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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

In the spirit of Earth Day, we think it's necessary to applaud UF's ongoing campus sustainability efforts and the progress that has been made to reduce the university's large environmental impact.

Since 2001, UF has adopted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria for design and construction for all major new construction and renovation projects on campus.

Last year, the UF's Physical Plant Division pledged a commitment to green cleaning practices throughout the 900-plus buildings maintained by the department. That included "greener" training programs for custodial supervisors and staff and reducing the amount of harmful compounds used in cleaning.

The Office of Sustainability has also worked with dining services to develop a plan for implementing sustainability into the food we eat on campus, including regional sourcing of food, green catering, energy conservation and transportation impacts. Gator Dining is also in the process of switching over all of its disposable service items to biodegradable and recycled options.

While all these big changes are a great way for one of the largest campuses in the nation to foster a green image, it's important to us that the little things are not overlooked.

Though the larger initiatives are more visible and certainly benefit the sustainability goal, we all know that the little things add up, too.

For example, while the UF Sustainable Purchasing Directive suggests that offices purchase recycled paper and durable and reusable goods, they are as of now not required to do so. Environmentally preferable products are to be purchased whenever practical. With the hundreds of printers across campus and thousands of pages printed each day, we think it's important that a higher priority is placed on reducing the amount of wasted paper and other office supplies. Purchasing recycled products should be the norm.

That being said, we also think it would be an environmentally sound practice if professors began to encourage their students to hand in papers and projects printed on both sides of the page. This would essentially cut the amount of paper students use in half and is a relatively easy and small change that could have a potentially large impact if implemented across campus. To take it a step further, professors could take the same approach when printing tests and syllabuses and reduce the amount of waste even more.

Another point of wastefulness is campus maintenance. Any student would be hard-pressed to find a day on campus when someone is not utilizing a leaf blower to keep the UF grounds aesthetically pleasing. This is a concentrated waste of energy and resources. Random trees and bricked landscape areas also seem to appear overnight. We certainly enjoy having a pretty place to walk to class that is filled with lush trees and plants, but we don't understand why so much energy is expended on maintaining the green vegetation and lawns. The vast expanse of St. Augustine grass is not sustainable - it requires regular watering in the heat, doesn't produce seed and must be treated with herbicides and pesticides. It would make more sense to seed grass or maybe just make peace with the stubborn dandelions.

Little changes, such as presenting an information booklet to incoming freshmen about living green on campus, increasing the number of recycling bins, not running the escalators at Library West all night and keeping every building on campus at a steady 75 degrees could go a long way to keep with the university's green efforts and encourage student participation all year round.

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