GROW recognizes University of Florida offices working toward a sustainable future

Green Recognition of Offices and Workspaces (GROW) is a university-wide program introduced by the Office of Sustainability and centered around the idea of recognizing and supporting offices within the university that are taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint.

Compiled and written by Noura Al-Rajhi & Natalia Turkel

GROW is is one of many initiatives that helps to support the University of Florida’s commitment to carbon neutrality and zero waste. Through tailored resources, GROW helps individuals and offices shift to more sustainable practices and policies which contribute to larger shifts across the university.

The program was tested and developed over several years and in the summer of 2018, the Office of Sustainability launched a dedicated pilot phase with over 20 offices. The goals for the pilot were to foster stronger relationships among the different offices, better understand their current sustainability efforts and provide targeted resources.

“We wanted to give them all of the knowledge and all of the tools to foster a ‘greener’ workplace,” Hannah Ulloa, Communications Coordinator at the UF Office of Sustainability, said.

“Much of this was accomplished in the pilot. What we didn’t realize at first but grew to understand was that the real heart of the program, the most valuable aspect, was really the relationships we formed with various offices, faculty and staff across the university,” Ulloa said.

During the pilot, the process for each office began with a pre-consultation survey. After the majority of the office members completed the survey, a live one-hour consultation was scheduled for an in-depth review of the certification rubric which included topics such as energy, transportation, waste, and purchasing. Then, the Office of Sustainability curated a comprehensive report with tailored recommendations and resources for each office to implement.  

The participating offices could then look through the report and offer the Office of Sustainability additional insight on the resources provided.

“Our goals were focused on providing information and knowledge,” Ulloa said. “In most offices, we were met with curiosity and enthusiasm.”

Prior to going through the GROW pilot program, several of the participating offices had already initiated innovative sustainable-forward programs to make their workplace greener. Some examples include a micro bike-share operated by School of Architecture admin, a sustainability development plan created and implemented by the staff in the VP for Student Affairs office and the move to use more laptops over desktops which allowed lower printing& energy needs in the General Counsel office.

Overall, 23 offices and workplaces participated in the pilot phase. These offices include Southwest Recreational Center, Gatorwell, Innovation Academy and more. There were four certification levels that participating offices were eligible to obtain – Certified, Bronze, Silver and Gold. 

Of the 23 offices, three received the certified level, 12 bronze, seven silver and one gold.

This was just the beginning for the GROW program. The Office of Sustainability has continued to foster the community that formed by working alongside each office and will soon be implementing a referral program to expand the network further.

“The biggest takeaways was the way that the program helped to bridge silos and build community around goals for sustainability at UF,” Ulloa said. 

The Office of Sustainability is currently working on expanding upon the strengths of the GROW program, streamlining its enrollment and reducing any barriers for 2021. To learn more about GROW and how your office can participate in the program click here.

Published: November 10th, 2020

Category: Highlights, News