UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


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The UTC Sustainability Case Competition

By: Emily Udal

So what if you take a problem on campus, relate it to a new trend and make it a competition? That was exactly my thought process when deciding to create the first sustainability case competition. Popular with business schools across the country, the purpose of a case competition is to take a given problem and to try to find a solution for it. There is no or right or wrong answer, however a good amount of thought and creativity are key.

Once I determined the goal of the case competition, I tried to find a way to appeal to a mass number of students to help them solve a campus-related problem, while gaining professional experience with a blue-chip company. The objective of organizing this case competition was for students from all majors and graduation dates to get hands-on experience to put on their resume for a future internship or job. The concept originated from trying to bridge environmental stewardship and business at UConn through a creative concept that is both feasible and respectful to a $10,000 budget constraint.

With over 100 students signing up, the case competition had garnered significant interest by the campus community.  In today’s competitive job market, landing the perfect internship is crucial to early career success. With the case competition open to freshman and sophomores to participate, it allowed students to gain professional experience early, which is often difficult considering most career-related opportunities are open to upperclassman.

UTC Case Competition Participants

UTC Case Competition Participants

The finalists included teams that proposed more efficient bus routes, an internship program for a biogas facility, retrofitting exercise equipment to produce its own electricity, and a Daily Campus smartphone app to reduce newspaper usage.

The winners of the competition introduced the concept of Ethos Based Recycling. The winning team members included key members from the EcoHusky Student Group. Their concept was based on increasing the amount that students at the University of Connecticut recycle through a fresh perspective on recycling.

The program would involve an overhaul of the current recycling receptacles on campus to provide an emotionally rewarding and educational experience to students as they recycle. Some of the new features that would be included on the recycling bins would be: information on recycling on the bins to intervene in the issue of improper disposal; motion sensors bins that will respond with applause and list the number of items that have been recycled on a given day; painted scenes of nature on the recycling bins to inspire students to protect their environment through the simple act of recycling.

The event was the first to bring environmental stewardship, business and friendly competition to find a student solution to a real problem faced at UConn. The winning proposal has been considered at major environmental workgroups, such as the University’s Environmental Policy Advisory Council, to try to implement such a program on campus. The overall goal of giving hands on experience was achieved, but more importantly, the event has brought a fresh student perspective to some of the current environmental initiatives at the University of Connecticut.


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A Freshman’s Introduction to Sustainability

My name is Emily and I am a UConn freshman majoring in Natural Resources with a concentration in water and climate. My interest in the protection of our ecosystem is ethically, scientifically, and emotionally rooted. My dad is a geologist who has worked in the environmental field for the last 25 years. He began his career cleaning highly contaminated superfund sites and now manages a large portfolio of real estate. He is responsible for ensuring that the land and buildings he covers are compliant with federal and state environmental regulations. He works hard to preserve the environment and educate others on the importance of sustainable business practices. My dad’s belief in his work is seamlessly integrated into everything he does from family dinner conversations about rising ocean levels to detailed explanations of the latest fossil find. His enthusiasm and passion for his work and our natural surroundings is infectious. 

I’ve known for several years now that I want to follow in my dad’s footsteps and dedicate myself to environmental studies. When I started to apply for college my senior year of high school, UConn was not very high on my list. I knew it was regarded as an excellent public university but I had always pictured myself at a small school deep in the mountains. To be honest, when I ultimately decided to go to UConn, I was disappointed and this feeling of discouragement didn’t subside for quite some time.

It was recommended that I take an INTD course with Rich Miller, the director of the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP). The class would be a one-credit course that focused on UConn’s sustainability initiatives. The first few weeks concentrated on student introductions and familiarization of the campus layout. Within the first month, however, we started to discuss the University’s outlook and goals on sustainability. We went over UConn’s recycling, composting, education outreach, transportation, energy, and much more. I was very surprised at the diverse range of sustainable activities UConn had committed itself to.

Over the course of the semester, I learned a great deal about the University’s efforts and I must confess I was very impressed. My spring semester of freshman year I was lucky enough to receive an internship at the Office of Environmental Policy and this has served to further expand my knowledge on UConn’s devotion to environmental conservation. I attended several important meetings including one for EPAC (Environmental Policy Advisory Council) and a Recycling Workgroup. It was exciting to finally be introduced to others who shared my love for the environment.  Unfortunately, I have noticed that there is fallout when it comes to the general student body’s understanding and recognition of the OEP’s work. For instance, UConn has single stream recycling but very few know what this is and even those who do are unaware that it is used on our campus. I am very proud of what UConn has done to support sustainability and I only wish more would feel this same way.

Now that my freshman year has come to an end and I have had time to think back on all of my experiences, I must say that I am very happy with my choice to come to UConn. The tremendous size once intimidated me but now I see this only gives me a larger audience to influence. I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to help our University take a leadership role in sustainability and I want nothing more than to help educate my peers on the importance of protecting our environment and bring recognition to all that the OEP and UConn has done thus far.