      OU research faculty are working a number of oil and gas areas, with particular focus on “unconventional reservoirs” such as shale gas and tight gas sands.  This includes the analysis of seismic data, calibrated with geological and geochemical information to locate “sweet spots” of enhanced production within a field. OU demonstrates considerable expertise study the effects of fracturing (cracks) in these reservoirs, how this impacts gas production and improves forecasting.  Other experimental work in this area helps better predict the stability of boreholes (wells), improving the economics and safety of drilling in the more difficult environments (such as ultra-deep water).

      OU is actively researching in the area of enhanced recovery, such as injecting chemicals into old fields (chemical flooding) to recover oil that would otherwise be left in the ground. This work includes developing new surfactants (chemicals) and combining this work with refining the geologic definition of old oil fields that may be suitable for these flooding applications.

      Biofuels research at the OU includes developing processes to convert growth such as switch grass and wood to liquid fuels. These processes do not compete food production and are more energy efficient than corn ethanol. Other processes include thermochemical techniques to make gasoline and diesel fuel, and biological conversion technologies for ethanol and butanol.

      OU researchers are developing processes to efficiently convert natural fats and oils into premium diesel fuel, starting with green processes to efficiently extract the natural oils from biomass. Researchers are also studying how these fuels burn and are measuring their performance in engines.

      Sustainability Goals and Strategies

      1. Cost Minimization // Value Maximization

      The objective here reaches somewhat beyond sustainability in that it focuses on ways to minimize the costs of running a major university while at the same time maintaining and enhancing value and quality. In various areas, though, this objective meshes perfectly with sustainability by curbing the unnecessary use of resources and finding alternate ways to accomplish tasks at resource-usage levels that are reduced or eliminated.

      Goal: Identify, Measure, and Document Baseline-able Costs.

      Strategy: Work with CFO, Financial Support Services, Purchasing, and other departments to accomplish the goal

      Goal: Reduce These Costs on a Per-Capita, Constant-Dollar Basis at a targeted percentage each year.

      Strategy: Perform the analysis, communication, and operational work necessary to accomplish this goal.

      2. Resource Conservation

      Develop strategies and methodologies that will conserve those resources over which the OU has substantial control or influence.

      Goal: Identify those resources over which OU has reasonable control and influence from a conservation standpoint.

      Strategy: Work with students, faculty, and staff to identify the resources. Document results

      Goal: Identify, document, and put in place plans actions that will conserve the resources identified.

      Strategy: Work with students, faculty, and staff to take the specific actions necessary to accomplish this goal.

      3. Waste Minimization

      Develop programs and procedures to minimize waste on campus.

      Goal: Identify the waste streams that emanate from campus. Document them.

      Strategy: Work with students, faculty, and staff to identify the waste streams. Document results

      Goal: Identify, document, and put in place programs and procedures to minimize and/or eliminate the waste streams.

      Strategy: Work with students, faculty, and staff to take the specific actions necessary to accomplish this goal.

      4. Emission Reduction

      Put in place plans and mechanisms to reduce emissions on campus over the long term (to 2050).

      Goal: Reduce Scope 1 emissions.

      §       Stationary Combustion

      §       Mobile Combustion

      §       Process Emissions

      §       Fugitive Emissions

      Strategy: Baselines have been established. Work with Physical Plant to put in place physical and behavioral measures to accomplish the reductions

      Goal: Reduce Scope 2 emissions.

      §       Purchased Electricity

      §       Mobile Combustion

      §       Process Emissions

      §       Fugitive Emissions

      Strategy: Baseline has been established. Work with Physical Plant to put in place physical and behavioral measures to accomplish the reductions

      Goal: Reduce Scope 3 emissions.

      §       Commuting

      §       Air Travel

      §       Solid Waste

      Strategy: Baselines need to be established. Work with Parking & Transportation, Purchasing, and Physical Plant to put in place physical and behavioral measures to accomplish the reductions

      The above includes the purchase of offsets only to the extent of OU’s participation in the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). From OU’s point of view, purchasing offsets outside this context, is an incomplete strategy because we do not believe that offsets are the end-all answer to zero emissions. Our participation in CCX is primarily predicated on our academic and research interests in the cap-and-trade model. Accordingly, if we earn renewable energy credits (RECs), we intend to trade them on CCX rather than retire them. Reduction will depend on new technologies, innovation with existing technologies, and behavioral change. We don’t know yet the means by which we will achieve it. Our zero-emissions time target is 2050. Based on an array of assumptions, we intend to increase our budget base each year by a specified amount so that by 2050, we will be able to equivalently fund all the offsets necessary. However, those funds will instead go toward actual emission reduction projects on campus.

      5. Academic Programs

      Develop sustainability-oriented subject matter and incorporate it into OU curricula to the maximum extent possible.

      Goal: Make sustainability an integral part of the entire OU experience such that OU develops a national reputation for weaving sustainability into its degree programs.

      Strategy: Work with the Provost, deans and faculty to incorporate sustainability into its degree programs.

      6. Research for Renewable and Cleaner Energy Sources

      Expand and strengthen research efforts focusing on renewable and cleaner energy sources.

      Goal: Establish renewable and cleaner energy as formal and focused areas of OU’s research mission.

      Strategy: Work with the Vice President for Research and research faculty to expand and strengthen the fields of renewable and cleaner energy sources in OU’s overall research program.

      7. Campus and Community Awareness

      Develop and implement communication and action programs that establish and increase the involvement of the campus and the community of Norman in OU’s sustainability efforts and programs.

      Goal: Make sustainability a natural way of life for students, faculty, and staff. Increase the awareness of these developments so that it reaches out into the community of Norman.

      Strategy: Work with the Vice President for Administration & Finance and the Vice President for Public Affairs regarding ways and methods that sustainability can be incorporated into campus life, and techniques and actions that can better inform the Norman community of OU’s sustainability

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