It’s that time of year when school spirit is at a high as students to prepare to cheer on the UConn football team. There is no shortage of Husky pride here at the Office of Environmental Policy, but we have more to celebrate than just football. On September 14th the OEP and UConn Athletics will carry out the fifth annual football Green Game Day.
The annual football Green Game Day event is dedicated to educating the fans about recycling. Individual volunteers, as well as volunteers from EcoHusky, EcoHouse, and from a freshman sustainability course (taught by Rich Miller, Director of the OEP), gather together to collect recyclables from fans tailgating at the game. The volunteers also promote awareness about recycling and educate the fans about proper disposal of recyclables within the stadium.
I had the privilege of volunteering at the Green Game Day last year through my freshman sustainability course. The experience I had at my first Green Game Day is one that I will never forget. By volunteering, I helped to reduce the amount of solid waste produced at the game. I also got to reach out to students and fans about the importance of recycling. This experience was incredibly rewarding and led me to participate in other sustainability events on campus thereafter.
Before the football game started, I walked around the parking areas with about half of the other volunteers armed with a green bag sporting the EcoHusky logo, as we collected all manner of recyclables from the tailgaters. The fans were all very responsive to our efforts and began putting their recyclables in bags or in a central location so that we could access them more easily. Many tailgaters commended us on our dedication to the environment and some even mentioned their hopes for a more permanent recycling program at the field.
I also got to work at the information tent at FanFest, located just outside the stadium. While there we informed fans and students alike about the Office of Environmental Policy, about our Green Game Day initiatives throughout the year, and about the end-products of recycling. We also set up sustainability-oriented games that people could play and gave away prizes if we saw anyone recycling on their own. While spending time at the tent, the OEP was able to reach out to a lot of people and help them realize just how essential recycling is.
Finally, just before kickoff, the volunteers went in waves into the stadium to man the garbage cans for the first half of the game. Once stationed, our goal was to educate the fans about proper disposal of recyclables. Many people do not have a clear idea of what is or is not recyclable. As a result, they either throw everything away or end up contaminating the recycling stream with non-recyclables. Through the Green Game Day, we were able to encourage recycling and to make people more aware of what can and cannot be recycled.
At the end of the day we were able to completely fill three dumpsters with recyclable goods that would otherwise have been thrown away. The greater accomplishment, though, was to make people more aware of correct recycling procedures as well as the importance of recycling. I cannot wait to participate in Green Game Day again this year so that I can again make a positive impact on the fans that are there and so that I can cheer on my team! Go Huskies!
Each spring, runners from UConn as well as the larger Connecticut community converge on Horsebarn Hill to lend their legs in support of furthering sustainability on the Storrs campus. For the seventh straight year, the race was held as a fundraiser for the EcoHusky Student Group, which champions issues related to environmental sustainability on campus. The race was held on Sunday April 1st, and attracted around 60 participants who were everything from UConn undergrads, to UConn professors, to community members interested in a challenge. The rigorous course proceeds up, over, and around the famous and scenic Horsebarn Hill so the top times of 17m 22s and 21m 27s belonging to Matt Glocker and Taylor Stott, the top male and female runners, respectively, are all the more noteworthy! Winners of the four age categories were the recipients of gift certificates and services donated from local institutions. Additionally, this year’s winning group was the Evolutionary Ecology and Biology faculty team who have long been supporters of environmental initiatives on campus. The proceeds of the race will be used by the EcoHusky Student Group to sustain their efforts as a platform for student and community environmental outreach and service.
In my two years as a Sustainability Intern with the Office of Environmental Policy, I have been placed in a very interesting role. I have compiled the three greenhouse gas emission inventories for the Storrs campus from 2009 up though last year, 2011. This task has proven to be something I can look back on and be proud of and something that I think the University can also look back on and be proud of.
History and Purpose
The greenhouse gas inventory documents all the sources of emissions from the University that contribute to global warming, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and many others. The University has voluntarily tracking this information to some degree since 2003 although thorough inventories did not begin until 2007.
In 2008, then President Michael Hogan made the University a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (PCC) at the request of large student support. The PCC is a pledge by institutions of higher education to reach a goal of climate neutrality by the year 2050. Signatories must have submitted an outline of how they would reduce their emissions to the 2050 target in a document known as a Climate Action Plan in order to become a part of the PCC. Additionally, participating institutions must provide annual greenhouse gas inventories and biannual progress updates.
