Green Gator of the Month: Jess Mercier
Each month, the Office of Sustainability will feature members of the University of Florida community that are making a sustainable impact on a daily basis. Keep reading to meet our featured staff member for October!
Meet Jess Mercier
Jess Mercier is the Assistant Director of Outreach and Marketing for UF Study Abroad.
Jess started working at UF five years ago, after getting her undergraduate degree in South Carolina, her graduate degree in Indiana, and living in California for a year.
In her current position, she is the lead organizer of the UF Study Abroad Fairs, as well as various on-campus events and partnerships. She also runs social media, designs marketing materials, and supervises the Study Abroad Peer Advisor program.
One of her favorite things about her job is the environment that has been cultivated at the UF International Center. “We have a lot of staff with different backgrounds and nationalities, but we’re all working towards the same goal of internationalizing the UF community.” She also loves working with the intelligent students at UF!
Jess continues, explaining that many of her passions overlap in her work: travel, academia, marketing and design, community-building, and sometimes sustainability! Sounds like a great combination!
Little Steps Go A Long Way
It can be easy to simply go with the flow in your work, maintaining the status quo and repeating the same processes semester after semester without change.
Not for Jess.
Rather, Jess finds it interesting to balance the traditional ways things have been done with new possibilities.
Jess looks for ways to make small shifts towards sustainability within her role. She has applied for the Sustainable Event Certification for the biannual UF Study Abroad Fairs multiple times in the last few years. The event received a Green Certification (the highest certification!) for the most recent fair held in early October 2023. Her peers nominated her as a Green Gator due to her dedication to trying to lessen the impact of such a large on-campus event.
For Jess, a simple first step is to make outreach and marketing initiatives as sustainable as possible by limiting paper waste and encouraging the use of QR codes.
She also ensures there are vegetarian and vegan food options at events and makes use of outdoor event space. While there are still a variety of possible improvements, each small step is leading the way towards more sustainable business practices at UF and opening up conversations about the role of sustainability in international education.
The Intersection of Travel & Sustainability
International travel is unfortunately a substantial producer of carbon emissions. At the same time, Jess believes travel plays an important role in helping students become globally-minded citizens and develop a passion for global issues like climate change.
Jess explains, “After returning to UF from study abroad, students are often eager to make the world a better place.” That impact can be felt on UF’s community, as students hope to apply new practices and sustainable values they’ve discovered and observed around the world.
“Travel and sustainability are both huge interests of Gen Z. With Gen Z especially, we have so many opportunities to be innovative and forward-thinking. ” Jess prompts us all to consider what improvements can be made:
- What does the future of travel look like?
- What is the future of sustainability?
- How can those things intersect?
At UF, there are several sustainability-focused study abroad programs that students can explore to expand their knowledge of global sustainability practices and norms.
Opportunities include UF in Europe – Environmental Ethics & Sustainability Politics, UF in North Queensland – Sustaining Humans & their Environment, and UF in Iceland – Renewable Energy & Sustainability. The non-UF provider School for Field Studies also offers some amazing sustainability-focused programs.
Outside of her work at UF, Jess has a resale business called Cheap Thrills Thrift Shop. There she sells second-hand home decor and vintage items! You can find her on Instagram, Etsy, and at various pop-up events around Gainesville.
The mantra behind Cheap Thrills Thrift is to focus on the first two R’s of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.’ Instead of an extreme focus on recycling, which can involve ineffective recycling systems, Jess prefers to practice sustainability in her life by reducing waste and reusing existing materials.
She shares, “The vast majority of my household consists of items I’ve either had for 10+ years and plan to keep, or items I’ve purchased secondhand and saved from the landfill.”
When she takes a break, Jess enjoys spending time with her partner and their dogs, going to concerts (“shoutout to Coldplay for their concert sustainability efforts!), or, you guessed it, traveling!