UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


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Coordinator’s Corner: Goodbye OEP!

I’m leaving OEP after a wonderful year of working here! I have had so much fun at our different events, Green Gamedays, Campus Sustainability Day, Earth Day Spring Fling! My favorite part about this job is all of the wonderful people I got to work with. Working with our immensely talented and hardworking student interns has been a privilege. I wish all of them, especially our recent graduates, Andy, Eric, and Katie, good luck in the future! It was also wonderful to learn more about how sustainability works at UConn, and the number of really amazing initiatives we have that help UConn be more sustainable.  I will be leaving the OEP in the very capable hands of our new Sustainability Coordinator, Sarah Munro and Eric Grulke, our former intern, who will be re-joining the OEP as the assistant sustainability coordinator as he begins his graduate degree in Engineering.  I can’t wait to see what the interns will do next year! I will be spending the next year finishing my dissertation on the institutionalization of the right to water, so I will gone, but not away from campus, and I plan to check in every so often to say hi!

All the best,

Corinne


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The Mystery of Single Stream Recycling

One of the most frequent questions we get at the OEP is “can I recycle X,” followed closely by “what recycling goes in each bin?”

At UConn, we have had single stream recycling since 2009.  This means that any recyclable material can go in any recycling bin.  Sometimes this is also called mixed recycling.  We have a number of different types of recycling bins on campus – we have the new green bins outside that are coupled with trash cans, we have the older rectangular cans with paper and bottle/can restricted lids, we have the small blue recycling bins for individual rooms or offices, we have white and red and yellow bins in the dorms.  Despite the difference in bins, any recyclable can go in any bin!

However, even with single stream, there are still a lot of questions about what is recyclable and what is not.

Some common items:

Plastic grocery bags – these cannot go into single stream recycling.  However, they can be recycled at most grocery stores.  This goes for any sort of recyclable plastic bag (such as newspaper bags, or plastic bubble packing material)

Paper coffee cups – these are generally not recyclable because the paper is actually lined with wax to prevent your hot beverage from leaking out of the cup.  Often the plastic lid and the paper sleeve are recyclable though!

Books – Check with your recycler, but Willimantic Waste Paper Company, the recycler for campus accepts paperback books for recycling, just put them into any recycling bin.

Shredded paper – Although shredded paper is recyclable, it can’t go into the single stream because the small pieces can’t be sorted out.  Offices on campus can contact central stores to pick up confidential documents for shredding. If your recycler can’t take shredded paper, contact them to find out where you can take shredded paper for recycling.

Ziplock Bags – Unfortunately these can’t go in the recycling.  Consider washing and reusing them, or purchasing reusable zipper bags for your snacks.

Envelopes with clear windows – These can go in the recycling bin!

Anything with food waste or grease – Even if the material would be otherwise recyclable, if it has food waste, please wash it before putting it into the recycling so you don’t contaminate the load.  If it’s contaminated with grease (such as cardboard from a pizza box), it can’t be recycled.

Check out this awesome video from WilliWaste explaining how their single stream recycling system works!


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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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Coordinator’s Corner: Everywhere you look…

Since I started working at the OEP in May I’ve learned a lot and worked on a lot of different projects.  I expected to be busy, and I expected gain a new perspective on how sustainability works at UConn.  What I didn’t expect was how sustainability would change the way I see EVERYTHING!

When I walk through campus, or through town, I notice every time I see a trash can without a recycling bin next to it.  On my walk from my other office in Oak hall to where I park, there are 8 trashcans without recycling containers within easy reach.  I ended up carrying a soda can all the way to my car so that I could recycle it at home, rather than putting it in the trash.  When I went to a conference in Boston, I stayed at a Doubletree Hotel and appreciated that their trash bins actually had separate containers for trash and recycling (and mentioned it to the front desk).  When I see someone go to throw something recyclable away, I try to stop them and direct them to the correct bin.

When people complain about something (like they lack a recycling bin in their office or at the band field) or  ask questions about something, like they don’t know why our power plant is called the co-gen, I have solutions and answers.

It’s really exciting learning how everything actually runs at UConn, and it’s really empowering to be able to help address problems, or answer questions, instead of just sitting around talking about something.

-Corinne


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Coordinator’s Corner: GHG emissions when traveling

I’ve been doing a bit of traveling this summer.  I visited family in various places in Ohio, and next I’m heading to Chicago at the end of the month for the American Political Science Association annual meeting.  As I’ve made my travel plans, I wondered whether it was better to fly or drive.  I decided to investigate!

I found a calculator online to answer my question.

Here’s my scenario – my husband and son were going to the beach in North Carolina with my in-laws for a week. They needed a car while there, so they drove. I was then meeting them in Columbus to visit with my family, and then we were driving up to Cleveland to visit some friends and more in-laws, then driving back to Connecticut.  I was originally planning to fly down to Columbus, but then I thought about how much carbon a plane emits.  Would it be greener if I drove myself to Ohio?

Using the above calculator, I figured out that with our backup car (which only gets about 26 mpg on the highway), driving alone, it would be slightly more environmentally friendly to fly to Columbus.  However, the big carbon savings comes when I join my husband and child and we do all the rest of our driving in one car.  If I brought our other car down, we would have to drive two cars back up to Connecticut – super wasteful!

Heading to Chicago later this month, it’s much better to drive than to fly with three people in the car!

Next time you plan a trip, figure out whether it’s better to fly or drive (or even better, take a train or a bus!)