UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn

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Clothing Swap!

Tomorrow there is a clothing swap on campus!  Organized by two fabulous RAs in the CT Commons dorms, this is a great opportunity to send clothing you don’t want to a new home!

The event is on Tuesday, October 1st from 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. in the Branford Lounge in CT Commons. You can drop off your contributions from Noon until 10pm at Branford on Tuesday, or at the Branford Office today.

This event is an awesome example of the culture of sustainability we’re working hard to promote at UConn, and we here at the OEP are thrilled to see RAs creating these opportunities for their students!

The Details:

Feel free to bring all swapping items down to the Branford Office at anytime for the event on October 1st. The actual refreshments and swap will start at 4 and go until 10pm!

Clothing Swap-friendly items:

Work-out wear


What not to bring:

Note that all unclaimed items are donated to various local non-profits that provide clothing to people in need. Out of respect for fellow swappers and your community, please bring items nice enough to lend to a friend. Do not bring ripped, dirty, stained items or those with broken zippers, etc. All items must be freshly laundered and/or dry cleaned before arriving at our swap events. Thank you for your understanding.

Reusing flyer


If you have clothing that is not in good enough condition to swap or donate, consider putting it in a Clothing recycling box, such as Planet Aid so that it can be recycled as a textile, rather than just putting it in the trash.

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Preparing for EcoMadness

Here at the Office of Environmental Policy, we are in the midst of preparing for this year’s EcoMadness Event.  During the month of EcoMadness, participating residence halls contend in a race to reduce their energy and water usage.  The 7th annual EcoMadness competition will kick off next week, beginning on Sunday, September 29.

There are several ways to measure energy efficiency. Observing trends in the consumption of water and electricity are only a couple of the various approaches. Imagine being able to access this kind of information at any point of the day, and being able to look back at previous energy consumption trends throughout the week, or even throughout the month. Are you a resident of Buckley, and have you ever been curious about the amount of water the entire dormitory consumes at any given day? Or, maybe you are a resident of Whitney, and are curious about how having a dining hall included in your dormitory affects total water and energy consumption?

Unbeknownst to most of the campus community, these kinds of energy statistics are available to anyone online at the campus energy dashboard. Located as a part of the UConn Facilities Operations webpage (http://www.fo.uconn.edu/cogen.html), the campus energy dashboard, graphically and statistically, tracks various trends in water and electricity usage for buildings and residence halls on campus. At the Office of Environmental Policy, the campus energy dashboard is accessed on a regular basis. The energy statistics are compiled into spreadsheets to ultimately be used to determine the baseline water and electricity figures for the dormitories participating in EcoMadness. When EcoMadness begins, the campus energy dashboard will still be accessed in order to compare current water or electricity consumption figures to the baseline consumption figures. The dormitories that show the greatest reduction in consumption will be rewarded (with ice cream), although any reduction will be applauded (because conservation is its own reward). The primary goal of EcoMadness is to instill a behavioral change in students that will cause them to be mindful of how their everyday actions impact their carbon footprint and the environment.

By accessing the campus energy dashboard, you can always check to see how much water and energy your building is using on a daily basis. You can even compare these values to your competition’s water and energy use (We should note that our office has to make some adjustments for additional features like emergency lighting and dining halls for the official competition results).  In the future, the energy dashboards located in Oak and Laurel Hall will also be able to provide anyone on campus with access to data on water and energy consumption.  In the meantime, though, it’s time to go green with EcoMadness! Stay blue, UConn.

– Meredith and Brianna

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Central Utility Plant Tour

Today a few of us interns at the OEP visited the Central Utility Plant (CUP) on campus. This plant is very large and essentially powers the entire Storrs campus. It is located right next to the School of Pharmacy, yet is hardly noticed due to its sound-proof walls. The facilities in the CUP themselves are very loud, but students would have no way of realizing that unless they went inside. Today we had the pleasure of going inside thanks to the help of Stephanie Marks and Stan Nolan who work with facilities operations and the OEP.


Exterior of CUP

Exterior of the UCONN Central Utility Plant

Before we discuss what it was like going inside the plant, we would like to share a few facts which show how beneficial the CUP is to our school. The CUP has enabled UConn to cut spending on electricity from around $12 million on the Storrs campus in 2005 to under $2 million per year today. The CUP supplies UConn with most of its power throughout the year with the exception of May, when approximately $1 million is spent maintaining the plant. The layout of the CUP encompasses the newer co-generation plant (which provides our electricity), the boiler facilities (which give us steam for heating), and the chilled water facilities (which enable us to provide air conditioning and cold water). The co-generation plant is the major source of electricity at our University. Co-generation refers to one fuel serving many needs: producing electricity, chilled water and steam.

