College Students and Local Governments Develop Job Skills and Greenhouse Gas Baselines in Third Audubon Partnership

by Olivia Priest.

This summer, Audubon Florida proudly introduced the Fall 2023 East Florida Greenhouse Gas Cohort, marking the third iteration of this impactful initiative. In collaboration with ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability and made possible by the generous support of Wells Fargo, this program brings together students from Florida universities and municipal and county government staff to craft greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories for government operations.

Data collected by the cohort includes government energy usage, solid waste and wastewater, fleet vehicle operations, and staff commutes. The GHG inventories generated through this program empower cities and counties to analyze the extent of their emissions, formulate effective reduction plans, and contribute meaningfully to climate change mitigation. This transparency not only fosters accountability to taxpayers but also serves as a metric for evaluating the efficacy of implemented policies.

This year’s cohort paired 13 students from Indian River State College, Florida Institute of Technology, Flagler College, Stetson University, and the University of Florida with 13 east Florida city and county governments to bring the inventories to fruition. Following the completion of the inventories, students and staff will work in tandem to analyze results, explore reduction strategies, and establish achievable goals. Audubon Florida pioneered this collaborative initiative in 2021 with the Audubon Florida + East Florida Regional Resilience Collaborative (AF + R2C) Cohort,  and the success of this model led to the replication of the cohort in the Tampa Bay region in 2022 and east Florida again in 2023. Collectively, we’ve now worked with 43 municipalities and student pairs from seven schools. Audubon Florida remains committed to building upon the achievements of its cohort alumni, fostering ongoing collaborations as climate action planning progresses and evolves.

The Fall 2023 East Florida Greenhouse Gas Cohort stands as a testament to our ongoing commitment to fostering collaboration between students and local governments in the pursuit of sustainable practices and climate action. As these inventive partnerships continue to evolve and make strides towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Audubon Florida remains at the forefront of initiatives that not only educate the next generation but also actively contribute to environmental stewardship.

Article originally appeared in the 2023 Winter edition of the Naturalist magazine.

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