Environmental Fellows Report on Stetson’s State of Sustainability 2023

From left to right: Mackenzie Powers, Jacob Robinson, Sugeeth Sathish and Audrey Berlie

The Environmental Fellows presented a report on Stetson’s State of Sustainability in Brown Hall on April 21 at 2 p.m. 

Founded in 2014, the Environmental Sustainability Fellows is a student program at Stetson University that leads change in social, economic and environmental practices across the campus.

Tony Abbott, PhD

Tony Abbott, PhD, professor of environmental science and studies, and Kevin Winchell, associate director of Community Engagement, facilitate the Fellows as they navigate projects throughout fellowship.

Kevin Winchell

“One important aspect the Environmental Fellowship is based on is the idea that sustainability is inherently a multidisciplinary and collaborative subject,” said Audrey Berlie ’24, environmental science and environmental business major.

“People often think of the environment as being something that is segmented away. … In reality, every decision we make impacts nature. An environmentalist can be a musician, artist, businessman, chef and so much more.”

Students planting trees near campus in 2022.

In fall 2022, on Values Day, the Fellows hosted two events. The first event was planting trees at the retention pond on East Wisconsin Avenue and North Amelia Avenue. Following a discussion on the importance of trees for biodiversity and water quality, more than 30 students participated in planting six 10-gallon trees. 

The second event was a Revolving Green Fund workshop. Fellows brainstormed with other Stetson students about the sustainability initiatives they would like to see implemented on campus. 

In March, the Fellows participated in the Gillespie Museum’s STEAM event, where Berlie hosted a table that educated families on the geological history of Florida and how it led to the creation of the university’s unique sandhill ecosystem. 

Audrey Berlie’s presentation at the Gillespie Museum.

Berlie also presented how the Environmental Fellows use the Green Revolving Investment Tracking System (GRITS) software. 

After writing the proposal for Stetson to become the first Florida university accepted into the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, free access was granted to GRITS.

Since then, Berlie has been working to utilize the software to track the financial, energy and carbon savings generated through Stetson’s Revolving Green Fund (RGF) projects.  

Rooftop solar panels.

Here is what was discovered:

The solar array on top of the CUB has provided $30,000 in cumulative energy savings since 2019. The solar panels have saved 209 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released, which is the equivalent of 45 gasoline-powered cars driving for a year.

With those significant savings, the Fellows are able implement more projects with the RGF in the future.

One of the primary duties of the Environmental Fellows is to manage the Revolving Green Fund, which generates $30,000 annually from a $5 semester student tuition fee. 

“I am incredibly thankful for the Environmental Fellows,” said Mackenzie Powers ’26, environmental science and biology major. “As a first-year student, I was blessed to be surrounded by incredible faculty and other students who made my first year in college memorable.

 “I am a part of a team who makes a difference in the Stetson community, and I am inspired by them every day. The Fellows have taught me a lot in just one year, and I am excited to see how much I will grow during the rest of my time at Stetson!”

Stetson State of Sustainability

Powers presented three projects she is working on at the Stetson State of Sustainability presentation. 

The Hatter Closet, in collaboration with first-year honors students, is an initiative centered around collecting preloved clothing donated by students for an on-campus thrift shop, where students, faculty and staff can shop. The proceeds support funding student events and the Neighborhood Center in DeLand. 

Powers shared her work on the Stetson sustainability map, which uses GIS technology to create an interactive map of Stetson. The map features include links to the initiatives and a QR code that opens a survey.

“The work the Environmental Fellows do has been incredibly enlightening for me, particularly when it comes to an understanding of how to navigate institutional sustainability,” commented Sugeeth Satish ’25, financial major. 

“The knowledge I have developed from the business school complements my passion for sustainability. Moving forward, I am excited to continue making a positive impact on campus and in my future career.”

Jacob Robinson ’24, environmental studies major, noted that he has been able to build leadership skills and environmental sustainability. 

“Before being accepted by the Environmental Fellows program, I had some ideas about what sustainability meant but never a firm understanding of how to actualize the ideas and thoughts I had gathered,” he said. “I have been building a skill set and mindset that allows me to make great strides in real work through a newfound understanding of institutional systems.”

-Alicia Scott