waste management

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

By Natalie Roach

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!

 

#ShrinkYourDormPrint @UConn

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.

desk lamp box screenshot
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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EcoHusky and EcoHouse “Race” to Recycle and Compost

group-photoOver 30 members of EcoHusky and the EcoHouse learning community got up bright and early on Saturday, October 8th, to volunteer at the Hartford Marathon in Bushnell Park. After a quick power nap on the bus, volunteers were ready for a day of excitement, positivity, and environmental awareness. Upon arrival at Bushnell Park in Hartford, volunteers mapped out the best locations for compost and heatsheet bins, as their primary responsibility for the day was to manage the waste stations throughout the park to ensure that runners and race-goers correctly disposed of food, recyclables, and foil blankets.

The Hartford Marathon Foundation has expressed strong interest in environmental initiatives over the years, with compost management as a top priority on the day of the event. Their composting partner is the KNOX Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization that partners with residents, businesses, and government to make Hartford more sustainable. This year, all of the food items on the race menu were compostable, including the soup, fruit, deserts, plates and napkins. The Marathon planners were also conscious in their other purchasing decisions, as the cups provided at the drink stations were recyclable as well.

waste-stationThe Marathon’s efforts to reduce waste at the event are commendable; however, it was up to the volunteers from EcoHusky and EcoHouse to ensure that those efforts were seen through. Composting and recycling can have such positive waste diversion impacts, but only if the items are separated into the correct bins. Not only did volunteers ensure that this was done at the event, they also educated race-goers about recycling and composting so they could be more sustainable in their daily lives. Additionally, they tracked the bags of compost, weighing hundreds of pounds over the course of the day.

“I definitely thought the volunteers had a positive impact on the people attending the Marathon. Most race-goers were eager to learn, asking us questions to make sure they were throwing their waste out in the appropriate bins.” -Eddie McInerney, EcoHusky member

In addition to manning the waste stations throughout the park, EcoHusky also had an environmental awareness tent, with an interactive basketball and recycling-themed game that encouraged players to think about what items are recyclable, compostable, and trash, then throw the items into the correct basketball hoops.

ecohusky-table“Race-goers were attracted to the EcoHusky tent because of its peculiar set up – needless to say, no one else had a conglomeration of “waste” items and handmade basketball hoops scattered around their table. For such a simple and low budget idea, we still managed to make a big impact with the people we spoke to.” -Katie Main, EcoHusky Treasurer

Each year, members of EcoHusky and EcoHouse refer to the Hartford Marathon as one of their favorite volunteer events. The positive atmosphere surrounding the marathon, and the receptiveness of the race-goers to the message about sustainability, consistently leave the volunteers feeling both cheerful and optimistic.

NextGen and Putnam Dining Hall “LEED” the Way to a More Sustainable Campus

“The green features at NextGen Hall separate it from other residence halls because they show initiative. The university is investing in renewable, sustainable, and efficient practices, which is great for our environment.” – Cassidy Cooley, Sophomore, Management and Engineering for Manufacturing

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NextGen Hall’s solar thermal panels and green roof

As students arrived on campus for the fall semester, one of the greatest changes recognized was the newly opened NextGen Residence Hall. Construction of the new building began last November, as part of the Next Generation Connecticut Initiative, alongside a significant renovation project at Putnam Dining Hall. Both projects were unique in that they included many sustainable features, and received LEED Silver certifications. LEED-certified buildings are known for their efficiency with respect to water, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions, attributed to their carefully considered building and interior designs.

NextGen Hall is innovative in both design and concept. Unlike any residence hall in UConn’s history, it houses 8 Learning Communities, one on each floor, and the design of the building is focused on providing ample community spaces and opportunities for collaboration and innovation among its residences. Great examples of this are the 1,500 square foot maker space and idea lab, which encourage craftsmanship and creativity.

