Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Creative sustainability projects have USF vying for environmental honor


Solar-powered mail trucks, low-flow dorm shower heads, thousands of newly planted trees and no more Styrofoam in the dining halls. ¶ Those are just a few reasons the University of South Florida thinks it should be named No. 1 for its sustainability efforts. Now in the final rounds of a nationwide contest by the Washington, D.C,-based environmental group Planet Forward, USF is working hard to spread the word: green is gold.

"We've come so far, so fast," said Christian Wells, director of USF's office of sustainability. "I equate it with our sports teams. It's kind of like the Bulls' spirit. When we decide to do something, we do it."

USF is now one of 18 schools left standing in the contest. Early Friday, it was one of nine with more than 500 votes. Voting ends at midnight April 14.

The winner, to be announced in early May, mostly earns bragging rights. But that's good enough for USF.

If it wins, the honor will come a year after USF was named one of the "coolest schools" for environmental efforts by the Sierra Club — a title touted by USF president Judy Genshaft in her back-to-school address last fall.

Wells says it's only the beginning.

"Universities are kind of like small cities," he said. "There is a very large or potentially very large ecological footprint. We want to look into what operations we have on campus and come up with some strategies to reduce or eliminate our carbon footprint."

Most of the carbon dioxide that pollutes the air comes from electricity and transportation, Wells said — two things a large campus like USF generates a lot of.

Wells' office is now working on a campus blueprint of sorts that will show areas that use the most energy and emit the most carbon. He hopes it'll spur people to change their behaviors, such as riding bikes instead of using cars and changing to more energy efficient versions of light bulbs.

USF St. Petersburg, for example, just announced the installation of two electric vehicle charging stations, paid for with a U.S. Department of Energy grant awarded by Progress Energy.

To pay for more projects like that one, USF can turn to a new green energy fund fueled by a $1-per-credit-hour student "green fee" approved last year. USF has amassed $800,000 from that fee, Wells said, and has already doled out money for various projects across campus.

One was the installation of "solar umbrella" stations, where panels attached to the top of umbrellas at seating areas provide power to charge laptops and cell phones.

Another was the installation of solar panels on the USF Marshall Student Center.

Jamie Trahan, a USF doctoral student, helped bring that project to life. As a student, she said it's empowering to be able to have a say in where her money goes.

Seventy-five percent of USF's 40,000-plus student body agreed with her in voting for the fee.

Trahan hopes a similar reaction will help put USF over the top in the Planet Forward contest.

"We are a university that's worthy of the title," Trahan said. "I feel like students are excited about it."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at or 813-226-3337.


See USF's video
and cast your vote

Think USF should win the contest? Visit to watch USF's submission video and cast your vote.

Creative sustainability projects have USF vying for environmental honor 03/31/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 5, 2012 9:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  2. In Florida, nation's only lightning center closes after DARPA cuts funding


    University of Florida professor Martin Uman usually spends much of this summer at an old Army base about an hour northeast of Gainesville, shooting rockets at thunderclouds, then measuring the bright flashes of lightning that followed.

    Rocket-and-wire triggered lightning at the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing, which recently lost federal funding. A rocket trailing a grounded wire is launched toward an active thunderstorm at the ICLRT. One launch is from a tower, one from ground. When the wire is about as high as the Empire State Building, lightning is induced to strike the top of the wire, much as it strikes tall objects like the ESB. Interestingly, the cloud charge source is about 3 miles high, so a 300 yard-long wire can cause a 3 mile or more long lightning.  After that, there are several normal tortuous strokes ( downward leaders from the cloud charge/upward return strokes) which can be seen as the wind blows the individual strokes to the right. The time between strokes is about 50 thousands of a second. Between some strokes, continuing current can be seen. Continuing current is what generally starts forest fires. [Photo by Dr. Dustin Hill]
  3. Editorial: Reasonable clarity on gambling in Florida


    Gambling expansion strategies — and misfires — are nearly an annual ritual in Florida. There were the eight counties that voted to allow slot machines but were blocked by the Florida Supreme Court. There was the governor's $3 billion deal with the Seminole Tribe in 2015 that was never approved by the …

    Gov. Rick Scott agreed to a much simpler deal with the Seminole Tribe that embraces the status quo instead of expansion. And that’s a good thing.
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Editorial: Hillsborough smartly embraces diversion program for youths


    Children who commit minor crimes can pay for their mistakes for a lifetime — losing a chance to attend college, join the military or obtain credit and a good job. That is unjust to the individuals and a burdensome cost to society, and Hillsborough County is taking the right new approach by giving some juveniles a …

    Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has announced an agreement between law enforcement agencies and the courts that will allow first-time offenders who commit nonviolent crimes as juveniles to be issued civil citations rather than face an arrest and prosecution.