Sustainability Gold

Sustainability and environmentally-focused initiatives on campus have earned USF a coveted “gold” rating.


By Vickie Chachere News Manager


TAMPA. Fla. (Feb. 7, 2011)  - The University of South Florida has become one of a small number of universities nationwide whose efforts to build an environmentally-conscious campus and advance sustainability efforts through cutting-edge research have earned a “gold” rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the nation’s leading advocacy group for the green campus movement.


An comprehensive 236-page accounting of all of USF’s initiatives and efforts surrounding sustainability on the Tampa campus and clean energy and environmental research has been submitted to the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). STARS is designed as transparent, self-reporting system for colleges and universities in the United States and Canada to gauge relative progress toward sustainability.


USF joined the rating program in 2010 and this year’s assessment is its first submission.


“The gold STARS rating USF received proves that we are truly “green” and gold,” said E. Christian Wells, Director of USF’s Office of Sustainability. “The STARS system helps us track our sustainability efforts and allows us to find our weak spots. While the Office of Sustainability is only 500 days old, we’ve managed to address most of the easy targets, like increasing recycling and changing the light bulbs. Now we need to focus on the bigger picture, what a sustainable campus should look like over the longer term.”


USF scored top marks in sustainability innovation and activities, as well as its coordination and planning for a more sustainable campus. The university also scored solid marks for its commitment to academic research on a wide range of sustainability issues; of the 54 academic departments at USF, 38 have faculty members actively engaged in sustainability research.


The campus, though, continues to face challenges in energy use and transportation – where most of USF’s carbon emissions emanate, Wells noted. USF is continuing to promote carpooling, car-sharing services, the use of public transportation and bicycle use, including safer and more extensive bike lanes in and around the campus. A survey by the Center for Urban Transportation at USF’s College of Engineering found that nearly 72 percent of USF’s students and nearly 86 percent of USF’s employees drive alone to campus.


The report is another major landmark in USF’s progress toward creating a healthier campus with a lessened impact on the environment while working toward advancing sustainability concepts through research. In 2006, the university announced its Sustainable Healthy Communities Initiative, followed by President Judy Genshaft signing the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment in April 2008. USF hosted the 2009 statewide Campus and Community Sustainability Conference; in 2010 launched the School of Global Sustainability and in 2011 opened USF’s first fully-constructed green building, the Patel Center for Global Solutions.


The report makes clear, however, that it’s the incremental daily march toward more careful use of limited resources that is making a difference at USF.


For example, in 2005 the university recycled, reused or resold nearly 847 tons of trash and other materials. Last year that number climbed to 1,511 tons. The university has turned to environmentally-friendly cleaning products, composts food waste from the dining halls and students who live on campus can dispose of unwanted items in a program with Goodwill instead of throwing them in the trash.


Other highpoints noted in the report:


·         USF ranked 25th out of 199 universities in the United States in RecycleMania, a friendly competition for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over a 10-week period, schools report recycling and trash data which are then ranked according to who collects the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita, or have the highest recycling rate.


·         Emerging Green Builders, a student group on campus, in collaboration with Physical Plant, the USF Sustainability Initiative, and USF Housing and Residential Education, hosts ConservaBull. After nine weeks, the residence hall that reduced its energy consumption by the largest percentage from the same previous period won a prize. The energy savings ranged from 6 percent to 48 percent for the 14 residence halls that participated, with an average savings of 25 percent.


·         Student Government distributes sustainability related materials to all first-year students during Week of Welcome activities. The materials include reusable shopping bags and water bottles along with sustainability related literature from the Office of Sustainability.


·         Dining on campus include trayless dining, the collection of used cooking oil for conversion to biodiesel fuel and locally-sourced food options. Student groups on campus coordinate food donation programs of leftover food products throughout the year with Metropolitan Ministries.


·         USF Community Gardens is a group is dedicated to creating and managing a large scale student-run community garden and farmers' market on campus. In addition, there are two smaller student community gardens (one organic, one medicinal) located at the USF Botanical Gardens, one recently established at the USF Preschool for Creative Learning, and one under development at the Maple B residence hall.


·            Engineers Without Borders at USF is currently engaging in an effort to develop a clean water supply for an underdeveloped community in the Dominican Republic. The goal of this project, Water for

Miches, is provided 20 liters of clean water per day to each of the 500 residents of Miramar in the Dominican Republic.


·         Incentives for interdisciplinary research can be found across the university at all levels. For example, in the fall of 2006, USF allocated $1 million specifically for the Interdisciplinary Initiative on Sustainable Communities. Funds were divided between offering faculty seed-grants, developing an interdisciplinary graduate field study, hiring new faculty, and hosting an international symposium on sustainable communities.


·         In its new Tampa Campus Master Plan update, USF has outlined a cross-campus, “no-build, no-disturb” Greenway, anchored by the USF Botanical Garden at the southwest corner of campus and by the Eco-Area, a biological reserve. The Greenway belt protects wildlife, links habitat islands, provides opportunities for recreation, and aggregates storm water for ponds.  Additionally, the Greenway (especially the forestry reserve, recreational forest, and Botanical Garden) actively sequester carbon dioxide and offsets the campus’ carbon footprint.


The full ranking of colleges and universities can be found at .

The details of the USF report can be read here.


Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.