Steam Tunnels around UConn

Underground steam tunnels around UConn

Above Steam Tunnels

Above the steam tunnels



Three jet engines are used to power the entire Storrs campus which can run off of mostly natural gas with the potential for using oil as well. Natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel than oil and provides 96-98% of the fuel for the plant. Oil is only used in the CUP when natural gas supply is curtailed from the plant on very cold winter days. To supply oil for this plant during these days, UConn has an underground storage of 300,000 gallons of oil. This seems like a lot, but the plant can use up 50,000 gallons in one day! Whichever fuel is used at the CUP, it is used extremely efficiently at about 80% efficiency when the plant is working at its optimum. To put that into perspective, the average car’s use of gas is only around 30% efficient. Compared to other engines, the co-gen system is much more efficient because it traps heat and steam and reuses it to make other products.





From an environmental perspective, complying with monitoring requirements at a utility plant can seem daunting. However, the CUP has such high-technology installed such that monitoring air emissions is a breeze. The CUP utilizes an ammonia system which is able to decrease NOX emissions from the turbines by 90%, which is good because Storrs is located in an EPA non-attainment area.

CUP Control Room

CUP Control Room

All in all, touring the CUP was a great experience. Electricity is something most students take for granted, but today we all gained an appreciation for how complicated and important generation is. A big thank you to Stephanie Marks and Stan Nolan for the tour!

-Chris, Dave, and Corinne


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UConn’s Football Green Game Day 2013

This past Saturday, September 14th, approximately 35 volunteers from the EcoHouse learning community, the EcoHusky student organization, and the UNIV 1784 Environmental Sustainability class joined forces to promote recycling at the Green Game Day for UConn Football versus Maryland.

Green Game Day volunteers gather together on the field before  going out to collect recyclables from tailgaters

Green Game Day volunteers gather together on the field before
going out to collect recyclables from tailgaters

The Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) tabled at Fanfest and had a memory game set up with matching single stream recycling items. Both children and adults gathered around the OEP table to play the game and winners were offered a giveaway—carabineers, sunglasses, tattoos, coin purses, and t-shirts. The table also featured information on UConn’s #1 ranking for Sierra’s 2013 Cool Schools Survey.

OEP Interns (right-left) Kerrin, Emily, Eric, and Chris and                                                     OEP Director (center) Rich Miller support UConn’s #1 ranking for Sierra’s 2013 Coolest Schools

OEP Interns (right-left) Kerrin, Emily, Eric, and Chris and
OEP Director (center) Rich Miller support UConn’s #1 ranking for Sierra’s 2013 Coolest Schools

OEP's Fanfest Table, run by Sustainability Coordinators Corinne and Dave, and EcoHouse Program Coordinator Brigid Belko

OEP’s Fanfest Table, run by Sustainability Coordinators Corinne and Dave, and EcoHouse Program Coordinator Brigid Belko

Volunteers empty their recycling bags into the single stream recycling dumpsters after collecting bottles and cans from tailgaters

Volunteers empty their recycling bags into the single stream recycling dumpsters after collecting bottles and cans from tailgaters

Volunteers were paired up and assigned a parking lot (blue, red, or gray) to collect recyclables from and directed to educate the fans on the importance of recycling. Tailgaters were very receptive and appreciative of the volunteers’ effort. Overall the event was very successful—fans lined up at the OEP table to learn more about sustainability at UConn and volunteers collected enough recyclables to fill one of Rentschler’s dumpsters.

Volunteers filled a single stream recycling dumpster with recyclables collected during tailgating

Volunteers filled a single stream recycling dumpster with recyclables collected during tailgating

GGD serves as an opportunity to inform others on how to be more environmentally conscience as well as to introduce volunteers to other students interested in environmental outreach. The OEP will also host a basketball GGD in the winter so stay tuned!

– Emily

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Sustainability Roundup: Sustainability and the Arts

Frequently, when we think about environmental sustainability, our minds immediately turn to science.  However, there are many parts of environmentalism that are not scientific (in the traditional sense).  This blog post will give you a small background on some of those other elements that come into play.

Clara Fang’s “The Art of Submission” stresses the importance of an aspect of environmentalism that is sometimes overlooked: the arts.  In her essay, she explains the frequency with which people rely solely on science and technology to solve environmental issues, while the source of the problems, “our minds,” is overlooked.  She calls attention to how we focus on altering the world around us to meet our needs, which oppresses the environment and other less fortunate people in the process, rather than changing ourselves to solve our problems.

