UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


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Basketball Green Game Days: Spring 2013

Click on a picture to learn more about our green game days this spring! Thank you to everyone at the games who donated to Kicks for Africa. Collection of lightly used sneakers will continue throughout the semester at bins placed around campus.

 


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Stretching UConn’s Water Budget, Part I

As UConn and Mansfield envision our future over the next 50 years, it’s clear that an additional source of water will be required to meet the needs of both the town and the campus in the coming decades. Our shared goal is not just development, but sustainable development, of important proposed projects such as the long-awaited UConn Tech Park on our North Campus, a managed retirement community in Storrs, and the commercial redevelopment of the Four Corners area, about a mile north of campus on Route 195.

That’s why, nearly two years ago, UConn and the town embarked on the public process of an Environmental Impact Evaluation to identify and evaluate several alternative sources of water supply, each of which would be capable of adding up to 2 million gallons a day, or nearly double the water system’s current capacity on a typical late-summer day.

Since then, inquiring minds want to know: What has the University done to conserve water, reduce demand, and stretch its current water budget? In other words, has UConn demonstrated that it is deserving of more water by being a good environmental steward of its current drinking water resources?

The answer is yes, according to an experienced environmental and water planning professional, David Murphy of Milone & MacBroom. Over his nearly 20-year consulting career, Murphy has prepared water supply plans for 15 different water companies and public water supply systems throughout the Northeast. “I’ve never seen conservation like I’ve seen at UConn,” he announced to a large audience assembled at the UConn Health Center in Farmington last December.

Okay, so Murphy is UConn’s water consultant and made this observation while kicking off the University’s second public hearing on the draft Environmental Impact Evaluation – it would be fair for some to question his objectivity. But his comment was a completely unsolicited professional opinion and, more importantly, it’s based on the University’s record over the past seven years.

UConn's water towers, with Towers residence halls in the foreground. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Conn’s water towers, with Towers residence halls in the foreground. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Improvements to our system’s infrastructure, equipment, and controls have yielded the largest reductions in consumption, albeit at the greatest expense. Seven years ago, UConn instituted an ongoing leak detection and repair program to find and fix broken water mains and distribution pipes that each can waste tens of thousands of gallons a day. An improved sub-metering program and new monitoring devices have enhanced our ability to identify even small leaks, which would have gone undetected years ago. We also improved controls and pumping schedules that prevent routine overflows and loss of water from our storage tanks and underground reservoirs.UConn takes its water resources stewardship seriously. The record shows that in 2012, our system used an average of 225,000 gallons per day less than it did seven years ago, and 350,000 gallons per day less than it did 10 years ago, despite serving a larger population. Our water conservation strategies fall into three categories: supply system improvements, demand-side installations and retrofits, and behavioral changes. This post will highlight supply-side conservation measures and, in a future blog post, Part 2 will focus on the rest.

But clearly, the most innovative and beneficial conservation-based supply system improvement will be up and running next month, when construction of the $25 million reclaimed water facility is completed and the facility begins operating. The reclaimed water facility will save up to 500,000 gallons per day when it’s needed most, by treating and reusing effluent from UConn’s sewage plant. This reclaimed water will be used for purposes that don’t require drinking water quality, such as cooling and boiler make-up water at UConn’s cogeneration facility and central utility plant. In the future, it could also be used to irrigate certain athletic fields on campus, further reducing our current demand for potable water.

UConn carefully monitors flow in the Fenton River near one of its two wellfields, using among other things an automatic USGS stream gauge installed in the river just upstream of the wells.

UConn carefully monitors flow in the Fenton River near one of its two wellfields, using among other things an automatic USGS stream gauge installed in the river just upstream of the wells.

Aside from these capital and equipment investments in water conservation, UConn also protects aquatic habitat by curtailing pumping from its wells based on real time measurement of stream flow in the river near its wellfield. This protocol was adopted by the University as a result of an unprecedented three-year study, completed in 2006, which verified the impact of pumping from these wells on reduced flow rates in the Fenton River during drought-like conditions.

The practice has since been formalized inUConn’s Drought Emergency Response Plan, which prescribes that we will ratchet back pumping when the automatic stream gauge in the Fenton River records flow rates as low as six cubic feet per second. Further along during an extended periods of dry weather, when low flow in the river reaches three cubic feet per second, and typically much sooner, UConn will stop pumping from the Fenton wellfield altogether.

Simultaneously, the University will issue Water Conservation Advisories to all system users. If drought conditions persist and streamflow in the more robust Willimantic River, near UConn’s primary wellfield, also drops to certain levels, then water conservation measures at the University become mandatory, such as prohibiting vehicle washing and use of UConn water for dust control at construction sites.

Our wellfield management strategy has been effective in preventing induced infiltration that can exacerbate low-flow conditions in the Fenton River, especially during summer droughts in 2007 and 2010. As climate change threatens more frequent and extreme weather events, including extended hot, dry periods and severe storms, UConn is bolstering the resiliency of its system while protecting aquatic habitat, and will continue to follow these stringent emergency water conservation procedures.

Next: UConn’s demand-side water conservation measures and outreach to promote water use behavioral changes.


