Meet the OEP Interns: Katie

October 6, 2017

“Opportunity knocks when you least expect it.” For Katie Main, that proverb explains how she rejuvenated her passion about environmental sustainability and jump-started her path to an environmental career. As a sophomore, Katie experienced a couple of ‘reality checks.’ While she had found her place academically as a student in UConn’s Environmental Engineering program, her course load of upper-level math, physics, and chemistry momentarily distanced her from the environmental issues that led to her passion for nature and the environment in the first place, especially growing up as the daughter of a Westchester County parks and conservation employee.

Although her involvement in several environmental initiatives on campus provided her space to exercise her passion, she still craved more. It wasn’t until she heard of the Office of Environmental Policy through her active membership in the EcoHusky student group, that Katie was finally able to find a strong outlet for her passions as part of her college experience.

Intern Katie (left) recycling during Football GreenGame Day

Since joining the OEP intern team in the spring of 2016, Katie has dedicated her time to several sustainability initiatives, including the maintenance of the Sustainability Office’s website and the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, roll-out of the EcoCoin program to reduce plastic bag use at the campus bookstore, and organization of GreenGame Days. Of her responsibilities, GreenGame Days (GGDs) continue to be her favorite projects – these outreach events are a perfect fusion of her interests both inside and outside of the office. As a season-ticket holder for UConn football and lifetime fan of UConn Basketball, GGDs allow Katie to show her UConn spirit while also promoting environmental stewardship to Husky Nation.

Now a senior in Environmental Engineering, where she is a dean’s list student, mentor and member of the Engineering Honors Society, Tau Beta Pi, Katie’s versatility as an OEP intern is always on display. When she is not working on some kind of graphic design (she designed the awesome new GGD logo last year), you can find Katie buried in the Greenhouse Gas Inventory excel spreadsheet or coordinating the rollout of the new UConn Bookstore EcoCoin.

Outside of the OEP office, Katie spends a majority of her time involved in other campus activities, serving as the Treasurer for EcoHusky, an undergraduate research assistant in solar energy, and member of ECOalition, which is a caucus of student environmental leaders. On the off chance she is not doing any of these, you will most likely find Katie snuggled up with her best friend/dog Milo or obsessively planning her future super eco-friendly, and hopefully LEED-certified, home, on AutoCAD and Chief Architect.

And there we have it! The third installment of ‘Meet the OEP Interns.’ Next week, we will meet two more impressive interns, one of whom serves as the President of the Undergraduate Society of Plastics Engineers, and another who is a dual undergraduate/master’s student. Can you guess who?
Until next time!

Meet the OEP Interns: Adrianna & Ben

October 3, 2017

Last week in the first edition of the ‘Meet the Interns’ series, we met seasoned intern Christen, a senior who began working at the OEP in her second semester. This week, we will meet two more talented interns, seniors Ben and Adrianna. Environmental crusaders in their own right, Ben and Adrianna are campus leaders who have tailored both their academic and work experience to fit their passion for the environment.

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Intern Ben presenting an award at the ELA’s.

An Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major, Ben has defined this pursuit with active campus advocacy, serving as an officer in ECOalition and former Chair of the Honors’ Council Environmental Committee. These positions have allowed him to support initiatives such as the creation of a sustainability general education requirement. For Adrianna, an Environmental Studies major, her dual involvement as an intern and co-President of EcoHusky has enabled her push to prevent food waste and promote green offices across campus.

While they both have impressive track records as they begin their third consecutive year at the OEP, the question still remains: who are Ben and Adrianna?

 

To his colleagues at the OEP, Ben is a knowledgeable resource with a wealth of information regarding everything from sustainability-related courses on campus, to the best hiking trails in the Alps. His keen attention to detail allows him to serve as a lead intern on several projects such as the EcoMadness competition, the Environmental Leadership Awards, and the development of interpretive signs about wildlife and natural resources for hiking trails in the Hillside
Environmental Education Park. Outside of the OEP, Ben is an avid world traveler, with thirteen passport stamps to prove it. Through his travels, Ben has taken on several roles, such as serving as a UConn delegate at the UN’s Climate Summit in Morocco, a student of field ecology at a nature preserve in South Africa, a backpacker in northeastern Europe, and, this summer, a student at the prestigious Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel. An aspiring wildlife conservationist with a wide variety of talents, Ben is well on his way!

