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This Weekend’s UF Graduation Ceremonies Go Carbon-neutral

By Thomas Stewart


Published: Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 5:30 p.m.

As thousands of proud family members and friends descend upon the city this weekend for the University of Florida’s 231st graduation ceremonies, they will be participating in the university’s first-ever carbon-neutral commencement.

The O’Connell Center, where many of the ceremonies will be held, purchased $542.10 worth of carbon offsets to counter the estimated 49 tons of carbon dioxide the events will generate through the use of electricity, water, gas and garbage removal, according to Lynda Reinhart, director of the O’Connell Center.

The offsets, which cover utilities for the O’Connell Center, the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the University Auditorium, were purchased from Gainesville-based Earth Givers through their Neutral Gator Initiative. The University Athletic Association has also purchased offsets from the non-profit company to make its entire 2009-2010 athletic season carbon-neutral.

Jacob Cravey, co-founder of Earth Givers, said the company will use the offset money obtained from events such as this weekend’s graduations almost exclusively for local projects, such as distributing compact fluorescent light bulbs to replace far-less-efficient incandescent light bulbs, weatherizing local homes and distributing low-flow shower heads.

Anna Prizzia, director of UF’s Office of Sustainability, said the effort is part of UF’s goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025.

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Apartments recognize work of volunteers

By Cleveland Tinker

Special to the Guardian

Published: Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.

The management staff at Village and Forest Green Apartments in northeast Gainesville recognized organizations and individuals from the community who helped to make a difference and impact the lives of their residents in 2009.

The first ever Village & Forest Green Appreciation Dinner to recognize and honor volunteers from the community was held last Thursday night at the Gainesville Job Corps Center. Close to 50 people attended the event.

“This dinner is just a token of our appreciation of what you do,” said Nicole Mathis, the property manager at the apartments.

One of the highlights of the dinner was a slide show presentation of volunteers working with residents and different events held at the apartments in 2009.

“Looking at that really shows we had a great year last year,” said Charlotte Mendez, who presided over the dinner. Mendez is the social services coordinator at the apartments.

Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, executive director of the East Gainesville Initiative and community outreach at Santa Fe College, accepted a special recognition award on behalf of the college for donating computers and providing technical support.

Cole-Smith said Santa Fe believes in educational empowerment. “Our constant goal is to bridge the digital divide,” Cole-Smith said.

The Community Weatherization Coalition and Neutral Gator were recognized for their efforts to educate residents about energy conservation and the ways they can reduce their utility bills.

Mendez said many residents have told her their bills have been reduced by $80-$90 a month after the groups installed more than 2,000 compact fluorescent lightbulbs in the apartments, numerous new low-flow shower heads and other things that lead to energy savings.

Jon Bougher, a University of Florida graduate student who will be graduating Saturday, was also recognized for the countless hours he volunteered to tutor students.

Mendez said Bougher also spent his own money to buy SAT materials, and helped students study for the college entrance exam on Saturdays. Mendez said his efforts are part of the reason two students who live in the apartments, Marika Brown and Samantha Cato, were accepted recently into UF.

A host of other organizations and individuals were honored at the dinner, which included poems written and recited by Marika and Samantha. There was also a praise dance by Acacia Carter, a seventh-grader at Hoggtown Middle School in northeast Gainesville.

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The Hippodrome Goes Green: VIP Opening Night!

By Sara Clark

23 March 2010

Recycled napkins, revived trash, a dress made out of plastic bags and anatomically correct dolls crashed the Gainesville Environmental Film and Art Festival VIP opening night March 19, 2010 at 5 p.m. in the underbelly of the Hippodrome State Theatre.

The VIP event kicked off a series of art exhibits, numerous films, nature trails and festivals to take place through March 28, 2010.

About fifty people out of the one-hundred that were invited attended and enjoyed their one free drink ticket, music by The Cinnamon Hill band, recycled artwork, pictures from environmental photographers and a large chocolate covered cake.

The event was a reception for guests to congregate and talk about the festival. Representatives from environmental programs and groups around the city were invited, including Chris Machen, member of the University of Florida sustainability committee, and Jacob Cravey, director of Earth Givers and Neutral Gator.

A lengthy table featuring a variety of foods including shrimp with cocktail sauce, strawberries, pineapples and other assorted fruits, breads and different types of meat lined one of the walls next to the entrance.

Artists from the region were featured, like Celino Dimitroff, David Montgomery and John Moran.

Dimitroff’s work displayed how normal pieces of trash and discarded items can be restored into pieces of art, like one of his most expensive pieces, “Swan in Resting,” a metal formation of a swan sitting.

