Month: March 2016

UConn’s 2015 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

UConn’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) has led to the implementation of several notable projects and initiatives. The CAP outlines plans to improve sustainability under the following categories: transportation, energy, and sustainable development. In Spring 2012, UConn added an adaptation section to work in conjunction with its mitigation strategies. This section is focused on UConn’s research, outreach and service roles, as we seek to provide resources for improving the climate resiliency of communities throughout the state and region.  The mitigation strategies in UConn’s CAP serve to identify the emissions reduction benefits and cost effectiveness of potential action items. The Office of Environmental Policy’s current emissions targets call for a 20% decrease in emissions by 2020 and 30% by 2025. UConn’s overall progression includes:

  • Class III Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) generated by UConn’s Co-Generation Facility, sold to finance energy efficiency projects across campus
  • 134 re-lamping projects completed for more than $700,000 per year savings in energy costs and over 5,000 Tons eCO2 avoided
  • 19 retro-commissioning projects completed for  $2.2 million per year savings in energy costs and more than 12,000 Tons eCO2 avoided
  • LEED Silver certification requirement for all new building and renovations over $5 million
  • Several variable-frequency drive (VFD) projects optimizing heating and cooling in buildings for around 1,000 Tons eCO2 avoided
  • Long-term electricity purchasing agreement with ConEd for 40% of purchased electricity comprised of renewable energy
  • Over 15% decrease in water consumption, despite 23% growth in user population from 2005-2014
  • Agricultural/organic waste composting facility operating at maximum load of 800 tons per year
  • Connecticut Institute for Resiliency and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) established in January 2014
  • 400 kW fuel cell and 7 kW solar array, providing electricity, heating, and cooling to the Depot campus
  • 8 kW solar array on top of the reclaimed water facility
  • Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge pledge signed: 5 active EV charging stations and an expanding EV fleet
  • Transportation fleet now includes 15 hybrid vehicles and 12 plug-in EVs, including the EStar campus van (15% of the light-duty fleet)

UConn is still on track to meet its 20% interim reduction goal by 2020. This is being achieved primarily through on-going LED re-lamping projects in buildings, parking lots, and walkways, and with the replacement of old, inefficient steam pipes. These projects are expected to be completed between 2015 and 2020 and will yield an annual 13,265 ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. With all of these developments, UConn continues to strive toward carbon neutrality and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the years to come. UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy uses the University of New Hampshire Campus Carbon Calculator (CCC) to store and track greenhouse gas information.ghg emissions

Electricity, heating, ventilation and air conditioning for buildings account for over 80% of the university’s carbon footprint based on current calculations which do not fully account for scope 3 emissions. As it can be seen above, a 12.9% decrease since 2007 is observed when the effects of natural gas curtailment are included. Curtailment occurs when the weather is especially cold and demand on the natural gas pipeline is high. This forces UConn to burn fuel oil instead of natural gas. On average, each day of natural gas curtailment results in 50,000 gallons of oil being consumed by the co-generation plant (a net release of 250 tons eCO2 per day*).

When natural gas curtailment is ignored, an 18.1% decrease in eCO2 emissions since 2007 is observed. It can be noted that the direct emissions sources from the university are decreasing, but with more cold weather affecting the local area, the amount of curtailment days has continued to increase. In the winter months of 2015, there were 30 days of natural gas curtailment, compared to 14 the prior year, and only 3 in 2012. Fortunately, the natural gas infrastructure in Connecticut is being expanded, so it is likely that we will not have further curtailment days next winter.

In addition, new building construction has accounted for a majority of Direct Source Emissions increase in recent years. A breakdown of UConn’s emission sources can be seen below.emissions by source

*In recent years, each day of natural gas curtailment was estimated at an extra 500 tons of eCO2 per day. This has been adjusted to 250 tons of eCO2 per day based on conversations with compliance staff.

