Joanna Norris, Associate Director
Department of Public Relations
The University of North Florida was ranked in the top 100 “Coolest Schools” by Sierra magazine, the award-winning magazine of the Sierra Club,
America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, for its “green” endeavors on campus.
Each year, Sierra magazine ranks America’s most environmentally-progressive colleges and universities according to their environmental practices, green initiatives and caliber of sustainability-oriented education in its annual “Coolest Schools” issue.
“Making the Sierra Club 100 Coolest Schools list is an important first for UNF,” said Dr. Radha Pyati, director of UNF’s Environmental Center. “We have worked hard at making our campus more environmentally sustainable, and this kind of recognition among our peers tells us that we are a valuable part of a critical global movement.”
In March, Sierra magazine sent a 12-page comprehensive questionnaire to more than 900 four-year undergraduate colleges and universities across the United States. Researchers for the magazine then scored and ranked the surveys voluntarily submitted by participating schools. The questions on the survey centered on environmental goals and achievements, with priority given to achievements. Its 10 categories included energy supply, efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments and other initiatives.
“This is significant recognition for all the hard work to reduce the University’s energy and water consumption, reduce our waste and increase our recycling as well as striving to reduce our overall expenses associated with those reductions and our carbon footprint, while keeping our students informed about environmental sustainability and providing experiential, transformational programs for students,” said April Moore, UNF Environmental Center program director.
UNF’s environmental and sustainability programs and projects touch on virtually every aspect of student, staff or faculty life. The University’s Grounds and Refuse/Recycling staff have recognized a 40 percent reduction in irrigation water use over the last five years as the campus has grown and simultaneously endured two years of drought. UNF has also increased the number of recycling bins, reorganized the recycling staff and implemented weekly recycling collection at each campus office. Additionally, the University has converted to green cleaning products.
The University’s Social Sciences Building was the first LEED-
(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
certified “green” building in Northeast Florida, with President John Delaney’s commitment that all future buildings constructed on campus will be “green.” The Student Union and the College of Education and Human Services buildings are both Gold-certified, while the Osprey Fountains, Brooks College of Health addition and Parking Services building are all Silver-certified.
The LEED™ Green Building Rating System is a voluntary third-party rating system where credits are earned for satisfying specified “green” building criteria.
In the academic arena, UNF offers several environmental studies courses, including an Environmental Studies minor; Civil Engineering with an environmental track, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology track, Coastal Biology track and a Coastal Environmental Science track. The Thomas G. Carpenter Library, a resource open to the public, has developed digital commons, which is a digital representation of research, scholarly output and special collections of faculty and students.
Out on campus, the Department of Recreation, through support from Student Government and the Student Life fee, strives to achieve awareness of the environment and good stewardship through four of its campus units—Eco-Adventure and Eco Camp as well as the Organic Garden and Wildlife Sanctuary programs. In these programs, UNF students reach out to other students and local school children in Northeast Florida to teach awareness for the environment.
Most recently, the Environmental Center has published a Commuting Preferences Survey Report. Working with Parking Services has led UNF closer to establishing a ride-share program, exploring bicycle path options, and looking at establishing improved mass transit opportunities for the campus community, outside of the campus shuttle service. UNF’s Physical Facilities department has also begun a project to implement softening of the chiller water to reduce the University’s domestic water usage by 15 million gallons a year and has installed building retrofits, looking to save potentially up to 10 percent of the energy usage per building, once -the work is completed.
This latest recognition comes on the heels of UNF receiving eight other national designations, including No. 19 Best Buy College, Best College in America and Best College in the South, all by Forbes Magazine; Best College in the Southeast, Best Value Public College and a top “Green” College by Princeton Review; Best Regional University by U.S. News & World Report, and a Military Friendly School.
The UNF Environmental Center was founded in 2004. Its mission is to establish, develop and support cross-disciplinary education and research related to the environment. The Center fosters programs for students, faculty and staff to pursue environmental activities through academics, research and extracurricular activities. The Center conducts and supports campus infrastructural projects involving sustainability and the campus’s natural environment.
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