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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

UF Conducts Organics Audits at campus dining locations

As one of many efforts working to understand the University of Florida’s waste streams, Gator Dining Services, in partnership with the Office of Sustainability, began conducting audits of the organics waste stream at University of Florida dining facilities. Gator Dining’s Sustainability Manager, Dana Falstad, UF Zero Waste Coordinator, Joseph Floyd, and Office of Sustainability Intern, Kathleen Kirsch, spent many hours sorting waste, weighing food, and educating staff and students about food waste reduction at Broward Fresh Food Company, Gator Corner, Burger King, and the Reitz Union.

Based upon an initial waste audit conducted in 2005, organics accounts for over 15% of UF’s total waste footprint, and thus presents a considerable challenge in meeting the university’s zero waste goal. The information yielded from this organics specific audit will help critically inform the development and implementation of a comprehensive campus composting program.

Most of the waste collected at the dining locations was pre-consumer, or food waste generated during food preparation, with post-consumer waste from plate scrapings measured at some dining facilities. Gator Corner produced the most food waste per day at approximately 787 lbs. Broward Fresh Food Company followed at 770 lbs. of food waste per day, and the Reitz Union at 575 lbs. An audit of Little Hall, Turlington, the Hub, and Racquet Club dining locations is scheduled for this April.

Even with a composting solution is in the works, there are a number of things consumers can do to reduce waste at the source: opt for reusable plates, silverware, and cups as much as possible, check out a reusable to-go container with a valid Gator 1 ID, and most importantly, take only the amount of food one can eat. When campus dining halls went trayless, roughly 60,000 lbs of food waste a day was prevented as people were encouraged to take smaller portions. These small actions, when done collectively, will contribute greatly to UF’s progress toward its goal, with effects that translate far beyond Gainesville. So do your part to REthink waste!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Keynote by Tom Szaky, Founder and CEO of TerraCycle

REthinking Waste: Eco-Capitalism in Challenged Economic Times
March 22, 7pm, Reitz Union Grand Ballroom
Event will be streamed live online

Tom Szaky, co-founder and chief executive officer of TerraCycle, will talk about sustainable innovation and entrepreneurism at 7 p.m. March 22 in the University of Florida’s Reitz Student Union Grand Ballroom.

Szaky’s company specializes in repurposing nonrecyclable post-consumer waste.

Titled “Rethinking Waste: Eco-Capitalism in Challenged Economic Times,” his speech will explore opportunities that exist in today’s environment, how to see and capitalize on hidden assets, growing business in a constrained economy and the importance of a big idea. The event is free and open to the public.

Szaky started TerraCycle while he was a student at Princeton University after noticing the potential for organic waste to be converted to organic fertilizer through vermicomposting, the process of using worms to compost. Since then, the concept of “sponsored waste” has attracted more than 14 million people in 11 countries. Together they have diverted billions of pieces of waste that are upcycled or recycled into more than 1,500 products. In 2009 TerraCycle, named the most eco-friendly brand in America, opened its first retail location. Since then, the company has expanded internationally.

TerraCycle has received the Home Depot Environmental Stewardship Award twice, and Szaky was named the No. 1 CEO in America under 30 years old by Inc. Magazine. He was also featured in National Geographic Channel’s miniseries, “Garbage Moguls,” and is the author of the book, “Revolution in a Bottle: How TerraCycle is Redefining Green Business.”

In conjunction with Szaky’s visit, UF is participating in a number of TerraCycle collection brigades on campus. Gator Dining Services now hosts collections of energy bar wrappers, candy wrappers, and lunch kits at POD Market in the Reitz Student Union, Beaty Market, Little Hall Express and the Graham Oasis. The Office of Sustainability is now collecting for the Aveeno Beauty brigade, which collects any brand beauty and personal care tubes, Cheese Packaging brigade, and the Bear Naked bags and wrappers brigade.

Szaky’s speech is part of the UF Office of Sustainability’s REthink campaign, which encourages the campus community to consider waste in its many forms and the ways they can REduce, REuse, REcycle, REpurpose, REnew, REstore, and REspond in their own lives.

