Office of Sustainability to preserve UF campus for future generations
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To meet the needs of today’s University of Florida community without compromising its future generations of students, faculty and staff, UF has announced it will open an Office of Sustainability.
UF will be among the first universities in the nation to fuse efforts to make campus practices environmentally friendly with an interdisciplinary academic emphasis on sustainability.
“We focus on three aspects of sustainability: ecology, economy and equity, or social justice,” said Kim Tanzer, chairwoman for the 150-member UF Faculty Senate that has initiated the Office of Sustainability, along with the Office of the President.
“It’s important to ‘green’ the campus, but it’s also important that we’re applying our research expertise to the campus, so the fact that we’ll have an academic officer and a director in the same office will allow us to use the campus as a living laboratory,” Tanzer said. “We’d like to draw together all the good efforts being done on campus already and use the office to create a new synergy.”
Although the Office of Sustainability will not officially open until an executive director is hired in November, some sustainability efforts are already under way. They encompass every aspect of the university from living wages to the designs for new buildings.
In the past year, UF has assembled a roster of more than 100 faculty members whose teaching, research or service involves some aspect of sustainability.
In November 2000, the university announced a living wage program for entry-level employees. The current starting salary is $8.67 per hour.
Currently the university recycles seven categories of recycled solid waste: paper, cans, glass, scrap metal, masonry, yard waste, and sludge. More than 30 percent of all solid waste generated by the university is recovered on campus and recycled through various local or regional brokers and processing firms.
The university’s purchasing policy supports the purchasing of products that will minimize any negative environmental impacts of our work.
Fred H. Cantrell, associate vice president for finance and administration, said the new office is expected to establish UF as a global leader in sustainability, reduce operational costs through sustainable practices, and improve the quality of campus and community life.
UF also is designing new buildings that meet the standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Tanzer said. Current buildings with this design include additions to the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Levin College of Law, along with the new Rinker Hall. The LEED standards reward innovative design, site selection, materials and technological features that save money and the environment.
“Among academic projects, the butterfly pavilion at the Florida Museum of Natural History demonstrates sustainability in a number of ways,” Tanzer said. “The [McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity] is a LEED-certified building, and the internationally prominent research program promotes sustainability.”
Butterflies are sentinels of environmental problems, she said. If butterflies cannot survive in an environment, it is an indicator of high levels of pesticides or other non-sustaining factors.
Six primary areas of sustainability were identified in the 2002 Report of the Task Force on Sustainability: research, education, campus operations, community outreach and integration, campus community, and organizational policies and practices.
Professor P.K. Nair, a member of the sustainability committee, said efforts to provide for needs of the present should not compromise the ability of future generations to provide for themselves.
“This is a serious issue for leading academic institutions such as UF that are supposed to shape the ‘state of the future,’” Nair said. “An Office of Sustainability at UF will provide a focal point and stimulus for our efforts and ability in addressing these issues.”
Tanzer said UF’s sustainability efforts go beyond business practices.
“It is very important to include all aspects of sustainability in a university, because our students don’t just learn within the classroom, but from their whole environment,” she said.
Tanzer said many students at UF have become aware of campus sustainability efforts, and many have become involved. UF students complete about 150,000 hours of community outreach work each year.
The Office of Sustainability has a Web site, www.sustainability.ufl.edu, and has begun its search for an executive director.