Montgomery, multimedia and experimental artist, had a digital display of his art on TV, sitting on the front table next to the food.

Moran, Florida nature photographer, was not at the event, but one of his pieces was displayed for sale. Moran’s photography shows Florida’s natural environment, which he is most famous for in Gainesville.

At the end of the event and before the first film of the week, “The Age of Stupid,” was shown, the two main coordinators of the event Shirley Lasseter and Trish Riley spoke for a bit.

“I feel like I’m at the Academy Awards,” Lasseter said.

Riley introduced Cravey to speak, thanked the audience, and spoke about their third coordinator, Lani Hollander, who originally joined their team as a volunteer, but eventually worked as a coordinator for the event.

More information about the GEFAF event and a schedule can be found at http://gefaf.org.

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UF working toward being deemed carbon

By Nathan Crabbe

Staff writer

Published: Friday, September 18, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.

University of Florida fans can recite some statistics from memory, such as the number of touchdowns scored by Tim Tebow.

But here’s a lesser known figure: During the course of this year, the university athletic program is expected to generate as much as 3,500 metric tons of the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

Now the program is working to be the first in the nation to be deemed carbon neutral. The Neutral Gator Initiative does energy retrofits, tree plantings and light bulb exchanges to offset emissions to a level equivalent to what is used by UF athletics. The University Athletic Association contributed $25,000 to the effort, and fans also can buy offsets at a cost of $10 a ton.

“When people buy a ton, they’re supporting the Gators and they’re also supporting these projects,” said initiative co-founder Jacob Cravey.

Volunteers with the initiative and Community Weatherization Coalition made retrofits last week at the Village and Forest Green public housing complexes in northeast Gainesville. They insulated hot-water pipes, installed low-flow shower heads and noted bigger problems for maintenance workers to address later.

After holding a carbon-neutral football game in 2007 and carbon-neutral home football season in 2008, this year’s goal is offsetting emissions from all UF athletic facilities, sports-related travel and association operations. Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said the effort uses the highly visible program to send a message about sustainability.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” he said.

The program’s energy use will be measured over the course of this year but is expected to produce from 2,500 to 3,500 metric tons of emissions.

The apartment retrofits should save 1,000 tons of emissions, and the remainder will be offset through other energy-saving projects and tree plantings, Cravey said.

Such offset programs have their critics. A report by the group Carbon Trade Watch compared them to indulgences for sins granted by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. The report found that some projects, such as a failed mango planting meant to offset emissions from producing an album by the band Coldplay, were poorly monitored and didn’t have the desired impact.

Tree plantings are intended to offset emissions by removing carbon dioxide from the air. But the amount of carbon sequestered through a tree planting is harder to pin down than quantifying the energy saved by an efficient light bulb, said Ted Kury, director of energy studies at UF’s Public Utility Research Center.

“You might not see the impact of that tree for five years or 10 years,” he said.

Gainesville-based International Carbon Bank and Exchange President Mark van Soestbergen said skepticism is warranted because of some experiences with offsets, but his company does the work to back up Neutral Gator’s claims. The accounting firm Purvis Gray and Co. signs off on its work.

“It’s about the integrity of the program and the efficacy of the program,” van Soestbergen said.

The company documents the emissions created and reduced. It anticipates that some projects might face issues, such as a certain number of trees dying in forestry projects. In light bulb exchanges, residents trade in their old bulbs to ensure they use efficient compact fluorescent models.

This year, UF’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities is documenting the energy used by apartment residents before and after the retrofits. The effort provides local benefits, as opposed to far-away energy projects funded by some offset efforts, said Anna Prizzia, UF’s sustainability director.

Rob Brinkman, head of the local Sierra Club chapter, said offset programs have flaws but are better than nothing. At the very least, he said, they raise awareness about climate change.

“We cannot do too much to get involved in a conversation about this issue,” he said.

The work at Village and Forest Green included an education component, letting residents know settings that would optimize energy efficiency. Workers showed residents how to use features such as a faucet with a shut-off valve, allowing them to keep water warm without wasting it. Such features save water as well as the energy needed to heat it.

Resident Bernice Scott, 71, said her monthly electric bill has exceeded $300, eating up nearly half of her Social Security check. She was hoping for significant savings on her next bill.

“Maybe I can buy a new church dress,” she said.

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Green College Innovators 2009: The University of Florida

By Ashley Phillips

Green Right Now

September 18th, 2009

The University of Florida in recent years has been known for its outstanding athletic programs, specifically football. The Gators have been atop college football rankings for the past four years. Now, their athletic programs are granting them top environmental rankings as well.

