UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


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Changing the World, One Step at a Time – The People’s Climate March

By Brianna Church

The best thing about little kids is that their dreams have no limitations. Back when I was about eight years old all of my friends dreamt of being the next big pop star, the likes of Britney or the Spice Girls. The vast majority of those same friends have now abandoned the thought of singing to any audience outside of their shower heads.

My big childhood dream was a little different, though. My dream was to save the world, singlehandedly, through medicine. I know now that no individual can save the planet without help from others and, more importantly, that even very basic medical procedures make me queasy. I still have not given up my dreams of changing the world, however. I am now studying environmental engineering and hope that in doing so I can make a difference, even if only in some small way.

My passion for environmental issues has led me to two different internships as well as to a number of different clubs and activities at UConn and through all of these means I learned about the People’s Climate March.

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The People’s Climate March will take place on September 21st, mere days before the UN Climate Summit is held in New York City. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is encouraging the participating governments to unite and support global goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Tens of thousands of people are anticipated to march in the streets of New York City in the largest environmental march in history to demonstrate that we, the people, are demanding a change.

This march will offer me the chance to show the UN and our country that both climate change and socioeconomic equality matter to me. This march will offer me the opportunity to change the course of history, one step at a time. This march will offer me the possibility to realize my dreams.

That’s why the People’s Climate March is so important to me.

Please join me and the UConn community in standing up for what is right; an economy that works for both the people and the environment. Join the tens of thousands of people that will be in the streets of New York, proving to our governments that we deserve a safe, just world to live in. Join the People’s Climate March on September 21st for the price of just one bus ticket.

If you would like to RSVP to the People’s Climate March and purchase a bus ticket from Sierra Club for $24.20 as a student or $29.48 as an adult, follow this link. For more information about this event, contact Brianna or Emily at brianna.church@uconn.edu, emily.mcinerney@uconn.edu, or at (860)486-5773.


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Blog Action Day 2013: Human Rights and the Environment

Typically we think of human rights as things like the right not to be tortured, or the right to free speech and we think of environmental problems as things like pollution or climate change, things that have technical solutions.  So how do human rights and the environment go together?

1. Many things that are human rights (the right to life, the right to water, the right to food, the right to health) require a clean and safe environment.  My own research on the human right to water constantly interacts with environmental work on clean water.

2. Some human rights theorists and activists argue that we actually have a human right to a clean environment, because so many other rights are dependent on the environment.  See Richard Hiskes’ book The Human Right to a Green Future for an example.

3. Human rights are interdependent, indivisible, and interrelated.  This means that when we look at the environment from a human rights perspective, we have to recognize and respect all other human rights at the same time.  For example, recycling E-Waste is really important, because it helps reclaim important materials for reuse, and it keeps toxic materials out of landfills.  However, many e-waste recyclers outsource the work to countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, or China.  There, the electronics are taken apart by people who are paid very little, given no safety protection, and are often children.  In attempting to work towards an environmental goal, human rights are being violated.  However, there are a growing number of responsible e-waste recyclers, so you can both respect human rights and protect the environment by taking a more holistic human rights-based approach.

Human rights are about more than just free speech – human rights are about protecting human dignity and allowing people to live full and fulfilling lives – that includes having a healthy environment!

– Corinne


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Sustainability Roundup: Reporting on Sustainability

Today’s sustainability roundup is focusing on UConn’s own Kelsey Sullivan, a reporter for the Daily Campus.  Her reporting, and her column, entitled “The New Green” is read and enjoyed by many people in our office, and around campus.  Here are links to a couple of her recent columns.

This column  discusses how individuals in a community can offer input into development – and why it’s so important to have community input.

This column from last semester discusses a really interesting possible turn for community development – sustainability focused cohousing.  Green Haven cohousing community is the example mentioned in the column.

Finally, this column from last semester examines how we talk about development and growth, and how to integrate sustainability into those terms.

We applaud your hard work, Kelsey, and hopefully the New Green simply becomes a way of life!


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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.

-Andy


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Sustainability Roundup: Green Sports

In honor of our preparation for Football Green Game day in the upcoming weeks (Add it to your Calendar – 7:30PM September 14thn at Rentschler Field), here is some information about how to “green” sports.

The NRDC has put together a report about ways that College Sports are becoming more sustainable, including highlighting UConn’s Burton Family Football Complex and Shenkman Training Center, which was the first LEED Silver football training facilities in the US, the first LEED certified facility in the NCAA, and the first LEED Silver building at UConn, which led to our LEED Silver policy for all new construction on campus.

The NRDC also has a report about how professional sports can be sustainability leaders that you can check out!

Right now, as you read, the Green Sports Alliance Summit is going on in NYC, with stakeholders meeting with sustainability leaders to collaborate on how to make sports greener.

Just because you’re at a sporting event, doesn’t mean you get to ignore the environment.

Go Green! Stay Blue!


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UConn Sustainable Programs: Water Reclamation Facility

For today’s focus on sustainable programs at UConn, we look at the new Water Reclamation Facility on campus.  Here’s a great write up of how the water reclamation facility works, as well as a repost of Corinne’s visit to the Water Reclamation Facility.

You may not know this, but if you see a purple pipe, it indicates that the water inside is recycled or reclaimed water!  Reclaiming water is a great way to promote conservation, and also to reduce the overuse of potable (drinkable) water.  Water gets used for all sorts of things at UConn – irrigation, flushing toilets, industrial uses, cooling, heating, and (most importantly in this hot weather) air conditioning!  None of those uses actually require potable water – just water.  At UConn, we actually have a Central Utility Plant (the CUP) which provides cogeneration, heating, cooling, fire protection and emergency electrical backup power to the campus.  Today we had an event to celebrate the opening of UConn’s Reclaimed Water Facility, which in the summer, provides water primarily for cooling to the CUP.  Today, all of the water necessary for cooling has been provided to the CUP, and all of the energy needed on campus so far today has been provided by the CUP!

A picture from my tour of the UConn Reclaimed Water facility today

A picture from my tour of the UConn Reclaimed Water facility today

In order to recycle water, storm water and waste water are collected, filtered and cleaned, and then piped to the CUP.  Right now, water for cooling is the primary use for reclaimed water at UConn, but there is the possibility for duel piping in new buildings to use reclaimed water for toilets, and permits are currently under review to allow us to use reclaimed water for irrigation.  In the winter, the reclaimed water will continue to be used for the lower cooling needs of the university, as well as to provide water for the boilers to produce steam to heat the university.  After the water is used at the CUP, it then flows back to the reclaimed water facility to be filtered, cleaned, and used again.

Reclaiming water is an important step towards environmental sustainability, even in a relatively water-rich region.  Reusing waste water (or grey water), or reclaiming water is critical for basic health and survival in many water-poor regions of the world where there is not enough potable water to use it for sanitation, irrigation, or industrial uses, as well as for drinking water.  In the developing world – where 800 million people lack access to clean water and 2.5 billion people lack access to proper sanitation – infrastructure can be designed and built to support reclaimed water, rather than adding it after the fact.

As part of UConn’s commitment to sustainability and to human rights, I hope that the reach of our reclaimed water facility goes beyond just reducing our water use, but helps provide an example of responsible and sustainable water use for others across the globe.