UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


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UConn Participates in 10th Annual Campus Sustainability Day

by OEP intern Skyler Marinoff

This past October 24th was the 10th annual Campus Sustainability Day (CSD). CSD is an occasion for college and university campuses to celebrate the unique role they play in the movement towards a sustainable society. Sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), CSD is a national event with 151 institutions participating from coast to coast. This was the first year that the University of Connecticut joined in.

As a center of higher learning and forward thinking, UConn has a growing culture interested in practicing and spreading awareness about sustainability. From student organizations to faculty and staff initiatives, UConn has distinguished itself as one of the “greenest” schools in the country (as we were proudly recognized by the Sierra Club!). The contributors to UConn’s CSD were equally diverse, including sustainability staff from the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP), the EcoHouse Learning Community, Green Grads, EcoHusky Student Group, Spring Valley Student Farm, and even Ballroom Dancing Club.

The first part of CSD focused on sharing information about the various opportunities available for students to get involved in the green movement on campus. This was a great opportunity for these groups to advertise their ongoing activities and projects. Tables, tents, and displays were set up on Fairfield Way. Participants brought games, produce, and a range of information for students to take on their way through campus. The fair-style event provided a physical representation of the sustainable movement at UConn.

The second component of CSD was a review of UConn’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) by sustainability intern Emily McInerney. The CAP is a guidance document that is a product of the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) intended to outline steps to lead UConn to carbon neutrality by the year 2050. Emily gave a brief presentation on the history of the CAP, its progress since implementation in 2009, and what the future holds in light of the goals it sets out.

The talk set the stage for a breakout session in which the (mostly undergraduate) crowd formed groups to discuss the student-centric aspects of UConn’s CAP and sustainability initiatives. Conversation focused on ways in which students can learn about and get involved with sustainability programs on campus. Groups identified information gaps, including the general lack of awareness about electronic waste recycling and car share programs, and pressing campus issues like food waste, recycling, and sustainable transport.

Finally, the discussion turned towards ways to address these problems or promote the progress that UConn has made. Including sustainability-related information early in students’ UConn experience such as during freshman orientation or campus tours received widespread support, as did adjusting the parking fee structure to encourage alternative transit or carpooling. Students suggested that simple relatable messages could be effective in addressing issue like food or electricity waste.

Overall, CSD proved to be a success. The greatest accomplishment of 2012’s CSD was the collaboration and communication that occurred between the diverse factions of students and organizations. Networking, conversation, and education were focal points of the day’s events and these exchanges between the different parties will be a platform for which UConn can continue to build itself, both in practice and in philosophy, as a school dedicated to long-term sustainability. We look forward to participating in 2013!


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EcoMadness Final Results 2012!

The final results on EcoMadness 2012 are in!

Energy

Throughout the competition, Buckley has held the number one spot for lowest daily per capita usage of energy, at 3.7 kWh per student per day.  Their hard work and dedication kept them in the lead, and as a reward they will have a free UConn Dairy Bar ice cream party in addition to bragging rights!

In the energy reduction category, Sherman/Webster of Towers held the lead for three weeks. However, during our double or nothing final week of competition, Whitney scrambled ahead in the final moments! They had held a top three position throughout the competition, but Whitney beat out Sherman/Webster by a slim 0.03% finishing for a 20.5% total reduction in energy consumption.

Of the 23 participating dorms, 21 successfully reduced their energy consumption by a total average of 8.5%. The average per capita use was 4.4 kWh per day.

Water

Sprague, the new home of EcoHouse, was the clear winner for water reduction with an incredible final reduction of 21.0%! For some perspective on what a major accomplishment this was, the second place dorm reduced by 13.0%. Since the second week of competition, Sprague held its leading spot with steady improvements each week.   Another winner who held their position consistently throughout EcoMadness was Hamilton/Wade/Fenwick/Keller of Towers with an average per capita consumption of 32.0 gallons of water per day throughout the course of the competition.

Nine of the 23 dorms reduced their water consumption by an overall average of 2.9%.  Excluding the dorms whose water consumption was unchanged, the average reduction in water consumption was 7.1%.  The average per capita use of water was 39.9 gallons per day. (Converting that to its weight, the average per capita use is 334 lbs of water daily!)

An honorable mention goes out to our second and third place dorms for all four winning categories:

Per Capita Energy: Holcomb (2nd Place) and Batterson (3rd Place)
Energy Use Reduction (%): Sherman/Webster (2nd Place) and Hollister A/Hollister B (3rd Place)

Per Capita Water: Terry (2nd Place) and Spraque (33.4)
Water Use Reduction: Alsop A/Alsop B (2nd Place) and Whitney (3rd Place)

The overall final results are as follows:

Water Reduction Winner:
Sprague (21% Reduction)

Energy Reduction Winner:
Whitney (East) (20.5% Reduction)

Water Usage Per Capita Winner:
Hamilton/Wade/Fenwick/Keller (32 gallons)

Energy Usage Per Capita Winner:
Buckley (3.7 kWh)

Congratulations to all the dorms that successfully reduced their water and/or energy consumption during the course of EcoMadness.  Keep up the good work and remember to keep conserving!