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Intern Adrianna with one of her favorite animals!

Intern Adrianna also has several talents and extra-curricular leadership activities, all punctuated by her positive attitude and welcoming demeanor. Known by all as a kindred spirt, Adrianna is gifted in her ability to bring people together in an engaging and productive environment.  That skill helps her succeed in coordinating the Green Office Certification Program, where she has enjoyed leading lively discussions with Green Office Team Organizers, the OEP’s “GO TO” list of environmentally-minded faculty and staff who have taken the lead in certifying their departments. Her range of skills also allows her to take on other projects such as the Tree Campus USA application, the corresponding Arbor Day Celebration, and completing the Sustainable Dining and Waste Reduction sections of the Sierra Club survey. Given her wide range of contributions, Adrianna has been a key change agent at UConn!

And there we have it: part two of the ‘Meet the Interns’ special series. Next week we will profile intern Katie – an environmental engineering student and avid ‘Chopped’ fan!

Meet the OEP Interns: Christen Bellucci

September 18, 2017

Nestled past the construction-lined North Eagleville Road and the buzzing center of Parking & Transportation Services lies a small, modular office building of the most modest proportions. This simple vanilla structure is home to two UConn departments, including my new workplace as an intern at the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP).  This humble exterior, located on the edge of the main campus and at the gateway to the nascent UConn Tech Park, might initially lead onlookers to miss the impressive fusion of homey welcome and innovative thinking found inside the OEP. Amongst the hustle and bustle of the OEP’s Sustainability Office, one may also be surprised by the constant flow of student interns milling in and out throughout the week.

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UConn Planning, Architecture, and Engineering Services building, home to the OEP

Who are these students and what are they doing?

As one of the newer interns, that is what I have set out to discover and report in a series of blog posts to begin the fall 2017 semester! Welcome to ‘Meet the Sustainability Interns’ Part 1!

Brought together by a shared interest in environmental stewardship, the current class of OEP interns are similar in their dedication to sustainability and different in the passionate lives they lead inside and outside of the office. Amongst the dedicated crew, you can find the President of the Undergraduate Society of Plastic Engineers, a dedicated fan of the hit television show ‘Chopped’, a dual undergraduate/masters student, several world travelers, and undergraduate researchers. Multifaceted in their talents and interests, each intern hosts an array of qualities that play a crucial role in raising awareness and constantly striving to improve campus sustainability at UConn.

Christen EDSF
Christen and Jonathan the Husky at Earth Day Spring Fling 2017

In our first edition, we will be profiling Christen, a seasoned intern with three years of OEP experience. A talented member of the intern team, you can thank Christen for her regular compilation and editing of the OEP Sustainability newsletter and her diligent planning skills that allow the annual Earth Day Spring Fling in April to be the successful event that it is. Nowadays, if she is not working on these or other projects, you will most likely find her chatting away about the newest edition of her family, Bixby, her energetic puppy – or snacking. With three years under her belt, Christen has learned to channel her interests and skills in order to facilitate real, tangible change on campus.  Through her work on a multitude of different tasks, from social media outreach to the Green Campus Academic Network, she has succeeded!

Christen and Bixby
Christen and her new puppy, Bixby

Outside the office, Christen continues to spend her time as an involved student, serving as the co-President for EcoHusky and as a member of the UConn Honors Program and Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society. Her first trip abroad last fall was a memorable one – she traveled with a select group of 12 students, as part of the UConn@COP22 cohort, to participate in the U.N.’s annual Climate Summit, held in Marrakech, Morocco. Christen is a mentor and friend to the rest of the OEP interns, and has consistently proved herself as an essential asset to the team.

And there we have it – our first intern on the ‘Meet the Interns’ special. Next week, we will meet two more of the talented students the OEP is lucky to call interns – Adrianna and Ben.

Until next time, Guten Tag!

-Wawa Gatheru

#ShrinkYourDormPrint @UConn

August 31, 2017

LED Desk Lamps 2017
A student picking up his free energy efficient LED desk lamp at the UConn Bookstore (photo courtesy of @EversourceCT)

The upcoming school year is looking as bright as ever, as thousands of new and returning students recently flocked to the bookstore to receive the sleekest new edition to the #shrinkyourdormprint movement – an energy efficient, multifunctional LED desk lamp generously provided by UConn and it’s energy provider, Eversource. Equipped with varying light intensity, color, and height variations, not only is this lamp a terrific addition to dorm aesthetics, but it provides students the chance to take part in UConn’s commitment to an environmentally sustainable future. With this new dorm addition, students can keep their dorms well-lit and be more energy efficient with a product that uses at least 75% less energy and lasts 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.

