President Bernie Machen
Speech for the Campus & Community Sustainability Conference
Reitz Union Auditorium
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Good morning and welcome to the University of Florida Campus and Community Sustainability
Conference. This promises to be an exciting two days.
Last October, on National Campus Sustainability Day, I announced a plan of action long in the
making by very dedicated people to make the University of Florida more sustainable. I
promised I would give a report card on our progress one year later and that is why I am here
I like John's definition of sustainability. It's a way of saying that we should protect the
environment and conserve our natural resources for our children, and for their children.
Sustainability also means creating a more equitable society. It's fair to say that the concept is
sweeping the country, no doubt helped by the dire energy and climate change predicaments in
which we find ourselves. While several colleges have pursued sustainability, we are one of only
a handful of large public institutions that are seriously engaged in this area.
As you will hear, due to the hard work of many people and groups, we have done a lot in the past
year. There is much to be proud of. But, we have a long way to go. That will be my first
takeaway point for today. I also want to tell you about our sustainability goals for next year.
Climate change is an urgent problem for all of us. In fact, it may be the defining issue of our
So my second takeaway point is, we must strive to cut back on activities that contribute to this
frightening phenomenon. We will tailor sustainability goals for next year with that in mind.
My third takeaway point is that everyone needs to stand together on sustainability. By acting in
concert, we can turn many small changes into a sea change. This university can serve as a model
for a healthier and ultimately more survivable lifestyle. This is tough to do because it requires us
to abandon the comfort of the status quo. But if universities don't change the culture, who will?
Back to my first point: We should be proud of our accomplishments but aware of our challenges.
With that in mind, here is my report card.
Last year, I said that we would purchase only hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles to lower
emissions and cut back on the amount of energy we use. The university's fleet now has 12
hybrids and 45 Flex Fuel vehicles. We burn about 500 gallons of E-85 fuel each month, and we
have piloted biodiesel in trucks and mowers. The results were good, so we have a bid out to
replace 20 percent of our standard diesel with biodiesel.
Last year, I said we would build only green buildings in the future. Today, thanks to the work of
the individuals at Facilities Construction and Planning, we have 12 new or planned buildings in
the process of certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED
standards. When all are completed, 2.2 million gross square feet of this university's building
space will be green space space that conserves resources, reduces pollution, and maintains
healthy indoor air quality.
Last year, I said we would increase our recycling efforts. Through a partnership between our
Office of Sustainability and Keep Alachua County Beautiful, we started a volunteer-based game
day recycling program that began this football season. As a result, we have recycled at least 4
tons of plastic bottles and other refuse.
Last year, I said we would make lighting, heating, and air conditioning more efficient. Our
colleagues in Physical Plant cut our hallway lighting by 50 percent. We are still working on
heating and air conditioning, which has proven more complex than we anticipated in our humid
Last year, I said we would plan new construction sites in concert with preserving our beautiful
natural campus. In a campus-wide update of our master plan this year, we prioritized
sustainability. We made room for future growth while setting aside 400 acres of natural land on
the main campus, including 65 acres of open space. As our master plan stands today, we will
preserve almost one quarter of our natural campus in perpetuity!
Last year, I said we would bridge our efforts to make campus more sustainable with what we
teach in the classroom. We believe that instilling our graduates with a consciousness of
sustainability will encourage them to live the concept in the world they enter after graduation.
This summer we inventoried our curriculum, finding 110 courses, 10 academic programs, and 23
centers or institutes with ties to sustainability. We are planning to hire a faculty fellow to nurture
and connect these ties. Sustainability is a broad concept. It means we should become wiser
stewards of the environment, but it doesn't stop there.
Sustainability also means striving for social and economic equity. In order to care for our
environment, we must first take care of the people on our campus. With that in mind, I would
like to include our decision to offer health care benefits to domestic partners among our
achievements in sustainability this past year. Likewise, our new policy to give graduate students
on appointment access to health care benefits. Although it predates last year, paying all of our
employees more than Florida's minimum wage is also a sustainable policy. Our employees
today earn $2 more than Florida's minimum wage.
Hybrid cars. Green buildings. Planning for centuries of preservation. Integrating sustainability
into our classes. Domestic partner benefits. We have come a good distance from where we were
a year ago. But back to my first point: We are very much at the beginning of this process. I will
use some of the numbers I just mentioned to make that clear.
I said our maintenance trucks and mowers burn 500 gallons of E-85 fuel per month. Well, we
use a total 30,000 gallons of gasoline and 8,000 gallons of diesel each month. I said that when all
our new buildings are finished, we will have 2.2 million gross square feet of green building
space. Well, the university spans more than 18 million gross square feet of building space.
I mentioned the four tons of recyclables we've picked up after game days this year. The
university as a whole recycles 6,500 tons of material annually.