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UConn’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory: Taking Stock of our Climate Progress and My Last Two Years

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.

Making Progress

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.

Pie graph of UConn's 2010 Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Percentage

In 2010, 77% of emissions come from either fuel burnt at the cogeneration plant or from stationary sources like generators and chillers.

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.

Dot-plot with a moving average showing the amount of energy emissions per student for the years 2001 through 2010.

The line shows a three year moving average. Emissions are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. For reference, the average passenger car produces 5 MT eCO2 per year.

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.

A dot-plot showing the emissions from 2007 through 2010.

A line has been fitted over the past four years' data to approximate the trend in how UConn's emissions have been going.

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.

Written by…

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.


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Making a Difference on Campus: How Spring Valley Farm Came to Be

I have heard from a lot from my fellow Huskies that they feel as though they are unable to cause change here at the University. They feel as though they are a small fish in the giant ocean that is UConn and so they cannot do much to make a difference on campus. I did, however, witness one of my fellow students do what others thought was impossible. In only four years, I watched a friend of mine turn a club into a small scale business that even led to the creation of UConn’s latest living and learning community.

During my freshman year, I began attending meetings of the UConn ecoGarden Club, which was a student run organization focused on growing food organically and sustainably. We were a young club (only three years old at the time) and only had one-third an acre of land, a shed, and a hoop house. Even though the main members of the club included numerous upperclassmen and graduate students who had been at the club’s founding, the president was a sophomore named Matt Oricchio.

In a year, Matt helped grow the club to include a second hoop house and numerous cold frames. In the summer concluding his first year as president, the club began selling produce at local farmers’ markets. In another year, it became a summer community supported agriculture (CSA) program that sold twenty shares to local community members. The CSA was successful enough to run the final summer of Matt’s stay at UConn. He also developed a working relationship with the Local Routes program and Dining Services, which allowed the club to sell produce to Chuck and Augie’s Restaurant as well as to the campus dining halls.

Dedicated to organic farming, Matt worked with a number of individuals from the Department of Dining ServicesOffice of Environmental PolicyDepartment of Residential Life, and numerous faculty members to create a living and learning community focused on organic farming. Thanks to the persistence of Matt and some other key individuals, Spring Valley Farm opened in the spring of 2010 and housed Matt as its first resident. He graduated and spent his summer taking care of the farm and training EcoHouse students to take over for him when he finally left in December. Spring Valley Farm now houses ten students and sells produce to Chuck and Augie’s and the dining halls. Matt currently is president of an organic farm in Westport, CT.

Matt’s time at UConn showed me that it is possible to change the university, even without ever working for it. Spring Valley Farm is but one example of a change on campus brought about by a student because of his perseverance.  The biggest inertia facing students wanting change is not that of the large institution, but rather an attitude that preventing them from acting in the first place.


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Being a Member of the EcoHouse Living and Learning Community

Were you worried about fitting in when you came to college? I was. I mean for most of us, moving to college means leaving home for the first time, it’s intimidating. How will you meet people? How will you make friends? How will you know what the heck is going on around campus? One way I found to get involved right away was to enroll in a living and learning community. During orientation they told us a little bit about living and learning communities (LLCs) as an option to get involved on campus and be a part of a community. LLCs are interest based communities so hopefully you’ll have something in common with your fellow residents before you even move in! I figured joining one was worth a shot because what did I have to lose? Not only would being in a LLC give you a community of your peers with similar interests, but it can also give you a chance to participate in activities you might find enjoyable. For example in EcoHouse, I am constantly getting notifications about any green events taking place around campus or informational sessions that are relevant to sustainability.

For me living in EcoHouse has been such a great experience thus far. We kick off each year with an EcoHouse camping trip which is not only a fun way to enjoy nature and get off campus for a couple of days, but camping also creates the perfect environment for getting to know new people. We get to do hands on volunteer work which can sometimes be hard to come by on campus, and one of Goodwin State Forest’s naturalists brings us on a guided nature walk which I personally find fascinating. When we aren’t doing planned activities we get to hang around the camp site and get to know each other a little better by playing cards, sitting by the fire, star gazing, or just chilling out. Throughout the year EcoHouse also sponsors other activities such as an alternative spring break trip and in the past we have even gone white water rafting! Once you get involved in EcoHouse you can propose your own trip or even something simple like going on a hike in the UConn Forest and inviting anyone who wants to come. I made a ton of friends living in EcoHouse last year which is why I’m in EcoHouse again as a sophomore and still loving it! So if you’re an incoming freshman, a transfer, or even just someone who hasn’t found the right place on campus yet, consider joining a Living and Learning Community.