According to estimates by Eversource, student use of LED light bulbs for task lighting in the dorms saves more than 600,000kWh a year, concurrently reducing UConn’s carbon footprint by 400 tons of eCO2 and saving $60,000 in energy costs. These statistics also fall in line with UConn’s Climate Action Plan, where LED transition is a major component. Eversource has also estimated that if every student switched one old-school lamp with an LED, the saved emissions would total that similar to a small power plant for two semesters – and looking at the eager faces of students lined around the perimeter of the bookstore, it looks as though that statistic could one day be a reality.

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A close up of the LED desk lamp box

UConn LED Desk Lamp Giveaway Video

This year-round attention to energy efficiency does not stop here. UConn also replaced refrigerators in both Charter Oak and Northwood apartments with ones that met the government-issued Energy Star standard. From June 15th to July 18th, 300 refrigerators were replaced, a transition that will conserve a whopping 10,000 kWh!

Energy Star refrigerator on its way into a Charter Oaks Apartment
Energy Star refrigerator on its way into a Charter Oaks Apartment

While the massive distribution of LED bulbs and refrigerators are themselves impressive feats, the giveaways signified something much more. With the generous support from Eversource, these initiatives are proof of UConn’s commitment to environmental stewardship, and more impressively, its commitment to maintaining this objective both in and out of the regular academic sessions and simultaneously involving students in the process.

 

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Herbst Joins Peers in the Commitment to Uphold the Paris Agreement

June 6, 2017

hashtag we're still inOn Friday, June 2nd, President Susan Herbst signed the Grand Coalition Statement on the Paris Agreement, joining 183 universities, 125 mayors, 9 governors, and over 900 businesses who will continue to recognize the United States’ contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement despite recent policy decisions from Washington.  Please visit the We Are Still In webpage for a complete list of signatories and quotes from various leaders, including our very own Susan Herbst.

“UConn is deeply committed to supporting environmental health and sustainability in any way we can.  The decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement does not mean that we as a university should abdicate our own responsibility to do what we believe is best for our state, the nation, and the world with respect to our environment. We will steadfastly continue to do our part in contributing to global efforts to address climate change.” – Susan Herbst, President, University of Connecticut

An excerpt from the Grand Coalition Statement from a climate leadership organization called Second Nature declares, “It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses.” The statement is titled with the phrase We Are Still In, which captures the sentiment of subnational actors and civil groups across the country.  There is reason more than ever to stay optimistic and determined in the fight to reduce carbon emissions.

We are still in

Check out the articles below for more information:

Coverage in a New York Times article Bucking Trump, These Cities, States and Companies Commit to Paris Accord

Coverage in the Chronical of Higher Education, Colleges’ Message on Upholding Paris Climate Accord: ‘We Are Still In’

2020 Vision: Transportation

April 5, 2017

Through recent innovations like bringing car-sharing service Zipcar to campus, implementing a shuttle service between Storrs and the UConn Health Center, and UConn Outdoor’s new bike share program, UConn has demonstrated its strong commitment to sustainable transportation. With the introduction of the 2020 Vision for Campus Sustainability and Climate Leadership by the UConn administration, new innovations in campus transportation are slated to be implemented soon.

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UConn Rec’s Cycle Share program allows for a bike friendly campus (UConn Recreation)

The 2020 Vision for Campus Sustainability and Climate Leadership sets out a series of goals for increasing campus sustainability, broken into categories including Energy & Buildings, Waste Reduction & Diversion, Food & Dining, and Transportation. Through the 2020 Vision, UConn has declared an intention to increase the percentage of electric and hybrid vehicles in UConn’s light duty fleet to 25% from the 18% baseline in 2015. UConn is also hoping to increase passenger trips on the University shuttle buses from 1.3 million per year in 2015 to 1.5 million per year by 2020. In addition to these initiatives, actions have already been taken this semester to increase sustainable transportation on campus. New buses have joined UConn’s fleet, equipped with bike racks for passengers who cycle.

