USF Receives Top Accolade for Environmental Action

Second Nature recognizes USF’s climate leadership and sustainability efforts with national award.



By Kevin Burke

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (May 2, 2012) — Excellence in effecting environmental change has earned the University of South Florida national recognition with a 2012 Second Nature Climate Leadership Award.


Given to select schools for “unparalleled campus innovation and climate leadership” on behalf of the nearly 700 institutions endorsing the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), it is regarded as the highest accolade for sustainability efforts in higher education.


Distributed at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral-granting levels, the awards recognize the best examples of how institutions of higher education are shifting behavior on campus and within communities in favor of a clean and sustainable future through the actions of senior leadership, academic opportunities, and research projects as well as innovative strategies and financing.


USF was honored, along with Arizona State University, at the doctoral level for excellence in initiatives that range from the largest community recycling center in the Tampa Bay region and electric vehicle charging stations on campus to refillable water bottle stations, solar golf carts, and monthly classes in the Botanical Gardens with an advanced master beekeeper.


The university’s Patel School of Global Sustainability also boasts a first-of-its kind graduate program providing students with a comprehensive understanding of the concepts, tools, and skills of sustainability and green technology, with focus areas in energy, transportation, development, and sustainable enterprise. Faculty and students use the USF campus as a living laboratory to test out novel ideas for renewable energy, water conservation, and green building.


The formal presentation of the award to USF President Judy Genshaft will take place during the ACUPCC’s annual Climate Leadership Summit on June 21-22 in Washington, D.C.


"We have invested considerable creative energy, human hours and financial resources through the years to make USF a 'greener' campus," said Genshaft, who signed the climate commitment for USF in 2008. "From planting new trees on campus to removing all Styrofoam from the dining halls, USF is engaged in lessening its environmental impact and encouraging others to do the same. We appreciate Second Nature and the other members of the ACUPCC recognizing our constructive work."


This year’s summit honorees emerged from among 20 finalists throughout the United States chosen by the board at Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the ACUPCC, an agreement among leading colleges and universities to promote sustainability through teaching and action.


USF also scored well in a Web poll in which viewers responded to brief videos about nominated projects, placing third.


“These institutions are leading the way for the academic community by demonstrating how sustainable practices can be put into place on campus that have a long-term impact on creating a sustainable society for the benefit of all,” said Anthony D. Cortese, president of Second Nature. “They all have shown tremendous creativity and an unrelenting commitment to integrate sustainable practices into their campuses and society as a whole.”


Although the award “doesn’t come with any fancy prize or money,” said Christian Wells, founding director of USF’s Office of Sustainability, “it does bring with it a deep sense of reward, knowing that our research on climate change and our engagement with the Tampa Bay community is being honored at the highest levels. The university is known around the world for a lot of things, and now we add our commitment to saving the planet.”


Believing the nation's colleges and universities have a unique responsibility as role models for their communities and in educating the people who will develop the social, economic and technological solutions to address climate disruption, the ACUPCC provides a framework and support for institutions to implement comprehensive plans in pursuit of climate neutrality.


Kevin Burke can be reached at 813-974-0192.