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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Businesses, students show up for sustainability showcase

Businesses must adopt environmentally friendly strategies to weather the "perfect storm" of water, energy, climate and pollution crises threatening the earth, an expert in sustainable business methods said.

Bob Willard joined L. Hunter Lovins, who runs a nonprofit organization that advises companies on eco-friendly business strategies, in speaking to guests of The Business Case for Sustainability and UF Sustainability Showcase on Monday evening.

Environmentally friendly businesses can outperform those that are not, said Willard, author of "The Sustainability Advantage: Seven Business Case Benefits of a Triple Bottom Line."

Businesses that are harmful to the environment face public relations crises and a lack of support from consumers, Willard said. In 2006, 20 percent of consumers began to invest in "green" companies, he said.

Lovins, the president of Natural Capitalism Solutions, said more than two-thirds of Earth?s ecosystems have been polluted or overexploited.

She said the companies that adopt environmentally friendly strategies are the "billionaires of tomorrow."

Before Lovins and Willard took the stage, students visited numerous booths with representatives including the Florida Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Peace Corps and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The American Solar Energy Society showcased the Recumbent Trike, a solar-powered tricycle. Nate Mitten, one of the tricycle?s creators, said it started off as a concept in his business class. Solar panels atop the tricycle collect energy from the sun and power a 48-volt battery. The battery can power the tricycle for about 20 minutes, he said.

Once the tricycle is powered up, the rider will not have to pedal for shorter trips.

The idea for the vehicle is to encourage a method of transportation that isn?t harmful to the environment and can reduce the use of gas-guzzling automobiles.

With its unique design, Mitten saw the need for extra safety precautions. He decided to add turn signals, lights and a seatbelt to the tricycle. Although the final product hasn?t been released yet, there are plans for a covering and windshield to protect riders from weather conditions.

The event was co-sponsored by the UF Office of Sustainability, the Council for Sustainable Florida, the Warrington College of Business Administration and Accent.

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The event cost nearly ,10,000. About 500 guests attended the event, said Jillian Peters, vice president of Gators for a Sustainable Campus and member of the UF Office of Sustainability.

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