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A bus from UConn Storrs’ campus fleet (UConn Media Share)

Moving forward, the Office of Environmental Policy is examining how else we can increase sustainable transportation. At a recent student summit based around the 2020 Vision, transportation was a key topic of discussion. Many students were interested in increasing the number and frequency of bus routes going to off campus housing locations like Northwood Apartments, Carriage House Apartments, and Hunting Lodge Apartments. Additionally, students wanted more bike paths to be added to major roads such as 195. They also noted that sustainable transportation would increase if there was more awareness of programs on campus that support sustainable transportation, such as the carpool app, Zipcar, and UConn Outdoor’s bike share program, which is new as of last semester.

Interestingly, while the 2020 Vision focuses primarily on UConn’s campus fleet and buses, student ideas were based on support for sustainable transportation by students and faculty, including increased bike paths and carpooling. Thus, the combined perspective of the student viewpoint and administration priorities create a more holistic picture of how transportation at UConn can be made more sustainable.

2020 Vision Student Summit Reflections

March 31, 2017

On Wednesday February 22nd, the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) hosted the 2020 Vision Student Summit, with the goal of obtaining student opinions on the UConn administration’s new plans to increase campus sustainability. Approximately 25 to 30 students attended and deliberated over how we can meet the Vision’s goals, as well as even more ambitious goals we can set for the future. In groups of 3-4, students discussed initiatives for topics ranging from transportation and purchasing to energy to food and waste management. During each group session, OEP interns recorded ideas for achieving our goals and setting new ones. Students then voted on which ideas seemed most plausible and impactful. Here are some pertinent reflections on the event written by student attendees:

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Students gather to discuss 2020 Vision goals

 

“The specific goals of the 2020 Vision Plan appeared ambitious at first glance, and I was somewhat skeptical going into the meeting. Attending the summit and hearing that some of the goals set have already essentially been reached, however, such as the plan to reduce potable water consumption by 30% (UConn is currently at 29% if I recall correctly), altered that feeling dramatically. I’m far more optimistic about the eventual achievement of these goals, and excited for them to come to fruition.” – Sophie Macdonald

“From transportation to purchasing, dining to water, the school has people working in every possible way. Not only that, even though considerable strides have already been made towards a more sustainable campus, the dedication to the cause never waivers and there are always new objectives in sight.” – Emma Belliveau

“My favorite part was when I was in a small group with 2 other people and 2 interns and we were posed with the challenge of figuring out how to maintain the HEEP on campus. I felt very passionate about this because of all my personal experiences maintaining outdoor areas like parks and wooded fields, and doing trail work.” – Kelly Finn

2020 vision for campus sustainability and climate leadership
Overview of the plan’s components

“The… section that stood out to me was the outreach and engagement section. One of the goals under this section is to formalize UCONN@COP as “a co-curricular, experiential learning and leadership development program…” I personally love this initiative because after attending the Climate Café, I realized what a great opportunity this trip would be. There is no better way for students to learn about climate change than to attend the global conference dedicated to the issue, and UCONN should recognize the program for the opportunity that it is.” – Matthew McKenna

“At the UConn 2020 Vision Plan Student Summit, it became clear to me that at UConn, sustainability is not just a buzzword or a label the university uses to pat itself on the back. Rather, sustainability is a mode of operation and a system of values that governs policymaking and is upheld by an interdisciplinary team of passionate students and professional leaders.” – Weston Henry

“What the 2020 Summit did for me was to give me a more comprehensive understanding of the efforts that UConn undertakes, past, present, and future. It helped me to understand why UConn undertakes certain efforts, why it doesn’t take up others, and how the work of the OEP and its staff is able to shape UConn every single day.” – Colin Mortimer

“I was absolutely blown away by the sense of creativity and motivation that I felt while we were all discussing the different ideas for UConn’s 2020 Vision. I deeply enjoyed the presentation by Director Richard Miller because he gave many fascinating details that I was not aware of beforehand. I am certainly proud of our university for ranking in the top ten on two separate sustainability indexes.” – Joshua Tellier

UConn@COP23 – Bonn Climate Change Conference

March 9, 2017

Bonn

Trip Description

COP 23 is the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and will be hosted this year by the small Pacific island state, Fiji, and held in Bonn, Germany from November 6 th to November 17th, 2017. The event will bring together diplomats, business executives, heads of government and other delegates to discuss action on climate change. COP 23 will highlight the voices of countries most vulnerable to climate change, and will focus on action.

