Stetson’s Environmental Fellows Work to Promote Earth Day

For Stetson University’s Environmental Fellows team, composed of five students, every day is an opportunity to promote sustainability and help the university eventually achieve carbon neutrality.

Earth Day, commemorated on April 22, puts the group’s year-round mission in the spotlight.

Audrey Berlie

“Our mission is basically to build a more cognizant community at Stetson regarding the economic, societal, environmental and educational benefits of sustainability at the university and in the surrounding community,” said Environmental Science and Environmental Business student Audrey Berlie, ’24.

The group’s primary responsibility is to manage the Revolving Green Fund (RGF). Students pay a $5 fee per semester, generating $30,000 a year that are allocated to the fund, which goes toward aiding campus sustainability projects.

In 2019, there were 231 solar panels installed on the Carlton Union Building (CUB), producing 143 megawatts an hour (MWh) of energy each year that results in $10,000 of annual savings in energy costs. According to Berlie, the loan taken to complete the project will be repaid next semester, when the university starts to receive a $3,000 to $4,000 return on its investment (ROI) each semester.

Current Efforts

Sugeeth Sathish

More recently, the fellows contributed $120,000 of the $400,000 needed to complete a chiller loop extension that will provide more efficient cooling system for Davis, Sampson and Flagler Halls. Finance major and fellow Sugeeth Sathish, ’25, estimates the return on investment for the RGF contribution to range from 5% to 7%.

“There’s this idea that environmentalism or sustainability hurts the bottom line or it doesn’t allow businesses to progress as much as they could have,” Berlie said. “In reality, it’s the complete opposite, and we have proved that through the Environmental Fellows.”

The fellows also are responsible for conducting the university’s annual Greenhouse Gas Audit, which calculates emissions generated through utilities, travel, fertilizer use, refrigerants and other sources. This requires collecting detailed data from multiple departments, and then inputting the data into a software program called SIMAP, which calculates carbon dioxide conversion rates.

Mackenzie Powers

Environmental Science and Biology major, and fellow, Mackenzie Powers, ’26, has taken on the mission of creating training modules for each department so everyone, including future hires, can understand what data is needed and why it matters.

“The end goal here is that by the time I graduate, the Greenhouse Gas Audit will be the most accurate it will ever be,” Powers said. “That way, we can have a baseline.”

“That baseline is super important because (Stetson President Christopher F.) Roellke has said he wants Stetson to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” she said. “This Greenhouse Gas Audit and the data on emissions is exactly how we track that.”

STARS Rating

The RGF and audit work in tandem. The fellows make decisions based upon the audit and fund them through the RGF. In Fall 2023, Stetson was awarded a STARS Silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for its campus sustainability efforts.

“Our goal is basically to identify and implement projects that will help the university to achieve STARS Gold,” Powers said of the goal the university aims to reach in seven years.

The fellows also participate in sustainability-based projects, such as the Gillespie Museum’s annual Mostly Green Halloween festival. This spring, the fellows hosted a Cultural Credit talk about recycling on campus and in Volusia County.

Phoenix Medley

The team also partnered with the Environmental Club, recruiting the help of sororities, school teams and others, for a Daytona Beach cleanup. Environmental Studies major Phoenix Medley, ’27, has made community outreach and education her niche among the fellows.

“We created the Reduce Our Carbon Footprint campaign,” she said. “We empower Stetson students, faculty, and staff with actions they can take on an individual level to create impact across our entire campus.”

– Cheri Henderson