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GROW Initiative under development

By Folashade John, Contributing Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Employees at the University of Florida are one step ahead of rival universities because of a program being created by the Office of Sustainability, the GROW initiative.

The Green Recognition for Offices & Workspaces (GROW) initiative plans to improve five areas of offices and workspaces: water and energy reduction, waste diversion, green purchasing, sustainable transportation and community engagement.

Allison Vitt, the outreach and communications coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, is open minded about the most recent initiative. This program is not mandatory for all employees on campus within a workspace or office, but is encouraged.

“This initiative is designed to foster a campus culture of sustainability,” Vitt said.

Most departments at the University of Florida have offices and workspaces that could use the GROW initiative to benefit the environment and instill sustainable habits in the workplace.

“Paper use might be a big issue in the College of Journalism and Communications, so we could implement a paper reduction plan for them,” Vitt said.

Adrienne Jones, director of marketing and promotions for Country 103.7 the Gator, works in a tight-knit office space. Jones is very open minded about the GROW initiative.

“It’s important to go green and find solutions now instead of waiting for problems,” Jones said.

Megan Walker-Radtke, program coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, hopes to make an impact with the initiative, not only through staff but students as well.

“It’s currently a work in progress, we are still working with campus partners,” Walker-Radtke said.

The GROW initiative enables participants to identify areas specific to their work environment that can be addressed and improved upon.

“We are planning to reach out to different communities through our Green Teams. This type of program has a proven track record of success,” Radtke said.

For updates on the GROW Initiative, visit our webpage here.

Volunteer with the Sustainability Hut!

The Office of Sustainability is looking for volunteers to help engage the campus community through interactive games and information at the Sustainability Hut. The Hut is a mobile educational outreach tool that travels to different locations on campus throughout the fall and spring semesters. This is a great way to get involved with Sustainable UF and to become a voice for sustainability throughout campus. Visit the Hut information page here where you can view a brief video overview of the Hut, and learn more about volunteer opportunities.


In The Spotlight: Sami Head, Alix Kermes, & Erin Magliozzi

AASHE 2013This past October, the Office of Sustainability team attended the annual Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Nashville, TN.  Carpooling the 10.5 hours by van to Music City with three of our more adventurous interns, (l to r) Erin Magliozzi, Alix Kermes, and Sami Head, they had a chance to present on their internship experiences as well as meet other students and professionals involved in sustainability at fellow institutions.
Involved with our Sorority Water Challenge from the beginning, Alix Kermes  found that “while [at AASHE], I was able to gain insight into what other universities and colleges were doing around the nation.  I also was able to present…on the Sorority Water Challenge that took place this past spring.  [Sustainability in] the Greek world is a topic that few schools have been able to tap into and they were excited to hear our experiences and project idea.”
As Erin Magliozzi, a key intern for our Gameday Recycling efforts attended workshops, she realized “how advanced our composting and recycling initiatives within the stadium are compared to other universities. This fact encouraged me to consider how we can reach out…and engage with each member of our campus to create a unified community behind our sustainability mission.  The AASHE conference was an incredibly inspiring experience, and I left feeling ready to discuss, share, and collaborate with my fellow interns.”
Finally, our always entertaining videographer intern Sami Head summarized it this way: “Not only did I realize how much the University of Florida is doing to improve its role in creating a more sustainable world (i.e. composting in our football stadium and offering majors, minors, and graduate degrees on the topic) but I also realized how much farther we have to go.  By being able to connect with people from other schools, of differing backgrounds, and varying interests, I was able to brainstorm ways that I can integrate sustainability deeper into my lifestyle as well as our campus culture. This experience further proved to me that in order for society to achieve this way of life that I have devoted my college career to studying, we must have these conversations and challenge each other to think in new ways. We must not be afraid to constantly evolve our thinking and reach out to those around us for ideas we have yet to even imagine. Change can be uncomfortable but so can standing still. And what’s the fun in going nowhere?”.

Want to read Sami, Alix and Erin’s unedited and unbutchered thoughts on the AASHE conference?  Click on the attached PDF’s in the upper right hand corner of this page.


In The Spotlight: Dustin Stephany of PPD’s Energy Services


Did you know that UF gets a bill for $3.5 million in electricy use each month?  Led by Director John Lawson, PPD’s Energy Department’s Dustin Stephany has been an integral part in lowering that bill by executing energy efficiency retrofits on all levels, from utility infrastructure to the building space.  Holding a Master’s degree in building construction with a focus on sustainability, Stephany is someone who gets excited by words like “bi-level LED” and “occupancy sensors”.  In fact, goosebumps may have appeared when talking about some of the latest energy-saving projects on campus such as the induction lighting replacement at the old Florida Gym that will save UF thousands of dollars, and the new renewable energy dashboard in front of Weil Hall.  Complete with a “solar energy campus map,” the solar-powered dashboard (with hand crank for overcast days) is the symbol of the latest round of 100kW solar PV energy installations on campus, thanks to a grant from Progress Energy.

