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Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics


Experiential Learning Initiative in Sustainability Launches First Project

The Sustainability Innovation Virtual Lab (SIVL) has launched its first project linking a business to an Ohio State student to seek a solution to a “real-world’ sustainability business problem. 

SIVL is a joint experiential learning effort of the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) and the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics (AEDE) in the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences to connect businesses and students in sustainability problem-solving. Support for SIVL has also been provided by the Sustainable and Resilient Economy Discovery Theme at Ohio State.  

Dr. Neil Drobny, who leads SIVL, said that he gets many requests (more than he can accommodate) from companies and non-profits for student help in sustainability-related projects. 

“This was the driving force behind the creation of SIVL,” said Drobny who teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on sustainable business practices in the Fisher College of Business. Drobny is also affiliated with the Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability (EEDS) undergraduate program at Ohio State, which is offered jointly by SENR and AEDE.

The first SIVL project focuses on the sustainability needs of Independent Power USA LLC (IP-USA). IP-USA, which is located in Dublin, Ohio, is a 3-year old organization that primarily operates in the power generation industry delivering base load renewable cogeneration as an alternative to the fossil fuel industry.

IP-USA is deploying a variety of “clean” technologies for Ohio manufacturers and service providers (such as universities and health facilities). In order to enhance their marketing efforts, IP-USA knows that they must demonstrate unequivocally that their technology will reduce the carbon footprint of current fossil fueled furnaces, steam boilers and turbines.

In order to measure and validate their claims, IP-USA is consulting with Canal Winchester based Resource100 LTD, a 9-year old sustainability firm with a focus on waste reduction, recycling and the conversion of waste to products, fuels and energy.

The defined project goal for Resource100 is the development of a “user friendly” calculator by which existing conditions of energy, pollution and dollars input and output can be compared to various IP-USA owned and licensed technologies and the carbon footprint impact displayed. This tool will ultimately become a marketing tool to be used by IP-USA.  

“Ohio State’s SIVL initiative fills a void in central Ohio for talent to work on an ever-expanding set of opportunities for strengthening the sustainable fabric of our community,” noted Mike Long, President of Resource100.

Assisting Resource100 on the project is Ohio State student Mark Dickerhoof. Dickerhoof’s job is to apply in the real world an Ohio State-developed life cycle assessment model to find the lowest carbon emissions from a number of possible technology alternatives owned or licensed by IP-USA. 

“The opportunity to work on the SIVL project will expand my skill set and my readiness for employment by allowing me to ‘road test’ ideas and tools I have learned in the classroom,” said Dickerhoof, who is majoring in Industrial and Systems Engineering with a minor in EEDS. 

To assure that SIVL is built on a foundation of best practices, Ohio State will hold a conference on experiential learning in sustainability at which experts from across the country will share their experiences.

For more information on SIVL, including engagement opportunities, contact Dr. Neil Drobny by email at or by phone at (614) 268-6100.

Photo Credit: The Ohio State University