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Sustainability Committee pushes to improve UT’s environmental footprint

By Lindsay Price

UT’s Faculty Sustainability Committee is tasked with finding ways to conserve energy, protect the environment and pioneer a more sustainable future on campus. Members of the committee brainstorm proposals to improve UT’s environmental footprint, as well as organizing events and initiatives to encourage students to get involved.

The mission often overlaps with their personal life as well — three members of the committee have installed solar arrays on their homes.

Stephen Kucera, associate professor of biology, stresses the importance of committee members living by their environmental values. He identified greenhouse gas emissions as the most worrying concern for the committee going forward. So what can UT do to remedy this issue?

“Set a goal of net zero carbon emissions, both by reducing energy consumption and increasing the use of renewable power,” said Kucera. “This includes renewable power generated on campus. UT already has a sizable portfolio of buildings and activities in the pursuit of a greener, more sustainable campus.”

Kucera has received funding from UT Student Government for three proposals he wrote to tackle this problem over the last five years. The cumulative amount received totals to $138,000 and the money has gone toward more sustainable buildings on campus.

First, halogen bulbs in the Bailey gallery were replaced with LED bulbs that use 75 percent less energy. This was followed by the installation of a 36 kW solar array in the Thompson building, and the committee is planning to expand the array again with the latest grant. He encouraged students to continue to be involved in sustainability efforts, and suggested a way for them to do so.

“I would love to see the dorms have a competition to see who can save the most energy,” Kucera said. “The only support required there is from the students themselves and the administration providing the data that would be needed to judge the competition. So let’s work together––faculty, staff, students and administration to find the ideas that we all agree can be pursued and maximize the positive impact on our shared environment.”

Jessa Madosky, assistant professor of biology, explained that the committee collaborates with students in a variety of ways. Some current avenues include creating a sustainability internship database, a student-led recycling initiative and sustainability awards for impactful organizations, faculty, and students.

She views her work within the UT community as an extension of her personal commitment to sustainability at home. Solar panels, a small farm and rainwater collection are a few of the measures she has implemented at her residence.

“I’m inspired to be on the UT sustainability community because I think it is critical for UT to be thinking about how to be more sustainable – both to benefit the university and students and to benefit Tampa Bay and the world,” said Madosky. “I teach environmental science courses so I am constantly thinking about how to be more sustainable and challenging my students to think about it as well.”

Ashleigh McGregor, the president of the UT Environmental Protection Coalition, said she wishes UT would promote more about recycling and educate students about the importance of it.

“We can further improve the ongoing environmentally-friendly efforts by using more biodegradable utensils, containers, and so on,” said McGregor. “At the very least, we can aim to reduce the amount of plastic being used at UT.”

The Environmental Protection Coalition visits Bayshore Boulevard once a month to clean-up. They walk along Bayshore, pick up trash, and recycle any recyclable items found, according to McGregor.

“We also do monthly cigarette butt clean-ups on campus,” said McGregor. We visit the places where people normally go to smoke and pick up cigarette butts. Our popular spots are near Austin, the space between the Wellness Center and the Amscot, and near ICB.”

McGregor also said she loves to see students involved and caring for the environment. She said we live in a time where people have to be willing to help protect it and UT needs to start taking steps toward better sustainability.

The Faculty Sustainability Committee will be hosting a “Recycling is Beautiful” Gala on Friday, April 19th, 2019 from 6-8 p.m.

Lindsay Price can be reached at lindsay.price@spartans.ut.edu

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