interns

UConn – and Sustainability – Score at This Fall’s Green Game Day

There was something different and exciting about the second home game of UConn’s football season.  For one, it turned out to be UConn’s first win of the season. But more importantly, Husky fans tailgating before the game were greeted by dozens of students in blue and green shirts carrying around trash bags, picking up bottles and cans, and giving out sustainability-themed trinkets.

Who were these students, and why were they at Rentschler Field? EcoHusky members and EcoHouse residents, along with OEP interns, had gotten together for our fall Green Game Day! Each year, the OEP partners with Athletics to educate not only UConn students but also Husky fans from all over Connecticut on the importance of recycling.

Martin Wolek collects cans from Jary Remly, a resident of Storrs. (Lucas Voghell/UConn Photo)

Volunteers walked around the parking lots, interacting with tailgaters while collecting bottles and cans. It was messy work – many shoes were dirtied with mysterious liquids in the process – but that did not dampen the students’ spirit. This year, 2.4 tons of recyclables were collected according to Windsor Sanitation, the most on record from any Green Game Day! Meanwhile, OEP staff and interns stationed at the Green Game Day tent during FanFest quizzed young and old on environmental facts while playing our brand new Plinko game for prizes.

A dedicated EcoHusky member gets his hands (and legs) dirty while digging for recyclables in a dumpster!

Another exciting addition to this Green Game Day event was a recycling PSA video the office created featuring the one and only Jonathan the Husky! In the video, Jonathan teaches you how to recycle by recycling a plastic water bottle himself!  If you haven’t seen it, it is one of the cutest videos you will see all year. It was shown on the Jumbo Tron before the game, and ‘awws’ could be heard throughout the stadium as it played. Check out our Facebook page to see it for yourself!

 

Thanks to our smiling, extremely dedicated, and hardworking volunteers, Green Game Day was a success! A big shout to all who made it possible. We’re looking forward to the next one in February!

Volunteers pose for a picture in high spirits before heading out to volunteer!

 

6 Stupendous Sustainability Courses to Take in Fall 2018

With the Spring Semester quickly reaching its end, the class pick time season is once again upon us. Lucky for UConn students, there are hundreds of interesting courses to choose from, ranging from topics as far and wide as the mind can imagine. However, given this range of options, it can be difficult to navigate the extensive class lists. As students with passions for sustainability, the interns at the Office of Environmental Policy have compiled a concise list of some of their favorite sustainability courses, all of which are offered this upcoming fall. We hope that this list will aid your class selection process! Happy choosing!

 

SPSS/SAPL 2100: Environmental Sustainability of Food Production in Developed Countries

(Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

The current average population increase is estimated at a staggering 83 million people per year, a number that places us at 9.7 billion people by 2050. Given this steady increase, food production will need to accommodate the growing population size. However, the agricultural sector currently contributes to one third of the Earth’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The sector will need to alter its current practices to ensure both food security and environmental sustainability. Take this class to investigate alternative food systems, and the benefits and environmental risks associated with modern food production. (3 credits)

 PHIL 3216: Environmental Ethics

Do trees have rights? Whose interests count? Whose interests must we consider? If you have ever pondered these questions, look no further. This class allows students to inquire about the extension of ethics to both human and non-human species, and challenges traditional boundaries of philosophical thought. (3 credits)

AH 3175: Environmental Health 

The environment is not just made up of the woods in our backyards or the national parks we hike. It is also the quality of the air we breathe and the clean water we drink. This course investigates the true meaning of environmental health as a crucial component of any public health system, and exposes students to the health consequences of exposure to toxic chemicals, radiation, and food contaminants. Open to junior or higher, this course provides an advanced perspective of the basic principles of toxicology and complex occupational hazards.  (3 credits)

Senior OEP intern Christen highly recommends this course, saying: “Environmental Health is a great interdisciplinary course that highlights the ways we impact our environment, as well as how our environment impacts us.”

