Floridata Article

Green Gators: There's More to University of Florida Gators than Just Football

Gators for a Sustainable Campus 
        meeting on a rainy night. Photo by Ginny Stibolt.
Gators for a Sustainable Campus meeting on a rainy night.

A few weeks ago, on a rainy evening I traveled to Gainesville to speak to an action-oriented student group, Gators for a Sustainable Campus. To help them with their garden plot at the University's community garden, they wanted me to talk to them about growing vegetables.

I brought my basket of vegetables and my "Edible Garden" PowerPoint, but I was not expecting much of a turnout because of bad weather-a tail of tropical storm Ida was raging through the area. But more than 40 students came, paid attention, and asked great questions. One student even bought a book for her mother's birthday present. I was impressed.

A photo from their website. 
  Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Gators grow vegetables!

Looking at their last year's carrot harvest, I'd say that they already know what they are doing in an organic garden. What better way to be sustainable than to grow your own crops to eat. Sometimes the delicious vegan snacks served at their meetings are made from their own veggies.

I just love the old bedspring, held aloft with three PVC tubes and a stick, and used as an arbor in the next plot behind the students. It made me laugh, because I'm pretty sure I've not slept on such a bedspring since my own college days so many decades ago and it's certainly an apt symbol of a "garden bed."

In fields or rows, gardeners learn to identify seedlings. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Gators for a Sustainable Campus at a local event.

This group meets twice a month and actively seeks opportunities for outreach on campus, at events, and in the local community. The students have their green PowerPoint presentations, banner, brochures, and other educational materials. They are ready to enthusiastically spread the word whenever and wherever they can.

While these Gators like football as much as the next student, they've also seen a green opportunity in the football community. They started a Tail-Gator Recycling program to provide recycling services for tailgating parties on and off campus for all home football games. Isn't it great that all those tailgate beverage containers won't hit the landfills?

These students helped a local elementary school to set up a better recycling program and to institute a more sustainable lunch program. This school will now be the model for all of Alachua County's schools.

Gators for a Sustainable Campus pushes students to reduce their consumption and is the driving force behind University of Florida's participation in RecycleMania, a nation-wide contest that challenges schools to increase on-campus recycling.

Gators for a Sustainable Campus is affiliated with the university's Office of Sustainability and boasts nearly 500 members, but it's not the only group pushing for more sustainable practices. Sustainability is supported by at least fifteen student groups across campus, student government, and student senate. The senate passed a resolution honoring the office and its commitment to promoting sustainability in 2007. The fraternities and sororities support sustainability through their Greeks Going Green campaign. The students passed a Renewable Energy Fee ballot referendum in 2006 with 78% voting in favor of the $.50/credit hour fee. To date, more than 700 graduating Gators have signed the Green Graduation Pledge, vowing to take sustainable practices with them into their careers and communities.

I don't know about you, but meeting these enthusiastic students and learning about their initiatives, gives me hope for the future. Thanks to David Eardley and the other students for their green work and their hospitality. Go Gators!

(Update 2011: This student group does not seem to be active right now. Maybe the next batch of students will reorganize.)

(Update 2012: Chris Cano, one of the students at this presentation, is now the CEO (Compost Experience Officer) of Gainesville Compost. Read about him and his company in my post "The Gainesville community behind Porter's Garden." How cool is that?)

Ginny Stibolt moved to northeastern Florida in 2004 and even though she's a botanist and lifelong gardener, Florida gardening was a shock. She started writing The Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns for the Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville. This is one of those columns archived here on Floridata.com for your enjoyment. Now she's written three Florida garden books published by University Press of Florida: Sustainable Gardening for Florida, 2009; Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida with Melissa Contreras, 2013, and The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape, 2015. Check out her blog for the latest news and articles: www.Green GardeningMatters.com

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