This event is sponsored by the UF Office of Sustainability, in partnership with the Dean of Students Office, the Center for Leadership and Service, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, UF MBA and ACCENT.

In addition to Szaky’s keynote, the Office of Sustainability will also be hosting a screening of the documentary “Tapped” at 7 p.m. March 23 in Florida Gym Room 280. “Tapped” examines the path of turning a basic resource into a mass-produced commodity, and explores the role and impacts of the bottled water industry on public health, energy and climate change, pollution and social equity.

For more information on the event, REthink or these new recycling opportunities on campus, please visit Tom Szaky keynote and brigade.

UF asks Gators to reconsider ways to be ‘green’ this spring

The University of Florida Office of Sustainability is hosting “REthink” this spring — a campaign to engage, educate, and empower Gators to consider waste in its many forms and the ways they can REduce, REuse, REcycle, REpurpose, REnew, REstore, and REspond in their own lives.

Now through April 22, members of The Gator Nation and local community are invited to consider their “waste footprint” by participating in interactive, sustainability-focused events on campus and around Gainesville.

The campaign kicked off with REstore, a campuswide cleanup of UF’s natural areas, sponsored by the Office of Sustainability and the UF Clean Water Campaign, on Feb. 5. Nearly 300 volunteers, including UF First Lady Chris Machen, collected approximately 3,000 pounds of trash and recyclables on campus, with members of Greeks Going Green collecting more than 700 pounds of waste from the fraternity conservation area alone. Students from the organization GreenLAW also helped to mulch areas of the law school woods in coordination with the cleanup.

“It is truly inspiring to see that level of participation,” said Anna Prizzia, director of the Office of Sustainability. “However, the amount of litter found in these sensitive areas helps illustrate the necessity of continuing to engage the campus community on the issue of waste.”

Other events for REthink will focus on topics such as plastic bag reduction, disposable coffee cups and sleeves, one-time use water bottles and energy waste.

At 7 p.m. March 22, Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, will speak at the Reitz Student Union Grand Ballroom about re-envisioning waste, eco-entrepreneurship and innovation. TerraCycle empowers consumers to collect nonrecyclable waste, which they convert into new products.

Additionally, the Office of Sustainability will host its Campus Earth Month Kickoff Celebration on April 1 at the Plaza of the Americas. UF President Bernie Machen will give his annual State of Sustainability address, followed by the presentation of this year’s Sustainable Solutions Award Recipients. The awards recognize individuals or teams that have made significant contributions toward advancing sustainability at UF. Individuals can submit nominations now through March 15.

As part of the Earth Month Kickoff, people will have the chance to drop off clothes, nonperishable food items, school supplies, books, and hazardous waste to be donated or disposed of properly. “We wanted this year’s event to serve as a time of reflection on past achievements, while also providing the opportunity to respond today,” Prizzia said.

The full schedule of events, along with more information about the campaign, is available at

Monday, February 14, 2011

Faces of Sustainability

In January 2011, the UF Office of Sustainability welcomed Joseph Floyd as the new (and the university’s first) Zero Waste Coordinator. UF produces 18,000 tons of trash each year, and has a goal to be a zero waste institution by 2015. With that date quickly approaching, the necessity of developing a comprehensive strategy for attaining that goal is increasingly imperative. Floyd is no stranger to overseeing sustainability-related efforts. In his previous career he served as Operations Supervisor at Southland Waste for Republic Service, Inc, the second largest waste hauler in the United States. He also helped install a single-stream recycling system with a roll-out cart in Glyne County,
making it easier for resident’s to recycle.

Floyd’s first goal will be to draft UF’s zero waste plan – a strategic blueprint for waste reduction that will combine data yielded from a campus solid waste audit with solutions and resources to mitigate those waste streams. To develop this plan, Floyd will work with campus stakeholders to analyze the various resources at UF, determine which are not being reused, reduced, or recycled, and develop strategies for optimization. Opportunities might include repurposing, finding alternative resources, or overall reduction measures.