“[The design of NextGen] instills a sense of community…” – Caroline Anastasia, Sustainability Intern

Some of the more prominent green highlights of NextGen Hall are the green roof garden and solar heating panels; however, there are many hidden features of NextGen Hall that also contributed to its LEED Silver certification. Sun shades found on the sides of the building are architectural elements that can either deflect direct sunlight to maintain cool internal temperatures, or catch the light and concentrate it inside the building to warm internal temperatures and provide better natural lighting. The light color of NextGen Hall’s roof plays a similar role in reflecting sunlight to maintain internal temperatures. Surrounding rain gardens are an example of low impact development landscapes that collect rain water to reduce runoff. The contents of rain gardens are typically native plants and soils that enhance infiltration and capturing of pollutants. Inside the building students will also find water refill stations, thermostats that monitor when windows are opened, low flow water features in the bathrooms, and an energy dashboard on the first floor that allows residents to monitor the building’s energy usage.

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Putnam Dining Hall “Living Wall”

NextGen Hall wasn’t the only new green project on campus this semester; neighboring Putnam Dining Hall underwent a major renovation this past year, earning a LEED Silver rating for its building interior. Notable features of the new dining hall include the “Living Wall” of herbs and EnviroPure food waste disposal system, among others. Putnam Dining Hall is also Green Restaurant Certified, which means it met performance standards in areas including water efficiency, waste reduction, sustainable food, reusables and environmentally preferable disposables, as well as chemical and pollution reduction.

NextGen Hall and Putnam Dining Hall now stand alongside a growing number of green buildings at UConn, including Laurel and Oak Hall, the Werth Family Basketball Champions Center, and the Burton-Shenkman Football Complex. With a LEED Gold minimum standard for all new buildings and large renovations, UConn is projected to become even more sustainable as it continues to grow.

Where Does Your Food Go?

fws 1Ever think the “clean plate club” was just your parents’ invention to make you eat your vegetables?  Well, think again!  Finishing all of the food on your plate is actually a great way to minimize not just your carbon footprint, but also your methane footprint.  When food sits in a landfill, it breaks down and produces methane, which is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas, even worse than carbon.  Shockingly, nearly 40% of all the food in the United States goes to waste, which has a huge impact on the environment.*

In an effort to get students to be aware of the sheer quantity of post-consumer food wasted at UConn, EcoHusky conducts food waste studies each spring. For one week, student volunteers go to a selected dining hall over the course of four dinners, Monday through Thursday. This year, the study was conducted in Putnam Dining Hall during the week of February 1st, where a total of 256 pounds of food waste and 135.6 pounds of liquid waste were collected.  This is a 61% drop in food waste from last year’s study in South Dining Hall where 660 pounds were collected, but this can be attributed to the fact that significantly less students eat at Putnam compared to South given its size and location.fws 3

One of the most exciting parts of the study is when students express interest in why we are collecting their leftover food, and are then both surprised and concerned when they see the amount of food waste in the buckets.  On a normal day when the study is not being done, students are required to scrape the excess food from their plates into the garbage before they return them, but this is oftentimes done mindlessly without further thought as to what happens to that waste.  The study does a great job in opening our eyes to how our individual and seemingly harmless everyday acts accumulate into much larger problems.fws 5

Fortunately, the Department of Dining Services here at UConn has several programs in place that effectively reduce the amount of pre-consumer food that gets thrown out.  In South Dining Hall this past year they implemented LeanPath, an online, interactive program that reports on what types of food was wasted, which allows them to reconsider the quantities of food that are ordered.  To learn more about LeanPath or to try it out yourself, visit http://www.leanpath.com/.  Dining Services also conducts a “Perishable Food Sweep” at the end of every semester.  The food that would otherwise spoil over the course of the intersessions is collected from dining halls and is brought to the Covenant Food Kitchen in Willimantic.  With efforts on both the pre- and post-consumer sides of the food consumption chain, it’s important for all of us to consider what we are putting on our plates and how we manage our food.  As the saying goes, “Take what you want, but EAT what you take.”

