UF launches carbon-neutral graduation ceremonies
The majority of the events start today and run through Sunday.

By Thomas Stewart
Correspondent
Published: Friday, April 30, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 11:33 p.m.

As thousands of proud family members and friends descend upon the city this weekend for the University of Florida's 231st graduation ceremonies, they will be participating in the university's first-ever carbon-neutral commencement.

The O'Connell Center, where many of the ceremonies will be held, purchased $542.10 worth of carbon offsets to counter the estimated 49 tons of carbon dioxide the events will generate through the use of electricity, water, gas and garbage removal, according to Lynda Reinhart, director of the O'Connell Center.

The offsets, which cover utilities for the O'Connell Center, the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the University Auditorium, were purchased from Gainesville-based Earth Givers through their Neutral Gator Initiative. The University Athletic Association has also purchased offsets from the non-profit company to make its entire 2009-2010 athletic season carbon-neutral.

Jacob Cravey, co-founder of Earth Givers, said the company uses the offset money obtained from events such as this weekend's graduations almost exclusively for local projects, such as distributing compact fluorescent light bulbs to replace far less efficient incandescent light bulbs, weatherizing local homes and distributing low-flow shower heads.

Anna Prizzia, director of UF's Office of Sustainability, said the effort is part of UF's goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025.

The majority of commencement ceremonies start today and run through Sunday, while some professional schools will hold theirs later in May. A total of 9,454 students have applied to graduate, including master's and professional school students, and about 7,800 students had ordered graduation regalia as of Thursday, a good indicator of how many students will participate in ceremonies. As usual, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - UF's largest college - will graduate the most students, with almost 2,100 applying for degrees.

The College of Pharmacy kicks things off this morning at 9 and this weekend's activities wrap up Sunday with the College of Public Health and Health Professions' 7 p.m. ceremony.

Among the highlights of this weekend's ceremonies is a speech by Steven E. Koonin, undersecretary for science in the U.S. Department of Energy, at the College of Engineering ceremony at noon on Sunday.

http://www.gainesville.com/article/20100430/ARTICLES/4301020?tc=ar

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