The interns at the Office of Green Initiatives (OGI) hosted a climate rally on Wednesday, Nov. 17 to provide students and staff the opportunity to sign an open letter prepared by the OGI interns. This event was in response to Kenyon’s new strategic plan and sustainability statement regarding their goal to be carbon neutral by 2040.
Kenyon has committed itself to developing a plan with concrete sustainability goals by 2022, which it will then re-evaluate every three years, though there is no explicit plan regarding how the College plans to meet carbon neutrality by 2040. The OGI wrote a letter in response to Kenyon’s plan, proposing courses of action that could help the College achieve this specific goal. Some of these include suggesting the expansion of the Department of Environmental Studies to increase environmental literacy on campus, as well as incorporating more discussions about sustainability into first-year orientation to foster a greener campus culture.
The letter also suggests that the College include embodied carbon emissions in their calculations of Kenyon’s emissions. Embodied carbon emissions refer to those that are emitted from, for example, constructing a building as opposed to those that are emitted from the building’s normal functioning. The OGI is also urging the College to hire a consultant to create a comprehensive timeline and budget to help achieve the 2040 carbon-neutrality goal.
Additionally, the climate rally served as an opportunity for the campus community to come together in an effort to contribute to helping Kenyon achieve this goal. “We want to avoid finger pointing at the students or at the administration and kind of start a conversation in the community for what we want to see,” said OGI intern Ben Hoffer ’25.
OGI intern Hank Thomas ’24 warmly welcomed attendees and directed them into the event, where students could find tables from student organizations such as the Archon Society, the Rural Cause and Environmental Campus Organization (ECO) as well as live music performed by student bands Benny Enzo, Extra Butter and Christian M and Friends. Some students took the opportunity to dance to the music, while others circled the different student organization tables to learn more about the specific goals and interests of each group.
Reflecting on the event, Thomas spoke about the importance of student advocacy in dealing with the climate crisis. “I hope that Kenyon students a) realize that things are happening on campus for sustainability, but also b) realize that there’s more that can be done and I mean that from even as low as recycling all the way up to decarbonization projects,” he said.
Until then, outside of participating in environmental-focused clubs and organizations, Thomas suggested asking professors to incorporate sustainability themes and topics into their classes, especially in economics classes or classes with social-justice implications.