BG Administration building

Bowling Green Council’s newly-created sustainability committee on Monday voted to move a resolution calling for a sustainability and climate action plan forward to the full council.

“Climate action plans are fluid,” said Nick Hennessy, Bowling Green State University’s sustainability manager, who was asked to speak at Monday’s meeting. “They’re fluid, they’re flexible … because you’re aiming at a moving target.”

Hennessy detailed the background for the creation of BGSU’s climate action plan, which began when his position was created in 2009.

He said that BGSU has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2040, and said the plan is a collection of both short- and long-term actions and projects.

“Many of the projects have occurred, many have not,” Hennessy said, noting that some have been added over time.

Hennessy said that since the adoption of BGSU’s climate plan, the university’s total emissions have declined annually. In 2013, their emissions were approximately 113,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent, he said; most recently, it was measured at approximately 65,600 – though he noted that could be an aberration due to issues related to the pandemic.

He said that many of BGSU’s implemented projects saved money, as well as reducing emissions. Among them were internal and external LED lighting, the reuse of surplus materials, reducing the university’s vehicle fleet, and implementing building energy conservation measures.

In answering committee member Rachel Phipps’ questions about their process in creating the plan, Hennessy said there was a steering committee, which included a large number of people who were part of an initial working group. That committee, and sub-committees, met for about a year, coming up with projects.

He also noted that they realized that a team implementation process was necessary to move forward and prioritize actions.

Committee Chair Jeff Dennis said that Hennessy had previously said the BGSU plan was student-driven.

“This is something that a lot of young people in particular are paying attention to,” said Dennis, “which ties into our city’s economic future. … I think the city could really stand to benefit economically from pursuing the formation of a climate action plan.”

The committee also referred to and briefly discussed a recent report issued by the city’s sustainability advisory committee, as well as a memo from Mayor Mike Aspacher which outlined next steps.

In his document, Aspacher noted seven goals outlined in the report that he is asking staff to begin immediately.

Those include working with Downtown Bowling Green and business owners to develop a pilot recycling program for businesses in the downtown; conducting a litter study to determine the need for more trash receptacles in public areas; completing an emissions inventory using the ClearPath tool – noting that a membership application is awaiting approval from ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability and that using the ClearPath modules will position the city to finish a draft Climate Action Plan by June 2023;” involving and engaging the community in educational outreach programs and incentives, noting that prior to the pandemic, city staff had developed an educational series focused on sustainability which will begin once conditions allow; continuing to promote the incredible sustainability efforts already underway in Bowling Green; continuing to add electric and hybrid vehicles to the city’s vehicles; and reviewing the impacts and possibility of adding additional electrical vehicle charging stations in public areas as well as the possibility of adding electric charging stations in private parking lots.

Aspacher, speaking during the council meeting held later Monday evening, acknowledged the hard work of the advisory committee.

“I do believe that this report will provide a sound basis for our conversations moving forward,” he said. “I do think that one of the things that struck me in my readings of the report is what it does, I believe, in justifying Bowling Green’s reputation as a sustainable community. … That said, there’s work left to do.”

“I think that it will prove super helpful in creating a climate action plan in that it really surveys everything that we’ve done” in the city concerning sustainability to date, said Phipps, during the committee meeting, of the report. “Our climate action plan is going to set goals, create a timeline, quantify costs and then specify accountability measures, among other things.”

It was noted that a climate action plan resolution was a strategic goal of council’s in 2020, and Dennis said that there is a draft of such a resolution, calling for a sustainability and climate action plan in the city, drafted by Phipps.

Dennis and Phipps voted to send that resolution on to the full council.