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Pro bono consulting opportunity looks to make USF campuses environmentally friendly

USF was awarded a grant for a pro bono consulting opportunity by nongovernmental organization Second Nature for free consultations from program management firm Brailsford and Dunlavey that will lead the university to build on already existing carbon reduction initiatives. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

A grant giving USF access to pro bono consultations from two companies seeking to help institutions achieve their sustainability goals will help make using renewable energy seem like second nature for the university.

USF was one of 10 universities across the country to be awarded the grant Monday for counseling from Second Nature, a nongovernmental organization that aims to help colleges create more environmentally friendly campuses. 

The counseling was granted to USF because of the university’s Climate Action Plan, and the award will aim to further progress on the plan and unify it across all three campuses, according to Thomas Frazer, dean of the College of Marine Science who chairs the USF Sustainability Steering committee. 

The Climate Action Plan is a guide developed by the St. Pete campus for the university to  reduce its baseline greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2035 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Second Nature collaborated with program management firm Brailsford and Dunlavey as well as energy adviser company CustomerFirst Renewables to provide free consulting to the chosen universities. Both companies help other businesses and institutions nationwide achieve their green energy goals through evaluations of buildings and energy sources and providing methods for the implementation of sustainable resources. 

Brailsford and Dunlavey will assess and evaluate the USF campuses and then outline the ways carbon emissions could be eliminated or greenhouse gases reduced. The university will be receiving $22,500-$30,000 worth of consultations for free across all campuses, according to a press release from Second Nature. 

Frazer said the grant could not have come at a better time. 

“Prior to consolidation, the three campuses at USF operated largely independent of one another on matters related to climate change planning, adaptation and mitigation,” he said. 

“Now that we are OneUSF, we are excited to unify and streamline our disparate plans into one Climate Action Plan, which is not a simple exercise. This grant from Second Nature allows us to take significant steps forward in what will be an all-hands-on-deck journey.” 

Part of the university’s journey to become more environmentally friendly is reaching the university’s recently adopted goal of reducing the community’s carbon footprint by 30% by 2030, according to Frazer. 

“In order to achieve [the 30% reduction in carbon footprint] goal, we first need to consolidate our climate action plans universitywide and institute a reporting mechanism so that we can effectively track greenhouse gas emissions in a consistent manner across our three campuses,” he said. 

“This effort will take OneUSF to a whole new level, requiring all facets of our campuses to work toward a unified goal, and one which we can all be proud [of].” 

USF will now be able to build off already existing sustainability initiatives, according to Frazer. 

“These [current initiatives] include, but are not limited to, building new [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)]-certified structures,” he said. 

“We have 24 LEED buildings across all campuses, and optimizing the energy efficiency of existing buildings by using cutting-edge roofing materials, installing renewable power stations and more efficient heating and cooling systems and more.”

Second Nature received nearly 50 applications from colleges nationwide for the grant in fall of last year. All of the applicants were already linked to Second Nature as either members of the University Climate Change Coalition like USF or as signatories of the Climate Leadership Network. 

Frazer said the consultations will allow USF to continue being a leader in environmental endeavors and he is excited to see the progress the university makes in the years to come. 

“At a time when environmental challenges loom large, we’ve got to keep pushing the envelope, thinking outside the box and working across disciplines and campuses to provide innovative solutions that ensure a sustainable future,” he said. 

“I’m excited by the energy I see here, which no doubt fuels our status as one of the fastest-rising universities in the United States.”