UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


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The Difficult Road to #1

UConn’s recent achievement in reaching the #1 ranking in this year’s Sierra Club “Cool Schools” Survey is, without a doubt, a success to be celebrated by the entire campus community. The sustainable practices implemented by faculty, staff, and students, as well as generous donations to the University’s Campus Sustainability Fund, have  supported green initiatives here at UConn.

However, as one of the newest at the Office of Environmental Policy, it especially excites me to have been a part of such an outstanding accomplishment within my first year as an intern. I can remember the meeting when the previous sustainability coordinator, Jen Clinton, began assigning sections of the Sierra survey for us to review, fact check and update. There was a collective groan that went through the room, and little did I know what I was about to get myself into. The subsequent process of reviewing our designated sections, which took several months, was often stressful. Meeting deadlines while balancing other tasks assigned to us in the office, including planning and running events such as Green Game Day, also proved to be a challenge, and when the survey was finally submitted, all of us could breathe a little sigh of relief.

Still, the long wait for the Sierra club to review our survey and respond to us with our ranking was nerve-wracking. A majority of the other interns had been through the process of submitting the survey before, but although it was my first year, I was able to share their anticipation. We all wanted to see the fruits of our labor pay off, not only because we had devoted hours of hard work, but because we knew UConn deserved nothing but a high ranking. The feeling of excitement that struck us all when we received the great news was indescribable. We were extremely proud of one another, and proud to say that we belong to such a “cool school”! If we were able to achieve this kind of success during my first year at the OEP, I can only imagine the other accomplishments that lie ahead for the University. Congratulations, Huskies!

– Meredith


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Sustainability Roundup: Coming to Campus

We’re about to have thousands of students move in to UConn’s Storrs campus at the end of this week, because classes start on Monday.  This week’s sustainability roundup is looking at some of the ways to stay green during move-in.

George Washington University provides some great tips to start off green in the dorms.

Once you’re on campus, you will probably be walking or biking a lot (which is super green!), so check out the safety guidelines from UConn Police.

The Guardian presented an interesting article this week about how much energy wireless computing and keeping everything in “the cloud” uses.  Although getting rid of excess paper usage through cloud computing is great, it’s not an unmitigated good – it still uses energy.

Don’t forget UConn’s recycling guidelines as you’re unpacking all your stuff!  Remember, with single stream, ALL your recycling can go in ANY recycling container, even if it’s labeled otherwise.


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Sustainability Roundup: Preparing for Climate Change

As people all over the world can share, our weather is changing as a result of global climate change.  Connecticut has experienced two hurricanes in the past three years, as well as several very bad blizzards that have left much of the state without power for days or even weeks.  Here are a few links to programs that are being put into place to cope with more frequent extreme weather events. 

UConn is installing a MicroGrid on the Depot campus to protect important facilities from power outages in future weather events. 

Several states, including Connecticut, are passing legislation to deal with the effects of climate change

The city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat in India has developed a Heat Action Plan to protect people from dangerous and more frequent heat waves.  Full Plan available here.

The City of Groton, CT has developed a very detailed process for dealing with climate change at a community level. See here for the full plan. 

Please feel free to share any other plans and programs that have been developed to address the effects of climate change that you know of. 

 


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Recycling at UConn

Paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, bottles and cans – what do all of these materials have in common?  Did you know that all of them can be disposed of in the same recycling bin? Three years ago, the University of Connecticut, with the help of WilliWaste, revitalized its twenty-year-old recycling program and adopted a single-stream recycling system. The goals of the new program are to save even more energy, reduce more waste and further the prevention of pollution. In 2010, it was determined that faculty, staff and students at UConn recycle only about 20% of the disposable materials that they use each day. Since then, UConn has set a new goal of at least 58% by 2024. To expedite the University’s progress towards the lofty, sustainable goal, more than one hundred outdoor recycling bins have been added across campus. Just like the indoor recycling bins, any bin can accept any recyclable material.

Data shows that, since single stream recycling was implemented in 2010, the new program has been successful. The amount of waste tonnage by bottles, cans, and newspaper has significantly decreased as students and staff have started discarding all recyclables into the same container. The amount of waste tonnage by mixed paper and corrugated plastic has also decreased. Therefore, the amount of single streamed waste has grown and continues to do so. The University of Connecticut hopes to see the amount of waste tonnage for single stream recycling increase over the next few years. Ultimately, we wish to achieve our goal of having over half of our disposable materials recycled.

More can be recycled than you think!  Books, aluminum foil, and aerosol cans can all go into any recycling container.  There are also e-waste containers in several campus locations (Library, Student Union, Co-op) for printer ink or toner cartridges, batteries, and broken electronics.

