Ohio Implements Energy Conservation and Sustainability Initiatives

By Hildebrand, Jenny | Corrections Today, February-March 2013 | Go to article overview
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Ohio Implements Energy Conservation and Sustainability Initiatives


Hildebrand, Jenny, Corrections Today


In 2007, Ohio began a major push for environmental conservation with an executive order from the governor's office to reduce and improve energy consumption statewide. Since then, Gov. John Kasich has implemented additional initiatives focused on shale development, energy conservation and clean waterways. In line with these initiatives, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) was tasked with decreasing energy consumption by five percent by 2008, and by 15 percent by 2011.

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After meeting these goals, ODRC has continued the mission of reducing its environmental impact through coordinated agencywide efforts and individual institutional-level initiatives. Administrative staff established the Energy Conservation and Waste Reduction policy and the Three-Year Strategic Sustainability Plan, while staff and offenders at various facilities launched recycling programs, community gardens and a wide host of other grassroots projects.

Agency Efforts

Currently, ODRC has 28 institutions (two are privately operated) that house more than 49,000 offenders and employ more than 12,000 staff. ODRC Director Gary Mohr recognizes the impact that an organization of this size can have and values going green. He believes that ODRC "will not only save taxpayer dollars, but also ensure that we are doing our part to protect the environment in our surrounding communities and around the world." With such strong support, the department was able to take a number of steps to promote green initiatives across the state.

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Policy. Internal sustainability endeavors began with the revision of ODRC policy 22-BUS-17, Energy Conservation and Waste Reduction, which, among other things, established an energy conservation and sustainability administrator position. This individual is responsible for overseeing the policy's implementation, including required recycling at all institutions, monthly reporting, annual waste stream and energy audits, and designated conservation and recycling coordinators at each institution or workplace.

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The policy also establishes the Recycling/Conservation Grant Fund. Recycling programs at many of the prisons generate revenue from commodity (i.e. plastics, aluminum, etc.) sales. Fifty percent of this revenue is returned to the individual institutions, while the other 50 percent goes into the fund. Facilities are then able to apply for grants from the fund to support and improve their conservation efforts. These funds have been used to purchase items such as tractors, forklifts, balers (machines in which recyclables are compressed and bound together), recycling containers, energy efficiency items (i.e. motion sensors) and environmental literacy class supplies. Recycling revenue for the fund increased 149 percent during the past year, up from $134,838 in Fiscal Year 2011 to $335,495 in Fiscal Year 2012.

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Strategic sustainability plan. While the Energy Conservation and Waste Reduction policy set the foundation for the department's green initiatives, specific goals were needed to move the policy forward. ODRC staff, with assistance from the Vera Institute of Justice, developed a Three-Year Strategic Sustainability Plan to guide the department's endeavors. The ODRC Office of Administration, Energy Conservation and Sustainability began by reviewing plans from other states and engaging department leaders for input and feedback. They also looked at the Global Reporting Initiative framework to determine what kind of objectives and metrics they might want to include in a future sustainability report.

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In June 2012, Mohr signed the Three-Year Strategic Sustainability Plan, establishing the following goals for the department:

* Reduce water usage by 15 percent;

* Reduce electric and natural gas consumption by a combined 15 percent;

* Reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent;

* Reduce waste sent to landfills by 75 percent;

* Publish a sustainability resource guide to supplement the Three-Year Strategic Sustainability Plan by 2013; and

* Complete a comprehensive sustainability report.

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