outreach

What is Environmental Justice?

On the weekend of September 8th, New Haven was brimming with energy. There were events happening throughout the city to foster progress for people and the environment.

The first was a summit presented by the Yale Art Gallery and Artspace, a contemporary art non-profit. This summit, called “Homage: Soil and Site” was seven hours long and drew in some of the national leaders in the environmental movement today—household names like Eddie Bautista and Elizabeth Yeampierre. Oh, you haven’t heard of them? There’s a reason for that. They are self-proclaimed environmental justice advocates, a group that has had little space or power in the environmental movement until recently.

Environmental justice, put simply, is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to environmental conditions, regulation, and change. Those on the frontlines of climate change and other forms of environmental degradation are often the most economically and politically repressed. Impoverished island nations facing increased hurricane activity, poor urban communities facing the worst of air pollution, minority communities having little influence over the siting of a landfill in their backyard, and indigenous people facing potential contamination of their rivers by powerful oil companies should be given a seat at the table in discussions of policy and change. After all, they’re the ones who have experience dealing with the problems that we’re trying to solve.

After decades of effort on the part of environmental justice advocates, we are finally reaching a point where all voices are being heard. This was evident at event number two of the September 8th weekend, a rally for “Climate, Jobs, and Justice.” This event was unique in the groups that came together in order to make it happen. There were the typical organizations that are an important presence at environmental rallies in the state, notably the Sierra Club and 350CT, in addition to other groups such as the CT Puerto Rican Alliance. This meant that there was a larger variety of speakers and performances than the typical rally. There was a presentation of an electric car, and there was also a performance by local rappers about police brutality. There was a call to action for protecting CT’s Green Bank, and there was a young Latinx girl who sung about coming together as one. One stop of the rally was to admire a fuel cell, while another was for a local group to speak on issues related to prison reform. Rallies like this give hope for continued collaboration as we strive to create a safe and healthy environment for all people.

The OEP is working on incorporating environmental justice as a focus as well. We recognize the importance of indigenous people to our country and to the environmental movement. Worldwide, they are protectors of 80% of the world’s biodiversity, despite only living on 20% of the world’s land. They hold Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) that is vital to the stewardship of land, and utilized by many, including the US National Park Service. To honor this, we have partnered with Global House to hold a film screening and discussion of Sacred Water: Standing Rock Part 2 on October 3rd about the Standing Rock protests. It’s the kickoff for Indigenous People’s Week, a series of events at UConn that aim to replace Columbus Day with a celebration of indigenous people in our country. Please join us in the Global House Lounge at 5:30pm to learn more about this incredible population of people!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

2020 Vision For a Greener UConn

This article was written by Richard Miller, Director of Environmental Policy. It also appeared in the Daily Campus on April 19, 2018.

As the events of UConn’s Environmental Metanoia continue to unfold this month, providing students with dozens of opportunities for learning, reflecting and talking about issues like solar power, water quality, environmental justice and more, it’s fair to ask the question: “What is UConn doing to become a more sustainable campus?”  After all, in creating the context for teaching and inspiring our students, it’s important for the University to be the change we want to see, by demonstrating best practices and green technologies that make the campus a “Living Laboratory” for a more sustainable future.

With that in mind, in early 2017, UConn’s President Susan Herbst endorsed a 2020 Vision for Campus Sustainability and Climate Leadership. This is a strategic plan with 20 precise goals and metrics for success.  To achieve these goals, UConn will need to reduce its carbon footprint by 20 percent, compared to 2007, despite our growth since then.  That will mean big reductions in the energy, water, and fuel we use, and the waste we generate.

Students, faculty and staff were involved in setting these 2020 goals, and in giving feedback, including at a student summit meeting last year, about strategies for accomplishing them. As a result of an inclusive University planning process that focused on a series of ambitious targets, we’ve already made progress! Here are a few of the 2020 goals achieved ahead of schedule:

An interaction at Earth Day Spring Fling, one of the environmental outreach events hosted by UConn.
  • 100% of purchased electricity used at our regional campuses consists of renewable energy
  • Daily potable water use at the main campus has decreased nearly 40% since 2005, despite a concurrent growth in enrollment of more than 20%
  • 52% of our electronic purchases for items like computers, laptops and monitors are Gold-rated under the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) – up from 23% in 2016
  • All eight dining halls in Storrs are Green Restaurant certified – making UConn the first public university in the nation to achieve this standard.