BADM 3252: Corporate Social Impact and Responsibility

Can the private sector contribute to a future of shared environmental accountability, equity, and sustainability? Learn to navigate this debate in class through the deconstruction, and discussion, of social impacts and human rights implications as they relate to global operations of multinational corporations.  (3 credits)

SPSS 1125: Insects, Food, Culture

Welcome to the interesting world of bugs and their multifaceted interactions with nature and people. A perfect course for fans of Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, this course introduces the varied roles of insects in traditional human culture, ranging from their contributions to fiber and food production, popular culture, and commerce.  (3 credits)

EVST 1000: Introduction to Environmental Studies

Need one more class to fulfill content area two, social sciences? Want to think critically about the intersections of contemporary environmental themes across a wide array of sectors and disciplines? Introduction to Environmental Studies is the course for you. Explore environmental action from a variety of approaches and take a look at the different perspectives of the relationships between humans and nature. (3 Credits)

Here’s what our interns have to say:

Jon: “Great introduction to analyzing environmental issues from a holistic perspective”

Emma: “This class was basic enough for a non-major student to be interested and understanding of the content while laying a strong groundwork for any students with an Environmental major.”

 

 

 

Meet the OEP Interns: Sophie, Jon, and Wawa

Jon, Wawa, and Sophie on their way to Football Green Game Day

This semester, the OEP gained three ambitious, bright, and talented interns: Sophie MacDonald, Jon Ursillo, and Wawa Gatheru. Although they’ve only been a part of our team for a few months, they’ve already made incredible impacts within and outside of the office.

Sophie quickly found herself involved in a great number of office initiatives, including the implementation of the new EcoCoin program in the UConn Bookstore, rating offices throughout the university on their sustainability efforts as part of the Green Office Certification Program, and working on our Tree Campus application. She is also the creative designer of our new OEP Sustainability Office logo!

When she’s not busy in the office or balancing her demanding Mechanical Engineering course load, Sophie is involved in both Engineers Without Borders and the Hibernation Team for Ethiopia. She loves being outdoors, whether it be hiking, birding, or traveling to national parks. Fun fact: this summer, Sophie will be travelling to Machu Picchu to hike with UConn Choose a Challenge! She is also the second high school valedictorian on the OEP’s current intern team, graduating top of her class at Litchfield High School in 2016. She joins Christen, who held that honor for the 2014 graduating class at Hampton Bays High School, in New York.

Prior to interning at the OEP, Jon was selected to be a facilitator for the honors UNIV course in Environmental Sustainability, where he was first able to connect his appreciation of the environment to university sustainability. His enthusiasm and achievements in this setting have translated immensely during his time in the office, during which he has already begun working closely with Facilities Operations to update and homogenize recycling throughout our campus. In addition, he has played important roles in the organization and success of our Football Green Game Day and EcoMadness events.

Jon’s interest in environmental sustainability extends far beyond the OEP, as he is a double major in Environmental Sciences and Economics, and an involved member of the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition and the Protect Rhode Island Brook Trout organization. His appreciation of the environment stems from his love of all things outdoors, including hiking, fishing, and skiing. Also a brother of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity, Jon continues to pursue leadership and service in the UConn community.

Our final intern, Wawa, has brought a wealth of experience and ambition to the OEP, with an endless list of leadership roles and involvement in campus initiatives. These include her positions as USG Student Services Chairwoman, Research Assistant in the Nutrition Department, SOS Food Recovery Volunteer, Cross Cultural Connections Partner, former HuskyNutrition student coordinator, and FYE Mentor for Global House. She also serves on the Dean of Students Advisory Board, Chief Diversity Officer Student Advisory Board, and the Courses and Curricula University Senate Sub-Committee. She even helped to spearhead the campus ‘ban the bottle’ initiative, and has been a strong advocate for the Sustainability General Education Requirement.

During her time at the OEP, Wawa has dedicated herself to social media outreach and blog writing, as well as offering immense support with EcoMadness event organization and the Green Office Certification Program. She is a strong believer that the environment plays a fundamental role in every aspect of life, and it is clear that Wawa has integrated this passion into each of her endeavors. As an Applied and Resource Economics major fluent in three languages, with Kenyan heritage and over a year spent in Thailand, we foresee Wawa having a lasting impact on environmental sustainability, both at UConn and globally.

