GAINESVILLE— Sustainable/Environmentally-friendly practices in a college fraternity won’t be a Greek myth for long.
The University of Florida’s Office of Sustainability hopes to garner the Greek community’s support for environmentalism with the Greek Eco Challenge, a series of weekly competitions between sorority and fraternity houses to reduce waste, consumption, and water usage.
Liz Storn, program coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, oversees the competition with the vice president of Greeks Going Green, Layne Marshall. They believe UF’s Greek population is an ideal audience for sustainability education.
“The Greek community is an untapped resource,” Marshall said.
Fraternities’ and sororities’ involvement in student government and other influential student organizations may inspire campus-wide support for sustainable initiatives, the third-year natural resources conservation major said.
The Office of Sustainability previously held a water challenge for sororities in 2013. The success of that competition led to the inclusion of fraternities in 2014, but the newest challenge has expanded to include energy usage and waste.
The original Greek Water Challenge faced difficulties involving meter reading and measuring the impact of individual actions on the reduction of irrigation.
When it comes to meter reading, “individual actions don’t make much of a dent,” Storn said. The Greek Eco Challenge is based more in education and event attendance to promote active involvement.
Students earn points for the challenge through participation in activities like visits to the Office’s mobile Sustainability Hut and involvement in service projects, as well as monthly meter readings to measure the amount of energy each house uses. Over spring break, students can post pictures of themselves performing a sustainable act, such as turning off lights or faucets, to earn points.
The challenge could potentially save the houses money, lowering dues for those who live in-house following a reduction in energy and water use, Storn said.
Prizes for the challenge include 50 passes to Ginnie Springs, concert tickets, or a philanthropy donation to the winning house, as well as the title of “Greenest House on Campus.”
According to Storn, five houses have signed up as of publication, but houses can join at any point in the challenge/entry into the challenge is rolling. The Sustainability office is attempting a word-of-mouth campaign to attract participants.
Freshman Sam Stilley, a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, was ignorant of the Eco challenge until this interview. “I’ve never heard of [sustainability] being talked about in the Greek community,” she said.
Allison Vitt, outreach and communications coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said that resource conservation is important to the campus community at large.
“[UF] functions like a small city,” Vitt said, noting that the university generates an annual electricity bill of $40 million. By targeting the nearly forty on-campus houses, the Office of Sustainability could significantly lower the amount of energy the university uses.
Storn hopes the challenge will promote recycling and composing across the Greek community, even if support is already high.
“There are so many passionate students,” Storn said. “All across campus, people really care.”
The Greek Eco Challenge runs from February 7 to April l2. For more information, visit sustainable.ufl.edu or facebook.com/GreekEcoChallenge.