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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.


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A Perspective on Sustainable Practices in Costa Rica

by OEP intern Emily Udal

costa_rica_6Over the winter intersession, I had the opportunity to travel to the beautiful country of Costa Rica for three weeks to take 6-credits worth of classes titled Economic Development & Human Rights in Latin America and  Latin American Studies.  The trip was very successful despite it being the first time UConn has attempted this specific study abroad program. Over the span of three weeks I came to appreciate the natural beauty and landscape of a country that pledged to become carbon neutral by the year 2021. Currently about 26% of the country is a “protected area”, and about 5% of the world’s total biodiversity can be found within its borders. Many of Costa Rica’s sustainable practices are integrated into the culture of the country, where a respect for earth’s natural resources and promoting environmental initiatives began as early as the country abolished their military in the 1940s.  The additional savings allowed the government to reinvest it’s expenditures to improve education systems, public infrastructure and to develop commerce for the region. Sustainability in the country is also conducive to the terrain and climate, allowing Costa Rica to obtain over 80% of its power from hydroelectricity.

Beginning in the early 1990s, President José María Figueras made sustainable development one of the central themes of his administration, where a costa_rica_5major effort was set in motion to look at the country’s sustainable growth potential. Since 1999 Costa Rica’s strategic efforts related to sustainable development through the Ministry of the Environment and Energy appear to be focused on implementing Agenda 21 at the local level as a tool to generate multi-stakeholder participation planning for constructing sustainable development. Over this period, the country also pioneered a carbon tax which is used as an incentive to pay landowners or indigenous communities per hectare, to preserve natural forests.Many reforestation efforts have been in place in the country in order to protect the primary forests, making it the country with the most trees per capita. Aside from national policy making, other local initiatives are crucial to fostering sustainable development practices, where rural areas rely on forms of eco-tourism to supplement family incomes.

The country is best known for its national parks and protected areas, demonstrating how nature conservation can become an engine for eco-tourism and sustainable development. Our group had the opportunity to travel to agricultural cooperatives and visit a village noted for its “rural tourism,” called Nacientes Palmichal. The farm was self-sufficient and used simple solutions for converting energy costa_rica_4through a bio-digester and utilizing small plots of land for agricultural products.

My work at the OEP focuses heavily on implementing renewable technology, raising awareness to students about environmental challenges and developing a plan to address long term carbon reduction. However, once in Costa Rica, I realized the way of life of the Costa Rican people focuses on wisely utilizing resources, respecting and caring for the environment and incorporating sustainability as the fabric imbedded in the culture. Preserving the environment can improve the quality of lives for many people in the regions, where conserving water and forests are conducive to survival. In the US, the focus for sustainability is retrogressive in many aspects, where we are trying to correct an existing problem, while in Costa Rica sustainability is progressive to future opportunities for the nation.


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Ignite Challenge: Students 4 Sustainability!

IGNITE Challenge – Competition to Win $10,000 towards Environmental Initiatives and Awareness

What is the opportunity?

The Ignite challenge is UConn’s first crowdfunding competition that gives UConn students and young alumni the opportunity to follow, connect with, and support causes at UConn they are most passionate about. UConn alumnus, David Barton ’61, is helping sponsor the competition to promote philanthropy and to engage campus wide participation. Selected groups will compete for donors and awards, with the top prize of $10,000 to a supported cause that will benefit the UConn community.

Who benefits?

All donations for our cause will directly go to the Campus Sustainability Fund. The Campus Sustainability Fund supports programs and initiatives that raise environmental awareness and develop conservation-minded students. Through demonstration projects like green roofs, renewable energy and biofuels, recycling and composting enhancements, campus bicycling amenities, water and energy conservation competitions, and donating reusable goods to community partners, students learn to be environmental stewards and positively contribute to society.

The Campus Sustainability Fund was enacted to provide part of the necessary capital to aid the Sustainability Office in its efforts to meet this aggressive goal to become a sustainable campus. Continuing to build a sustainable campus and creating a culture of environmental stewardship among students will require an upgrade of the University’s resources dedicated to sustainability and specifically, the further development of the Sustainability Office within the OEP. Support of the fund will ensure that UConn will continue to be a leader in sustainability within the state and throughout the country.

Why this is important?

The Ignite Challenge is the first opportunity we have had to raise significant money through a donation for the Campus Sustainability Fund (“CSF”). The CSF in recent years has been short of  external funds, which are crucial to financially supporting many of our environmental initiatives at UConn. UConn has made significant progress as a top green university with the recent Sierra Club ranking placing UConn as the top 5 greenest college campus, but we need continued support.

How to participate?

Groups were pre-selected to participate in the Ignite challenge through an application process. The Office of Environmental Policy’s cause is to support Environmental Awareness and Initiatives at UConn through the cause “Students 4 Sustainability.” If you are passionate about environmental issues and would like to help your university continue its sustainability efforts, please sign up as a donor today! Winning causes will be selected based on the highest number of student and young alumni* donor participants, not on the sum of dollars raised.

