Comparing campus sustainability programs at Florida universities

A look at the eco-friendly initiatives at six public Florida universities and their recycling and environmental efforts.


Katrina Scales, Managing Editor

College students produce a lot of trash.


According to Boston College, each student produces 640 pounds per year.


So instead of dumping every crumpled essay paper or discarded Coke bottle in a landfill, many universities have taken action to reduce their carbon footprint.


Some more than others.


Ahead is a look into FAU’s green-minded efforts for a more sustainable campus compared to five other public Florida universities.


Florida Atlantic University:

In late 2007, FAU launched the Mission Green Initiative — an eco-friendly campaign that looks to cut down on water and power consumption while creating a culture of sustainability among students and faculty.


The goal, according to its online mission statement, is to recycle 75 percent of the waste generated and increase conservation efforts.


The circa 2013 Mission Green web page boasts a bike-sharing program called “green bikes,” thriving community gardens, and more “TBA” features.


Although, the gardens near the College of Business and T-Buildings (near IVA) appear long neglected.


There are, however, remnants of the Mission Green initiative that are still visible on campus. Several solar-powered trash compactors with accompanying recycle slots are located on the Boca campus.


The once-active Mission Green Student Associate position is currently vacant and in a “recruiting phase” according to the former faculty adviser Helen Kennedy.


FAU has several LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings, such as the Culture and Society building and Engineering East. To qualify, the buildings must satisfy specific requirements for water and energy usage.


It is unclear if the campaign is still in effect, as there are no oversight committees or recent information available online.


Florida International University:

FIU received silver rating in the 2017 Sustainable Campus Index, a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, which highlights impactful environmental initiatives from colleges and universities.


In the spring, the campus participates in a nationwide competition called RecycleMania in which colleges across the country compete to see who can recycle the most and reduce the amount of waste they produce.


Last year, the school came in first in the state after collecting 680,244 pounds of recyclables — that’s more than five times the amount the second place winner collected. FIU currently has a recycling rate hovering between 25 percent and 30 percent, according to its Go Green web page.


Its Office of University Sustainability is the central office for maintaining policies and procedures regarding the integration of environmental education, research, and outreach.


In 2010, the university created the Sustainability Committee, comprised of an equal number of students, faculty, and staff.


University of Florida:

UF was highlighted in the 2017 Sustainable Campus Index in the Air and Climate section for its efforts in improving sustainability.


In April 2016, UF unveiled the Neutral UF Coalition program, which offers carpool and bicycling services. The program is designed to allow faculty and staff to “voluntarily offset” the carbon impact of their commutes to and from campus.


The school is also a participant of RecycleMania each spring.


The university maintains an organic garden, called the Student Agricultural Gardens, for students to grow their own food on campus.


UF’s nine-part “strategic vision” is outlined on their Office of Sustainability web page, which details everything from energy conservation to climate change “implementation plans.”


Florida State University:

The FSU Sustainable Campus was created in 2010 to promote the practice of resource conservation. Today, it has numerous programs and events that encourage students, faculty and staff to participate in sustainability on campus.


A program unique to FSU is the The Green Office Certification Program. This project evaluates faculty and staff office practices to make simple steps toward becoming more sustainable including energy conservation, waste reduction, recycling, and transportation.


“Take Back the Tap” is a student-run campaign aiming to transform FSU into a “bottled water free campus,” encouraging everyone to use reusable water bottles.


Last year, the school received silver rating in the 2017 Sustainable Campus Index.


University of Central Florida:

Steven Diaz

Similar to FAU’s green mission, UCF includes a plan to recycle 75 percent of its landfill-bound wastes.


The campus features more than 13 buildings that have achieved LEED silver certification or higher.


Preserving the natural landscape is another initiative by UCF, maintained by the university’s Department of Landscape and Natural Resources. Nearly 60 percent of the campus land is designated as conservation wetlands and diverse gardens.


The school came in second in the state in RecycleMania last year.


Florida Gulf Coast University:

Named one of the top 25 Greenest Colleges in 2015 by, FGCU provides detailed up-to-date procedures for its vision for sustainability on its website.

In April 2016, FGCU became the first school in Florida to sign the Real Food Campus Commitment, a commitment to serve food at the campus cafeteria that is locally sourced and humanely raised.


The Sustainable Campus Index awarded FGCU a Gold Rating in 2014 for its top performance in environmental conservation research.


FGCU’s Environmental Sustainability Committee is governed by administrative staff to create action plans with clear objectives and identified offices responsible for their completion.


Student organizations such as Students 4 Environmental Justice and the Environmental Coalition of FGCU promote sustainability programs as well.

*University green initiatives’ masthead images courtesy of Florida Atlantic University, University of Central Florida, Florida State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of Florida, and Florida International University.*


Katrina Scales is the managing editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].