Dr. Debra Reinhart
Assistant Vice President for Research
September 2016
Q: What does Sustainability mean to you?
A: Sustainability refers to an activity that can be sustained indefinitely. If the activity consumes resources faster than they can be replenished or produces wastes faster than the environmental can assimilate them, then it is not sustainable.

Q: Describe the class you teach.
A: For the past 27 years, I have taught Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, a senior level environmental engineering required course. This year, we will morph this class into a broader course on sustainable resource management.

Q: What do you do at UCF to advance sustainability initiatives?
A: I serve on the UCF Sustainability Advisory Committee. Over the past few years I have talked about my sustainability research as part of the NSF funded Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) initiative that brought STEM and art faculty and students together. I teach and mentor graduate and undergraduate students about sustainable waste management. As part of a National Science Foundation research project, we are looking at ways to engage UCF students regarding the food, energy, water, nexus. In particular we are focusing on food waste and its implications with regard to the energy and water lost in growing and processing food that was not consumed. And of course I do not buy bottled water!

Q: How can students get involved in your work?
A: I work with undergraduate researchers. There is always room for talented students interested in garbage research!

Q: What is your vision for sustainability?
A: My research focus is largely in the area of solid waste management. We have seen a major shift in this field with the growing recognition that waste volume can be minimized through recycling and reuse. Viewing "waste" as a resource means that extraction of raw materials can be largely avoided which, in turn, reduces emissions and energy use, protects ecosystems, and avoids landfilling of degradable materials (and the production of methane). The European Union refers to this as the circular economy. Even in a circular economy, there will always be residuals, but they can be minimized and managed at reduced environmental impact and cost through thoughtful product design and public education.