Collaboration and Growth As Key To Success
The UF Office of Sustainability plays a central role in facilitating the efforts of faculty, students, and staff to generate knowledge, acquire skills, develop values, and initiate practices that contribute to a sustainable quality of life on campus.
Looking back on the last several months of 2023, two clear themes shape the Office of Sustainability’s work: collaboration and professional growth.
Ultimately, these experiences aid us in connecting and mobilizing the UF community in ways that will allow people to make a difference in Gainesville and beyond.
Collaboration As A Top Priority
As a team, we found new ways to support and encourage one another. We appreciated the small wins and moments of connection that lay the groundwork for future developments. We are incredibly proud of our recent growth in the area of collaboration.
A Focus On Conservation
This fall, the Office of Sustainability and UF Planning, Design, and Construction celebrated the efforts of the 30-member steering committee and stakeholders who were involved in the CALM (Conservation Area Land Management) Plan update process in 2022 and 2023. They played a pivotal role in identifying common themes for the conservation areas and brainstorming management solutions. It all culminated in CALM Week events in October 2023. Together, we were thrilled to host engagement events with the Thompson Earth Systems Institute, Florida Fresh Dining, and CORE.
The Office of Sustainability also supported Planning, Design, and Construction’s stakeholder engagement efforts for the Lake Alice Watershed Management Plan throughout Fall 2023. Two members of our office, Matt Williams (Director) and Kaylee August (Sustainability Program Coordinator), will continue to serve as project team members during the duration of the planning process for the watershed management plan in 2024.
New Office of Sustainability Interns
To further support the Office of Sustainability initiatives, we hired two new interns for Communications and two new interns for Biodiversity. Each brought with them their connections to other student organizations, community groups, and prior work experiences.
The Biodiversity interns worked on a forthcoming field guide to identify the listed and protected species in the conservation areas! The Communications interns continued the Green Gator of the Month series, highlighting faculty, staff, and students across the UF community. We retired the Glimpse Into Gainesville series on social media and the interns replaced it with the new Communities and Opportunities series that highlights local Gainesville organizations and ways you can support them. Alongside Lauren Stefan, Design & Marketing Coordinator, the Communications team focused on improving social media reach and engagement.
The Office of Sustainability also made direct connections with students to help them understand common areas of confusion and concern. Liz Storn, Senior Program Coordinator, had the opportunity to deliver several classroom presentations on food waste and waste management. Liz explained that it was a rewarding experience to have face-to-face conversations with students invested in a deeper understanding of UF’s policies and practices.
In other areas of collaboration, John Lawson, Climate Action Plan Implementation Coordinator worked diligently to strengthen partnerships for off-campus solar. As a result, UF was able to increase the allotment of off-campus solar photovoltaic arrays to 151 MW to help mitigate electrical consumption on campus through the Duke Clean Energy Connection Program.
Finally, the whole OoS team worked on initial data collection for AASHE STARS reporting!
Pursuing Professional Growth
Professional growth and networking were other main areas of focus in the Office of Sustainability. We immersed ourselves in new projects and found inspiration from other institutions and networks.
The whole staff was empowered by attending the 2023 AASHE Annual Conference. Kaylee even presented a field report session at the conference! She collaborated with the University of Richmond regarding large- and small-scale conservation area land management for the informative presentation.
Another avenue of professional development was sustainability certifications. Will Daniel studied for the WELL Accredited Professional Exam with plans to take the test in early 2024. Corey Farmer, Sustainability Coordinator, passed the LEED AP Exam for existing buildings. With this new certification in his toolkit, Corey recently completed an improved desktop energy audit of campus buildings.
Some professional development stories came in the form of literal stories! Kaylee read one book each month as part of a Cli-Fi (Climate Fiction) Book Club, which focused on the ways fiction can help boost new ideas and conversations about the state of the planet. She shares, “I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to try something new!”
These opportunities to advance knowledge and learn about new trends are essential steps for us to foster growth and gain examples that will help us innovate at UF.
Here’s To A Sustainable 2024
As we look forward to another year of success in 2024, the Office of Sustainability wants to hear from you about future opportunities for collaboration! We welcome UF faculty, staff, and students to share ideas with us on Instagram @SustainableUF or to email us at email@example.com.