In general our largest source of emissions each year has been from on campus stationary sources such as the cogeneration plant (which supplies most of the Storrs campus with electricity and steam), boilers (to produce additional steam for heating), chillers (which produce chilled water for cooling buildings), and generators (for emergency power). In fact, going back to 2001, this source of emissions has never accounted for less than 75% of the total campus emissions.
This indicates that decreasing the demand for electricty, steam, and chilled water on campus is worthwhile strategy for reducing the amount of emissions generated each year.
The University of Connecticut has gone to great lengths to make its buildings significantly more energy efficient over the last few years. Some of the energy-saving initiatives have included replacement of lighting fixtures and bulbs, the annual EcoMadness energy conservation competition, and the sustainable design and construction guidelines.
The above graph shows that over time UConn has been able to produce less greenhouse gas emissions on a per student basis over the years. This is especially amazing considering that the student population at UConn has grown by nearly 40% over that time and campus building space has grown by just over 30%. One key to this success has included the construction of the cogeneration system in the central utility plant, which provides UConn with electricity and steam in a more efficient manner than the grid can. Another has been the University’s policy requiring major construction and renovation projects since 2008 to meet a minimum LEED Silver rating, such as the Burton-Schenkman football training complex.
The University also has small emission contributions from other categories like transportation, fertilizer application, and refrigerants (which are actually incredibly potent greenhouse gases). Some of the emissions are offset by the UConn forest and its new composting operation.
Form 2007 to 2010, the overall emissions dropped by about 6,000 MT eCO2 per year, which is the equivalent of taking about 120 passenger cars off the road each of those years. This is a 3% annual decline.
This is a promising trend considering the fact that the number of full-time students increased 6% over those three years, part-time students by 10%, and summer students by 68%. Although there was a significant drop in building space from 2007 to 2008, building space increased from 2008 to 2010 increased by 3.5%.
Summing It All Up
Working on the greenhouse gas inventory has been immensely rewarding. I personally worked on the greenhouse gas inventories as far back as 2008 and I was the primary intern who worked on the 2009-2011 inventories. Not only am I proud to see my work produce these useful metrics for evaluating our steps towards sustainability, but I am also proud to have been a part of something that connects so much of the University together.
For each inventory I had to contact tens of people for information on a huge variety of sources. I received data from sources involved in generating power on campus as well as sources involved in generating compost (which now includes the agricultural compost facility, the floriculture program, many of the campus dining halls, the Spring Valley Farm living and learning community, and the EcoGarden student group). There is just something incredibly exciting to take bits and pieces from so many staff and faculty members and then have the opportunity to show them how their contribution to campus sustainability fits in at our annual spring Environmental Policy Advisory Council (EPAC) meeting.
I am excited that in less than one month I can honestly tell them that our University has reduced its emissions by 9% in three years, even as campus and the student body grew. And most exciting is that the 2011 inventory is nearing completion and it is so far promising our largest reduction to date.
Even when I felt things were not working in favor of sustainability on campus, I could still look at the inventory and know that the University has made and is still making a great and concerted effort to reducing our environmental footprint — and I would hope everyone can see this as well. (We did after all finish 16th in the Sierra Club Cool Schools survey last year, in part thanks to our third best overall score of 9.5/10 in energy efficiency — so even if we accidentally leave a few lights on, rest assured that we’ve done our best to make them “waste” as little energy as possible.)
So ultimately I would remind everyone, as an outgoing intern and as a graduating senior, that you must not let good be the enemy of perfection; take time to appreciate your progress every so often. But likewise, do not rest on your laurels, especially when you have shown in the past just how much you can accomplish.
Chris Berthiaume is a senior in Environmental Engineering and a second year intern with the OEP. His major projects have included the greenhouse gas inventory, updating the website, social media engagement, and the assisting with the 2012 EocHusky 5k.
On Friday, September 16th, the Office of Environmental Policy and UConn Athletics co-hosted Green Game Day, an environmental awareness campaign that encourages fans to do their part in reducing the footprint of UConn Athletic events. Thirty volunteers collected recyclables from tailgaters and educated fans about the importance of recycling. As much of the estimated eight tons of garbage produced at each Husky home game is recyclable, this event significantly contributes to reducing UConn’s environmental impact. Additionally, a student-run booth featuring a green initiatives display further enthused fans by providing them with recycling bags of their own.