Studying abroad for a year at the University of New Delhi was literally making Julie Allen’s hair fall out. Not because of intense studying, but because of intense pollution – the smog-filled air even had her coughing up black soot. Returning home, she was grateful for the clean air and water, and glad to be out of the heavily polluted environment of New Delhi, India.
“When I returned, I felt that I had to try to do something in my little corner of the world to try and raise awareness about the importance of being conscious of our devastating impacts on the environment as a human species,” she said.
Allen, a 22-year-old senior political science major, has since founded and now presides over the University of Central Florida’s Green Team. Starting with a goal to help the Political Science Department become more eco-friendly, Green Team has grown to take on the task of helping “UCF reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050” by partnering with the university’s Department of Sustainability & Energy Management (SEM).
“When she came to the Department, Julie’s initial goal was to develop a program of energy efficiency, water conservation and recycling geared towards the faculty and staff members of the Political Science Department,” Alexandra Kennedy, SEM’s student outreach coordinator, said.
“At the time, SEM was coincidentally working toward Energy Star Certification for our buildings, a prerequisite for LEED Certification,” Kennedy continued. “Energy Star Certification then became the central mission of the Green Team.”
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification “provides independent, third-party verification that a building project is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy place to live and work,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
Allen has helped SEM’s endeavors by forming a “student corps which accelerates the goals of the department by providing ideas, manpower and energy.” Green Team’s work towards achieving Energy Star Certification involves “measuring buildings, computing gross square footage, completing light and internal space audits, and encouraging behavioral change to save energy.”
Allen has recruited fellow students to rally behind her mission. Her job as a resident advisor in Libra community’s Green Building helps her find other like-minded students.
Freshman civil engineering major, Justin Kingsley is one of Green Building’s residents who joined Green Team after meeting Allen on move-in day. Kingsley is now the club’s secretary and is currently working on Green Room Certification for students’ residences.
“Green Room Certification is basically when two or three people will come into a person’s dorm room and then survey the room for green appliances and things of that nature,” explained Kingsley.
The certification is currently only available for Green Building residences, but Allen hopes to offer it to “all on-campus residents in the spring in conjunction with SEM’s Kill-a-Watt initiative.” Her work in this area is bolstered by her position on the Housing Sustainability Taskforce.
Green Team’s historian, freshman nursing major Karina Grubbs, also met Allen as a Libra resident. The two developed a close relationship because of the similar goals they shared to make the university “a more environmentally friendly place.” Grubbs is specifically concerned with the harmful effects Styrofoam has on the environment and its use in campus cafeterias.
“We’re in the process of planning a ban Styrofoam week,” Grubbs said.
A recent move by UCF’s administration to attempt to relocate the Arboretum is also occupying Green Team’s man-hours. Allen, along with her friend and president of the Student Sustainability Alliance, Chelsea Stewart, is planning to petition “St. John’s Water Management Board to encourage them to not lift the conservation easement.”
“To my understanding, the administration is offering the Arboretum 10 acres of land outside of the Gemini Loop,” Allen explained. “The Arboretum doesn’t want this because over 1,500 volunteer hours from UCF students have gone into building the community garden in its current location, and the land that is offered is marshland unsuitable for their education center.”
Allen’s hard work and goal-oriented lifestyle has led to not only organizational accomplishments but also the admiration of her peers who see her as a role model.
“When I first joined the club, I was so surprised at how efficient she was with putting ideas into action,” Grubbs recounted. “She is very passionate in what she does and will definitely go on to make a difference in the world.”
Her efforts to bring student volunteers to the aid of the understaffed SEM have not gone unnoticed either.
“The collective volunteer efforts of Green Team members have been very influential in working towards Energy Star Certification,” noted Kennedy.
Allen has a passion for environmentalism that reveals a dogma quite comparable to that of a person with religious faith.
“I tend to think of my environmental passion as a guiding force in my belief system because it dictates the way that I see the world and my own place in the world.” she said. “It helps me formulate morals and values.”
Allen plans to continue her mission for a more sustainable future well after she graduates UCF, leaving fellow Green Team members to fill her shoes. She was recently accepted to become part of the Teach for America corps where she will begin teaching at an elementary school in Atlanta, GA next fall.
“I hope to be able to work with my school district to help them save money through energy efficiency and maybe even develop some curriculum to teach my students about environmental stewardship,” Allen said. “The sky’s the limit!”