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Monday, December 8, 2008

Beneficial Setbacks

While the term setback may imply a negative, in the case of energy savings it’s definitely a plus. For the third year in a row, the University of Florida will carry out holiday setbacks, or more precisely air handling units across campus will be adjusted to unoccupied status. For the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, this means setting thermostats at 68 degrees F. During the summer holiday months the thermostat is turned up to between 80 and 82 degrees F.

The most obvious benefit is monetary, with the savings calculated to be $10,000 per day. But the program doesn’t come without its challenges. Many buildings have essential personnel who work on campus even when the students are gone. File servers, in over 70 separate spaces, require fixed temperatures. And laboratory and research areas cannot tolerate temperature fluctuations.

Some campus locations currently have push button overrides, allowing occupants to set thermostats to occupied status for two hours. It’s anticipated that future monitoring and control programs will allow building managers to review a building’s setback schedule and adjust it as necessary.

But the responsibility for saving energy doesn’t have to fall solely on staff and faculty shoulders. Students are asked to turn off their lights, adjust their thermostats, and unplug their refrigerators before a long break. Even electrical appliances and stereos should be unplugged to avoid the phantom load effect. The US Department of Energy estimates that 6 to 10 percent of a home’s electrical use is for phantom loads, or electronics that are slowing draining electricity to run internal and external clock displays, remote control sensors, and maintain base to unit communications. So unplug your electronics and send the phantom packing during long breaks from school.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gators Winning for Sustainability

It seems Gators are not just champions in sports. Many of our students are winning national and international awards for their work related to sustainability at UF. We want to thank the following students for their hard work, and congratulate them on their accomplishments:

Sara Hutton was awarded a 2008 Morris K. Udall Scholarship for her studies in sustainability and wildlife ecology and conservation.

Ryan Graunke won the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's (AASHE) 2008 Student Sustainability Research Award for his work on the bio-digestion of Broward Dining Hall’s food waste to create methane fuel.

Hal Knowles was named the 2008 National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology Fellow for his work on the UF Carbon Neutrality Action Plan.

Alison Erlenbach won the oikos Student Award 2008 in the 'Sustainable Campus' category for her project Campus Climate Solutions, which trains students to calculate carbon offset needs for events and businesses.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Diamond in the Rough

Diamond Village Graduate and Family Housing Community is going green. It has been chosen by Housing and Residence Life as the pilot project for a campus-wide campaign to increase the sustainability of the university's living areas. Kiera White, a third-year graduate student in Interior Design, is currently working on the project as an intern with the Offices of Sustainability and Housing. White was part of a design studio project team last fall that worked to develop ideas for Diamond Village, such as the rain barrels and herb gardens that are now commonplace in the community.

Currently, she is working with Diamond Village on the re-development of the entire area, which the university wants to develop as sustainability-themed housing. Their main focus is the "breezeway" or common area, which is used by many of the residents for meetings and recreational time.

"We are working to revamp and redesign the area with sustainability in mind." says White. The plan transforms the common area into a place that will educate the residents, get them involved, and allow them to practice day-to-day applications of sustainable living. White wants the area to be easily-accessible to all the residents, even to the younger ones, and plans to have children's activities available to those families interested.
White says that by the end of the fall semester, she hopes to have a design proposal, established budget, and specs for sustainable products ready for the continued work on the effort. She hopes that the success of this project will motivate the housing department to carry these ideas to current and future on-campus living communities.

"It’s a different way to look at design" says White about the combination of traditional and sustainable concepts--"it’s a way to merge the two together."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Erase the Waste

The University of Florida has set an ambitious goal – to be zero waste by the year 2015. Reaching this goal will undoubtedly require an effort from all fronts.

Gator Dining Services, as part of its “Erase the Waste” campaign, is encouraging students, faculty, and staff to sign a pledge to reduce their individual contribution to food waste generation on campus. The pledge, running during the months of October and November, gives some helpful tips on waste reduction and signatories will be eligible for prizes at the end of the campaign.

As part of the campaign, Gator Dining is also working closely with employees on training and education aimed at ensuring efficient use of food during meal preparation. A series of internal competitions between the two dining halls will encourage employees to cut down on the amount of waste generated during preparation.

To sign the pledge, visit Erase The Waste. Prize winners will be notified by e-mail at the end of the campaign.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Light Bulb Battle

Gainesville residents have a chance to offset the pollution from Saturday’s University of Florida football game, help their mayor win a bet with Tallahassee’s mayor and save money, too. All they need is an old incandescent bulb and $1.

Now through Tuesday, residents can stop at one of several area businesses to purchase up to 30 money-saving, energy-efficient, carbon-reducing light bulbs known as compact florescent lights or CFLs. The lights last about 10,000 hours, saving $50 and half a ton of greenhouse gas emissions per bulb.

The effort, called the “Gator vs. Seminole Light Bulb Battle,” is part of an ongoing effort by the Neutral Gator initiative to offset the carbon footprint from UF’s home football games. The initiative has united Gainesville Regional Utilities, the UF Office of Sustainability, the nonprofit Earth Givers and seven local businesses to distribute 50,000 lights before Wednesday.

A diverse range of businesses have agreed to help the cause by providing exchange stations: Indigo Green Store; Lighting Gallery; Zell’s Ace Hardware; Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate; Satchel’s Lightnin’ Salvage; Ward’s Supermarket; Rides Auto Sales; and Stubbie Shirt Pub. Gainesville Publix locations will also sell the bulbs from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday. The bulbs also will be on sale at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the football game. Only cash will be accepted. For more information, visit Neutral Gator.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Giving Gators

UF has a new online resource for the community. Here you'll find outreach programs – local, national and international – sponsored by each of the 16 colleges.

