UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


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Herbst Joins Peers in the Commitment to Uphold the Paris Agreement

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

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

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

We are still in

Check out the articles below for more information:

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

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


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2020 Vision: Transportation

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

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

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

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

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

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


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2020 Vision Student Summit Reflections

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

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Students gather to discuss 2020 Vision goals

 

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

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

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

2020 vision for campus sustainability and climate leadership

Overview of the plan’s components

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

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

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

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


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UConn@COP23 – Bonn Climate Change Conference

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


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UConn Talks Climate at the Climate Change Cafe

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

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

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

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

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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

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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


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First Ever Carbon-Free UConn Basketball Games!

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

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

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


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2020 Vision: Grounds, Open Space, and Conservation Areas

As part of UConn’s 2020 Vision for Campus Sustainability and Climate Leadership, the university is devoted to creating more naturally-landscaped open spaces through the expansion of the Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP), the implementation of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), and increasing passive and active open spaces.

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HEEP Trail Map (UConn MediaShare)

The HEEP is the result of the Landfill Project, an environmental remediation project the university undertook from the 1990s to the 2000s, and included the construction of C-Lot, which caps the old landfill. The park is a preservation of about 33 acres of wetlands and 31 acres of uplands, and an additional 101 acres have been added following the construction of the new entrance, Discovery Drive, resulting in 165 acres of vernal pools, wetlands, riparian zones, and uplands. The construction of the new road involved extensive planning to preserve the surrounding area, including implementing wildlife tunnels under the road large enough for deer, Cape Cod curbs that make it easier for amphibians to climb out of the road, curved barriers to deter migrating wildlife from going across the road, and is a reduced-salt zone. The 101 acres surrounding the area provide a natural barrier to protect both the wetland and woodland networks. Recreational trails, management of invasive species and educational signage throughout the area have been implemented and will be improved upon within the next few years.

Additionally, UConn is committed to using the Sustainable Sites Initiative, either independently or in conjunction with LEED, on capital projects to develop landscapes in as beneficial and measurable ways as buildings. This program is based on the premise that land is a critical part of the built environment and can be “planned, designed, developed, and maintained to protect and enhance the benefits derived from healthy, functioning landscapes” (SITES).

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UConn Campus Master Plan Executive Summary

The preservation of natural systems and resources while creating open spaces is another way UConn is achieving its 2020 vision. The UConn Campus Master plan includes the creation of woodland corridors for both north and south campuses to connect wildlife populations separated by human activities. These pedestrian-oriented spaces will provide a natural landscape, facilitating stormwater runoff re-absorption. Additionally, 35-acres of farm land will be added to Spring Manor farm as a result of the agricultural land that was lost during the construction of Charter Oak Apartments and Discovery Drive. Wooded acres will transition back to agricultural production and will provide more land for crop rotation, an important factor for soil conservation management practices. Returning the land to agricultural production is also an important step in maintaining the University’s land-grant heritage.