Fang shows how the arts, namely poetry, have the power to evoke emotions within ourselves that help us sympathize, realize the intrinsic value of all things beautiful, like nature, and motivate us to change our perspectives and take action towards solving our environmental problems.

Read parts one and two of her thought-provoking essay on her blog.

Aside from poetry, another form of the arts that has been used as a tool towards environmental action is photography.  In the 1900s, one famous photographer, Ansel Adams, made a huge impact on the public’s opinion of the environment in the United States through capturing the natural beauty of untamed wilderness in his photographs and publicizing them through venues like the Sierra Club.  Awe-struck Americans were motivated to protect the environment and advocate for national parks simply because of the sheer beauty of nature.

This fall, UConn has a *new* interdisciplinary major between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) called “Environmental Studies”  that emphasizes the importance of looking at sustainability from many lenses, not strictly focusing on the scientific or engineering fields. Arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering – every field can offer an important perspective on sustainability.

– Kerrin

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Hidden Energy Savings: Retrocommissioning and Relamping

The University of Connecticut is in the midst of an extensive retrocommissioning and relamping project as part of the energy efficiency priority of UConn’s Climate Action Plan.

Retrocommissioning (RCx) is the process by which the systems and equipment of existing buildings are tested and modified so that the building is running optimally and efficiently. UConn has broken up its retrocommissioning projects into three phases over four years starting in 2011. As of Summer 2013, the university had completed retrocommissioning projects for 19 buildings. These projects, along with other UConn energy efficiency measures, should save over 20,500,000 kWh of energy over the course of a year. The largest savings are coming from the Homer Babbidge Library, the Pharmacy Building, and the Student Union.

andy figure

Figure 1: Data from projected annual energy savings in LOAs for Buildings in Phase 1 and 2


Of course, energy isn’t free, so in addition to saving energy, retrocommissioning should save the university about 2 million dollars a year.  Phase 3 of the retrocommissioning projects is set to begin in Fall 2013 and continue through 2014. Some of the buildings that will be included in Phase 3 are the South Campus Dorms, the Music Building, the Dodd Center, Von der Mehden Recital Hall, and the School of Fine Arts.

Relamping is another ongoing energy efficiency project at the University of Connecticut. Relamping works to upgrade the lighting systems of a building by replacing inefficient bulbs with more efficient varieties. These upgrades will increase energy efficiency, decrease overall energy use, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions moving UConn forward with its sustainability goals. As of the end of the summer, 80 relamping projects had been completed at UConn. As a result of this effort the university is projected to save 4,065,870 Kwh of energy and $398,013.06 per year. It is incredible that a seemingly small change, like light bulbs, can amount to such large savings.

Both retrocommissioning and relamping are excellent examples of UConn’s proactive and effective push for sustainability. Although most people don’t see the changes from retrocommissioning and relamping, they are one of our most effective energy-saving tools! The average reduction in energy from a retrocommissioning project is 16 percent and the implementation of new lighting systems can reduce lighting energy demand (29% of a buildings total energy demand) by 59%. UConn recognizes the value of both relamping and retrocommissioning and has made them priorities in the Climate Action Plan.


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Katie’s pumped for Green Game Day!

Is everyone ready for Green Game Day this Saturday???  I certainly hope so!  So, what can you do to make the most of this year’s football Green Game Day?  Start your game experience right at home by packing only reusable and recyclable materials for your tailgating party.  When you arrive at the game keep an eye out for EcoHusky and EcoHouse volunteers who will be promoting eco-friendly behavior and collecting recyclables from fans.  If you’ve got a minute between barbecuing and swapping stories with fellow fans, take a walk over to the Fanfest area where more volunteers will be waiting to educate you about UConn’s green initiatives (there are even some fun giveaways!  Honestly, who doesn’t like free stuff?) During the game keep an eye and ear open for any messages that will let you know all of the great ways that Rentschler field is going green.

My experiences at past Green Game Days (GGDs) have always left me with a positive feeling.  At Rentschler, I’ve gotten the chance to both collect recyclables from tailgaters and work the booth, both of which I found to be rewarding experiences.  I was so encouraged by how fans were completely on board with our efforts and gladly handed over their empties for recycling.  Several fans even wanted to know more about our mission and I was happy to give them a little insight into the efforts of the OEP and our affiliated student groups.  At the booth I thought it was great educating fans of all ages and interacting with them through fun little games and just general conversation.  I have also had the opportunity to orchestrate two Basketball GGDs and I would just like all the fans to know, it takes a lot of work!  I sincerely hope that everything we do behind this scenes pays off and that you as fans feel like the green message has shown through and encourages you to be more eco-friendly in your endeavors even after you leave the game.

So gear up, get pumped, and get ready to recycle!