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Students work to reduce university’s carbon footprint

Students are working to improve the environmental affects caused by the university. ORACLE PHOTO/CHAVELI GUZMAN

The USF Student Green Energy Fund Council has begun its “Neutralize Bull Gas” project, which will use student and faculty donations to help offset carbon emission issues on campus.

Though the specifications of how the emission issues are going to be addressed moving forward has not yet been determined by project organizers, it will be put to use toward developing new resources and projects that will lower emission rates.

Centered around commuters, the project aims to tackle the issue of carbon emission in a community driven way. Carbon emissions are the release of harmful carbon dioxide into the ozone, mostly commonly through vehicle exhaust, an issue affecting all students who spend time on campus.

Adam Burrell, a recent graduate and the head of marketing for the project, is attempting to help reduce carbon emissions throughout campus.

“Around half of USF’s carbon footprint comes from students, faculty and staff commuting to campus,” Burrell said. “Being in Tampa kind of forces you to have a car because of the city’s public transportation system.”

Neutralize Bull Gas began in 2017, but with a new push in marketing, organizers are hoping that it will encourage new donors.

Donations are currently being accepted throughout the USF website from anyone willing to help participate, according to Burrell. The task of reducing USF’s carbon emissions has been underway for quite some time, Burrell said.

In 2008, USF System President Judy Genshaft signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment which pledges campuses to an ever growing carbon neutral stance.

“The university’s mission can help be fulfilled through donations to carbon offsets, allowing the commuters to help lessen their own carbon footprint while helping the university’s as well,” Burrell said.

Burrell said taking reins of marketing strategies meant ensuring that students and faculty were aware that donations had begun to be accepted, as well as making sure people understand how to donate.

Samantha Szatyari, a recent USF graduate with a degree in environmental science and policy, wanted to insure it would be easy for people of all status to help with donations.

“All donations are open, one can donate at any time,” Szatyari said. “Anybody can donate. Even faculty and employees. When you purchase a parking permit there’s a link that will take you to the foundation page.”

Donations are put towards purchasing carbon offsets that allow for improving USF’s carbon emission rating among the community, according to Szatyari. USF currently stands as a “Gold” rating among the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) program.

“Donations go into the fund that was set up and it is overseen by the foundation, but the money that’s donated is going to be allocated by the Student Green Energy Fund to projects that help offset carbon emissions,” Burrell said.

As the project progresses, Burrell said he hopes different milestones may be met in a timely manner.

“It’s a long term goal with milestones along the way that we’re trying to reach,” Burrell said. “USF is actually the first university in the state university system to implement this type of program.”

Historically speaking, it is common practice for USF as a whole to do environmental related work, with many projects already completed or still underway.

“We’ve been supporting sustainability in other ways before this,” Burrell said. “The LED lights in the parking garages and car charging stations are completed issues under our belts.”

A solid stance on campus sustainability comes from an administrative cooperation between faculty and students. In the past, the two would work together on solving problems and the Neutralize Bull Gas project is no exception.

“USF has made a lot of progress already in sustainability with LED lights, solar panels, and electric buses,” Burrell said. “However, a difficult area to tackle is the commuters themselves who have to go back and forth to campus.”

Allowing students to donate to the carbon offset fund lets the campus create a sense of community, according to Szatyari.

“We wanted to get a project started that involved everyone on campus,” said Szatyari. “It’s even better that it’s also for a good cause.”