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USFs green efforts good for all

Working toward more sustainable practices and minimal environmental impact on Earth – a trend known as “going green” – is a cosmopolitan, environmental movement sweeping across college campuses and contemporary culture around the globe.

The 41st annual Earth Day festivities Friday celebrated these efforts, which are becoming increasingly important to current and future college students who may be gauging a school’s commitment to going green when college hunting.

According to a survey of 8,200 prospective college applicants, released earlier this month by the Princeton Review, 69 percent said that a college’s eco-friendliness is an important factor in their consideration of what school to attend, an increase from 64 percent in 2008.

USF’s eco-friendliness, while not the best in the U.S., is certainly commendable for helping the environment and bringing more environmentally conscious talent that can further raise the school’s prestige and the value of its degrees and research.

For the second year in a row, USF made “The Princeton Review Guide to 311 Green Colleges,” which surveyed 703 institutions nationwide in 2010 to determine its list. USF came up short of reaching the “Honor Roll” of the nation’s 18 greenest schools.

Beyond using eco-friendly paper towel products and bio-diesel fuel to run the Bull Runner shuttles, USF established the Office of Sustainability in 2009, which, according to its website, works to “transform the University of South Florida into a ‘Green University,’ where decisions – structural and routine – consider both individual and collective impacts to our campus, community, economy and environment.”

The office regularly aims to encourage faculty, students and staff to become engaged in projects and developments in sustainability efforts.

For Earth Day this year, the Office of Sustainability, along with the Tampa Bay Sierra Club, hosted the Earth Day Tampa Bay 2011 celebration at the USF Botanical Gardens.

However, USF was ranked just No. 4 in Florida and No. 37 nationally on waste minimization by RecycleMania, which hosted a recycling competition across 630 campuses.

Though efforts toward going green shouldn’t be based on competitiveness, the ranking illustrates how there’s still work to be done when compared to the efforts being undertaken by other university communities.

And with most future college students putting a greater emphasis on a school’s environmental track record, there’s more on the line than just helping the environment.

Maintaining a “green,” environmentally friendly campus is in the best interests of both USF and the future of the human race, making it a win-win for everyone despite the University’s ranking.