And while we’d all like to see more solar on campus, Dustin knows that path is best achieved if we all “Chomp Down on Energy” and make individual choices to reduce our demand-side use on all levels.  “The payback” says Dustin, “is building long term habits that help provide clean air, water, land, as well as increased energy security for our future generations.”  A volunteer with the Community Weatherization Coalition and co-founder of Mindful Movies in town, Dustin is not afraid of composting or riding his bike the nine miles to work when he can.  “Many people forget that our rights come with responsibility and if everyone were to live like the average American, we would need a total of four planets.”

Energy Reductions: Winter Set-Back Program


Once again UF will be implementing our annual Winter Set-back Program starting Monday, December 24, 2012 through Wednesday, January 2, 2013.  The Physical Plant team will be turning down hundreds of air handlers at unoccupied times in campus buildings to save energy and money. This program allows the temperatures in most of the offices and classrooms to fall to 64 degrees or rise to 82 degrees before the units’ blowers are activated.

One obvious benefit of these set-backs is monetary, with the savings calculated to be $10,000 per day. Since our more than 900 campus buildings contribute to over 70% of our greenhouse gas emissions, the other benefit is reductions in our CO2 footprint. Thus, building setback programs are a fairly strategic and important part of the campus plan to be carbon neutral by 2025.

You can help UF save even more money and energy over the break 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.

Facets of Sustainability Lecture Series 2012

In an effort to bring sustainability ideas and studies that have been progressively growing on campus, we have been compiling audio and power-point lectures from Professor Les Thiele’s IDS 2154 Facets of Sustainability Lecture Series for the 2012 fall semester.  These lectures are presented by faculty, community members, and even a past Florida Governor throughout the fall semester.  The list of speakers and their video recordings can be found here.

Project Spotlight: New Adopt -A- “Swamp” Program

This semester, in partnership with the UF Clean Water Campaign (CWC), the Office of Sustainability piloted a new program aimed at raising awareness about litter issues on campus: Adopt-A-“Swamp.” After months of development, and following the success of last year’s successful REstore Campus Cleanup, the program has finally gotten off the ground thanks also in part to the student groups who helped test the process this term.

Six student organizations participated in the pilot semester, allowing the office to refine the process for participation and implementation, while still ensuring that conservation areas on campus were still being attended to.  Greeks Going Green, the Inter-Residence Hall Association, UF College Democrats, GreenLaw and the American Water Works Association all participated in the pilot semester, hosting cleanups from February through April as part of their adoption commitment.

Its primary aim is to educate the UF community on the individual and collective impacts of behaviors on campus and engage them to play a part in restoring, protecting and bettering our university environment. Within this framework, there are four key goals: to mitigate litter on campus, engage the campus community on waste, restore and protect biodiversity and ecosystems UF is home to, and to gather useable data and information to better understand, assess and develop solutions for waste patterns and accumulations in these spaces.

Organizations apply to adopt a zone on campus for an academic year, taking ownership of setting clean-up dates and recruiting volunteers. The Office of Sustainability and CWC sponsor all the materials, and provide guidance and support, then adoptees provide information such as the weight of trash and recyclables collected. The program helps decentralize clean-up coordination on the ground, while establishing a greater level of record-keeping, providing a better glimpse of the kind of waste that ends up in the woods and water bodies of campus, and how frequently its seeming to accumulate.

Learn more about the program and how to get involved at

Faces of Sustainability – Elwood Aust

Elwood Aust is a true Gator through and through, and his commitment to sustainability is as strong as his Gator spirit. Elwood graduated from UF in 1974 with a degree in Accounting, but not without numerous computer sciences and programming courses under his belt. During his time as a student, he served as a Student Government senator for the College of Business, and was instrumental in starting some of the initial recycling initiatives on campus during a decade of exciting environmental action: the birth of Earth Day and the passing of critical pieces of legislation that helped change the political discourse around nature resources, such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. More recently, Elwood continued to lend his voice and time by serving on the UF Sustainability Committee for two terms.

After a few successful years of working for major CPA firms, even starting his own, he sold his firm and returned to Gainesville and UF in 1990; first as an internal auditor, then as an internal business consultant, and now as Director of an Information Technology (IT) support group, Operations Analysis.  In October 2011, Operations Analysis was moved from the VP for Business Affairs & Economic Development to the VP and CIO.  The VPs of both divisions have been very supportive of Elwood and his team’s efforts to “green IT,” such as encouraging employees to “Chomp Down on Energy” by powering off their computers, printers and copiers each day when they leave work.

Several years ago some OA employees proactively developed an automated capability to remotely power off computers that were left on when employees left for the day.  Most of the 1,200 or so employees that they support remember to shut things down, but the automated process catches the 250+ computers left on each night.  As the cost of electricity rises and new computers require less power, there is still opportunity to save energy costs by powering off unused equipment each night and especially over weekends.

The team has also been working hard on another project that maximizes efficiency and conserves energy: consolidation (sharing) of servers among several supported areas along with a goal to locate servers in fewer locations so that Physical Plant can better streamline HVAC system management, especially during holiday weekends, spring and winter breaks, and university emergencies. They are also currently testing virtual desktop infrastructure and thin client devices as an alternative to desktop computers for some employees.  This technology offers several benefits including greater energy savings at the desktop, combining more efficient machines with more efficient processes and systems at the operational level.

