I ’m Max Schaefer, the OEC Action Fund’s newest staff member and the organization’s first field staff living in the great city of Lorain--right on the coast of Lake Erie. I am not a policy expert, my background is in politics and community engagement. But I don’t think you need to have background in environmental studies to realize that Oberlin, Ohio is a green city that puts the environment and sustainability at its forefront. Who is the catalyst behind this movement? The Oberlin Project.
Environmental awareness and activism was a strong held belief in Oberlin long before the 2010 inception of the Oberlin Project, but this current collaboration between Oberlin College, the city of Oberlin, and private businesses and institutes seems to have bolstered that sense of ability and progress.
Not only has this initiative halved Oberlin’s carbon footprint in only 3 years, but through the Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System, the community is also expected to generate over $2 million through its renewable energy credits by year’s end. This gives the city and its citizens a wide variety of options in community reinvestment.
This organization truly exemplifies the importance of collaboration. Through their partnerships they have doubled energy audits and house weatherizations in 3 years. The Oberlin Project in conjunction with Zion CDC has even began a venture in affordable green housing within the community.
So, what’s the next big project for this group? A green, community food hub! Through the re-localization of agriculture, the Oberlin Project will be able to coordinate food cultivation and distribution in order to benefit the community. Through the creation of a commercial kitchen incubator, the Oberlin Project will process and preserve foods in a healthy way for local restaurants, schools, and businesses.
Municipalities should take a strong look at what the Oberlin Project is doing in Northern Ohio. This model could be replicated to benefit many other Ohio communities. Local efforts have a critical role to play in expanding green infrastructure and policies across Ohio. The Oberlin Project is a testament to what can happen when communities come together to create environmental solutions.