*Food and Agriculture Association

-Adrianna

The Value of a Wooden Nickel

wooden nickelWhat is a wooden nickel you may ask? A wooden nickel is a small token that you receive at the UConn Co-op when you choose not to use a plastic shopping bag to carry your purchases. You can then insert this wooden nickel into one of four bins that each represent a different charity. Every time you do this, five cents are donated to that charity at no cost to you! The charities to choose from are the UConn Campus Sustainability Fund, Joshua’s Tract Conservation and Historic Trust, World Wildlife Fund, and UConn’s Sandy Hook Memorial Scholarship. The Co-op donates the monetary equivalent of the sum of the tokens in each bin to their respective charities. This program is formally known as the Co-op Cares Bag Program, and has drastically reduced bag use since it was started in 2008. By four months into the program, the Co-op had collected a total of 22,300 wooden nickels in the bins, equaling over $1,100 in donations! Since the cost of a plastic bag is roughly five cents, the Co-op decided to turn that spending around and give back to the community, all while reducing its carbon footprint! Although the driving force of the program is to reduce the consumption of plastic bags and to produce less pollution, you can also participate by donating your own money.

We challenge you to rethink your shopping habits and try out an alternative method of carrying your purchases out of the store. By using reusable bags, backpacks, or even just your good ole’ hands, we can work together to make plastic shopping bags a thing of the past.

-Adrianna, OEP Sustainability Intern

The Mystery of Single Stream Recycling

One of the most frequent questions we get at the OEP is “can I recycle X,” followed closely by “what recycling goes in each bin?”

At UConn, we have had single stream recycling since 2009.  This means that any recyclable material can go in any recycling bin.  Sometimes this is also called mixed recycling.  We have a number of different types of recycling bins on campus – we have the new green bins outside that are coupled with trash cans, we have the older rectangular cans with paper and bottle/can restricted lids, we have the small blue recycling bins for individual rooms or offices, we have white and red and yellow bins in the dorms.  Despite the difference in bins, any recyclable can go in any bin!

However, even with single stream, there are still a lot of questions about what is recyclable and what is not.

Some common items:

Plastic grocery bags – these cannot go into single stream recycling.  However, they can be recycled at most grocery stores.  This goes for any sort of recyclable plastic bag (such as newspaper bags, or plastic bubble packing material)

Paper coffee cups – these are generally not recyclable because the paper is actually lined with wax to prevent your hot beverage from leaking out of the cup.  Often the plastic lid and the paper sleeve are recyclable though!

Books – Check with your recycler, but Willimantic Waste Paper Company, the recycler for campus accepts paperback books for recycling, just put them into any recycling bin.

Shredded paper – Although shredded paper is recyclable, it can’t go into the single stream because the small pieces can’t be sorted out.  Offices on campus can contact central stores to pick up confidential documents for shredding. If your recycler can’t take shredded paper, contact them to find out where you can take shredded paper for recycling.

Ziplock Bags – Unfortunately these can’t go in the recycling.  Consider washing and reusing them, or purchasing reusable zipper bags for your snacks.

Envelopes with clear windows – These can go in the recycling bin!

Anything with food waste or grease – Even if the material would be otherwise recyclable, if it has food waste, please wash it before putting it into the recycling so you don’t contaminate the load.  If it’s contaminated with grease (such as cardboard from a pizza box), it can’t be recycled.

Check out this awesome video from WilliWaste explaining how their single stream recycling system works!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_H-B0jeFhE&w=420&h=315]

Give and Go – Did You Know?

uconn_give_and_goby OEP Intern Meredith Hillmon

Give & Go is an opportunity for students to donate furniture, clothing, school supplies and nonperishable food items as they move out at the end of the semester. The recycling and reuse program encourages students to donate unwanted belongings to local charities and non-profit organizations instead of throwing them away. Parents of students, faculty and town residents are just as welcome to bring donations, or they may volunteer at one of the collection locations sorting donations and motivating the community about being more mindful of the environmental impacts of dumping trash.

The program has become a huge success. It is not only an easy way for students to recycle, but it is an event that generates heaps of donations. The 2010 Give & Go was record breaking. 14,137lbs of donations were received, and more than 300 students, faculty, town residents and parents volunteered for a total 750 hours at 15 different collection locations. Over 3000lbs of furniture and rugs were dropped off, 2000lbs of appliances, and over 1500lbs of clothing, shoes and nonperishable foods. The 2011 Give & Go brought in numbers close to the 2010 record with 12,897lbs of donations – over 4000lbs of rugs, nearly 3000lbs of furniture, over 1000lbs of appliances and clothing and over 700lbs of food.

