Students Help Tampa Businesses Be More Sustainable

by Alison Lueders, Great Green Content

Sustany®’s Sustainable Business Program is Up and Running

One of Sustany®’s 2014 goals is to teach more Tampa downtown merchants about the business benefits of being more sustainably focused. The 12-week  “Sustany® Sustainable Business Program (SSBP)” is now underway with 10 businesses. A key feature of the program is that it matches each business with a student sustainability specialist from a local university.

Here’s what 2 of those students – Lizzy Gallagher from the University of Tampa, and Tessa Schreiner from USF – have to say about the experience so far.

SSBP Students

Students Show the Way

What attracted you to the program?

Tessa – The program really embodies what sustainability is all about – it’s locally concentrated, hopes to reduce the carbon footprint of Tampa Bay’s businesses, and hopes to help these businesses save money in the process. This “triple bottom line” is imperative to sustainability and sustainable development, and programs like these are how changes are effectively made in a city. Plus, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be involved in my community as a “sustainability specialist!”

Lizzy – The consulting aspect. I loved how students were given the opportunity take the reins on assisting these businesses in improving their sustainability practices. It’s also a great opportunity to gain more project management experience, and experience working within a company that I wasn’t a direct employee of. Finally,  the SSBP is a great example of how collaboration can get us much further in sustainability efforts than just going it alone. Having the individual businesses, Sustany® Foundation, City of Tampa, and students all working together makes it a very efficient program, which was of huge interest to me.

What’s the biggest sustainability challenge your business faces?

Tessa –  Waste management. First, there is no real economic incentive to change their waste management methods, because their waste costs are included in their rent (the restaurant is part of a larger building). Furthermore, the restaurant is not eligible for the CORE waste management program in Tampa due to its location. Second, there is limited space in the restaurant, which makes composting and large amounts of recycling quite a challenge.

Lizzy – Getting an accurate measurement of what their office is using in terms of electricity, water, solid waste and recycling. The business shares a building with many other tenants and because of that many of the metrics are an estimate of what they are using based on square footage. This poses the challenge that 22squared needs to be hyper-aware of their resource use and waste disposal/recycling.

What role do you play in the process?

Tessa – My role is to come up with ideas that the restaurant could adopt to become more energy efficient and less wasteful (and then find a way to implement the ideas!) I work with the owners to find a best practice, and help bring things to their attention that they might not have realized before. I also organize the information on our progress, and help document the company’s goals for the program. Additionally, I do research on anything that the owners have asked me to look into.

Lizzy – In the words of 22squared, they’ve “got a thing for Mother Nature” and my role is to help them continue to impress her with their sustainability efforts. I conduct research to find out what practices will best work for 22squared, and  prioritize what is most important in terms of changes for the future. I also track down all the metrics needed for the certification and bring innovative solutions to the table to improve their impact. My role is to make sure we can hit the highest level of certification possible, so whatever it takes to get us there is what my job entails!

What’s been the biggest surprise to you in participating in the program?

Tessa –  The best surprise is that it has really brought me much closer to downtown Tampa Bay (literally and figuratively). When I am downtown meeting with my business, I have also been exploring the area more and have discovered a lot of really great places. Also, I have really enjoyed working with the owners of my business – they are wonderful to work with, excited about the program, and really enthusiastic about their jobs.

Lizzy – The biggest surprise is the commonality of sustainability solutions found between the businesses. Even though 22squared is in the advertising industry, we have found shared solutions that also apply to the issues the businesses in other industries face.

Where do you hope to take your sustainability knowledge once you graduate?

Tessa –  I hope to work in the sustainable tourism industry. Ideally, I would like to do consulting work for hotels, resorts, and tour operators. However, I would also love to be involved in creating an Environmental Management System for a company or even a city!

Lizzy – I hope to bring my knowledge of sustainability into the consulting world. I love helping people and businesses improve upon their interactions with our environment. I would either like to work as a business consultant in the sustainability realm or as a consultant on ecosystem restoration projects, and in both of those fields sustainability is key.

A Perfect Match!

It’s a real win-win to enable students to share their sustainability expertise with businesses who need and want it. Says Sustany®’s Executive Director, Jenna Civitello,

“We knew business representatives would need personalized assistance through the sustainability audit and improvement process. So we thought this would be a great opportunity to match businesses with local university students who are studying sustainability. From Sustany®’s past work with students, we learned they are eager to apply the theories and technical processes that they are learning in the classroom to real world sustainability consulting experiences. We were pleased to recruit 11 students from USF and UT to participate in this round of the Sustany® Sustainable Business Program.”

For more information about the program, go to