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Building a smaller footprint

Published: June 24th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

Dedee DeLongpré

Dedee DeLongpré

Office of Sustainability

If you see a woman riding a bike in Gainesville wearing business clothes and high heels, chances are that’s Dedee DeLongpré practicing what she preaches.

As the director of UF’s Office of Sustainability, DeLongpré advocates what she calls the sustainable use of resources so that today’s generation can live comfortably without leaving a mess for the next generation to clean up.

To set a good example, DeLongpré applies what she calls the “lens of sustainability” to her own life. She uses a clothesline so that she doesn’t waste energy on a dryer. She has three gardens. She buys local produce, she has a compost bin and she recycles. Her wedding dress is even made out of hemp.

DeLongpré says her mission is to “leave the smallest footprint possible,” to weave human concerns into the preservation of environmental resources.

The biggest part of DeLongpré’s job is educating the community about sustainability and its importance to our modern society.

“People have lost their common sense when it comes to the economy,” she said. “Does it make sense that people in Florida are eating tomatoes from California and people in California are eating tomatoes from Florida? We could erase that carbon footprint with a commitment to support the local economy.”

DeLongpré is disturbed by the effects of economic globalization. Outsourcing, she said, is crippling Americans’ ability to be economically self-sufficient.

“We are promoting a global monoculture,” she said. “This is not a one-size-fits-all globe.”

DeLongpré has spearheaded several programs to make the UF campus more sustainable. She advocates developing local markets to campus partners. The dining facilities on campus now buy about 30 percent of their produce from local growers, which helps to reduce fossil fuel consumption since the produce doesn’t have to be flown in from across the country.

UF also has more recycling bins now, with about 100 more to be rolled out this fall. Moreover, all new construction and renovation projects have been “green” and energy efficient, based on national standards of certification.

Despite her many projects, DeLongpré said her favorite part of the job is working with students. She loves inspiring them to get involved in campus groups such as Gators for a Sustainable Campus. Many students see the writing on the wall, she said, and they know that the future rests in their hands.

“That’s why I do this job,” she said. “It gives me hope for the possibility of something different. I get to do something where I know I’m making a difference every day.”

Photo credit: Kristen Bartlett Grace — University Photography

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