Today, in 2013, the University has worked diligently to change the way the campus community views the importance of recycling with various events and programs. If you would like to help UConn further its waste reduction initiatives, get involved in the programs meant to promote the importance of recycling to students and to the community.  Each year, the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) teams up with athletics to host three Green Game Days – one football game during the fall semester and two basketball games during the spring semester.  At these events, student volunteers encourage fans to recycle their used items instead of throwing them into garbage cans. Volunteers also collect recyclables from tailgate areas at football games, as well as lightly used shoes for donation at basketball games.  However, lightly used shoe and sneaker recycling is not a one day event.  Throughout the entire spring semester, lightly used shoes and sneakers are collected and donated to the student group Kicks for Africa. The shoes are then shipped and distributed to less fortunate children in African countries.

For other waste reduction, UConn runs a program called Give & Go at the end of each year. 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 (for a list of all collected and donated items, visit: http://ecohusky.uconn.edu/recycling/giveandgo.html) . The recycling and reuse program encourages students to donate unwanted belongings to local charities and non-profit organizations instead of throwing them away.  And of course we have regular surplus sales at the University Surplus store to send items the University no longer needs to a new home! (There’s one on Friday 8/9/13 – check it out!)

We don’t stop at reusing and recycling – we are also trying to reduce the amount of waste we produce.  The University has also opened a composting facility, and Dining Services has removed all trays from dining halls (with the exception of South Campus) to reduce the amount of food waste produced by students.  In addition to reducing the amount of food waste generated on the front end, any food that is disposed of is composted in eCorect machines located within the dining halls.  By composting organic waste, UConn is reducing the overall volume of waste while re-purposing it to divert waste from landfills.

Next time you have an empty bottle in your hand, remember to recycle it instead of tossing it into a garbage can.  Don’t be afraid to lift the lid of any recycling container and make use of UConn’s single stream program.  If you are unsure of what can and cannot be recycled, visit our recycling guidelines page or call the Office of Environmental Policy!

– Katie and Meredith


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Come Join UConn’s Earth Day Celebration!

Each spring the OEP along with the UConn Department of Dining Services’ Local Routes Program, EcoHusky Student Group and EcoHouse Learning Community organizes a sustainability festival called Earth Day Spring Fling (EDSF). The event features a multitude of student groups and campus departments as well as eco-friendly vendors/exhibitors. This year’s celebration will be held on April 18th from 11:00am to 2:00pm with an inclement weather date of April 19th.

Last year’s event generated heavy foot traffic as students, faculty, staff, and Mansfield community members stopped by to check out the Earth Day celebration.

Last year’s event generated heavy foot traffic as students, faculty, staff,
and Mansfield community members stopped by to check out the Earth Day celebration.

Located on Fairfield Way, students can easily stop by for a quick bite to eat on their way to and from class. Dining Services provides delicious local food (including vegetarian/vegan options) purchasable by either a flex pass or $9.00 in cash. All dishware is reusable to assist in achieving a low-waste event—with the bulk of waste being either recycled or composted. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and Mansfield community members are expected to attend. A diversity of vendors will be attending (approximately 35 to 40), including UConn’s very own EcoHusky Student Group, Kicks for Africa (a non-profit created by UConn student Chibuikem Nwanonyiri that collects lightly used shoes to send over to children in Africa), the Connecticut Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, Lili D Magpie Creations (sustainable jewelry), Capitol Clean Cities (an organization dedicated to increasing the use of eco-friendly vehicles) and much more.

 EDSF is a low-waste event.

EDSF is a low-waste event.

UConn was recently ranked 5th on Sierra Club’s Cool School Survey this past year and we aim to continue improving sustainability on campus so we can reach our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Students are encouraged to come and learn more about what they can do to help promote sustainability on campus. This event offers the opportunity to learn more about environmental initiatives implemented at UConn as well as general sustainable practices. Some vendors will be selling products or handing out free samples while others may provide informational pamphlets.

Students can sit amongst their friends in the lawn area surrounding Fairfield Way and simply relax or seek out Jonathan the Husky who will be posing for photos to attract students toward our fundraising initiatives as part of the Ignite Challenge (Students 4 Sustainbility). Live acoustic music will be performed by two local bands named Skychase and Research n Development. There will also be a tree planting at 1:00pm on the east side of Budds Building.

edsf5

Come join us and help UConn celebrate its biggest environmental awareness event of the year. With spring in the air, let’s cross our fingers and hope for warm weather. We hope to see you there!

For more information please visit our website.


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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.