UConn’s commitment to sustainability is especially centered on understanding and addressing the social, economic, environmental, and public health issues surrounding climate change. Over the past three years, no other public university in the nation has engaged more undergraduate students than UConn has in the U.N.’s annual International Climate Summit and Conference of the Parties (COP), held in Paris, Marrakech and Bonn. UConn@COP is a nationally-acclaimed program aimed at developing future leaders in climate science and policy.

Last year, through President Herbst, UConn joined more than 2,300 members of a multi-sector “We Are Still In” coalition of American businesses, state and local governments, and universities, committed to continued pursuit of climate action goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Strategic coalitions like this will help keep UConn on the crest of what the Environmental Defense Fund recently called “The 4th Wave of Environmentalism,” driven by technology and multi-sector efforts.  

Policy commitments, together with specific operational goals and strategies for a more resource-efficient and lower-carbon campus, are helping UConn lead the way to a prosperous, clean technology future.

Tree planting with Jonathan! UConn was recently re-certified as a Tree Campus for 2017 by Tree Campus USA.

Coffee and Climate Change

UConn@COP23 fellow and OEP intern Wawa Gatheru explains the topic of her poster, power in resistance.

After a frustrating series of snowed-out Wednesdays, the cohort of students who attended COP23 were finally able to host the annual Climate Change cafe, held recently at the Student Union. UConn@COP23 fellows shared their experiences at this year’s U.N. International Climate summit, held in Bonn, Germany.

Students from a wide variety of academic majors visited the event and learned about different aspects of the fight against climate change. Topics covered included the power of art as activism, businesses on the forefront of climate change, feminism within the movement, and the role of sub-national entities in lieu of the federal government.

 

With the advent of the new U.S. administration not supporting the Paris Climate Accords, sub-national entities were a big topic during this year’s trip.

 

“I find the “We Are Still In” movement to be an amazing representation of how our country plans to progress the mitigation of climate change.”

– Erika Shook, Animal Science Major

 

“Hearing that America as a country has not yet completely abandoned the fight against climate change was heartening, and progress can still be made even if its not on a national scale.”

– Matthew McKenna, Environmental Engineering Major

 

“I didn’t stay for very long, but I took out a flyer made by the office of environmental policy all about UConn’s efforts towards sustainability, and found it super interesting. I actually ended up sharing it with friends.”

– Nina Haigis, Accounting Major

 

“I was inspired by seeing this clear intersectionality of fields that are so heavily affected by the detriments of climate change reflected in the posters on exhibition at the Climate Change Café.”

– Luke Anderson, Anthropology/Nutritional Sciences Major

 

“I came to the Climate Change Cafe knowing that I was interested in going on the trip, but after talking to people and viewing the posters that were made I left super excited to apply and confident that the trip would be an experience that would be both fun and super educational.”

– Delaney Meyer, Civil Engineering Major

 

“Talking to the students at the Climate Change Cafe was an engaging and informative experience. You could tell that this trip fostered their passion for the environment, and that participants were inspired to make changes within our own community.”

– Megan Boyer, Biological Sciences Major

 

UConn@COP23 fellows were inspired by the many powerful art installations they saw while in Germany.

 

The Results Are In: EcoMadness 2017

On the average day, a single student uses a lot of resources; from washing clothes to charging a laptop, the total amassed energy and water-use that the average student accumulates is pretty substantial! Now imagine the combined energy and water usage of the average student and multiply that by the enormity of the average dorm – in which hundreds of students reside. Have you ever spent time thinking about the collective amount of water 700 showers use? Or how much energy hundreds of iPhones utilize within hours? For the residents of Buckley, Shippee, Northwest, East, West, and Towers, achieving this consciousness is what stood in between them and becoming a champion of the 9th annual EcoMadness Competition!

This year’s EcoMadness Competition took place from October 9th to November 6th, during which each involved residency was carefully measured in the following categories: per capita water reduction, per capita energy use reduction, percent water reduction, and percent energy use reduction.