Equally as impressive numbers are expected for the upcoming 2013 Give & Go program. Given the incredible success of the event so far, one can only predict an even more astounding number of donations. In order to get involved with Give & Go, contact the new Program Coordinator Sara Butter at uconn.co.giveandgo@gmail.com.

LEED: Minimizing UConn’s Environmental Footprint

by OEP intern Emily McInerney

leedsilverOn March 25, 2008 President Hogan signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). This pledge led way for UConn’s Climate Action Plan: a comprehensive outline that strategizes and maps out sustainability initiatives to help UConn reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Carbon neutrality is defined as proportional amounts of carbon released and carbon sequestered. This can be achieved through carbon offsets such as our Co-gen facility or something as simple as planting a tree. Realistically, however, carbon neutrality does not mean a zero carbon footprint. For UConn, the aim is to have the 2050 carbon emissions 86% below our 2007 levels. One of the very first initiatives implemented at UConn to lower GHG emissions was the adoption of our own Campus Sustainable Design Guidelines. These guidelines apply to both the construction of new buildings as well as the renovation of preexisting buildings.

The Sustainable Design and Construction Policy requires a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification as a minimum performance standard for all projects that exceed $5 million. The U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED to act as an international green building certification system. LEED buildings offer savings in water and energy, reduce GHG emissions, improve air quality to promote health safety for occupants, and lower operating costs.

Oak Hall
Oak Hall

Most recently, the construction of two new buildings at UConn, Laurel and Oak Hall, have been completed that fulfill the LEED silver requirement. Oak Hall is set next to Homer Babbidge Library at the site of the former Co-op. Laurel is located where the Pharmacy building was originally constructed. These locations prevented the clearing of forests, wetlands, and other natural environments. There are several sustainable features that are important to note. From the outside, porous pavement reduces storm water runoff and flooding by providing storage and infiltration during storm events and a bio retention basin reduces harmful storm water runoff by collecting and holding storm water. The area is lined with native vegetation that provides habitat and food for local species. To reduce transportation CO2 emissions, biking is encouraged. There are 132 bicycle rack spaces available to facilitate bike transit.

Moving inside the building, the focus is on increased energy and water savings. The bathroom offers dual flush toilets and electric hand dryers to reduce paper waste. The combination of all water efficient features is anticipated to reduce water usage by 48%. The high performance windows both increase natural lighting which reduces energy costs and provide insulation through window glazing which reduce heating and cooling needs. Laurel is expected to have 16% energy savings and Oak is estimated to have 18% energy savings.

Visually speaking, LEED buildings are most notable for the recycled content and renewable materials that comprise their exterior paneling and interior walls and floors. Oak Hall uses bamboo for wall panels, recycled copper for the exterior siding and regional bricks. The bamboo is more sustainable than wood because it only take 3-5 years to harvest, the copper is made up of 80-95% recycled content, and the bricks are produced within 500 miles of campus. Approximately 75% of construction waste was diverted from landfills and reused or recycled.

Beyond sustainability, LEED buildings also have health benefits. Indoor environmental quality is improved through green cleaning products that are biodegradable, have low toxicity and low volatile organic compound content (VOC), and have reduced packaging. All plywood is formaldehyde-free and adhesives, sealants and paint have low or no VOC. Both Oak and Laurel are definite eye catchers. These buildings are not only environmentally friendly and cost effective but also aesthetically pleasing.  It is something to appreciate that sustainability can be characterized as modern and hip. For those interested in seeing how these LEED buildings affect UConn’s GHG emissions, the Office of Environmental Policy is planning to upload energy and water saving dashboards online.

Here are some examples of the sustainability features in Oak and Laurel Halls:

Waste Management and Reduction: Part II – How to Use the University’s Systems

By Rachael Shenyo, UConn Sustainability Coordinator

In the last installment, I discussed the various aspects of the waste management and reduction program at UConn, in response to frequently asked questions. For this blog, I will walk you, the user, through the program, and tell you how to find the various resources you need for using it.

Using Single Stream Recycling:

The most important two things to know about single stream recycling are:

  • All recyclable items can be mixed together in any container with the single exception of the paper-only bins at the HB Library
  • Guidelines for what items can, and cannot be recycled, are available online here.

It is a common misconception that “single stream recycling” means that regular garbage and recyclables get mixed together. Single stream actually means that all recyclable materials are collected together, and separated at the plant upon arrival.