*Young alumni include Graduates of the Last Decade (2003-2013)

How YOU can Donate to our cause, “Students 4 Sustainability”

There are a variety of ways to donate to our cause for the IGNITE challenge, below are some of the possibilities.

  •     Text2Give: Text 5055 with the following phrase:
    •   For students: “uconn earth [your first and last name] [peoplesoft]”
    • For young alumni: “uconn earth [your first and last name] [graduation year]”
    • Respond YES when asked to confirm your $10 donation in a follow-up text message that you will receive. This gift will support the cause “STUDENTS 4 SUSTAINABILITY”

*More information of Text2Give can be found here: http://www.foundation.uconn.edu/text-donations.html

When is the competition?

The competition spans from February 1 – May 3, 2013

 
Thank you for your continued support. Remember to Go Green and Stay Blue!

For more information on the Campus Sustainability Fund, or the Ignite Challenge please visit:

http://www.ecohusky.uconn.edu/about/csf.html

http://www.foundation.uconn.edu/studentgiving/index.html

Important Disclosures:

$10.00 donation to support the University of Connecticut Foundation through the  mGive Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid  balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Message and Data Rates May Apply. Text STOP to 50555 to STOP. Text HELP to 50555 for HELP. Full Terms and Privacy Policy: s.uconn.edu/txt. Foundation.

Your gift to Students 4 Sustainability will be administered by the UConn Foundation, Inc. and deposited into the Campus Sustainability Fund (#22701). Donations will be used to support programs, projects, supplies, equipment, staffing and related expenses needed to develop, coordinate, promote, carry out, measure and report about UConn’s system-wide campus sustainability initiatives.


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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:


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Environmentally and Socially Conscious Holiday Shopping

by OEP intern Emily Udal

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we’ve started worrying about our holiday shopping. As a consumer, it’s important to be conscious of the impacts your purchases make – not just to the gift recipient, but also to the people who create the product. Take a break from studying and take a look at the variety of tote bags and other items you can chose from that support environmental and social good.

Recycled Canvas Totes from Etsy

Reduce your carbon footprint when you go grocery shopping. By remembering to bring a tote to carry your items, you can reduce the amount of paper and plastic bags, which have detrimental impacts on the environment.  About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, with the average family accumulating 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store. The sad reality of plastic bag consumption is that plastic bags aren’t biodegradable, they photo-degrade, meaning the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins which then contaminate the soil, waterways and harm marine life. Greenpeace estimates that at least 267 marine species are known to have suffered from getting entangled in or ingesting marine debris. So next time you’re considering using a plastic bag, take the extra step to use your reusable tote bag to prevent the amount of plastic bag waste.

Paisley Magic on Etsy

FEED Guatemala Tote Bag

FEED began in 2006 to benefit the United Nations World Food Program’s School Feeding program. To date, FEED has been able to raise enough money through the sale of products to provide over 60 million school meals to children around the world through the WFP. The FEED Foundation is dedicated to supporting programs and organizations that are working to fight hunger and eliminate malnutrition throughout the world. FEED products are used with environmentally friendly and artisan-made materials, along with fair-labor production. The FEED Guatemala Bag will provide 15 school meals. The bag is handmade in Guatemala by the Collaborative Group, a non-profit organization that empowers artisans around the world using traditional Ikat fabrics.

FEED Guatamala Products

Recycled Sari Clutch by People Tree

People Tree, founded in 2001, has been a pioneer in environmentally sustainable fashion, particularly for their support of Fair Trade practices. The company, also registered by the World Fair Trade Organization, has worked with artisans in developing countries to work with local communities to sell handcrafted goods. People Tree works closely with farmers on organic cotton farming, and aims to use recycled materials and dyes that are free from harmful chemicals. Purchasing an item from People Tree helps double the income of the local artisan workers that helps foster economic development in their communities.

Recycled Sari Clutch

Apple & Bee Organic Cotton Canvas Tote

 Apple and Bee is an Australian-owned, carbon neutral business that started The Bee Foundation, a non-profit organization to raise awareness of Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon where a honey bee colony will die off, likely due to fertilizers. This has widespread implications for the US economy because of its effects on agriculture. Honeybees help support a large portion of the world’s food crops and the agricultural economy, and pollinate about one-third of crop species in the United States. According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. Commercial production of many specialty crops like almonds, berries, fruits and vegetables are also heavily dependent on honey bee pollination. You can help support research on Colony Collapse Disorder through Apple and Bee, who donate part of their profits to The Bee Foundation.

Apple and Bee EcoTotes

Econscious 100% Organic Cotton Boat Totes

Econscious supports sustainable apparel by sourcing organic and sustainable fibers. The company supports social equity, ecological sustainability, and corporate responsibility by using a market-based approach to work closely with their supply chain to eliminate the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and other harmful chemicals. The Organic Trade Association classifies organic cotton to be grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The methods for growing organic cotton have a low impact on the environment and prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming.  On the contrary, growing conventional cotton requires the use of pesticides, which has huge environmental impacts as well as health risks for those working around it. Purchasing organic cotton products helps support and expands the market for cotton grown without the harmful agricultural inputs, benefiting the environment and human health.

Econscious Bags