Environmental And Sustainability Ad Hoc Committee Report

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University of Florida Student Government Environmental & Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report Prepared for: University of Florida Student Government Prepared by: Alexander Cohen, Environmental and Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Chairman With help from Senators: Josh Comiter, Dylan Helfand, Sydney Kaplan, Alexa Lipke, Shed-Laure Richardson, Jalysa Williams, Doug Whitaker and Rob Wheeler. Replacement Senators: Meghan Riffle and Alex Villagomez Summer 2012 University of Florida 305 J. Wayne Reitz Union, Museum Road P.O. Box 118505 Gainesville, Florida 32611 T 352-392-1665 sg.ufl.edu University of Florida Student Government Table of Contents Executive Summary Objective............................................................................................................................................................1 Goals.................................................................................................................................................................1 The Princeton Review Green Guide....................................................................................................................1 Our Competition Florida’s Public Universities.................................................................................................................................5 The South Eastern Conference (SEC).................................................................................................................7 A Better Tomorrow Environmentally Preferable Foods.......................................................................................................................8 Waste Diversion.................................................................................................................................................9 Environmental Literacy......................................................................................................................................10 Green Energy...................................................................................................................................................12 Conclusions Final Overview..................................................................................................................................................13 Special Thanks.................................................................................................................................................13 University of Florida 305 J. Wayne Reitz Union, Museum Road P.O. Box 118505 Gainesville, Florida 32611 T 352-392-1665 sg.ufl.edu University of Florida Student Government Executive Summary Objective The Environmental and Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee was charged by Senate President Aundre Price and later continued by Senate President Logan Harrison with the purpose of investigating how the University of Florida can continue to lead the way in “green” areas. The committee created this report to suggest several areas where UF has room to improve, and goes over areas where the University of Florida exceeds in an exceptional manner. Goals The goal of this report is to highlight several smaller scale projects that can substantially boost the University of Florida’s “Green Score” as calculated and published annually by the Princeton Review. The reason the Princeton Review’s ranking was chosen was because it is an unbiased and fact based evaluation that can be used to gauge progress on a yearly basis. They break down their scoring into ten different categories that can each be addressed head on to generate a higher “Green Score.” The Princeton Review’s Green Guide The Princeton Review uses ten criteria to determine a school’s “Green Score” and each section will be addressed in this report along with an evaluation on how, if possible, that UF can improve in that section. The ten areas of interest can be reviewed below: 1) What is the percentage of food expenditures that go toward local, organic or otherwise environmentally preferable food? The University of Florida currently puts about 19% of food expenditures toward local, organic or otherwise environmentally preferable foods. It should be known that the dining services on campus are trying to utilize what local products are available, but is rather difficult when producing food services in bulk. UF has placed preference on purchasing locally in three tiers: within a 250 mile radius, within the state of Florida, and finally within the South East United States (meaning Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Mississippi). When locally grown and purchased products are used in dining services on campus, they are typically labeled for the consumer’s knowledge. UF is also trying to promote “meatless Mondays”, to cut down on consumption of meats campus wide and spread the word of how by cutting down meat consumption can cut down the emission of greenhouse gases. To promote a higher amount of consumption of locally grown products on UF’s campus and participation in “meatless Mondays”, an initiative should be taken to not only label what foods are grown locally, but to also explain the benefits of consuming (or not consuming) these foods over other options. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 1 University of Florida Student Government 2) Does the school offer programs including free bus passes, universal access transit passes, bike sharing/renting, car sharing, carpool parking, vanpooling or guaranteed rides home to encourage alternatives to single-passenger automobile use for students? The University of Florida offers a wide variety of programs for more environmentally conscious travel. Designated UF students, faculty, and staff enjoy pre-paid unlimited access to all Gainesville, Regional Transit System fixed-route bus services with no fee required. This means free year round bus services for all UF affiliates and according to RTS more than 60% of all riders ride for free using their student ID.    For those who prefer personal vehicles, UF has specialized carpool parking spaces for faculty. UF also offers Zipcar services which offer fuel efficient car sharing services for members 18 and older. There is a student government funded guaranteed safe ride home system free of charge to students through the UF Police Department called Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol (SNAP) that operates from 6:30pm to 3:00am during the semester. In addition there is a large bicycle riding population with bike lanes on every road on campus and, according to bicyclinginfo.org, Gainesville is considered one of the “bicycle friendly cities” with extensive bike lane networks although there is currently no bike sharing system in place on campus. 