That concludes our ‘Meet the OEP Interns’ series! If you missed out on learning about any of the other featured interns, please see the following links:

Christen

Adrianna & Ben

Katie

Caroline & Hannah

Meet the OEP Interns: Caroline & Hannah

What could the captain of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team and an avid “Chopped” enthusiast possibly have in common? Besides an uncanny love for all things outdoors (and the ability to binge watch several episodes of a television series), both students are current sustainability interns at the Office of Environmental Policy! In our fourth installment of the ‘Meet the Interns’ blog, we will profile two more remarkable interns, junior Caroline and senior Hannah. Each very different in their current endeavors and career aspirations, Caroline and Hannah are brought together by a genuine passion for sustainability, a unifying trait that makes them both student environmental leaders.

Junior Caroline’s path to the OEP was nothing short of fate. As a first-semester Chemistry major in the Honors Program, Caroline hoped to continue the environmental involvement she had enjoyed in high school, where she won several accolades including the Northeast Resource Recycling Association (NRRA) Innovative Recycling Idea award, the EcoMaine Eco-Excellence award, and the Aquarion Water Company Environmental Champion Award for a compost project she coordinated her senior year. That experience led her to enroll in the one credit UNIV course in Environmental Sustainability taught by the OEP’s Director, Rich Miller. She excelled in the class, often volunteering for extra credit work, like collecting recyclables at Green Game Day – not because she needed the bonus points but because she loved making a difference.

Soon after her first semester and the UNIV course had ended, she was encouraged to apply for an OEP sustainability internship. Determined as she is about many of her goals, Caroline jumped at the chance – and the rest is history! Fast forward two years and we find an experienced, hard-working team player, who considers her internship an opportunity that has undeniably transformed her college experience. She even stayed in Connecticut this past summer and worked part-time hours at the OEP, rather than return home to New Hampshire.
Caroline’s internship has not only fulfilled her college aspiration of continued environmental involvement, but also taught her about sustainability initiatives on campus and the inter-workings of the university as a whole. Whether it’s analyzing data in order to maintain UConn’s top 10 Green Campus national rankings or manning a recycling dumpster at Rentschler Field, Caroline is all about teamwork and helping out wherever she can. In her two years as a sustainability intern, she has become an expert in her focused initiatives, namely the EcoMadness competition and Green Game Days. As a lead intern for both events, Caroline has served on the front lines for UConn community engagement and outreach covering topics from energy and water conservation to proper recycling during football games. She’s excited about traveling to Bonn, Germany for the UN’s Annual climate summit next month, as part of the UConn@COP23 contingent.
Additionally remarkable, is Caroline’s involvement outside of the office. She has previously worked as a ski instructor, and continues to serve as an undergraduate researcher, captain and secretary of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, and President of a newly created club, the Undergraduate Society of Plastics Engineers. An intern of the coolest proportions, the OEP is incredibly lucky to call Caroline one of their own!

Senior sustainability intern, Hannah, adds to the long list of talented undergraduates working at the OEP, as she is simultaneously earning her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Master’s in Public Policy. While her passion for environmental policy has been long evident, her involvement in campus sustainability initiatives on campus has allowed her to solidify her career aspirations. Prior to her employment at the OEP, Hannah had directed her environmental passions towards EcoHusky, where she led a successful shoe and sneaker recycling drive as an officer in the student organization. After discovering the OEP internship opportunity and successfully receiving a position, Hannah quickly became an involved member of the OEP team. In her time as an intern, Hannah has taken the lead on several initiative, such as: planning student engagement and educational activities for UConn@COP, organizing the first inter-fraternity recycling competition as part of the annual football Green Game Day, assessing grant and fundraising opportunities for the Campus Sustainability Fund, and gathering data in order to complete the survey for the GreenMetric World University rankings, in which UConn has consistently scored among the top five. Along with a select group of 12 UConn students, she traveled in November 2016 to Marrakech, Morocco for the U.N.’s 22nd annual International Climate Summit (COP22) – it was her first time abroad!

Outside of the OEP, Hannah keeps a busy schedule, but not at the expense of academics, as she is a consistent CLAS Dean’s List student. After a year as an officer in EcoHusky, she remains active in the club, is an avid outdoorswoman AND massive “Chopped” fan. Hannah is planning on an environmental career after UConn – the past two summers she interned for Dominion Energy as a Diversity Scholarship Recipient. She worked for Dominion at their environmental lab on the Connecticut coast in 2016 and, this past summer, as an environmental compliance intern at their West Virginia plant. She enjoyed and excelled at her summer jobs, so much so that she will work with them again next summer, as an energy intern, at Dominion’s corporate headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. And while Hannah is clearly on an impressive trajectory towards a career in Environmental Policy, if all else fails, you will most likely find Hannah living her life as a scuba diver recovering lost things.

