Office of Sustainability launches conservation area adoption program

May 15, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Coming this fall, University of Florida student organizations will have the opportunity to adopt a conservation area to help clean and protect ecosystems and biodiversity right on campus.

This past spring, The Office of Sustainability, in partnership with the UF Clean Water Campaign, known as the CWC, piloted the new program aimed at raising awareness about litter issues on campus.

Organizations apply to adopt a zone on campus for an academic year, set cleanup dates and recruit volunteers. The Office of Sustainability and CWC sponsor all the materials and provide guidance and support. The groups provide information such as the weight of trash and recyclables collected. The program helps decentralize cleanup coordination on the ground while establishing a greater level of record-keeping. Together, this provides a better glimpse of the kind of waste that ends up in the woods and water bodies of campus, and how frequently it’s accumulating.

“The program concept was the result of identifying a problem and thinking creatively about how to best capture student interest and involvement,” said Ashley Pennington, outreach coordinator for the Office of Sustainability. “Numerous student organizations already host cleanups or adopt roads, so it seemed a logical way to leverage that energy to make a direct impact in a comprehensive yet fun way.”

Five student organizations participated in the pilot semester, allowing the office to refine the process while still ensuring care for conservation areas. Greeks Going Green, the Inter-Residence Hall Association, UF College Democrats, GreenLaw and the American Water Works Association participated, hosting cleanups from February through April.

“We got involved in the Adopt-A-“Swamp” program because it was a great way for our members to participate in community service on campus,” said Julia Slayden, a member of UF College Democrats. “After our first cleanup we held a picnic in our newly clean zone by Lake Alice, which was a great bonding experience.”

The program has four key goals: mitigate litter on campus, engage the campus community on waste, restore and protect campus biodiversity and ecosystems, and gather useable data and information to better understand, assess and develop solutions for waste patterns and accumulations in these spaces.

In 2011 as part of the spring waste campaign, REthink, the office initially vetted the concept by hosting a campuswide cleanup of nine zones on campus. After nearly 3,000 pounds of trash and recyclables were collected, and the concept was presented to volunteers, it became clear that Adopt-A-“Swamp” would create an important harmony between the needs of campus with the desires of the student community.

For more information on the program and details on when to apply for the fall, visit