Two of UF’s biggest waste streams are organics and paper, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total waste generated on campus. One of Floyd’s first tasks will be working closely with Gator Dining Services to audit organic waste which will inform the development of an organics composting solution for campus.

One of the most difficult tasks he will have is educating students on waste issues and the role they play. “UF has a student population that is constantly changing. There’s a new class every year," said Floyd, which makes relaying the message and affecting behavior change a dynamic and complex undertaking.

Although this goal may be difficult to accomplish, Floyd is optimistic. “The student body at large is already very interested in sustainability as a broad movement,” which includes the various issues associated with waste. “The current generation of students grew up with some form of recycling available to them,” said Floyd, and he hopes that exposure will work to his advantage when one day students, staff and faculty will be asked to rethink their concepts of waste.

UF can continue to make significant strides in waste reduction by informing Gators on the impacts of their actions, the waste solutions available, and providing the tools and resources to be a part of those solutions. Floyd wants waste consciousness to become a new norm, so when new students or staff come in, the culture of sustainability is impossible to ignore.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

UF Receives Silver Rating from STARS

The University of Florida has received a STARS Silver Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) in recognition of sustainability achievements. STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, is a new program that measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

The Office of Sustainability would like to thank all of the campus partners who participated in data gathering and reporting, allowing us to achieve this milestone. For more than a decade the University of Florida (UF) has been expanding its commitment to sustainability. From a grassroots effort to develop departmental green teams to implementing an Office of Sustainability, UF has realized the benefits of integrating the values of sustainability into institutional culture and practice.

AASHE’s STARS program is the only one of its kind that involves publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in three overall areas: 1) education & research, 2) operations, and 3) planning, administration & engagement. Unlike other rating or ranking systems, this program is open to all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada, and the criteria that determine a STARS Rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions.

For more information, check out the full UF STARS submission online.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Climate change expert to visit UF campus next week for several programs

Leading environmental policy analyst Lynn Scarlett will be visiting the University of Florida campus next week to present a lecture and workshop and moderate a panel presentation.

In a keynote speech Jan. 25, Lynn Scarlett, a former deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior under President George W. Bush, will discuss her thoughts and experience with shifting policies and implementation plans for energy and climate change in the U.S., as well as her work on Sen. Bob Graham’s Oil Spill Commission.

“Conservation in an Era of Scarcity,” starts at 8 p.m. in the Reitz Student Union Grand Ballroom. This event is free and open to the public. The program is presented by the UF Office of Sustainability, the Florida Climate Institute, the UF Water Institute and the Bob Graham Center for Public Service.

Scarlett will also give a seminar on her work in the Everglades at 3 p.m. Jan. 25 in Reitz Student Union Room 282 and a talk on “Green Careers” at 10 a.m. Jan. 26 in the Reitz Student Union Rion Ballroom. Additionally she will be moderating “Deep Water: A Special Report to the University of Florida by Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs Bob Graham and William Reilly” at 6 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Pugh Hall Ocora.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Energy Savings: Winter Set-Back Program

Friday, December 24, 2010 through Sunday, January 2, 2011, UF will once again be implementing our annual Winter Set-back Program. Physical Plant will be turning down air handlers at unoccupied times to save energy and money. This program allows the temperatures in most of the office and classroom environments to fall to 64 degrees or rise to 82 degrees before the ventilation system will be activated.

The most obvious benefit of setbacks is monetary, with the savings calculated to be $10,000 per day. This program also helps UF reduce our carbon footprint. More than 70% of our carbon emissions are directly related to our buildings. Thus, building setback programs are an important part of the campus plan to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Hopefully you will help UF save even more money and energy by unplugging unneeded equipment and electronics, turning off what you can't unplug, and remembering to shut off lights in your office and in common areas, such as bathrooms and conference rooms.

University officials understand that many buildings have essential personnel who work on campus even when the students are gone, file servers require fixed temperatures, and some laboratory and research areas cannot tolerate temperature fluctuations.

Before implementing a setback program, buildings are closely studied to determine special circumstances and zoned accordingly.