3) Does the school have a formal committee with participation from students that is devoted to advancing sustainability on campus? The University of Florida has the Office of Sustainability as well as a Student Government Cabinet Organization called “Gators Going Green” which features many sub-organizations that students participate in. UF Student Senate also charged this Ad-Hoc Committee to address advancing sustainability and other environmental issues on campus. 4) Are new buildings are required to be LEED Silver certified or comparable? The Princeton Review also derives schools’ green scores based on requiring new buildings to be LEED Silver Certified. According to Sustainable UF, and the UF Master Plan, all new buildings and any new building renovations must adhere to a minimum of LEED Gold Standards. The LEED Gold Standards exceed what the Princeton Review is looking for, as they simply require a Silver certification. In addition, the University of Florida has built the first Platinum rated building in the state of Florida, with the construction of the Heavener Football Complex. The LEED certification is one of the grades that the University of Florida excels in by exceeding the requirements of the Princeton Review. Thirty-two buildings on campus are part of the UF Portfolio Pilot Program for LEED Existing Buildings (EB), which is the first such portfolio on a college campus. 5) What is a school's overall waste diversion rate? UF’s overall waste diversion rate is 51%, which is better than many other comparable schools like the University of Georgia (46%) and Florida State University (45%). There has been a significant push over recent years to increase recycling on UF’s campus and reduce the carbon footprint. These efforts are evident in the fact that over half of UF’s Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 2 University of Florida Student Government waste is recycled or dealt with in an environmentally friendly manner. UF needs to keep building upon these efforts to continue to reduce waste and divert what is left to recycling to keep increasing the waste diversion rate. 6) Does the school have an environmental studies major, minor or concentration? The University of Florida does provide students with education focusing on environmental studies. There is a major, minor, and even graduate program that concentrates on this field of study. Environmental Science is the science of people's role in natural systems, the basis of our economy. This program accesses courses university wide and provides numerous opportunities for international study. The Environmental Science degree approaches complex environmental issues with reliable knowledge and interdisciplinary perspectives, and provides the full range of knowledge relevant to complex environmental problems. This includes biological and physical sciences, ethics, economics, policy and law. The degree prepares graduates for jobs in environmental consulting companies, government environmental offices or land and water management agencies, or non-government organizations. Approximately one-third of environmental science students advance to graduate or professional degree programs. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) offers excellent research and educational opportunities for graduate students seeking careers in soil, water, and environmental sciences related to agriculture and natural resource management. Each program is tailored to meet the interests of the student and the need of the student's research program. There are various tracks offered to graduate students, such as Soil & Water Science, Environmental Science, Hydrologic Sciences, Wetland Sciences, Tropical Conservation & Development, and Minors in Soil & Water Science. 7) Does the school have an 'environmental literacy' requirement? Currently, the University of Florida has no environmental literacy requirement in place. The environmental literacy exam is an exam that all students should be required to take in order to graduate. The literacy exam should be similar to the alcohol exam that all incoming freshman must take in order to register for classes. The exam is one of the grading factors to which Princeton Review creates its green score and would be a simple and inexpensive way that we can improve our rating. The exam should consist of simple concepts that all graduates, regardless of major should know. The reasoning behind this is that all fields of business require some basic environmental knowledge. This will ensure that students have the very basic understanding of their impact on the environment and the cost of living in this world. The exam should be given online and require a simple pass score, which can be determined later. 8) Has the school produced a publicly available greenhouse gas emissions inventory and adopted a climate action plan consistent with 80% greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 targets? Yes, UF has it’s own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory at: http://sustainable.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/ 2011/04/UF_CAP_v1.pdf UF has adopted a climate action plan consistent with reducing greenhouse gases by 2050. Their actual goal is to reduce GHG by 83% below 2005 levels by 2050. Their prior goals are to have GHG 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, and 42% below by 2030. The goal of having GHG at least 3% below 2005 levels by 2012 is in line. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 3 University of Florida Student Government 9) What percentage of the school's energy consumption, including heating/cooling and electrical, is derived from renewable resources (this definition included 'green tags' but not nuclear or large scale hydro power)? The University of Florida uses about 5 to 8 percent of its energy consumption, which includes heating/cooling and electrical, is derived from renewable resources. President Bernie Machen is pushing to make the University of Florida a zero-waste campus by the year 2015 and with over 80% of the school grounds maintained organically this goal seems possible. With over 32,660 students, the University of Florida is one of the largest campuses in the nation and one of the greenest schools in the nation, a huge accomplishment for such a large university. With a sustainability officer and over 67% of the building green certified, the University of Florida has a bright future in reaching its goal of zero waste by 2015. 