USF community members get dirty for environment

Digging in the dirt may not seem very purposeful, but a group of USF community members partnered with the Hillsborough County Planning Commission to get dirty with a purpose.

More than 50 people attended a tree-planting event at Tower Park on Thursday, hoping to offset the carbon emitted from the Going Green Tampa Bay Expo on Saturday. The Expo will feature workshops, vendors and displays that are focused on environmental sustainability.

“The most rewarding part about the Expo is that it’s been a huge amount of work – it had to be totally funded, totally networked – and it’s been great to see it all come together,” said Sharon Hanna-West, Exide distinguished lecturer of ethics and sustainability in the College of Business. “What was kind of magical was the number of people that have joined the group we put together, the USF Sustainability Partners. I really believe that sustainability is an umbrella that can unite many disciplines.”

Saturday’s event is projected to use 5,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, which will emit 3.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Scientists are in virtual agreement that human activities have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing global climate change, according to To make the Expo a carbon-neutral activity, community members planted 50 trees that are expected to grow for 20 years. All trees planted were species native to Florida.

“If you plant a tree that will die six months or a year later, it won’t do any good,” said Jamie Robe, member of the Hillsborough County Planning Commission.

The tree planting was designed to raise awareness of the human impact on the environment around the USF community.

“It’s a way to start being conscious as far as sustainability,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Miller Dowdy. “It’s a way to start thinking about how communities sustain themselves. Grassroots campaigns have made a difference, and maybe (Thursday’s) and Saturday’s events can become annual traditions.”

Another green milestone for the University is President Genshaft’s signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. This document, which she will formally sign at the Expo, is an agreement by university presidents across America to lead their institutions in taking immediate action to achieve carbon neutrality, according to

“It is a big day for the University,” said Bob Brinkman, geography department chair, of Genshaft’s commitment. “We will join many other universities in recognizing the need to transform into a more sustainable campus. The significance of President Genshaft making the commitment is that we now have a campus where everyone is on board, from administration to faculty to students, to become greener in our day-to-day practices. It puts sustainability as a priority.”

The Expo will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sun Dome. Attractions will include workshops on rain barrels, bio-fuels and composting, as well as presentations about eco-conscious cars. For more information, see

“I hope that people will begin to realize that they can make an impact, and that there are affordable, efficient ways to do it,” Hanna-West said. “Those who attend the Expo will see an array of products on the market and realize that there are easy ways to go green.”