As if that wasn’t enough, the OA team and Computing and Networking Services (CNS) are working closely with Physical Plant and their vendor, Rainbird, on a project to monitor and control the amount and timing of water used for lawns and plants on campus.  Field data collection devices have been attached to over 1,000 sprinkler heads in the areas around five buildings on campus.  The field data will be analyzed by an application that determines when and how much more water is needed rather than the old way of just turning on the sprinklers for a specified time each day, rain or shine.  With our large campus, there is a sizable opportunity for improving the efficiency and consumption of water resources, even with the efforts to use reclaimed water for landscape irrigation.


Faces of Sustainability: Wendy Graham

Fresh on the heels of the 3rd UF Water Symposium – Sustainable Water Resources: Complex Challenges, Integrated Solutions  – held February 15 and 16 at the Reitz Union, University of Florida Water Institute Director and Carl S. Swisher Chair in Water Resources Wendy Graham has had her plate, or glass, full!  An alumnus of UF, who earned her degree in Environmental Engineering, Wendy went on to earn her PhD in Civil Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The UF Water Institute address complex water issues through innovative interdisciplinary research, education, and public outreach programs, and works to encourage collaboration and cooperation across colleges and departments. Interdisciplinary UF Water Institute Teams, made up of leading water researchers, educators and students, develop new scientific breakthroughs, creative engineering, policy and legal solutions, and pioneer educational programs that help solve state, national, and global water resource problems.

This year’s symposium brought together scientists, engineers, academics, non-governmental organizations, policy makers, water managers, industry and utility representatives, lawyers, students, and the public to explore emerging issues related to nutrient sources, dynamics, management, and policy from multiple perspectives. The UF Water Institute also hosts the “Distinguished Scholar Seminar Series” which hosts notable scholars to campus for engaging discussions with the public, strategic planning and partnership conversations with university faculty, and an opportunity for graduate students to explore issues and solicit reputable input for their areas of study and research.

Wendy’s academic contributions at UF are extensive. Her research is varied, ranging from studying coupled hydrologic-water quality-ecosystem modeling; water resources evaluation and remediation; evaluation of impacts of agricultural production on surface and groundwater quality; and evaluation of impacts of climate variability and climate change on water resources.  She has served as PI or co-PI on over $13 million in grants and contracts, has supervised 30 doctoral and master’s thesis committees and has served on more than 50 additional graduate student committees.  She currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences Committee this is reviewing EPA’s Economic Analysis of Final Water Quality Standards for Nutrients for Lakes and Flowing Waters in Florida, and the National Academy of Sciences Committee conducting an Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress.

Additionally, Wendy’s honors and accolades are many. During her career she has received the University of Florida Research Foundation Professorship Award, American Geophysical Union, Editors’ Citation for Excellence in Reviewing for Water Resources Research, the Florida Section of the American Association of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Distinguished Achievement Award, and the Gamma Sigma Delta Distinguished Leadership Award to highlight only a few.







Project Spotlight: Students growing a difference on a campus

Student organizations and clubs across campus are learning to grow their own food, giving back to their community and developing solutions for food after its purpose has been served. While the UF campus was emptying for winter break, students from the Agronomy and Soils club headed over to the Student Agricultural Gardens on Museum Road. Two months prior they had stripped an area of land, tilled, and planted rows of green beans, taking turns weeding, watering and tending to the crop every week through mid-December. When harvest time came, over fifty pounds of beans were picked and donated to Bread of the Mighty Food Bank just in time for the holidays. Currently the area is being prepped for another food donation, a perfect way to blend hands-on learning with service.

Also at the Student Agricultural Gardens is the Ethnoecology Society Garden, where students experiment with crops and alternative resource management techniques.  Many of these fundamentals were learned from the late Dr. Hugh Popenoe, a professor in Soil and Water Sciences and Geography department, and Dr. Rick Stepp who now teaches a similar course offered through the Latin American Studies department.  The group fertilizes the garden with local bat guano, plants rice paddies, uses legume tree trimmings and water buffalo manure in their composts, and inoculates shiitake mushroom logs. Every Friday they celebrate weekly garden work. They’re growing things like pigeon peas, chaya, winged beans, vetiver grass, and gourds. They maintain an orchard of citrus, peaches, nectarines, and legumes, exposing themselves and other students to lesser known plants with great promise for sustainable agriculture.

Another initiative transforming the conversation and activity around food is the Student Compost Cooperative (SCC), a student-run cooperative organized by the BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology (BEST) Laboratory. The SCC was started to educate UF students about the importance of food waste composting and to give them an opportunity to compost their own food waste. Because many college students live in dorms or apartments, household composting is not an option. The SCC maintains several composters to allow these students to compost their food waste, removing those items from the landfill and giving it new life. Student organizations can also coordinate with the SCC to compost any food waste from their meetings or events. Benton Engineering Council is serving as great example, collecting all the food waste generated at this year’s E-Week events.