In the words of Fiji Prime Minister and Chair of COP 23, Frank Bainimarama, he will be “guiding the deliberations of almost 200 countries as [they] gather in Bonn, Germany, in November to continue to seek a more decisive response on the part of the industrial nations….And to set aside funds to enable developing countries such as Fiji to adapt to the changes to their way of life that have been caused through no fault of [their] own.”1

The University of Connecticut will be providing full funding, excluding meals other than breakfast, for a select group of undergraduate students to travel to Bonn from November 12th – November 18th to attend events associated with the conference. Airfare, housing, and city transportation will be provided. In addition, students will have the opportunity to experience the beautiful city of Bonn, Germany.

Application

The application must be completed and submitted to sarah.munro@uconn.edu by 11:59pm EST on Monday, April 3rd in order to be considered by the Selection Committee for the trip. Only complete applications will be considered. Applicants will be notified of the Committee’s decision via e-mail on Monday, August 18th. Decisions will not be released prior to then.

For more information on past UConn@COPs, click here.

1 http://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Center/Speeches/HON-PRIME-MINISTER-BAINIMARAMA-2017-NEW-YEAR-S-MES.aspx

UConn Talks Climate at the Climate Change Cafe

March 8, 2017

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Margaux Verlaque-Amara talking to an attendee about her experiences at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco.

In early February, the UConn contingent to COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, hosted its Climate Change Café, an opportunity for the UConn community to learn about their experiences at the UN Climate Change Conference. Through conversations and a series of posters made by the students, those in attendance were able to learn more about climate change, global politics, and human rights, and how they are all connected. A number of attendees wrote thoughtful reflections describing their experiences at the Café. Below are some highlights from the reflections:

The idea that every country can get together to talk about the future of sustainability shows that this is bigger than a political issue. It is a human issue. –Joshua Tellier

Attending a conference like COP would help me get a better grasp on the impact of climate change both in America and in other countries, and this would help me in my studies and my career. –Matthew McKenna

Poster
One of the posters on display at the Climate Change Cafe. Written and designed by Kristen Burnham.

The best aspect of the Café…was the students who were there to explain their posters and talk firsthand about the issues surrounding climate change. –Weston Henry

“36 of the 50 countries most affected by climate change are in Sub-Saharan Africa”. This fact was posted on one of the 15+ informational posters in the room. Although a region with mostly developing nations, of which only contribute “4% of global carbon emissions”, this area of Africa experiences some of the most severe effects of environmental degradation. –Kelly Finn

Attending this event was deeply inspiring, and gave me hope for the future. –Sophie MacDonald

UConnatCOP22
The UConn contingent to COP22 outside the Green Zone.

It was awesome to learn that such an opportunity exists to travel somewhere completely different, so far away and with such a unique culture, to interact with fellow students and activists who have the same mission. –Emma Belliveau

The continuation of the COP22 event and the positivity and hope exhibited from delegates and world citizens alike, prove that resistance, even in the direst situations, is both possible and relevant. –Wawa Gatheru

The future is truly bright green, and the continuing support of UConn to give students the resources and experience to be future pioneers of this change reaffirms this. –Colin Mortimer

First Ever Carbon-Free UConn Basketball Games!

February 27, 2017

carbon-free-certificateEvery spring, volunteers from the EcoHusky student group and EcoHouse learning community come together to raise environmental awareness at Basketball Green Game Days. By teaching fans how to recycle, and collecting bottles at the end of the game, volunteers always play an integral role in making these events “green.” This year’s Green Game Days were special because, for the very first time, the Office of Environmental Policy purchased carbon offsets to make the games carbon-free!

Carbon offsets are credits purchased that represent the reduction of an amount of carbon dioxide emissions. In cases such as powering a basketball game, where it is difficult or impossible to reduce associated emissions, a carbon offset can be purchased to fund the reduction of greenhouse gases elsewhere. This is a great tool for organizations that would like to mitigate their carbon impacts, but when it is not feasible for them to do so directly.

twitter-postWe would like to thank all of our volunteers for their time and enthusiasm. With their help, we were able to collect enough bottles to donate $40 to the Campus Sustainability Fund to support more programs and initiatives to raise environmental awareness. We would also like to thank UConn Athletics for their time and effort to promote sustainability. We greatly appreciate the P.A. announcements, video board slides, and social media posts throughout the events. We look forward to working with you at future Green Game Days!