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Monday, October 25, 2021

New study shows UF improves in sustainability ranking

Despite being in a state where the average temperature doesn’t dip below 65 degrees, UF is labeled a "cool school."

In this month’s "Sierra Magazine," UF ranked 56th out of 153 "cool schools." The Sierra Club, a sustainability organization, ranks schools’ "coolness" based on its sustainability programs, said Allison Vitt, UF Office of Sustainability’s outreach and communications coordinator.

"We are striving to be among the best of the best," she said.

In 2010, the university ranked 84th, meaning UF moved up 28 places in five years.

This leap can be attributed to UF sustainability programs’ expansion and increased diversity, Vitt said.

There are more sustainability-related classes this year compared to classes in 2010. This year, there are 216 undergraduate courses related to sustainability, Vitt said.

Cabot Zucker, a UF sustainability and the built environment senior, said he has seen an increase in classes that integrate sustainability into their curriculums.

UF’s waste-management program, which increased recycling options on campus, also contributes to the Sierra score, Vitt said.

Zucker, 22, said he thinks the program is forward-thinking.

"It’s impressive with how far they’ve come," he said.

Included in the waste-management initiative is a push for the use of more environmentally friendly products, Vitt said. In 2011, UF encouraged Chick-fil-A to switch from Styrofoam to paper cups. This has diverted 1.2 million units of foam products from landfills, Vitt said.

UF is also a plastic-bag-free university, Vitt said. This means no food-service company on campus uses plastic bags. For example, at Subway, customers get their sandwiches wrapped, instead of placed in plastic bags.

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Additionally, the Office of Sustainability is including more students in its conservation efforts, she said. The office’s student-intern program has grown from a handful of interns to more than 20 interns. These students help plan and run the office’s events, like the UF sustainability hut.

"We have a goal in mind," Vitt said. "We use them to get to that goal."

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