10) Does the school employ a dedicated full-time (or full-time equivalent) sustainability officer? The University of Florida has an Office of Sustainability that employs one part-time and four full-time employees. These positions include a Director, a Zero Waste Coordinator, an Implementation Coordinator, and two Program Assistants. The duties of the Zero Waste Coordinator are to create and implement a zero waste plan. This plan includes waste prevention, reuse, recycling, composting and environmentally preferable purchasing. The Implementation Coordinator is responsible for managing/implementing the strategy plans for sustainability. Lastly, the Program Assistants are responsible for reaching out to students, faculty, staff, and the Gainesville community. Program assistants also coordinate campaigns and events. Sustainability is something valued at the University of Florida and the Office of Sustainability is dedicated to improving UF’s campus and the city of Gainesville. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 4 University of Florida Student Government Our Competition Other Florida Public Universities University of Central Florida The University of Central Florida has made several pledges towards creating a more sustainable future, including signing on to become climate-neutral under the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment by 2050 as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 40% by 2030 and increasing the recycling rate to 75% or higher by the end of the decade, according to their “Climate Action Plan.” UCF was also featured by the U.S. Department of Energy for its efforts in these fields and it was also named an exemplary green institution in the 2010 Princeton Review Green Guide. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 5 University of Florida Student Government University of South Florida At the University of South Florida, sustainability issues are often addressed in general education classes and conferences are held annually that feature avenues for participants to share their green practices with others to educate each other on how to make their lives more sustainable and green. USF also added a $0.75/credit hour charge, requested and ratified by the students, to go towards purchasing renewable energy. This is among others that lead the way nationally for public universities to reach out and increase the amount of sustainable energy that they produce and consume. Florida A&M University Florida A&M University recently signed a $2.4 million contract with Siemens to completely retrofit many areas of the campus’ central physical plant. FAMU and Siemens say that this partnership will not only reduce FAMU’s carbon footprint by 4.5 million pounds of CO2 and save the University approximately $4.1 million dollars over the next 10 years. In summary, FAMU essentially profits by $4.1 million dollars by upgrading the quality of facility they provide for their students and reducing their energy consumption by embracing the future. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 6 University of Florida Student Government The South Eastern Conference (SEC) The University of Georgia The University of Georgia has implemented an environmental literacy program by requiring all majors to take at least one course from a large list of approved courses. The purpose of the requirement is to ensure that all students have an understanding of the basic scientific principles that govern natural systems and the consequences of human activity on local, regional, and global natural systems. UGA also has a $3 per person charge added to tuition as a “green fee” which was charged in 2009 with what the UGA website called “overwhelming student support.” This fee funds the Office of Sustainability as well as green related grants and and student “green” internships. Auburn University Auburn University recently launched the Sustain-A-Bowl, which was a residence hall centered contest to reduce energy and water use in residence halls by 10% and increase recycling rates. AU also offers a minor in Sustainability that is available to any student in any major area of study. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 7 University of Florida Student Government A Better Tomorrow Environmentally Preferred Foods Currently, the “Environmentally Preferred Foods” area is a major place where the University of Florida has room for improvement. Since only about 19% of UF’s food qualifies as “environmentally preferable” there is a clear space where even a small change can make a big impact. A large problem with bringing in environmentally preferred foods is the fact that UF has over 50,000 students and having enough food on campus to feed all of them is very difficult. One suggestion that students submitted was the idea of creating an organic “grocery-style” farmers market to UF, and having it administered by Aramark. Available options would be fresh and organic fruits and vegetables that were locally grown as well as organic meats and dairy products so that students living on campus could have access to environmentally preferred groceries without having to travel to a grocery store off campus. In a survey of students living on campus, over 80% of students surveyed said they would shop at such a store. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 8 University of Florida Student Government Waste Diversion As stated previously, University of Florida’s waste diversion rate is approximately 51%. UF also has a “Zero-Waste Coordinator” who works in the Office of Sustainability who is personally charged with bringing UF’s waste diversion as close to 100% as possible. One area that the committee saw as having room for improvement was in Residence Halls. Through student input, the committee has found that many students are concerned with their lack of access to recycling options and as a result UF’s recycling rates suffer. Two steps that the committee thinks will help solve this issue area increasing access to recycling in residence halls by adding recycling bins on every floor and also focusing on a “Recyclemania” program like many other schools like UCF and USF so to boost recycling. A team effort between IHRA, ActionSG and Student Government to boost the profile of Recyclemania to students living in Residence Halls would increase the effectiveness of the program and could provide a significant in the waste diversion rate. Recyclemania is a national competition between universities to basically see who is the best at recycling. There are several categories that are taken into consideration for overall score, including paper, glass and plastic recycling as well as university size. In the past, USF and UCF have both been very successful in this competition and the committee believes that UF can be a major competitor as well. UF has made great strides in the past with programs like “Put it in the can, Gator fan” and others, however, it is time for the University to make an effort to encourage recycling more in Residence Halls. The easier access is to these students, the more will be recycled and if UF puts school spirit into the equation by increasing the profile of the Recyclemania competition there will be a profound impact on students. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 9 University of Florida Student Government Environmental Literacy An environmental literacy exam is an exam that would follow a quick online course in which broad environmental practices are taught. The course and exam would be similar to online drug and alcohol courses and exams. The course will last approximately an hour and allow for ample time to read all necessary information. All incoming freshman must pass the exam following the course in order to register for classes. The purpose of this course is to teach about current environmental practices, which would give students the skills to understand their impact on the environment in whichever endeavors they wish to aspire to. The exam would consist of multiple choice questions based on the text in the course. The course text will accessible to students, thereby making it an open-note exam. The purpose of this exam is not to just add another standardized test to an already test filled life of a student, however it is to teach about environmental practices that will be needed in all aspects of life. These practices such as monitoring a carbon footprint, reducing waste, recycling and choosing more effect means of conducting business will all have a great effect in the students’ future. The University of Georgia has implemented an environmental literacy program by requiring all majors to take at least one course from a large list of approved courses. The purpose of the requirement is to ensure that all students have an understanding of the basic scientific principles that govern natural systems and the consequences of human activity on local, regional, and global natural systems. The approach that the University of Florida could take is to implement a similar policy where one of the general education classes would have to satisfy the environmental literacy requirement. The University of Georgia has an Environmental Literacy Requirement subcommittee that decides whether a course satisfies the environmental literacy requirement. Each college within the University submits a list of courses they deem fitting and the subcommittee approves or denies those courses. Through this approach, existing classes satisfy and a transition to a environmental literacy requirement would be easiest. In contrast to the University of Georgia’s plan, an alternative to taking a full semester long course is a short hour-long course followed by an exam. This course would cover the basic scientific principles that govern natural systems. In addition it would teach the consequences of human activity on local, regional, and global natural systems. Following the course, which would be in the short readings, will be a simple pass/fail exam. In order to meet the requirement students will have to pass the exam. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 10 University of Florida Student Government Some sample questions for the exam could be the following: Carbon monoxide is a major contributor to air pollution in the U.S. Which of the following is the biggest source of carbon monoxide in the United States? a) factory emissions and discharges b) motor vehicles c) household chimneys d) landfills Approximately what percentage of the Earth's water is available as fresh drinking water? a) 90% b) 45% c) 20% d) less than 3% What is the most common reason animal species become extinct? a) pollution b) hunting c) habitats are being destroyed by humans d) global warming Which of the following household wastes is considered a hazardous waste? a) plastic packaging b) glass c) batteries d) spoiled food Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 11 University of Florida Student Government Green Energy The most difficult area to address is the area in the Green Guide referring to green energy. as stated previously, the University of Florida uses about 5 to 8 percent of its energy consumption, which includes heating/cooling and electrical, is derived from renewable resources. President Bernie Machen is pushing to make the University of Florida a zero-waste campus by the year 2015 and with over 80% of the school grounds maintained organically this goal seems possible. The problem with increasing the amount of renewable energy that UF produces is that setting up the infrastructure to create the energy can be prohibitively costly. In the past, several feasibility studies have been done on solar panels around campus and none of them have shown it to be cost effective to install solar panels in any widespread way. The committee believes that the best approach would be a “all of the above approach.” An “all of the above approach” means that rather than focusing on one source of sustainable energy to power all of campus, UF uses several different sources of renewable energy in conjunction with each other to power the university. Ideas could include solar panels on top of some buildings such as the west side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and the new renovated J. Wayne Reitz Union. Another possibility would be to use small scale hydroelectric power from the many small streams that run from the north of campus. All in all, this would be monumental task and very expensive. The only way it could be funded would be through increases in student fees, which is not necessarily ideal, however, many similar universities have had success in passing “green fees” to fund similar endeavors. Tasking a “green fee” committee to research the popularity and feasibility of installing a green fee at UF would be the suggestion of the Environmental and Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee because it appears to be the only way of tackling the issue of increasing our renewable energy use in the long run. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 12 University of Florida Student Government Conclusion Final Overview In summary, the committee found four areas that the University of Florida could improve out environmental standing in a way that can be reviewed in an objective manner. The above suggestions area for future Student Governments and Administrations on how to address the obvious need of UF to continue to lead the way in sustainability and green education. Hundreds of hours of research and work were put into this report by over a dozen students and any questions should be directed to [email protected]fl.edu Special Thanks I would like to first give a special thanks to everyone on the Environmental and Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee that helped furnish this report. I would also like to thank Aundre Price and Logan Harrison for recognizing this important issue and trusting me with being the committee chair. James Tyger also was instrumental in helping me find all of the information that I needed to complete this report and TJ VIllamil and Christina Bonarrigo provided me valuable insight into how to lead the committee and how to best make an impact with this report. Environmental And Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee Report 13