 If we use a single stream program, why do I still see dual-stream bins for recycling collection? We get this question a lot. The answer is quite simple: economics. There is nothing wrong with the old bins. Dual stream bins have openings shaped to permit cans and bottles, or paper, etc. to be placed inside. The reason we do not replace them is that it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to replace either the bins or lids. The old bins are still collected as recycling and processed as such. You can always lift the lid to add new items that do not fit the standard openings.

To use the bins, check the guidelines. Wipe out or rinse the items if they are heavily soiled with greasy or thick food residue, such as plastic food containers that have salad dressing in them. Light soiling is acceptable, but heavy soil interferes with the recycling process. Be conscious, and make it a point to check your items every time you throw something away. In many cases, all or part of most items is recyclable. For example, the plastic boxes that some biological equipment comes in are recyclable, even if the tips themselves must be disposed of as hazardous waste. Most hot beverage cups however are not. It only takes a few moments to educate yourself. For hard copies of the single stream guidelines for your area, in English or Spanish, please contact the OEP Sustainability Coordinator at x5773.

If you think an area could use more recycling bins, or a larger bin, please contact Dave Lotreck in Facilities to arrange a delivery.

E-Waste:

E-Waste is defined as material having electronic components, such as computer boards, digital displays, or microchips. This definition includes digital cameras, television sets, handheld devices, cell phones, etc.; and also includes printers, ink cartridges, and batteries. It should be assumed that none of these items should be disposed of in a regular waste stream.

Your first consideration with small items should be the E-Waste recycling program, which has collection centers in the library, Student Union, and Co-Op. The program accepts cell phones, cameras, laptops, ipods, PDA’s, and ink cartridges; and the small refunds provided by the company (a few cents per item) are used to support the Campus Sustainability Fund. Look for comprehensive guidelines to e-Waste to be posted soon to the OEP web site.

For e-waste items that the recycling program does not accept, Wayne Landry at Central Stores accepts all non-hazardous e-waste- from televisions to computer monitors to printers and faxes. Non University-owned items still in usable condition should be donated to the spring Give and Go program when possible to do so. All University-owned items are returned to Central Stores, typically through the department or via the IT representatives for your area. You can contact Central Stores by visiting this website:

Batteries and other items deemed as hazardous must be handled by the Environmental Health and Safety Department. Please see their guide on proper battery disposal, by type. You may contact them here to arrange for a pickup of hazardous items. It is also a good idea to check if your department has any regular collection bins or programs for these items. Used car batteries are accepted by the Motor Pool.

Taking Advantage of University (and Local) Waste-Reduction Programs:

The University of Connecticut provides several incentives for waste reduction at the point of purchase. The UConn Co-Op offers their wooden nickel program, which donates to one of 4 charities/ groups of your choice each time you choose to not accept a new plastic bag with your purchase. Our cafes offer a $.15 reduction on each hot beverage purchase made with a reusable cup. The Food Court has a re-usable food container program that lets you purchase your food in a re-usable container, then return the container directly to them for cleaning and re-use. Your program participation, after the first purchase, is verified via a card similar to the store cards you may already have.

For items, such as napkins and hot beverage cups, that cannot be recycled, the University has a post-consumer recycled content policy. Most of these items are created using the maximum amount of post-consumer recycled paper content allowed by law.

The Give and Go Program is the University’s largest donation program, but keep in mind that several other campus and local groups can use donated items either as re-use or for resale. Watch for fund-raisers for old clothes, and know that there are community donation bins in many regional areas. One of the closest is a book, clothing, and electronics donation/ recycle box on Rte. 44 just past the intersection with Rte. 32. Savers in Manchester is a great community store that accepts donations, and the Salvation Army has many regional locations. Community Outreach maintains a list of organizations always in need of donated clothes, household goods, and electronics. All of these organizations offer tax deductions for the value of donated items.

Other Items that Cannot Be Disposed of as Trash:

Items such as compact and overhead fluorescent light bulbs, rags soaked with solvents, aerosol cans, and antifreeze cannot be placed into the regular waste stream. The University Environmental Health and Safety Department maintains a comprehensive guide for proper disposal of these items, which may be found here.