Community Voices - Robert Q. Thompson

Robert Q. ThompsonRobert Q. Thompson is a chemistry professor at Oberlin College. He has invested time, money, and effort into installing solar panels in his home and has created an energy-efficient and green household. He has lived in Oberlin and worked at the college for thirty-two years.

 Q: What was the process of making your home more ‘green’ like for you? What did it teach you about environmental design and construction?

A: Well, it was a big investment for me. I’ve always thought about it and I finally had the wherewithal to do that. There was a Federal rebate, a tax rebate for it at that time, and I thought if I talk about it, I should put my money where my mouth is and do something about it as well. I felt it would be kind of interesting for more people to get involved in that. I use it in the Solar Tour and I have had students come look at the house and I thought it was a good way to showcase what can be done in Northeastern Ohio. I know a neighbor of mine was talking to a friend who saw the solar panels going up and said, “this is never going to work, it’s Ohio” but we make more energy than we use and that’s been great.

Q: So, whom do you hope that you inspired by installing the solar panels on your home and who or what inspired you to do so?

A: Well, I think through the Solar Tour and talking to people, I think—I don’t know if inspires is the right word—but I’ve interested people in solar panels and having them in their homes and in trying to make their homes as efficient as possible. It’s always good for people to talk to those who’ve actually done these things rather than just talking to someone about ‘is it possible’. I hope I’ve given them the information they need and what they do with it or not, it’s their own decision. I guess—I don’t know if I was inspired by any particular event or any particular person—just being in this environment and being part of committees and other groups that talked about sustainability, I think that helped me realize what I could do as an individual. And again, it’s an expensive enterprise, it’s not something I can ever pay back, but it’s a contribution that I felt I needed to make to the world, to the environment.

Q: Some people use the word sustainability to mean actions that enhance/maintain the economic, environmental and social welfare of the Oberlin community. What does sustainability mean to you and in your own life?

A: Sustainability, to me, I think means that we try to be stewards of our resources and be careful of our resources knowing that they are limited and expensive to attain. We try to use as little as possible and re-use when we can. We try to think globally because everything is interconnected. So what we do, even though it seems minor, can have a major effect, collectively, on the world. Those are the kind of things I think about—trying to preserve the world for future generations.

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell your fellow Oberlin community members—not necessarily just people within the college, but people within the town as well—regarding how Oberlin as a town has been in terms of its environmental practices?

A: I mean, I don’t want to act like I know more than anyone or it is only about profit or something. I think, in general, Oberlin is saying that they want to be a green town and that most people want to be involved in that. Some people in small ways like recycling, but then in other ways like working with power to get the pumps fixed up. I think it’s a good feeling within the community as a whole, the community as a whole is working towards this goal and being able to do that in as many ways as possible. So that’s what I hope, and that’s why it’s a nice community. It’s diverse, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re bringing everyone on board instead of just saying ‘we’re moving forward’.

Q: If you could use one word or one image to describe Oberlin, what would it be and why?

A: Fearless! [laughs] I think socially-conscious…that’s hyphenated. Oberlin as a town and as a college is progressive, forward-thinking, pushing the envelope. 

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Melissa Cabat is a first year Environmental Studies major from New York City. She is also a member of the Oberlin Student Theater Association and a DJ for WOBC 91.5 FM.

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Melissa Cabat
Melissa Cabat is a first year Environmental Studies major from New York City. Sh
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