Vedrana Damjanović

Sopohomore, Public relations major

The University of Florida’s Plaza of the Americas was greener than usual Wednesday morning.

Sustainable UF banners, tables of more than 17 campus groups and organizations, games with useful information about sustainability and arts exhibitions and food all attracted passerby’s attention from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The UF’s Office of Sustainability organized its annual Campus Earth Day celebration.


“The whole event is geared to getting people come out and get involved, see what we have and hopefully learn something new that they can take away,” said Allison Vitt, outreach and communications coordinator at Sustainable UF.

Charlie Lane, senior vice president and chief operating officer, stressed in his address the challenges that both the university and students have to overcome.

“Over the last 11 years, UF has built far more energy efficient buildings, substantially grown campus bus ridership and other alternative transportation and greatly increased recycling,” Lane said. “What is really important is that students who recycle, ride the bus or learn about composting will embrace these actions throughout their lives.”

During the opening ceremony, the Champions for Change Awards were given to recognize the work of people who contributed to UF sustainability and wellbeing.

“The most important thing that we do is these kinds of outreach events and getting our faces out there to the campus and letting them (people) know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Vitt said. “There is some way for everyone to get involved.”

The School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) club entertained the attendees through educational games such as identifying the main natural resources in each area of Florida and jeopardy game on sustainability.

“Our main goal for today is to get people interested in the club and try to get new members for the next year, particularly younger members who aren’t graduating,” said Claudia Menasce, an environmental science senior. “The most concerning issues are climate change and global warming, just because all of that is already happening. The effects that we are seeing now are the effects that we did 50 years ago.”

Among the other tables were architecture models of sustainable houses, which piqued the interest of many attendees. Members of the UF’s Solar Decathlon team designed a net zero energy house, which is a house entirely powered by solar panels. Working on this project for over a year, the members will be going to California in October for the Solar Decathlon competition.

The house is almost entirely done by students from architecture, interior design and building construction with the help of a few faculty members.

“Sustainable energy is really the future of architecture in our eyes,” said Katelynn Smith, an architecture and sustainability in the built environment senior. “Being in this club is not only helping us to learn about it, but it’s helping us for what we are going to be doing in the real world: designing things like this, thinking about energy use in house design.”

More young people today seem to understand the necessity of sustainable lifestyle and environmentally friendly habits.

“Earth’s day is important because we need to build the environment today so that future generations have what we have today and not have to struggle to get it,” said Lan Nguyen, an animal science senior who came to the event.

If it wasn’t the smell of the food, then it was the smell of flowers and distinct plants that attracted the students to come to Grow botany’s club table.

“At today’s event we have plants that span the entire evolutionary history of land plants, from ferns to complex flowery plants,” said Zack Guignardi, the president of the Grow botany club and horticulture science senior. “We’re trying to have students think as a botanist for a second, looking at similarities, the kind of leaves they have or the flower of plants so they can really step into the shoes of a botanist and understand what it takes to identify the plants around them.”

The Sustainability hut prepared games such as linking the fruits with the seasons they grow in and tasting and differentiating tap, bottled and filtered water.

Jahza Klocko, an environment engineering freshman, said he enjoyed the game and the whole event.

“It is good to have more people get involved and understand what is going on and see how you can get involved with sustainable and renewable clubs and groups on campus,” Klocko said.

To attend more events of the Sustainable UF during its Earth Month, follow its Facebook group or contact Allison Vitt at  to get involved with the organization.