And there we have it – two more of our fabulous OEP Interns!

Next week, we will meet the final set of interns, the newest members of the OEP’s sustainability team: Sophie, Jon, and myself (Wawa)!
Until then!

 

 

Meet the OEP Interns: Katie

“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

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.

Ben Picture!
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!

Adrianna
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

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.

PAES building
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

It’s Official – UConn is a Tree Campus

With Earth Day and Arbor Day fast approaching, UConn recently learned that it is the first college in Connecticut and only the third school in New England to be named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. The University joins a group of almost 200 schools nationwide that have earned this distinction for their commitment to tree conservation and preservation.

arbor daytree campus usaThis certification is given by the Arbor Day Foundation to university campuses that effectively:

  • Manage their campus trees
  • Develop connectivity with the community beyond campus borders to foster healthy urban forests
  • Strive to engage their student population utilizing service learning opportunities centered on campus and community forestry efforts

 

Pagoda Tree (Styphnolobium Japonicum) near Wilbur Cross. Photos by Mark Brand, UConn Plant Science Dept.
Pagoda Tree (Styphnolobium Japonicum) near Wilbur Cross. Photos by Mark Brand, UConn Plant Science Dept.
Shingle Oak (Quercus Imbricaria)  near Wilbur Cross. Photo by Mark Brand.
Shingle Oak (Quercus Imbricaria) near Wilbur Cross. Photo by Mark Brand.

 

Former Vice Provost and emeritus EEB faculty member, Greg Anderson, co-chairs the UConn Arboretum Committee and was thrilled by this accomplishment. “This impressive recognition for UConn is gratifying.  So many people for so many decades have worked to make the natural environment not only a handsome complement to the ever-improving built environment on our campus, but also an effective way to frame the landscape and a useful tool for educating our students and others about a diversity of tree species.”  The Arboretum Committee’s website includes a Campus Tree Touring Guide to 40 different special trees that can be seen on a leisurely walk around the main campus.   “It’s great to see the long-term and ongoing commitment by so many students, staff and faculty be recognized in this way.”

A Camperdown Elm (Ulmus glabra Camperdownii) on the Great Lawn. Photo by Mark Brand
A Camperdown Elm (Ulmus glabra Camperdownii) on the Great Lawn. Photo by Mark Brand

The Tree Campus designation has five components. The first is a Tree Advisory Committee – the UConn Arboretum Committee fulfills this requirement. The second component of Tree Campus USA is a campus tree care plan. This plan contains information for planting, maintenance, prohibited practices, as well as goals for campus tree preservation. UConn’s plan was developed by the Office of Environmental Policy in conjunction with the campus tree warden and Arboretum Committee member, Eileen McHugh, who also spoke about the tree campus designation. “Tree Campus USA certification is tremendous recognition for the coordinated efforts at UConn to protect and promote the trees that are such a vibrant part of UConn’s character.”

A Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica) on campus. Photo by Mark Brand
A Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica) on campus. Photo by Mark Brand

The third component of this designation is a commitment to preservation of the on-campus arboretum, which requires both dedicated annual expenditures for things like planting and maintenance, as well as volunteer time. In 2013, the University dedicated more than $350,000 to campus tree preservation.

The final components of the Tree Campus certification are an Arbor Day Observance and Service Learning Projects. As part of Earth Day Spring Fling, UConn held an Arbor Day Observance and tree planting on April 18th last year. In addition to this event, UConn students, faculty and community members engaged in service learning projects through demonstrations and coursework.

The Dawn Redwood (metasequoia-glyptostroboides) near Arjona Building on Whitney Rd. Photo by Mark Brand
The Dawn Redwood (metasequoia-glyptostroboides) near Arjona Building on Whitney Rd. Photo by Mark Brand

Tree Campus USA is an annual certification, so this year, UConn is developing additional service learning projects, along with outreach events like the Arbor Day Observance.  Join members of the Arboretum Committee and others on April 22nd, during the 2014 Earth Day Spring Fling celebration, in acknowledging this distinction with a tree planting celebration (more details to come)!

