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Moving up the eco ladder: USFSP’s newest initiative  

It has taken about two years, but USFSP’s energy submetering and monitoring project will be complete by the start of the fall 2018 semester. This sustainability project will help the campus monitor and understand energy usage. The initiative consists of installing submeters at various buildings which will report energy production at any point in time.

According to Earth Day Network, about 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean every year. Photo courtesy of Haley Jordan/Connect.

According to Earth Day Network, about 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean every year. Photo courtesy of Haley Jordan/Connect.

The basics

Here is where the students come in — the initiative is techy and interactive. Students will be able to use kiosks around campus and see the amount of energy used as well as the source. This will allow students to connect with the environment and perceive sustainability on a different level.

Brian Pullen, sustainability planner at USFSP’s Office of Sustainability said, “For me and my facility staff, they like it because it helps us better identify where inefficiencies are going on. Then from a student side, you can see what your energy usage is in real time.”

Pullen took the position in 2016, making him USFSP’s first sustainability planner. With the implementation of the Climate Action Plan, volunteers, interns, student government and the Student Green Energy Fund (SGEF), USFSP has moved up the sustainability ladder. In 2017, the campus jumped from the “reporter” participant ranking on STARS, Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Learning System to “silver.”

STARS is a way for colleges and universities to measure their progress toward sustainability. The system scores institutions into four categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations and Planning & Administration. Based on the reporting and collected scores, institutions may rank anywhere from bronze to platinum.

 

Minimum score required per category rating

STARS Rating Minimum Score Required
Bronze 25
Silver 45
Gold 65
Platinum 85
Information gathered from stars.asshe.org.

 

In perspective

Due to the varying range of higher education institutions and the amenities that some may or may not have, the STARS system ensures that non-applicable credits do not affect the overall score of the institution. Additionally, institutions can also earn up to 4 bonus points for implementing initiatives from their Exemplary Practice Credit Catalogue or pursuing open-ended innovation credits. Ratings expire after three years. At that point, the report is still public, but the score and rating will be removed. The table below provides the scores of all other participating Florida universities.

 

STARS rating per Florida University

University Ranking Score Year of last submission
University of South Florida – St. Petersburg Silver 53.46 2017
University of South Florida – Tampa Gold 65.35 2018
Florida Gulf Coast University Gold 71.96 2017
Florida International University Silver 49.09 2017
University of Florida Silver 51.12 2017
University of Miami Silver 52.73 2017
Nova Southeastern University Bronze 25.77 2017
Florida State University Silver 61.36 2015
Stetson University Bronze Expired 2012
University of North Florida Bronze Expired 2012
Information gathered from stars.asshe.org.

Pullen is responsible for tracking and reporting the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on an annual basis. He uses a Greenhouse Gas Inventory Baseline Tool, measuring anything from electrical use and natural gas usage to waste production and transportation.

Sustainability projects completed in recent years have derived from the 2016 USFSP Climate Action Plan which commits to “reduce the campus baseline greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2035 and to be carbon neutral by 2050.”

The plan has identified electricity consumption and commuter vehicle fuel use as the largest emitters of carbon dioxide on campus. The graph below demonstrates the different categories of campus greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters and emissions for 2017.

   Source: USFSP Baseline GHG Inventory Baseline Tool  

Compared to the other categories, electricity consumption and commuter vehicle fuel emissions have been the highest since 2014. The 2016 USFSP Climate Action Plan reports that electricity consumption emissions in 2014 were 10,552 per megawatt hour (MWh) and 12,438 per MWh in 2017. Pullen’s baseline report predicts emissions for the next 32 years. The trends show emissions increasing but then steadily decreasing until carbon neutrality is achieved in 2050.

Pullen explained the increase. He said, “if you look at the data today, the numbers might not be drastically lower, they might even be a little bit higher from 2014, but that’s because if you look at it from electrical consumption size, we’ve also added a couple of new buildings compared to where we were in 2014.”

The plan is structured to address fossil fuel emissions through direct and indirect strategies. This requires tackling energy, transportation, and waste emissions as well as improving sustainability education, supporting research and increasing both campus and public engagement.

Funding green

The SGEF is a student-run fund with the goal of reducing energy usage, transportation emissions and solid waste. SGEF  funds clean energy and sustainability projects that are financed through a student fee of $1.00 per credit hour.

SGEF encourages students from all majors to join. The program is open to any student who wants to create a presentation for a project proposal. The committee then votes based on measures ranging from effectiveness to cost. The decision is based on the majority or unanimous vote and will be approved by staff members.

The SGEF recently funded to retrofit all new LED lighting on the second and third floors of the Residence Hall One (RHO) building which amounted to $121,000.

“That’s two entire floors—every single hall lighting, every single ceiling light in the living room of the dorms, the bedrooms, the bathrooms,” said SGEF Vice Chair, Theodore Broecker.  “It’s a lot of money, but the crazy thing about it is that the LED lights will consume a third of the cost of energy per kilowatt-hour. So, our return on investment is three years or less which is a pretty low ROI.”

The SGEF and the Sustainability Office often team up to tackle projects, sometimes in partnership with companies like Duke Energy. Some successful projects include the 100 kW solar array on the top of the 5 Fifth Avenue parking garage, a 40 kW solar carport and the ceramic window film on the RHO dorms blocking more than 85 percent of infrared and ultraviolet rays.

“The 100 kW array, to give you an idea, that has thus far saved us over 325,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions,” Pullen said.

Currently in the works is a project that will reduce single-use plastic on campus. Both the RHO and the University Student Center (USC) buildings have been in need of water refill stations. The project will be completed in mid-July and will have installed water refill stations on all floors of both buildings.

For the future

According to Earth Day Network, about 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean every year. They estimate that by 2050 there will be more pounds of plastic than fish in the ocean.

“We work with The Reef,” Pullen said, “and they’re trying to work on getting rid of single-use plastic too.”

Pullen also hopes to work with Coca-Cola Co. in the future. He wants to switch the vending machine bottles back to aluminum cans. However, he said this would be a long process. Although there have been conversations about the switch, it’s Coca-Cola’s decision. A contract currently ties USFSP to using the soda company.

To Pullen, it is critical that the school “implement projects that are helping us mitigate and adapt to climate change and sea level rise.”

 

Watch the video below to learn about recycling on campus and how to differentiate between bins.

 

Video courtesy of Amanda Drapiewski.

 

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