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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ZipCar Fleet Benefits Sustainable Travel Options

ZipCar is helping to make UF more sustainable by reducing the number of cars on campus. UF has partnered with the car-sharing company to make hourly rentals available to students, faculty and staff. Departments also can use Zipcars as an alternative to fleet vehicles. Individuals and departments can register and reserve cars online. The primary advantage of ZipCar to students is that "it allows people 18 and older to rent a car, when most companies require their customers to be 25 or older," according to Ron Fuller, Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation.

ZipCar, formerly FlexCar on campus, has been at UF for three years. Fuller stated that there has been a positive response to the program, receiving around "two to three applications a day--some days as many as five.” Zipcar usage gained momentum this fall, with August and September of 2009 having the highest rate of Zipcar usage on UF campus. Zipcar reported ithat the usage rate during September 2009 doubled from September 2008.

UF has worked with ZipCar to make a variety of cars available and ready on campus, including Honda Civic hybrids, Scion xB, Toyota Matrix and Honda Odyssey vans. These cars are conveniently parked on campus with reserved spots, so that customers do not have to waste time trying to locate parking. Reservations are made online and cars can be unlocked by a Zipcard or an iPhone app.

"The biggest advantage of and reason for having ZipCar available here on campus is that it is a tool for reducing single-occupancy cars coming to campus," said Fuller. ZipCar uniquely helps to address this issue by providing transportation in the small increments of time that people usually need a car, such as a trip to the grocery store. When used in conjunction with RTS, carpooling, or other methods of alternative transportation, ZipCar is a convenient and more sustainable substitute to driving alone.

ZipCar is an affordable alternative for both employees and students to bringing their own car to campus. For individuals, it costs just $35 to sign up, which includes $35 of free driving. Departments can sign up for free, and set up Zipcar accounts that will bill directly to a PCard. Gas and insurance for the vehicles are included in the rental fees, currently $8/hr or $66/weekday. The online application process is quick and easy to navigate at

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sustainable Movements At The Phillips Center For The Performing Arts

The Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts has been presenting established and emerging national and international artists and performers since opening its doors in 1992. As a performance facility, the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA) uses a large volume of energy –in part through its stage lighting instruments. As UF moves toward sustainability, the PCPA is taking steps to “green” the facility and encourage its users to become more sustainable.

With the help of the PCPA’s Green Team, energy use has been reduced by replacing all of the facility’s performance lighting instruments. At 575 watts, the new High Performance Lamp (HPL) produces light equivalent to a 1,000 watt spotlight using previous technology. This lower amount of energy consumption saves money on electricity and creates less heat.

The PCPA has also replaced as much of the lighting in its dressing rooms and house aisles with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). In addition, the PCPA programmed its main auditorium lighting so that only one-quarter of the available lighting fixtures are on - at 50% intensity - during most work days.

Along with the lighting efforts, the PCPA is encouraging its performers and audience to recycle and reduce waste. With recycling bins prominently displayed and encouraging use of water coolers as opposed to 20 oz. bottled water, the PCPA is beginning to make some headway in its waste and recycling efforts backstage and front-of-house. Similar to the UF dining and catering services, the PCPA is gradually transitioning toward purchasing more sustainable food and refreshment options for its events and receptions.

Lastly, the PCPA is working on its newest initiative called “4-Star Parking.” Audiences are encouraged to carpool with four or more people in a vehicle and in return gain priority parking at the facility – a parking privilege normally reserved for upper-level donors. Phillips Center staff realize that transportation to performances at the PCPA has even greater impact than the facility itself, so they looked for incentives for the audience to join UF’s sustainability efforts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes Visits UF

Blake Mycoskie, the founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS Shoes, visited UF last week and spoke to students, faculty and community members. More than a thousand guests attended his lecture at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on November 4th to hear the story of TOMS shoes.

