The University of Florida’s Commitment to Sustainability

Over the years, the University of Florida (UF) has consistently been at the forefront of sustainability efforts, consistently pushing boundaries and setting trends in climate action among academic institutions. With unwavering support from its administration, UF has rallied the efforts of its faculty and staff to establish and pursue sustainability objectives and continually develop new initiatives aimed at accommodating future climate action. Below, we outline some key moments that shed light on UF’s dedication to climate action goals and its plans for the future.

A Glimpse into UF’s Climate Action Journey

2006

Under the leadership of President Machen, UF became one of the early adopters of the “American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment,” now known as the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, signifying a vital step in the university’s sustainability journey. UF also took the pioneering initiative of evaluating its greenhouse gas emissions, laying the groundwork for its climate action planning.

2007

Following the establishment of the Office of Sustainability, UF embarked on a visionary process to map out a sustainable future for its campus, thus giving birth to the “Vision for Sustainable UF” report. This pivotal report provided the basis for formulating a series of strategic plans, including the “Energy Conservation & Climate Change Implementation Plan.”

2009

The Energy and Climate Change Task Force unveiled the UF Climate Action Plan v1.0, outlining ambitious objectives to curtail UF’s greenhouse gas emissions. This task force consisted of dedicated UF personnel, some actively involved in the ongoing UF CAP v2.0 planning, with a special tribute to the late Dr. Charles Kibert for his invaluable contributions to UF’s climate action initiatives.

2009-2019

UF made significant strides by achieving various goals set out in the UF CAP v1.0 and implemented an array of programs aimed at enhancing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and bolstering sustainable infrastructure across its campus.

Accomplishing CAP v1.0 Goals:
  • Despite a marginal rise of 0.21% in overall campus emissions since 2005, UF successfully managed to slash emissions per square foot by 18%, surpassing the target set in UF CAP v1.0, even with the addition of over a million square feet of new buildings.
Continuous Initiatives:
  • UF demonstrated unwavering support for energy efficiency projects outlined in campus plans like the “Vision for Sustainable UF,” with substantial financial backing from the Office of the Vice President for Business Affairs.
  • From 2009, UF raised the bar by mandating a LEED Gold minimum standard for all new campus constructions, transitioning from LEED Silver.
  • The introduction of various solar energy projects, coupled with a 78% surge in solar energy generation from 2015 to 2020, underscored UF’s commitment to renewable energy.
  • UF’s pioneering move to host carbon-neutral commencement ceremonies in 2010, followed by the initiation of the innovative Carbon-Neutral Commuter Program in 2016, exemplified its devotion to carbon neutrality.
  • UF ramped up its efforts in promoting electric vehicles, increasing Electric Vehicle parking to 38 spots and setting a 10% Electric Vehicle target for the UF Fleet by 2019.
  • UF Facilities Services spearheaded several pioneering initiatives to curtail energy consumption, such as revamping building systems, upgrading lighting, and re-commissioning buildings.
  • The collaboration between the UF Office of Sustainability, Facilities Services, and other campus partners led to enhancements in the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, crucial for informing carbon neutrality goals and climate action planning.

2019

In the fall of 2019, UF’s Office of Sustainability, in conjunction with the City of Gainesville and Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, organized a Resilience-Building Workshop aimed at bringing together UF and local community experts to discuss climate-related hazards and fortify the community’s resilience to such threats.

2020

As part of its commitment to stakeholder engagement, the UF Office of Sustainability, supported by the Florida Climate Institute, conducted two public listening sessions to glean insights from peer institutions and the UF community. These sessions yielded 156 comments across various areas, influencing UF’s sustainability strategies.

2021

In early 2021, the Office of Sustainability commenced collaboration with strategic planning consultant, TRUST, to revise and update the UF Climate Action Plan. This process focuses on devising a shared strategic framework aimed at lowering UF’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions and enhancing the university’s resilience to climate change impacts, underscoring UF’s unwavering commitment to sustainability and climate action.

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