UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


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A Freshman’s Introduction to Sustainability

My name is Emily and I am a UConn freshman majoring in Natural Resources with a concentration in water and climate. My interest in the protection of our ecosystem is ethically, scientifically, and emotionally rooted. My dad is a geologist who has worked in the environmental field for the last 25 years. He began his career cleaning highly contaminated superfund sites and now manages a large portfolio of real estate. He is responsible for ensuring that the land and buildings he covers are compliant with federal and state environmental regulations. He works hard to preserve the environment and educate others on the importance of sustainable business practices. My dad’s belief in his work is seamlessly integrated into everything he does from family dinner conversations about rising ocean levels to detailed explanations of the latest fossil find. His enthusiasm and passion for his work and our natural surroundings is infectious. 

I’ve known for several years now that I want to follow in my dad’s footsteps and dedicate myself to environmental studies. When I started to apply for college my senior year of high school, UConn was not very high on my list. I knew it was regarded as an excellent public university but I had always pictured myself at a small school deep in the mountains. To be honest, when I ultimately decided to go to UConn, I was disappointed and this feeling of discouragement didn’t subside for quite some time.

It was recommended that I take an INTD course with Rich Miller, the director of the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP). The class would be a one-credit course that focused on UConn’s sustainability initiatives. The first few weeks concentrated on student introductions and familiarization of the campus layout. Within the first month, however, we started to discuss the University’s outlook and goals on sustainability. We went over UConn’s recycling, composting, education outreach, transportation, energy, and much more. I was very surprised at the diverse range of sustainable activities UConn had committed itself to.

Over the course of the semester, I learned a great deal about the University’s efforts and I must confess I was very impressed. My spring semester of freshman year I was lucky enough to receive an internship at the Office of Environmental Policy and this has served to further expand my knowledge on UConn’s devotion to environmental conservation. I attended several important meetings including one for EPAC (Environmental Policy Advisory Council) and a Recycling Workgroup. It was exciting to finally be introduced to others who shared my love for the environment.  Unfortunately, I have noticed that there is fallout when it comes to the general student body’s understanding and recognition of the OEP’s work. For instance, UConn has single stream recycling but very few know what this is and even those who do are unaware that it is used on our campus. I am very proud of what UConn has done to support sustainability and I only wish more would feel this same way.

Now that my freshman year has come to an end and I have had time to think back on all of my experiences, I must say that I am very happy with my choice to come to UConn. The tremendous size once intimidated me but now I see this only gives me a larger audience to influence. I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to help our University take a leadership role in sustainability and I want nothing more than to help educate my peers on the importance of protecting our environment and bring recognition to all that the OEP and UConn has done thus far.


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EcoMadness. Saving the planet one water drop at a time

Ever hear the phrase “Every bit counts”? Well whether you believe it or not, small changes can add up to make a big difference. Even if you aren’t involved with any eco-friendly groups on campus you can still make an impact on the environment on your own. Large volunteer events and organizational movements are great, but people don’t always realize how significant their daily routines can be in affecting the environment.

One way that we try to raise awareness of this on campus is by holding an annual EcoMadness competition. During EcoMadness select dorms on campus compete against each other to see who can reduce their consumption of energy and water the most. The winning dorm receives a free ice cream party and an energy or water offset certificate based on which category they win. You don’t need to invent a spectacular eco-friendly machine to do your part. All you need to do is make small changes in your daily lifestyle and the results can be amazing! In just the first two weeks of the competition, Buckley has reduced their water consumption by 15.6%!

So please just flip the switch next time you leave a room, or save 5-10 gallons a minute by shortening your shower. Unplug your cell phone charger when you’re not using it, and only wash your clothes when you have a full load of laundry. Be smart, do your part, and always remember that just a little can go a long way!

Check out this year’s EcoMadness competition at the official EcoMadness webpage and find a few more tips on how to conserve energy and water.