The company is known for its innovative One for One philosophy - TOMS Shoes donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes purchased from the company. Mycoskie shared the story of how he started TOMS Shoes after going to Argentina and attending a shoe drive hosted by a local organization. He realized that charity alone would not be able to fund new shoes for these children and that relying on a giving business model would offer a better long-term solution.

Mycoksie encouraged students in the audience to follow their passion and look for companies that value service and sustainability when seeking a job. He also said setting a company goal with a higher purpose tends to attract dedicated and passionate employees. After Mycoskie's speech, the winning video of the UF Entrepreneurship and Innovation Video Contest was announced and debuted at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

In conjunction with his visit and speech, the Office of Sustainability held a Style Your Sole event at the Reitz Union Colonnade on Wednesday, November 3rd. During this event, students and faculty purchased canvas TOMS Shoes to decorate with paint, glitter, markers and more. Student organizations are planning another Style Your Sole event and an airing of the TOMS Shoes documentary at the Reitz Student Union during the third week of November.

The series of events in conjunction with Mycoskie’s visit was sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, ACCENT, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, UF MBA, the Center for Leadership and Service, Gators Going Green and New Student Programs.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

IFAS Statewide Energy Efficiency Campaign for Homeowners

As more consumers struggle with record-breaking energy costs and rapid urban growth puts a strain on Florida’s natural resources, the University of Florida’s Extension service's public awareness campaign promotes the effective use of energy and discourages all forms of energy waste. UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) initiated the statewide campaign aimed at the state’s current and future residents.

"Everyone is concerned about soaring energy costs and water conservation, but the problem is more challenging here in Florida because our population continues to increase by more than eight hundred residents every day," said Pierce Jones, director of UF’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities. "That kind of growth--along with the needs of our existing population for energy and water--is taking a tremendous toll on the state’s natural resources."

Publications are available online with tips on topics such as air conditioning, ceiling fans, lighting, insulation, water heaters, irrigation, climate change, and reducing the "carbon footprint". For more information about energy efficiency, conservation, and sustainability, please visit the Sustainable Living section of Solutions For Your Life.

Jones said many residents come from states with different climates and ecosystems, and they may not be aware of Florida’s fragile environment.

"Much of the damage to the state’s natural resources is due to a simple lack of awareness about our ecosystems and how homes interact with the environment," he said. "There are many ways that people can save energy and water in their homes and landscapes, which will help not only the state’s natural resources, but their own economic situations as well."

After years as the nation’s fourth-largest state, Florida is poised to become the nation’s third largest state--after California and Texas--sometime in the next few years, underscoring the urgent need for energy and water conservation now, he said.

Original article courtesy of UF IFAS.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Renewable Energy Considered At Power Shift Conference

On October 24th, students from across Florida gathered at the University of Central Florida to discuss strategies for achieving positive change toward a more sustainable energy future. The event, Florida Power Shift, lasted for two days and consisted of a series of lectures, workshops, and breakout groups designed to allow students to brainstorm and network among themselves.

Students also heard from representatives of various groups who work in renewable energy and sustainability, such as the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, Campus Progress, and the Alliance for Climate Protection. Issues discussed ranged from local to global concerns about sustainable energy. Alex Mourant, a former intern and Vice President of Internal Affairs of Gators for a Sustainable Campus, attended the conference as part of a group representing UF.

"Power Shift gave us the chance to get together and set up a game plan for the Renewable Energy fee," said Mourant. The UF Renewable Energy ballot referendum was passed in 2006, with 78% voting in favor of the $.50/credit hour fee. It is now a piece of state legislation that when approved will support renewable energy sources for the UF campus. Similar efforts are underway at other Florida institutions.

"We're going to work with legislators through petitions, letter writing and phone banking to try and promote more sustainable energy policy,” said Mourant.

The student groups at PowerShift resolved to keep in touch with one another to maintain focus and stay on track with their efforts. They plan to periodically conduct conference calls to stay up-to-date on efforts throughout Florida.