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American Universities Turning – "Green"!

American Universities Turning – "Green"!

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Across many university campuses in the United States students have begun to rely less on the government for action on climate change. Instead, they seek to work on a smaller scale to influence what they can control, their own neighborhoods and campuses, to achieve plausible and realistic change. (For example, in 2015 we reported about student activism at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where the ‘Georgetown Environmental Leaders’ gives student activists a more powerful voice and where university students petitioned their university administration to divest from fossil fuels.)

Photo caption: Exciting activities for sustainable development are emerging on college campuses across the U.S. One such example is Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where our blogger Edgar Barrios lives and studies. The photo shows a green space near Landis and Gilchrist residence halls, on the FSU main campus. These oak trees were planted by students in 1932. (Photo credit: Sirberus/Wikimedia)

In Florida we experience, first hand, the effects of climate change. With record breaking levels of heat and rising tides, students statewide have directed their efforts to making their universities sustainable. At Florida State University, my own university, and within our Student Government Association we have a bureau (a subsection of the government) called “The Office of Student Sustainability”. The office works to make the campus more sustainable and encourage students to make sustainable decisions. Resulting sustainable projects on campus have overall been successful and of much utility. Let me give you a few examples.

At Florida State University, the Office of Student Sustainability works to make the campus more sustainable and encourage students to make sustainable decisions. The Seminole Organic Garden and the Re-Cycle Bike Program are two such examples of sustainable student action. (Photo credit: Florida State University, Office of Student Sustainability)

The “Seminole Organic Garden” project allows students to adopt garden beds and grow what they please (usually fruits and vegetables). Gardening tools as well as seeds for an initial bed are provided by the Office of Student Sustainability. Another popular project is the “Re-Cycle bike program”, where bikes are rented out to students for either a semester or a year for a fairly low price. The bikes even come with a helmet, lock and chain. Both programs encourage students to change their everyday routine and lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

In working with the student government and the state government, the Office of Student Sustainability has secured a $50,000 “Green Fund” for sustainable student lead projects.

The Office of Student Sustainability engages Florida State University students in sustainable campus and community development. (Photo credit: Edgar Barrios)

Initiatives like these have been popping up all over the state. For example, Florida Gulf Coast University has installed 2-megawatt solar panels in a 16-acre field with the intention of making the university reliable on clean energy. The University of Florida created a compost collecting pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste for their compost from the university’s two dining halls. At Florida Atlantic University they have installed 5-minutes timers within the showers to urge to conservation of water.

The Office of Student Sustainability here at FSU also works with the Office of Governmental Affairs (another Student Government Association bureau) to lobbying the state government on further climate change and sustainability legislation. With the state capital within less than two miles from the university, they have been successful in that endeavor. Other than creating sustainable organizations in the United States, especially in Florida, universities are looking for long term solutions to the problem of climate change. They have since created courses and degree majors to qualify students for an increasing job market in sustainability. At Florida State students can pursue a degree in Environmental Sciences and at the University of Florida students can major in Sustainability studies. This is not happening just in the State of Florida, but rather all across the U.S. Universities such as Yale and U.C. Berkley are taking inventories of how much carbon they emit.

It seems that this generation of students has taken action into their own hands, in terms of climate change. They are initiating change in the realms they can control.  It was only last week that the Florida State University Student Senate (which I am apart of) passed a resolution calling upon the university and the state government to commit to further action in combating climate change and making the university more reliable on renewable resources.

Edgar Barrios Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics, as well as other things.