Environmental studies major using honors project to create environmental checklist for city
3/3/2008 8:52:27 AM
RC student helping city stay green
By Alicia Petska
Lynchburg News & Advance
Friday, February 29, 2008
Growing up in New Zealand - a country that prides itself on its "clean and green" image - Matea Osti always considered respect for the environment as natural as, well, nature.
"A healthy environment is a healthy community," the Randolph College senior explained while discussing the principles of sustainable development.
"I think the current reality is moving toward a balance between environment and development," she said excitedly. "That development doesn’t have to destroy the environment; it can be in sync with it."
A dual major in environmental and global studies, Osti, 21, isn’t waiting until graduation day to put her knowledge to use.
The international student was tapped last fall to help the city form an environmental checklist that will be used in future reviews of new development requests.
The list, a tool increasingly popping up in communities, was included among the goals of the 2002 comprehensive plan. It could potentially track everything from the immediate effects of a project, including the impact of construction, to longer-term issues such as whether a building uses low-energy fixtures.
"Something like this could be very beneficial in determining what the environmental impacts of a certain project are," said Erin Hawkins, the city’s environmental planner. "It will certainly be in the community’s best interest, so we can make smart choices for the future."
The city’s Natural Resources Advisory Committee is overseeing the creation of the Lynchburg checklist.
Osti (pronounced Os-tee) was recruited to handle the project’s research by the chairwoman of that committee, who also heads Randolph College’s environmental studies program.
"This is a very dear project to me," said Osti, who lists making a difference in the world as her only ambition. "It’s a project that can result in constructive applications and can improve the well-being and quality of life of the city. That’s really rewarding."
Osti, who’s receiving honors credit for her contributions, has spent months researching different checklists used by other cities across the continent. Her final report is expected in April.
"Matea has really brought an energy and enthusiasm to this project," said Randolph College professor and Lynchburg planning commissioner Rick Barnes. "We are really fortunate to have her. Just the fact that she’s doing an honors project tells you she’s one of our top students."
Barnes, whose specialty is environmental psychology, sits on the faculty committee overseeing Osti’s work. He also serves as the Planning Commission representative to the Natural Resources Advisory Committee.
"This is a really unique project," he said of the partnership between the two. "It gives the city a chance to do a project it doesn’t have the resources for on its own, and it gives a college student experience they wouldn’t otherwise get."
All Randolph College seniors are required to complete a research project. Honors students, however, take their work a step further and apply it to a real-world situation.
Once Osti completes her research, it will be up to the Natural Resources Advisory Committee to create a final proposal that will be submitted to City Council.
Questions yet to be answered include whether the checklist should be solely for informational purposes or whether it should be paired with incentive offers to entice developers to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.
The committee has not set a timeline for completing that work. The comprehensive plan calls for a "simple" list that will require developers to provide "more detailed analyses" of their effect on the city’s environment.
Osti is set to graduate from Randolph
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