Kent State task force sees green

Ben Wolford

Solar panels, more plants may be among suggestions

President Lester Lefton knows little about what his Task Force on Sustainability might recommend, but he said solar panel backpacks for every undergraduate isn’t an option.

Most everything else is.

“While I don’t think we will be establishing a nuclear power plant on campus,” he said, “I do think that we will try to use our energy even more efficiently than we currently do.”

Lefton announced the impending creation of a sustainability task force at his “State of the University” address this year and named Tom Euclide, executive director of facilities planning and operations, and Verna Fitzsimmons, interim dean of the College of Technology, co-chairs.

Sustainability is a movement to operate in such a way that the environment is as little affected as possible. Lefton’s created a task force to offer insights to how Kent State can do that.

“The idea of having a task force is to engage people,” Lefton said. “At a university, it’s important to have everybody have some ownership in the ultimate result.”

With the committee still little more than a concept, engaging the university so far has meant sending letters to experts in areas such as transportation, food service and energy, asking them to be a part of the project.

Nominees for committee members should be selected in the next couple of weeks, Euclide said.

Specific recommendations have not been formulated, but “there is nothing off the table at this point,” Fitzsimmons said.

Slapping solar panels on backpacks is out of the question, but Euclide said adding them to buildings is not, and it has been considered in the past.

“We certainly have been talking about them,” he said. “But we have not yet found an application that seemed to make sense.”

He said they looked into covering the Fieldhouse roof with solar panels when it was built, but it would have taken 20 years to pay for itself.

Covering roofs with plants is more feasible, Euclide said, and Taylor Hall has a terrace that will be the first to go green.

“In the next couple of years, that roof is going to need replaced, and our plan is to replace it with a green roof,” he said. “It would be some type of garden.”

Green roofs keep buildings cooler in the summer while absorbing air pollution and carbon. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, costs start at about $8 per square foot to install green roofing.

Less expensive sustainability items like recycling can get started sooner than others, Fitzsimmons said.

“I see this as a continuous improvement effort,” she said. “Personally, I would like to see some things be implemented and then just keep improving on them rather than waiting until we think we have the perfect plan.”

She expects the committee to make its first recommendations by the end of this spring.

Making Kent State carbon neutral won’t be part of the recommendation package, Euclide said. Some efforts are just too expensive, and planting trees to offset carbon output is one of them.

“It’s possible, but it’s not economical at all,” he said. “We would have to buy a lot of trees. One person jokingly said, ‘We’d have to buy the state of New Jersey and plant it with trees.'”

Contact administration reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].