The Florida campus is home to the first and only Platinum LEED-certified athletic facility in the nation and recently added two energy-efficient LED video boards atop the north and south end zones at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

In 2007, University of Florida President Bernie Machen joined the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment and established a goal for the university to be completely carbon neutral by 2025.

What better place to start than with their headline-making football program. That same year, UF hosted the first ever carbon neutral collegiate football game against Florida State. By 2008, the Gators had increased their efforts to by distributing more than 63,000 energy efficient CFLs and planting more than 200 trees creating a savings of more than $3.2 million for the Gainesville community. This year, Florida is taking it even further with its commitment to become the first carbon neutral athletic program. The Gators’ 2,500 ton carbon footprint will be offset through many local energy efficiency projects.

“We are excited to strengthen our commitment to The Gator Nation by partnering with the Neutral Gator Initiative to make our athletics program carbon neutral,” Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. “The university is a leader in academics and athletics, and now we are proud to lead the way again by being the first carbon neutral athletics program in the nation.”

“The Neutral Gator Initiative will create enough local offsets this year to neutralize every sport’s team travel and all the athletic facilities. All of our offsets are created in the local community, with specific emphasis placed on the low-income sectors,” said Jacob Cravey, with the Neutral Gator Initiative.

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UAA Announces Participation In Carbon Neutral Gator Initiative

Thursday September 3, 2009

The University Athletic Association at the University of Florida has committed to offset the carbon footprint of the entire 2009-10 athletic program.

UF continues to bridge environmental awareness with college athletics, following the first carbon neutral football game in 2007 and the first carbon neutral home football season in 2008, with the first carbon neutra athletics program in 2009. The UAA has joined the Neutral Gator Initiative to achieve these goals, which will be funded by the UAA and through sponsorships from local businesses.

“We are excited to strengthen our commitment to The Gator Nation by partnering with the Neutral Gator Initiative to make our athletics program carbon neutral,” Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said. “The University is a leader in academics and athletics, and now we are proud to lead the way again by being the first carbon neutral athletics program in the nation.”

Neutral Gator, an initiative of the nonprofit Earth Givers, generates local offset credits through community development projects, focused primarily in low-income sectors of the Gainesville area. All of this year’s credits will be applied to the Gator athletic program’s approximately 2,500 ton carbon footprint. The credits are generated through weatherization efforts in low-income households as well as local and regional natural area restoration projects.

“I believe when we look back at this season, our partnership with the University of Florida Athletic Association will have made a greater impact than we can now imagine,” said Jacob Cravey, co-founder of Neutral Gator.

UF’s collaboration with Neutral Gator is the latest in a series of steps to raise environmental awareness throughout the community. Along with the commitment to offsetting the carbon footprint of game day activities, UF President Bernie Machen was among the first university presidents to sign the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The UF campus is also home to the first and only Platinum LEED-certified athletic facility in the nation and recently added two energy-efficient LED video boards atop the north and south end zones at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

“I am proud of the Gators’ commitment to being champions both on and off the field,” said Anna Prizzia, director of UF’s Office of Sustainability. “By working with Neutral Gator for carbon neutrality, they are being an example for our whole community,”

A carbon offset represents the reduction of 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. Offsets are generated by either reducing or sequestering carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon offsets can be used by businesses and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. The feature that sets Neutral Gator apart from other carbon offsetting companies is that all of Neutral Gator’s offsets are locally generated and locally applied.

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UAA targets UF’s carbon emissions

By Brooke Kelly

Alligator Contributing Writer

Thursday, September 3, 2009 1:13 AM EDT

Though 90,000 cheering fans will fill the Swamp on Saturday, one thing will be missing: carbon emissions.

Neutral Gator, a nonprofit initiative created in 2008, is teaming up with the University Athletic Association to reduce UF’s carbon footprint and help reach the UAA’s climate neutrality goal by 2025.

This will be the first-ever carbon neutral NCAA season working to offset the carbon footprint created by athletic programs.

“I think it shows that the UAA is taking a great sense of responsibility by trying to eliminate their entire carbon footprint,” said Anna Prizzia, director of UF’s Office of Sustainability. “And by partnering with Neutral Gator to locally offset it instead of just purchasing the offsets is just great.”

Neutral Gator has only worked on home games last year. However, the entire 2009-2010 Gators athletic program will be offset.