Just to give you an idea of how much trash we landfill, did you know, the university used
4,344,850 trash bags last year? That's not the trash it's the bags. And those bags weighed 163
tons...without the trash! Meanwhile we have set a goal of producing zero solid waste by 2015.
Zero waste, and today we're filling up 163 tons of garbage bags.
What did I say about having a lot of work ahead of us?
One way to stay focused is to keep in mind that the biggest goal of sustainability is nothing less
than saving this planet. There is a sense of urgency among climate change experts that we have
to reduce the carbon dioxide spewed out by cars, power plants and industry today right now --
to prevent our world from turning from a greenhouse into a hothouse. The deadly heat waves we
saw in California this summer are nothing compared to the sea level rise and other calamities
predicted for a hothouse world.
For this reason, I intend to be one of the university presidents signing the American College and
University Presidents Climate Commitment.
This brings me to the second point of my talk: That we must address global climate change right
here on this campus next year As it turns out, a focus on climate change cuts across much of
what we do. Buying locally produced food is good because it supports local farmers. It also
reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Just think about the amount of fuel burned to freight
refrigerated lettuce from Salinas, California 2,708 miles to your plate at the Swamp restaurant
here in Gainesville.
That's why I am enthusiastic about Gator Dining Service's new pilot program at Fresh Food
Company to use food produced regionally. Incidentally, people at this conference can expect
locally raised chicken, locally grown vegetable platters, Gulf shrimp, Gulf oysters, even
regionally-raised Alligator tail.
Let me return to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We have a new sustainable purchasing
policy to buy from vendors who have adopted environmentally and socially responsible
practices. This policy supports companies that incorporate reducing harmful emissions.
Today, all of the paper we buy through our purchasing department has been certified as
sustainable. Physical Plant is buying Green Seal-certified cleaning products, and we are bidding
on remanufactured toner cartridges, among other examples.
This coming year, we would like to see departments and units also embrace sustainable
purchasing. With that in mind, we sponsored UF'S first sustainable products vendor show,
where 63 vendors displayed their goods and services. Let me pause here to emphasize that
sustainable purchasing also means changing corporate behavior for the better. We can use our
buying power as a kind of velvet club.
After institutional buyers complained about Dell Computer shipping all its computers in their
own boxes with their own packing material, Dell quickly found a way to ship dozens of
computers in a single large crate. This influence even goes beyond products. We have just
finalized agreements with two of the biggest employers on campus, Aramark and Follett, for
them to begin paying their employees a higher wage!
We can also influence corporate behavior when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
With our free bus rides, our miles of walking and biking trails, and our car pool policy, UF is
already green when it comes to transportation. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection
Agency named the university one of the nation's best workplaces for commuters among
universities. But we can do more. Because cars emit so much carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere, we want to deepen the greening of transportation on campus next year.
We have just instituted new carpool rules that seek to open this option to more people, rules that
reduce the requirement from three to two people per car for Alachua County residents.
We are also close to making available the GreenRide ridesharing program that quickly and
efficiently links people who can commute together. And we are looking at popular car-sharing
programs such as Flex Car and ZipCar: programs that make it easy for people to share cars by
Our LEED buildings are great, but we can do more to save power and cut back on power plant
pollution. For the first time ever, we plan to turn down the heat and turn off most of the lights in
education and general buildings on campus during the upcoming Thanksgiving and winter
breaks. We anticipate that we will save $145,000 and over 1,000 tons of greenhouse gas
emissions during the winter break closure alone!
We have also started buying "green power" produced from renewable sources such as solar and
biomass. To date, we have bought enough green power to prevent 2.5 million pounds of carbon
dioxide emissions. That's the equivalent of taking 226 cars off the road. We still get the bulk of
our power from traditional sources, but we have taken an important first step.
To recap, we have made a good start in our sustainability initiative in the past year, and we are
setting our sights on climate change this year.
I have the pleasure of announcing today, we just received news of a $1 million dollar gift from a
foundation to support our sustainability efforts, funding that will surely come in handy. That
said, no amount of money or administrative fiats make this happen by itself. To do that, we must
stand together. That is my third takeaway point.
Universities are divided places, with fiercely independent departments and disciplines. That
model doesn't scan if we are to become the sustainable university we want to be. Each of us has
to treat our piece of campus with the emphasis on economy and efficiency we apply to our home.
Each of us also has to keep in mind our colleagues and our fellow community members.
Thinking like this does not come naturally. But it is necessary. So try to do the little things at
home. Swap out a burned-out incandescent light bulb with a fluorescent light bulb. Buy local.
Give up your car one day a week.
But also, wherever you can, support our sustainability goals in your personal university
workplace. Follow our guidelines, come up with your own and give us some great new
suggestions. Encourage your administrators to get on board!
Help us reinvent our culture, so we can model it for the world. Thank you and I will see you