Voinovich School awarded silver in STEP certification

Austin Ambrose
May 22, 2017

The Office of Sustainability recently awarded silver certification status to the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs’ Building 22 through their Sustainability Tracking and Evaluation Program (STEP). Building 22 on The Ridges houses the School’s Environmental Studies degree and certificate programs, the Energy and Environment program, and the finance and administrative unit.

STEP is a benchmarking certification that recognizes departments and offices around campus for their sustainability efforts. To receive a distinction, the department must undergo an evaluation of wide-ranging sustainability practices in their building. The STEP checklist outlines these practices, which encompass energy use, waste, printing, purchasing, transportation and awareness. The process also recognizes sustainability-related innovations.

"Rob Delach [senior geospatial manager] donated one of his extra bikes to be shared by anyone needing to get to main campus for meetings or events,” MSES candidate Taylor Burchett, student leader of the project, said. “It cuts down on car use and therefore emissions.” Alternative transportation options are one such benchmark in the STEP process.

Five levels of distinction are possible for award through STEP: Registered, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The first step in participating in the program involves a meeting between the interested department and Sam Crowl, sustainability project coordinator from the Office of Sustainability. Crowl gives an informational presentation outlining the process for the members of the department.

After the department learns about the process, the STEP checklist must be completed. Burchett worked with Nicole Kirchner, staff advisor for the project, to distribute the checklist to all faculty and staff housed in the Building 22.

“It is important for Building 22 to take a leadership role for engaging in STEP given the environmental commitment our programs make to the region and our students,” Jen Bowman, interim director of environmental programs, said.  “Recognition of STEP ‘Silver’ allows the environmental programs at the Voinovich School to promote sustainable practices and be a leader for other units across campus.”

The faculty and staff were tasked with completing the checklist about their sustainable behaviors. Burchett collected and compiled the answers of the personnel in the building. The Office of Sustainability then determined the department’s silver rating after receiving and scoring the compiled checklist.

Elissa Welch, project manager for the Zero Waste Initiative at the Voinovich School, is optimistic about the impact the program may have at the Voinovich School and beyond The Ridges.

“The Office of Sustainability’s STEP encourages individual actions that can affect collective action. As more units adopt sustainable practices, we set higher standards for ourselves and the university, raising institutional awareness about sustainability,” she said. “The Voinovich School’s continued multidisciplinary focus on regional environmental issues and education of future environmental leaders is a natural fit for STEP goals. Going through this process has sparked interest and conversation across our faculty, staff and students about what comes next.”