At Saturday’s season opener, Neutral Gator will have a “Highlights of Gators Past” themed tailgate tent in front of the O’Connell Center where travelers can offset their emissions by learning more about the organization. Each game’s tailgate tent will have a new theme where fans can learn more about Neutral Gator’s endeavors and how to get involved.

Angelica Ramdhari, project coordinator at Neutral Gator, said the tailgates will be where students come into play the most.

The group has reached out locally as well. On Saturday, it held a “renter’s initiative” to help low- income homes become more sustainable; there have also been bake sales and creek restoration by planting 200 apple and cypress trees.

Neutral Gator hopes that through these projects and informational tailgates, the UAA 2025 carbon neutrality goal will be met.

“Once we get the formula down, accomplishing the goal shouldn’t be too much,” Ramdhari said.

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Gators to even score on carbon

By Christine Stapleton

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, August 29, 2008

Environmental history will be made today at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

The 85,000 fans on hand for the University of Florida’s 2008 debut against Hawaii also will be witnessing the kickoff of what the school calls the first collegiate carbon-neutral football season.

All seven Gator home games are intended to be carbon-neutral this season. That means about 2,000 tons of carbon produced by fans, players and coaches who travel by car, plane, RV, bus and truck – along with the carbon from guests flipping light switches and flushing toilets in nearly 4,000 hotel rooms and the carbon created by lighting the scoreboard, popping the popcorn and juicing the television cameras – will be offset by activities that reduce a comparable amount of greenhouse gases.

Despite the skeptics, university officials and Gov. Charlie Crist applaud the effort. Crist saluted it last month in his opening remarks at his Summit on Global Climate Change in Miami.

“Neutralize the games and get people thinking,” said Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, director of UF’s Office of Sustainability. “We’re hoping it captures the imagination of politicians.”

A season of carbon-neutral collegiate football is the brainchild of 27-year-old Jacob Cravey. Although the ink is barely dry on Cravey’s environmental business degree, he has created a nonprofit group, Earth Givers, to oversee the program.

A season of carbon-neutral collegiate football is the brainchild of 27-year-old Jacob Cravey. Although the ink is barely dry on Cravey’s environmental business degree, he has created a nonprofit group, Earth Givers, t oversee the program.

“There are 85,000 people you can influence at one time,” Cravey said. “Of course, we’re not going to reach everyone. Even if you get 5 percent, that’s substantial.”

Last season’s Florida-Florida State game, the first carbon-neutral college game, inspired Cravey to launch a season of low-impact home games. That game produced about 1,650 tons of carbon. But every game has its own carbon footprint. For example, today’s game against Hawaii will produce far more carbon than next week’s against Miami.

Calculating a game’s carbon’s footprint is complex and “something I won’t even get close to,” Cravey said.

Because the program’s workload and credibility lie with the accuracy of the footprint, Cravey sought help from the International Carbon Bank & Exchange, a 10-year-old Florida company that specializes in calculating carbon footprints – from coffee shops to concerts.

“It’s almost like the CSI of energy,” said company director Mark van Soestbergen. “We break down energy consumption elements. … Each one has a carbon coefficient.”

Police provide traffic data. Flight information comes from the airports. Hotels keep records on occupancy. The university keeps data on electricity, water, and team and staff travel.

When the data sleuthing ends, the number crunching begins. Forty private aircraft used about 14,000 gallons of jet fuel to travel to and from the Florida-Florida State game last year. Fans staying in area hotels used about 471,000 gallons of water.

The 15,000 to 35,000 additional vehicles that crowd Gainesville streets during home games are broken down into types of vehicles (private, RV, bus, van and truck) and then into three distance groups – those traveling 15 miles or less each way, 50 miles and 150 miles, the distance between Tallahassee and Gainesville.

An RV that gets 7 miles per gallon and travels at least 150 miles each way will produce 0.44 tons of carbon. And on and on, like a bad story-problem on a math test.

“We add up all those individual elements; that becomes the footprint of the game,” van Soestbergen said.

Rather than buying carbon offsets on a commodities market, where companies in China and India sell offsets for as little as $5 a ton, Cravey creates or purchases credits within 100 miles of Gainesville.

“Our commitment is to create these offsets within 100 miles,” Cravey said. “People should be able to see it. We want to benefit the community.”

Although the carbon footprint of the Hawaii game won’t be calculated until after the game, 5,000 tons of carbon already have been offset through Earth Givers’ light-bulb giveaway program in low-income neighborhoods and housing projects.

A team of volunteers and an ice cream truck go into the neighborhoods and offer five energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs and an ice cream cone for every five regular light bulbs turned in. They have given away morethan 11,000 light bulbs – all donated by Gainesville Regional Utilities.

