Mission: nowhere does the word have more meaning than when applied to IDEAS For Us (IDEAS), the nonprofit grassroots organization working to change the way we treat our environment. According to the IDEAS website, “Our mission is to develop ideas, fund action, and scale solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges” (1). This message spreads through the work of IDEAS branches all over the globe. Though the main IDEAS branch already holds down the base in Orlando, the minor branch at the Orlando local University of Central Florida (UCF) is doing amazing work in educating the students of the biggest university in the nation. As a registered UCF club, IDEAS For Us UCF has a unique opportunity to impact an entire generation and transform students into the environmental leaders of the future.
In July, IDEAS Chief Operations Officer Lee Perry interviewed the 2019 UCF branch leader Kristin Anderson to cover all the ways IDEAS For Us UCF is impacting the lives of students and the way that they treat our environment. (Kristin Anderson is now the IDEAS branch manager, while Kaisy Prieto currently leads IDEAS For Us UCF.) Kristin Anderson, a recent graduate of UCF, studied conservation biology with a minor in environmental studies. She first became involved with the environmental movement through a deep-rooted frustration with the plastic pollution in our oceans, and since then, she’s been working to alleviate harmful human impact on the environment through the inspired projects of IDEAS.
Problems to Solve
IDEAS UCF is interacting with the UCF community in so many different ways, reaching out to educate students and offer new opportunities, partnering with the university, and much more. A lot of people experience hopelessness when they start thinking about the environmental crisis – particularly the young adults who are growing up to meet this world. IDEAS For Us UCF is all about helping students realize that they can change the situation, that their voice and actions as individuals really do matter. There is also such an element of community in bringing students together for change with their collective voice.
The main campus of UCF offers all kinds of improvement opportunities, currently focusing on a few major issues:
- Food waste
- Plastic pollution
- Waste management on campus
For example: the university annually produces 2,342 tons of waste (2). Each individual contributes 4.5 pounds per day to this massive figure, so one individual’s choices about how to handle their waste can actually change a lot. Food and plastic waste comes from the many on-campus restaurants where students purchase meals – and tons of plastic packaging as a byproduct. UCF is working towards sustainability initiatives, but they need the help of organizations like IDEAS to harness the power of the student body and create true change.
IDEAS For Us UCF: Projects
With so much to do, IDEAS For Us UCF is doing so much. At monthly IDEAS Hive workshops occuring on campus, speakers come to educate students about environmental issues such as farmers’ rights and zero waste. IDEAS works together with different UCF clubs and with the university itself for sustainability goals and projects. These collaborations include:
- Working with the Knights For Wildlife Conservation Club on a zero-waste initiative
- Cleanups with the Knights For Animal Rights and the UCF Surfing Club
- UCF Health & Wellness to plant fruit trees
- UCF Arboretum to plant gardens and to lead in shoreline restoration projects
- Collaborating with different UCF teachers for service-learning projects to involve the IDEAS movement in academics
- Project partnership every semester with the Capstone environmental class for seniors ready to move into the environmental field
- Working with groups from the UCF honors program LEAD Scholars: student groups in the past have worked on projects such as a pollinator garden installation and meal prep workshops
IDEAS For Us UCF uses workshops and internship opportunities to help students learn leadership skills and improve their resumes. They’re working to improve relationships with the environment both on campus and off campus through the influence and work of students; they hold beach cleanups and interact with the greater Orlando community in so many different ways.
Current projects (in need of funding!):
- IDEAS Butterfly Garden pollinator project on campus
- Daytona Beach Cleanup to address plastic pollution at Daytona Beach and educate students
- Food Waste Drop-Off Location to turn the downtown UCF campus into a drop-off location for food scraps, educating students and reducing waste through composting
IDEAS For the Future
As Chief Operations Officer Lee Perry points out, IDEAS For Us UCF has made so much progress in both environmental and social issues. We can’t separate ourselves from nature, she notes, and IDEAS UCF has been a positive power to reinforce this reality. But even with all this progress, there is so much more left to do.
Goals for the future include:
- Forging ahead to create a stronger relationship with the university to encourage even more collaborations and establish IDEAS For Us UCF as an influential advisory voice in university environmental policy
- Turning every pond on campus into a wildlife habitat
- Adding more pollinator and herb gardens and fruit trees as well as native plants
- Turning the arboretum into a viable source of food and encouraging local food sourcing
- More group projects in collaboration with the Orlando branch to impact the wider Orlando community
- Using these food resources to reach out to the homeless and others in need
- Establishing green transportation at UCF
- Making green ecology part of the curriculum at UCF to teach students about their environmental impact
- Taking steps towards making UCF carbon-neutral and waste-free
How You Can Help
IDEAS For Us UCF has created an incredible movement, teaching students about sustainability, building their experience resumes, and increasing environmental awareness. They can’t do this alone, however – to implement these projects and take the UCF branch to the next level, IDEAS For Us UCF needs all the support possible. So here’s how you can help:
Watch the interview with Branch Manager Kristin Anderson here: