Commitment’s a Solid Color

Somewhere out there is a Hummer owner who eats at vegan restaurants, so we’re kind of offsetting each other’s contributions to global warming. Maybe.

Photo By Scott A. Miller

What’s it going to take to clean up the environment and live greener lives? The easy answer is commitment.

That’s the prevailing attitude you’ll find in the stories we’ve included in our second annual Green Issue. With all due respect to Kermit the Frog, it is easy being green, so let’s stop using the talking amphibian’s lame excuse that it isn’t, OK?

It’s going to get even easier to reduce your carbon footprint if you take advantage of emerging technologies in transportation as well as in energy and water conservation, and embrace sustainable practices for food consumption and building materials.

I’m a lighter shade of green, speeding in my Prius (because the accelerator is stuck) to the Tap Room for a juicy cheeseburger when I know I should stay home and eat a meal of locally grown vegetables. Somewhere out there, I figure, is a Hummer owner who eats at vegan restaurants, so we’re kind of offsetting each other’s contributions to global warming. Maybe.

Speaking of driving a green vehicle, Orlando is a lab rat for research on alternative fuels as well as a target city for launching innovations in low- and zero-carbon emitting cars. Check out contributing writer Steve Blount’s story, “Alternative Fuels for Thought,” on page 29.

There are other stories in this issue related to environmental stewardship, all connected by the underlying theme of commitment. But none goes as far as this:

With 53,000 students, the University of Central Florida is now the largest university in Florida and the third largest in the country. Its growth has been nothing less than meteoric and astounding, considering that it’s a toddler when its age is compared with those of long-established colleges like the University of Florida.

Bigger is better when it comes to bragging rights, but not when it comes to the size of the carbon imprint you make on the environment. With that in mind, UCF has its eye on making a bigger impression that could set it apart from other universities—climate neutrality. (Go online to and click on Climate Action Plan)

In 2007, UCF’s president, John Hitt, made the commitment (there’s that word again) to reduce the school’s carbon boot size even though his campus was (and is) bursting at the seams with energy users, from students to the cars they drive to the heated and cooled buildings in which they live and learn. UCF’s goal is no net gain in CO₂ emissions by 2050.

The university is going all in on energy conservation, investing millions of dollars to retrofit buildings to be energy efficient and to build its own power-generating systems, some using renewable sources. The university has already seen a return on its investment, with a 25 percent per square foot reduction in power use and a slight decline in carbon output despite continued growth.

UCF’s recently completed $3 million thermal energy storage facility, which collects and chills water that’s used to cool buildings, is expected to bring the school additional and significant energy savings every year, plus, on April 14, a Progress Energy rebate check for at least $600,000. With its energy conservation moves, UCF expects to save $2 million and 32 million kilowatts of electricity annually.

The university’s Climate Action Plan is deep in charts, graphs and geek speak, the work of engineers and researchers, no doubt. But it still relies on the three R’s to achieve the school’s goal of climate neutrality—recycle, reuse and reduce.

They’re not hard to learn, those three R’s. All is takes is commitment.

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