Other offsets include local reforestation projects, UF solar projects and the purchase of methane recovery credits from Gainesville Regional Utilities. To raise money, Cravey has created www.neutralgator.org, which allows donors to pick a home game to help offset. One hundred dollars offsets 10 tons of carbon and gets the donor a “Neutral Gator” T-shirt.

Cravey next hopes to organize the first carbon-neutral college basketball season. The ultimate goal: carbon-neutral college sports events nationwide.

For now, the hope is that the bitter rivalry between Florida and Florida State will prompt the Seminoles to host a carbon-neutral football game when the Gators travel to Tallahassee on Nov. 29.

“It’s kind of like the Gators are one step ahead of FSU,” Cravey said.

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Burning Issue

By Robert Nisbet

US Correspondent

October 30, 2008

Energy is a burning issue in this year’s election, but it’s not fear of climate change that’s driving the debate.

Instead, Barack Obama and John McCain see potential votes in promoting green energy as a job generator in a depressed economy, while uncoupling America from its reliance on foreign oil imports.

The scale of the task is immense.

Americans make up 5 percent of the world’s population but consume a quarter of its energy, while the country spends 300 billion dollars each year on foreign oil, from countries such as Venezuela and Iraq, to slake its thirst for power.

The new president will also have to insert America back into the global conversation on reducing carbon emissions, which it effectively left when President Bush refused to ratify the Kyoto process eight years ago.

At a college football game in Gainesville between the University of Florida’s Gators and Louisiana State University’s Tigers, one group of volunteers is trying to make a difference.

Jacob Perritt-Cravey runs Neutral-Gator, which is trying to offset the estimated 2000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted each game, thanks to the petrol used by players and fans, giant floodlights and jumbo scoreboards.

He’s also getting fans to think energy at the ballot box.

“We need to know what kind of role is this going to play in the next four years and what they’re going to do differently.”

But it’s not hard to find climate change sceptics enjoying barbecued chicken wings outside the stadium.

Tim Starling told Sky News: “It’s a natural thing, it’s a God thing, I don’t think man has a doggone thing to do with it.”

The Republican running mate Sarah Palin, appeared to have some sympathy for that view in the vice-presidential debate, but John McCain and Barack Obama do accept the link.

So both support cap and trade schemes, which would force companies to buy credits if they want to burn any fuel over a set limit, or cap. Obama’s scheme would be more costly for polluters.

They also support green energy, such as solar, wind and tide which they hope will trigger a ‘green job revolution.’

One such plan is being pioneered by Florida Atlantic University, where a team of researchers hope to harness the massive energy from the Gulf Stream.

That’s the ocean current which glances off Florida’s coast and swirls around the Atlantic bringing warmer water, and weather, to the UK.

Dr Rick Driscoll hopes to develop the technology to suspend giant turbines in the flow, potentially delivering as much energy as 4 nuclear power plants.

He sees massive benefits for America:

“Much like the United States took the lead in the past in terms of aviation, in terms of the automotive industry. We were the leaders in research and development and helped the industry get mature.”

“We can do the same here,” he argues.

But throughout the fractious campaign, the biggest talking point about energy has been the call for energy independence.

So there is pressure to exploit reserves at home. In Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and new drilling projects off the Florida Gulf coast

A ban on offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf was allowed to expire this September, prompting a Republican battle cry: “Drill baby, drill!”

That has environmentalists in Florida nervous, including Phil Compton from the environmental pressure group Sierra Club.

“Our additional contribution to the world supply would have a negligible effect on the price. Americans like to think we can be energy dependent on our oil like we’ve always been, but it’s a myth.”

Nuclear energy is one area the candidates can’t agree.

McCain wants immediate drilling, while Obama is sceptical. And they differ too on nuclear energy: the Arizona senator would like to build 45 new reactors, the Illinois senator believes it will play a role but is cautious about scale.

But after a year of see-sawing petrol prices and economic uncertainty, those that rely on old fuels for their living merely crave price security.

Big-rig owner operator Jimmy McSwain hopes the election brings some stability.

“I think whoever gets into office, has got a big job ahead of them. It’s not going to be an easy road for either party,” he told Sky news, while driving through Lakeland, Florida.

“These people out here on the highway today are the ones that they are going to have to make happy.”

So America’s energy debate feeds into both the economy with the promise of thousands of green jobs, and national security.

Both candidates agree on the destination, but not the road to get there. At least, unlike President Bush, they are on the same map.

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