Sustain: Practical Issues in the Performing Arts

The Straz happened in the 80s, not exactly an era marked by prioritizing green buildings. So, we have challenges as we improve sustainability. Fortunately, we have great local partners helping us figure out what to do next. Here’s who they are, and what’s ahead for The Straz’s eco-lution.

USF sustainability team with Lorrin
Meet our sustainability project team: USF Student Sustainability Specialists who participated in the 12-week internship, The Sustany Foundation Sustainable Business Program Director Janet Hall and the Straz Center’s Chief Operating Officer Lorrin Shepard and Facilities Director Tom Wright. (Pictured from left to right: Bianca Cassouto, Ericka McThenia, Carmen Garcia, Yara Watson, Adit Patel, Steffanie Agerkop, Barbra Anderson, Greg Whitener, Tom Wright, Janet Hall and Lorrin Shepard.)

Sustainable facilities isn’t the sexiest topic in the performing arts, we know that, but it happens to be a pretty darn important one.

In Tampa, where we are, we have two ace programs at the University of South Florida which train students to identify and find solutions to global environmental concerns: the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability and the USF School of Geosciences. Add to them a local initiative to give such students hands-on experience working with a business in the community—The Sustany Sustainable Business Program—and you have the partnership that created the latest sustainability analysis of The Straz.

We were honored to work with The Sustany Foundation and the 2015 USF Student Sustainability Specialists. The project, a 12-week internship, started with a look at what we’re doing already, a waste analysis, then a focus on our energy use and lighting.

green roof_2010
The Straz Center’s green roof, on the second level of Ferguson Hall, was the first green roof in downtown Tampa when it was added in 2010.

Despite our age, the Straz Center was the first building in downtown Tampa to have a green roof (second level of Ferguson Hall), and we also have recycle bins next to our trash cans outside the building. Situated on the banks of the Hillsborough River, we’re naturally stewards of the water and hope to make it very easy for patrons to dispose of trash in cans and easily put recyclables in a separate container.

“Every time we start a construction or building initiative,” says Straz Center Senior Vice President and COO Lorrin Shepard, “we endeavor to utilize sustainability standards when taking on major renovations and capital improvements. Participating in the Sustany Internship showed us that building a framework that blends the arts and sustainable business practices, although challenging, is achievable.”

As a cultural and economic leader for downtown Tampa, we are excited about new opportunities to improve sustainability, and the Sustany Internship gave us practical ways to be more energy efficient. Our kitchens in Maestro’s already reduce food waste, support the local community, source local dairy and produce and make sustainable seafood options available. But we will look to more ways to improve our efforts, and, when we begin to implement changes, we will look to our patrons to help us make greater strides for sustainability, and we’ll let you know more details as our current dreams become concrete practices.

USF sustainability team on Riverwalk
The Sustany Foundation Sustainable Business Program director Janet Hall with USF students on the Riverwalk. (Pictured from left to right, in back row: Barbra Anderson, Greg Whitener, Bianca Cassouto, Carmen Garcia, Yara Watson and Steffanie Agerkop. Pictured from left to right in front row: Adit Patel, Ericka McThenia and Janet Hall.)

“We always try to achieve the best we can,” says Shepard. “Our integration of sustainability as part of the Straz Center is something we want to promote internally and publicly. We want to generate a lot of support and enthusiasm for these changes. It’s important for us to do the best we can for the planet and respond well to the increasing demand for sustainability by our supporters, patrons and visitors.”

We’d like to thank Janet C. Hall of Hall Sustainability Consulting, LLC and board member of The Sustany Foundation for directing the internship and getting us involved with the students at USF. “This was an incredibly successful project,” she says. “The students generated ideas and solutions with solid returns and long-term positive impacts. They will definitely be able to use what they learned in the future.”

We’re happy this project brought together community partners in Tampa to work towards creating positive change, and we are looking forward to integrating sustainability as part of our Straz Center Master Plan.

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