After a month of active education, increased environmental awareness, and the encouraging prospect of a free Dairy Bar ice-cream party prize, the results are in!

This year, we are pleased to congratulate the following winners in each water and energy category breakdown! The results are as follows:

WATER

Percent Reduction: Hanks

Lowest Per Capita Use: Grange/Hicks

ENERGY

Percent Reduction: Buckley

Lowest Per Capita Use: Hanks

While the winners in each category have been chosen, we would also like to extend our gratitude and congratulations to every student resident involved in the competition. This month showcased an incredible collaborative effort, and could not have been successful without this environmental commitment, and the work of our wonderful EcoCaptains and supportive RA’s! In the coming weeks, the winning dorms should expect a dairy bar ice cream party – free of charge!

Though the EcoMadness competition is over, we hope the concepts of water and energy conservation remain a focal point in the culture of each residency hall on campus. Because who knows – maybe a continued sense of awareness will propel a residency hall into a winning category next year! And who doesn’t like free ice cream?

Until then, happy saving!

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

UConn@COP23 – Bonn Climate Change Conference

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

IMG_1808
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

10th Annual EcoMadness Competition!

This week marks the beginning of the Tenth Annual EcoMadness Competition! Over the month of October, students in over twenty residence halls will be competing to reduce their water and energy consumption.

There are four categories to measure the dorms’ progress:

  • Per Capita Water Reduction
  • Per Capita Energy Use Reduction
  • Percent Water Reduction
  • Percent Energy Use Reduction

To reduce their dorm’s energy and water consumption, students undertake a variety of tasks. Energy can be saved by using desk lamps with LED bulbs, unplugging devices when not in use, and washing clothes with cold water. Water can be saved by taking shorter showers, doing laundry with full loads, and shutting off the sink while brushing teeth.

These simple activities have reduced some residence halls’ energy and water consumption by as much as 35%!

To lead their dorms to victory, the Office of Environmental Policy calls on residents to volunteer as EcoCaptains. These students post fliers and posters around their residence halls, organize activities, and provide weekly updates to the OEP on how the dorms are doing.

The winning dorm for each category will receive a certificate and a free ice cream party in November featuring Dairy Bar Ice Cream!

Find out more about EcoMadness here!

Changing the World, One Step at a Time – The People’s Climate March

By Brianna Church

The best thing about little kids is that their dreams have no limitations. Back when I was about eight years old all of my friends dreamt of being the next big pop star, the likes of Britney or the Spice Girls. The vast majority of those same friends have now abandoned the thought of singing to any audience outside of their shower heads.

My big childhood dream was a little different, though. My dream was to save the world, singlehandedly, through medicine. I know now that no individual can save the planet without help from others and, more importantly, that even very basic medical procedures make me queasy. I still have not given up my dreams of changing the world, however. I am now studying environmental engineering and hope that in doing so I can make a difference, even if only in some small way.

My passion for environmental issues has led me to two different internships as well as to a number of different clubs and activities at UConn and through all of these means I learned about the People’s Climate March.

Untitled

 

The People’s Climate March will take place on September 21st, mere days before the UN Climate Summit is held in New York City. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is encouraging the participating governments to unite and support global goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Tens of thousands of people are anticipated to march in the streets of New York City in the largest environmental march in history to demonstrate that we, the people, are demanding a change.

This march will offer me the chance to show the UN and our country that both climate change and socioeconomic equality matter to me. This march will offer me the opportunity to change the course of history, one step at a time. This march will offer me the possibility to realize my dreams.

That’s why the People’s Climate March is so important to me.

Please join me and the UConn community in standing up for what is right; an economy that works for both the people and the environment. Join the tens of thousands of people that will be in the streets of New York, proving to our governments that we deserve a safe, just world to live in. Join the People’s Climate March on September 21st for the price of just one bus ticket.

If you would like to RSVP to the People’s Climate March and purchase a bus ticket from Sierra Club for $24.20 as a student or $29.48 as an adult, follow this link. For more information about this event, contact Brianna or Emily at brianna.church@uconn.edu, emily.mcinerney@uconn.edu, or at (860)486-5773.