On Campus - Life Below Water

As the state of Florida’s University of Distinction in Environmental Resilience, Florida International University has led research and advocacy initiatives for Life Below Water for decades. With a campus located along Miami’s ecologically and economically essential Biscayne Bay, we also recognize the need for living and working sustainably as a university community. 

Finding innovative ways to better protect people and the planet is a core function of how we live, work and play. FIU’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety is charged with ensuring university compliance with regulations, statutes, guidance and best management practices for environmental protection. The university’s current Environmental Management Policy was first implemented in 2006 and most recently revised in 2021. Our focus is to minimize physical, chemical and biological alterations of aquatic ecosystems. 

Students in the cafeteria

Supporting aquatic ecosystems through action

In 2018, FIU signed an exclusive, long-term contract with Chartwells Higher Ed for our Panther Dining services. Among its many sustainability initiatives, Chartwells is Seafood Watch-certified and maintains a purchasing policy to acquire seafood from sustainable sources. According to their most recent report card, at least 91 percent of all seafood served by Chartwells was confirmed to come from sustainable sources. In addition, the company is implementing strategies to reduce the number of single-use plastics in all of its dining facilities. And all of the company’s to-go containers are recycled PET or made of fully recyclable materials. 

FIU Biscayne Bay Campus

Water sensitive waste disposal 

FIU’s Environmental Management Policy requires all members of the university community to minimize potential hazards to the environment and comply with all local, state and national laws and regulations designed to protect the environment. This includes water quality standards set by the U.S. Clean Water Act and Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. FIU maintains a zero tolerance policy for illicit discharge within the university. Our commitment is to prevent pollution of all kinds, whether working on campus, in the community, on the water or in the water. This includes plastic waste. With sustainability at the forefront of everything we do, many campus drinking fountains have been updated with modern drinking stations that include a spout for filling reusable water bottles. These stations provide real-time data on a digital screen about the amount of plastic waste prevented with each fill-up and a sticker on the side detailing the energy and water efficiency of the fountains. So in addition to hydration, our efforts are also focused on reducing the use of single-use plastics on campus and improving overall efficiency. It’s also worth noting, all FIU graduation caps and gowns are made of 100 percent recycled material including recycled plastic bottles.

The university community is also responsible for ensuring outside vendors and contractors uphold FIU’s environmental standards.

Reduce plastic waste

To help reduce plastic waste, our exclusive provider for Panther Dining maintains high sustainability standards that include a policy to reduce single-use plastics and use of to-go containers made of recycled PET or fully recyclable materials. At FIU, we love food, not waste. So our Panther Dining sustainability efforts focus on reduction. Our approach is to bring awareness and education while implementing best practices for waste management, water conservation, energy efficiency and pollution control.

In addition, Florida International University’s Plastics Reduction Taskforce worked with all campus food vendors to remove all plastic straws, cup lids, and bags from the dining counters, only making them available upon request.  This “Plastics If You Ask” initiative is the first step along a strategic pathway towards a plastic-free campus.