– Andy

 

P.S. (From Corinne) – Andy worked incredibly hard to make sure that UConn received Tree Campus USA recognition.  Without his dedication, this project would not have been completed.

Intern Reflection Essay: Climate Change Inequality

Last summer I studied abroad in Iceland. A country at the forefront of renewable energy, Iceland has the potential to be a global leader in sustainability. Its energy is almost entirely powered from geothermal and hydroelectric and thus it is capable of an exceptionally small carbon footprint. However, there is no drive for this among the Icelandic people. Lights are kept on throughout the daytime and cars are driven for errands just down the street. This contrasts remarkably with an earlier visit I made to Peru. The Peruvians lack many of the resources we take for granted in the United States and yet the environmental devastation they live within—littered streets, polluted air, and dirty water—causes no alarm among its citizens.

There are three dimensions to sustainability: social, economic, and environmental. Strong sustainability requires a balance between these three pillars—without economic stability, the government cannot implement environmental regulations and cannot provide the environmental education necessary to create a “green” movement among its people. The environmental degradation in Peru is largely due to the government’s lack of action. It is the government’s responsibility to provide its people safe, clean resources. Unfortunately, environmental law in Peru is not well enforced. Additionally, Peru has not prioritized developing renewable energy resources (although recently there has been a push for increased solar energy – hopefully that marks a turning point for Peru). And so I experienced countries at very opposite sides of a sustainability spectrum:  one which economically cannot give the attention to environmental awareness that is warranted by the pressing reality of climate change and yet needs it sincerely, and another that is privileged with all that is required of an ecologically conscience nation and without the motivation to push for it among the people and culture.

After travelling to both of these beautiful countries I found myself very frustrated. Climate change looms on the horizon and the consequences of a warming planet are reason for great concern. The extent of climate change is not fully understood but what has been acknowledged is that the amplified rate at which it is occurring can be attributed to anthropogenic behavior. And this is not spread uniformly throughout the globe. Wealthy nations are contributing greatly to greenhouse gas emissions yet it will not be these same countries that most severely feel the threat of climate change. And what is even more upsetting is that the developing nations that will suffer the greatest because they do not have the economic strength and political stability to combat global warming are also mostly unaware of the dangers to come because there are many more pressing issues to confront such as inadequate food and poverty. So if the disparity between developed and developing nations was not already distressingly thick, climate change will surely broaden it further.

It is therefore the responsibility of countries such as the United States, who have the finances and the technologies, to lead our planet to a more sustainable future. The carbon emissions released by the United States does not solely affect our own citizens. It is a global crisis and so every car we drive, every coal power plant we construct, every long shower we take, and every technological device we keep plugged in is slowly yet catastrophically warming the entire planet. So, what should we do to reduce the climate change inequality that plagues our world? It starts at a local level. It requires cooperation and collaboration between leaders, businesses, and residents of a community and it demands environmental education.

Additionally, climate change inequality is not just found on the global scale. Even within the United States itself this disproportion is present. There are coastal cities at risk of flooding from sea level increase and yet they are not any more responsible for greenhouse gas emissions than the nation’s interior cities. Even on the micro scale this disparity is felt where industrial establishments directs emissions towards poverty stricken neighborhoods who cannot afford to fight this discrimation. UConn is committed to doing its part to help these efforts. In 2006 a co-generation plant was constructed to replace the previously used oil-fired utility. The co-gen burns natural gas, a cleaner fuel than oil and coal, and thus capable of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 300,000 tons each year. It captures and utilizes steam to prevent efficiency loss. In 2008 former President Hogan signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). This committed the university to carbon neutrality by 2050. The co-gen plant is just one of many technologies implemented by UConn to help assist in its mission towards carbon neutrality. UConn also has a fuel cell at the Depot campus, a bike and car sharing program, a reclaimed water facility, and much more.

But change cannot solely be acquired through better infrastructure and technology. We must demand a difference. This requires the voices of UConn’s students, staff, and faculty. It necessitates a new university culture that is eco-conscience and environmentally aware. UConn has many sustainability related courses and research opportunities. It has clubs and events that allow student participation. And it has many individuals who care greatly about playing their role in environmental stewardship. UConn is forging a path. It is setting precedence for universities throughout the country and throughout the globe. UConn is a leader in sustainability and is challenging the fight against climate change inequality.

– Emily