Sustainability Film Festival

Honors College Students Address Green Issues on Campus Through Projects and Video Diaries


By Daylina Miller


TAMPA, Fla. (May 4, 2010) -- One video shows a group of students digging through bags of garbage to sort out the recyclables from the waste. Others have students encouraging their classmates to buy food locally or sign a petition to bring recycling to USF residence halls. All of the videos, and a couple more, were posted on YouTube as part of a class project that required students to identify a need on campus and then plan, develop, and implement a project to address that need.


“Students weren’t just talking about sustainability, they were actually doing it,” said Christian Wells, associate professor of anthropology and director of USF’s Office of Sustainability. “The results of their hard work have not only transformed them into USF citizen-scholar-activists, but also brought a great deal of attention to major issues and themes in campus and community sustainability.”


Students in the Honors College class “People, Planet, Prosperity – Shrinking USF’s Environmental Footprint,” were asked to “walk the talk” and develop a sustainability project that would implement what they learned in class on campus. They had to keep a video diary of their project that recorded their plans and their struggles in carrying them out.


On April 29, students presented their videos to their classmates and guests at a sustainability film festival in Juniper-Poplar Hall. Among the invited was Stuart Silverman, dean of the Honors College.


“It’s one thing for all of you to come into a class, read a textbook, take tests and write a paper,” Silverman said. “You’re all very accomplished with that. But it’s another thing to invent a project under an accomplished faculty member that allows you to learn about and help these issues.”


The issues Silverman spoke of included wasteful food practices on campus and lack of recycling.


Two groups covered the issues of recycling in the student residence halls- Students For Recycling in the Dorms, where students used their own funds to put recycling bins in the halls and take them to the recycling center and Student Recycling Project, who created a petition to bring bins into the dorms.


Recycling bins were not allowed on the first floor of the dormitories for aesthetic reasons, the group said. Campus tours are often brought through the first floor to show off the residence halls.


“You’d think people would be encouraged by seeing recycling bins there,” said Izzy Morejon, a business and marketing major.


The recycling groups insisted that recycling bins were low-cost and that the system could work if one person per floor was assigned to make sure the recyclables are regularly taken to the recycling center.


Another group focused on organizing a local food expo at Bulls Market to educate students on the benefits of buying produce locally. The Veggie Bulls kept a two-part video diary (Part I, Part II) and teamed up with the USF Community Garden and the Urban Oasis hydrophonic farm for donated produce.


“The localization movement is about buying things that haven’t been brought from thousands of miles away. That wastes fossil fuels and why waste fossil fuels when you can produce locally?” said Jill Sears, an environmental science and policy major.


Buying locally also helps to preserve the culture of the community and create local jobs.


The Garbage Green Team (Part I, Part II) set up five demonstrations outside of the Marshall Student Center, each time separating a big garbage bag of trash they pulled from a nearby bin into recyclables and actual waste. The video shows that the majority of the trash that was thrown away could be recycled.


It also brought up the issue of how much food is wasted on campus and the amount of waste that fast food businesses alone generate.


“All the fast food stuff is a lot of waste. It’s bags within bags and plastic containers,” said Samantha Hafner, a sociology major.


One group proposed a solution for all the food that gets thrown away- composting.


In “Worm it Up,” students host a free composting class on campus to educate students on what foods can be composted to use as fertilizer for growing their own food and plants naturally. Susana Alvarado, who was recently appointed to be the resident assistant in the fall for the Green living and Learning Community in Maple B Hall, has plans to start composting bins in the residence halls.


“Composting in the residence hall is not costly and it does not smell,” said Alvarado, an environmental science and policy major. “I feel that composting in the residence halls will help USF housing to reduce the amount of waste they produce which has a large impact on the campus' output of trash.


The group did research on universities with successful composting programs on-campus, such as the University of Oregon and Harvard.


 “We learned that many universities have already applied composting methods for their waste, and that the efforts of these schools are making a huge difference both environmentally and economically,” said Michelle Gersten, a theatre design major.


Gersten feels that green practices must be implemented by universities, not just to reduce the school’s carbon footprint, but to serve as an example for the community.


“Educational institutions are supposed to be the pioneers of knowledge and growth,” Gersten said. “Surrounding communities look towards universities as role models.”



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.