With more than 70,000 students, more than 12,000 employees, on-site utility production and over 800 acres of natural land, UCF is no stranger to the big challenges that come from living in a complex environment. With the help of student advocates, faculty researchers and expert staff, Sustainability Initiatives, a department of UCF Facilities, works to address those challenges.

UCF was among the first universities to commit to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Since that commitment, the university has saved more than $30 million in operating expenses, reduced the campus energy use intensity by 41% dating back to 2006 and have become a leader in green building standards.

Gerald Hector, Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance at UCF
Gerald Hector, Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance

Sustainability Initiatives at UCF focuses on the strategic advancement of sustainability and incorporates its economic, environmental, and social dimensions into education and research. We offer a wide range of programming for faculty, staff and students to grow their sustainability literacy. With so many built and natural assets on campus, we assist faculty in using the campus as a “living laboratory,” providing tours of LEED-certified facilities, solar sites, and natural lands.

We encourage sharing utility data with students and faculty, giving researchers the ability to test theories and new technologies. The annual Kill-A-Watt energy conservation scholarship competition for on-campus residents, UN World Water Day Fair and Campus Swap Shops help students and the university save money and precious resources. The Sustainability Training Series for faculty and staff provides the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge in sustainability for use on the job and at home. Altogether, our programming, academic and operations support helps create a culture of conservation that expands beyond our campuses.

The maxim “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” applies in many respects to sustainability. Despite UCF’s growth in enrollment and building square footage, our green building and retrofitting efforts have led to a 45% reduction in emissions per 1,000 square feet of building space and 28% reduction per full-time enrollment since 2007. Transparency is also key to the university’s sustainability commitment. We submit UCF’s progress in emissions and other facets of sustainability to organizations, such as the Princeton Review. More importantly, we submit comprehensive data about our activity to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). UCF was rated silver in 2016 and 2021 in this global benchmarking system. We aspire to reach gold and, eventually, platinum.

In March, Sustainability Initiatives embarked on a new strategic plan. Building on the 2010 Climate Action Plan and the successes that earned us a silver STARS rating, the new plan will cover academics, the built environment, waste, transportation and landscape and natural resources. It will guide us to become a “Zero Waste” university that integrates sustainability across all disciplines. We’ve already engaged many faculty, staff and students via committee meetings and town halls. There’s still time for you to join us in charting UCF’s path toward innovative sustainability leadership in academics and operations. We invite you to share your vision in the survey below to earn a limited-edition sticker. You can also email your ideas at any time to sustainable@ucf.edu.

Learn more: https://sustainable.ucf.edu/resources/climate-action-plan

UCF’s Green Building Portfolio: https://energy.ucf.edu/high-performance-buildings/

Survey in English: https://ucf.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0HSbBvoPKHEHurY

Survey in Spanish: https://ucf.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7QjijMbXbC0JfvM

STARS report: https://reports.aashe.org/institutions/university-of-central-florida-fl/report/2021-03-05/