Reaching out to the community is a tradition at the University of Florida, which is a land-grant institution. Serving our neighbors is central to our goal of being an excellent university.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

If These Planks Could Talk

The 2006 Gators Championship Basketball floor is gone. After selling a little over a third to an avid Gator fan in the Jacksonville area, the UAA was looking to get rid of the rest of the old planks to free up the storage space they occupied. With the help of the Office of Sustainability, the UAA found Bearded Brothers – Demolition and Salvage Services. With their help, 100% of the floor will be re-used - some as flooring, some as souvenirs, and some will be used by local carpenters here in the Gainesville community. Overall, approximately 27 tons of wood were diverted from the landfill. The memories of those historic national championship seasons will live on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

RTS Survey for UF Employee Bus Pass Program

RTS conducting survey on UF Employee Bus Pass Program
The RTS UF Employee Bus Pass Program is a benefit available to all students, faculty, staff, and spouses that provides pre-paid unlimited access to all RTS Fixed-Route Services. No fee is required; a valid Gator 1 ID card is all that is necessary.

Funding for the RTS UF Employee Bus Pass Program is provided by UF and the Florida Department of Transportation. Student funding is provided by the UF Student Transportation Access Fee. The City of Gainesville Regional Transit System (RTS) is conducting a research project on UF’s Employee Bus Pass Program. RTS would like UF employees to fill out a short survey to find out who uses the service, why they use it, and what RTS can do to improve its transit system. RTS strives to provide the community with a safe, courteous and reliable transportation alternative. Survey responses will provide the data necessary to ensure future service development funding and, in turn, provide the transit service the community needs and deserves.

Please take the time to fill out the short survey before September 30, 2008. For more information and to access the RTS Employee Bus Pass Survey, visit RTS's web site, or go directly to the survey. If you have questions or concerns, please contact RTS at (352) 334-3676. Thank you for helping RTS with this important research project.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Visionary Goal

The Office of Sustainability is committed to encouraging and facilitating the collaborative efforts of faculty, students, and staff to generate knowledge, acquire skills, develop values, and initiate practices that contribute to a sustainable, high quality of life on campus, in the state of Florida, and across the globe.

In keeping with this commitment, the UF Office of Sustainability brought together representatives from diverse stakeholder groups across our campus to develop a collaborative vision for campus sustainability. Between September and December 2006, over 100 members of the campus community gathered during fourteen sessions. Each group of representatives focused on a different topic area that corresponded with UF’s existing guiding principles for sustainability. A report on this effort is available online.

Throughout all the sessions covered by this report, recurring themes related the need for a culture shift and the creation of common/collective norms that support sustainability. Every group revisited the need for sustainability to become part of everyday life and operations on the UF campus – the need for the campus to be a living laboratory for sustainable practices. Participants expressed that evolving a culture of sustainability at UF would require committed leadership at all levels and a shared governance structure that empowered all members of the campus community to feel shared responsibility for our collective actions. In the coming months, the office will facilitate the development of strategic implementation plans that will enable us to realize these visions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Neutral Gator

In October of 2006, Dr. Machen was the first college president to sign the Presidents Climate Commitment. With this bold move, he committed UF to develop an action plan for carbon neutrality. 561 presidents have followed in these Gator tracks.

Last year UF achieved another first -- the first carbon neutral college football game in NCAA history. Gator scientists calculated the carbon footprint for the UF vs. FSU rivalry -- all of the fans driving and flying to the game, hotel electrical usage, and all the stadium and tailgating festivities. 18 acres of forest land in Florida was then placed in an active management plan for 10 years to offset carbon by the same amount.

Inspired by this idea, the non-profit Earth Givers, in coordination with the UF Office of Sustainability and the UAA , are taking the entire 7-game home season carbon neutral. Last year's game proved to be a temendous tool to raise awareness and gain national attention. UF has shown leadership in sustainability, and the nation of champions is ready to do it again. Visit Neutral Gator to show your support today.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Major Change

Students coming to UF this fall will find some new opportunities to study sustainability. From an undergraduate minor to a law degree, sustainability is being integrated into the curriculum across campus.

"Sustainability is a lens that can help students see the world differently," said Jonathan Porat, a UF sophomore, "it is a tool that can help people from all disciplines make better, more balanced decisions."

There are over 100 students now enrolled in the new interdisciplinary minor. Though the minor is offered though the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, students from all colleges are encouraged to apply. It is a minor that will compliment all fields of study - from biology and anthropology, to business management and engineering.

Sustainability is finding its home within disciplines as well. The College of Design Construction and Planning is now offering an interdisciplinary major - Sustainability and the Built Environment. The Levin College of Law now offers a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Environment and Land Use Law.

"It is great to see UF providing even more ways to prepare our students for the challenges they will face in the future," said Anna Prizzia, Outreach Coordinator for the UF Office of Sustainability. "We are providing students with the skills they need to meet the high demand for an understanding of sustainability in today's job market."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sustainable U

A newly released publication from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) documents the continued growth in campus sustainability efforts across the US and Canada.

The third annual AASHE Digest offers a comprehensive review of campus sustainability efforts from 2007. The 230-page report includes over 800 stories about higher education institutions leading the way to a sustainable future. It is organized into 24 chapters spanning education, research, campus operations, administration, and finance.

The AASHE website is also full of other useful resources. UF is an institutional member, so you can request a member login using your UFL email address. You will get a password so that you can search the members-only resources. You can also sign up for their free weekly bulletin that will keep you up-to-date on all the latest campus sustainability news.