| USF News
Extracting energy from human waste. Composting with elementary school children. Establishing a Student Green Energy Fund. Launching the world's first School of Global Sustainability.
They're just a few of the innovative strategies in place at USF to help transition the university and society at large to a clean and sustainable future — strategies that have earned USF the title "Most Innovative Climate Leader" in the third annual Second Nature Climate Leadership Awards.
In June, USF Provost Ralph Wilcox will accept the award at the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Climate Leadership Summit. USF took the top prize among doctorategranting universities in the national competition among 674 eligible colleges and universities.
"This is a huge moment for USF and a huge step forward in earning national recognition for our sustainability efforts," says Christian Wells, director of USF's Office of Sustainability. "I am deeply proud of our students, faculty and staff for all their hard work and dedication, which led to this major national recognition. This is truly a landmark in USF's history."
Ever since USF President Judy Genshaft signed the ACUPCC in 2008, students, faculty and administrators have made an all-out effort to incorporate sustainability into campus operations, teaching, research, community outreach and campus life.
Those efforts are numerous and include:
- Incorporating sustainability in the university's Strategic Plan.
- Revamping the campus Master Plan to focus on smart growth.
- Convening a sustainability steering committee that prepared the university's first greenhouse gas inventory and Climate Action Plan.
- Establishing an Office of Sustainability.
- Implementing a university-wide policy on institutional sustainability.
- Erecting the first eco-friendly (LEED Gold) building on campus.
- Creating a million-dollar Student Green Energy Fund to steer USF toward a carbon-free economy fueled by renewable energy.
It's not the first time USF has been singled out as a leader in sustainability.
The university has been recognized as an AASHE STARS Gold institution, a "Green College" by the Princeton Review, a "Tree Campus USA" school by the Arbor Day Foundation, and one of the top 50 "Coolest Schools" by Sierra Magazine.
Refillable water bottle stations? Check. Styrofoam-free campus? Check. Solar golf carts? Check. Solar panels? Check. Electric vehicle charging stations? Check.
It's what Genshaft calls "leading by example."
"We're doing our part to lessen the university's impact on the environment," she says.
And students are playing a huge role in the initiative.
Last year, the Florida Board of Governors approved a Student Green Energy Fee, a dollar per credit hour fee to fund renewable energy projects on campus that reduce the university's greenhouse gas emissions, waste or energy costs. More than 70 percent of students voted to approve the fee. Projects supported by the fund, such as solar umbrella stations that use the power of the sun to charge cell phones and laptops, are approved and implemented by students.
But it's not just what's happening on campus. It's climate change research that extends into the community and could, one day, have impact across the globe.
Yogi Goswami, co-director of the Clean Energy Research Center, is working to develop new technologies that utilize sunlight, biomass and other renewable energies.
Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Daniel Yeh is investigating energy-efficient ways to treat waste water.
And in the university's Botanical Gardens, students and faculty are conducting research and experiments focused on sustainability issues, such as the positive effects of bees on the environment.
Kala Vairavamoorthy, executive director of the Patel School of Global Sustainability, and an internationally recognized expert on urban water issues, says climate change research is taking place in many colleges and departments across the university.
The main goal of the Patel School, he says, is to bring together and integrate the research being done to allow for a more systematic approach to studying issues of resource management.
It's about leadership, he says. And USF is at the forefront.
"We are preparing the next generation of sustainability leaders."