A Mini-Series on Greening Your Dorm or Apartment: Part 3

Editor’s Note:

Below is the third installment of Greening Your Dorm or Apartment. Be sure to check out parts 1 and 2, and if you have any suggestions, tips or quotes that would fit in this mini-series, please e-mail me at

Succulents? Excellent

A succulent is a plant that has thick and fleshy leaves, evolved to retain water. Why is this significant? Because these plants are adapted to arid climates or in the busy college student’s case: long streaks of time without water.

succulentsSome examples of these succulents that are structurally equipped to handle neglect are the famous Aloe Vera plant, Burro’s Tail (which looks like grapes), and my personal favorite, the Snake Plant. With that name, you just know it will look cool.

In addition to the snake plant, some of my other favorites that currently reside in my Hilltop apartment are the Yucca and the Pothos Plants. After a controlled experiment, I can confirm they are able to survive a whole Thanksgiving break without water.

Since I am far from a botany specialist, the following quote explains the environmental benefit of plants, taken from an employee in the LEED Credit Project regarding ‘The Biophilic Connection’:

“When plants transpire water vapor from their leaves, they pull air down around their roots. This supplies their root microbes with oxygen. The root microbes also convert other substances in the air, such as toxic chemicals, into a source of food and energy.”

Not only do these leafy specimens act as air purifiers, pulling in toxic chemicals and converting them into something they live off, but working around flowers and plants has been proven to reduce stress, promote productivity, and stimulate creativity. So if you’re convinced, stop by UConn Blooms or the Flower Pot in Storrs Center to make your purchase!




EcoHuskies Attend Yale’s “New Directions in Environmental Law” Conference

Yale group photoThis past Saturday, members of EcoHusky attended the Yale Environmental Law Association’s conference, “New Directions in Environmental Law,” at Yale Law School in New Haven. A variety of speakers in the forms of panels, opening and keynote addresses, and discussions all united to display that the environment, sustainability, and climate change permeate a tremendous number of issues in law.

The day began with an opening address from environmentalist, author, and journalist, Bill McKibben, through a remote video call. An eloquent speaker, McKibben focused his message on using our passion, movement, and spirit as forms of currency to build countervailing power to the industries and big oil corporations ruling the world. He spoke of the necessary transition from education to confrontation, and how we cannot simply work at the margin; we must drive “core environmental change” through an active environmental movement. This, he said, will take everyone’s particular skill sets, as well as our willingness to be citizens of the globe.

Following was a panel on clean energy investing, presented by Judith Albert, Dr. Griffin Thompson, Andrew Darrell, and Daniel Winer. Each speaker provided a unique perspective on the necessity of collaboration to promote the use of clean energy. The government must work as a regulator to provide a positive role for businesses, investors must be connected with investment ideas they can be confident in, and green banks must work to leverage capital and offer long term, low cost financing for clean energy projects. There exist many barriers, as clean energy is still a new concept; however, successful communication between communities and the government can bridge that gap. The panel also spoke about the Supreme Court’s stay on the Clean Power Plan. While the recent news may have a “chilling effect” on investors, this does not diminish the long term impact of the plan.

animal lawLater were four breakout sessions to choose from, with topics such as forest resiliency and the environmental impacts of violence in Colombia and Somalia. I chose to attend the session, “Coordinating Animal Law and Environmental Law,” hosted by Paul Waldau, Randall Abate, and Jonathan Lovvorn. About a third of global climate change is linked to agriculture and land clearing, and meat facilities account for a significant amount of water and land contamination; therefore, there is a clear connection between animal law and environmental law. Animal law currently does not have the leverage that environmental law has because the connection to human health gives environmental issues more federal coverage and legitimacy. Animal law does, however, appeal to humans’ abilities to care about other species, and triggers protection instincts, but there still exist too few federal laws regarding animal rights. What Waldau, Abate, and Lovvorn hoped to convey was that environmental and animal law have mutually valuable movements that could be much more powerful if they work collectively.

Speaker At Environmental Law Conference Yale Christy GoldfussAfter lunch, we heard from Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. What stood out most in her keynote address was the importance of bridging gaps, whether it be between millennials and baby boomers, government and private businesses, or local citizens and the government. These connections are all vital in addressing major issues and developing solutions to climate change. A common theme throughout the conference was that the issue of climate change often breaks groups apart, and what we need to do is bring them back together.

Next was another collection of breakout sessions, including Indian water rights and workers’ rights and environmental harms. I chose to attend “Drinking Water at Risk: Flint and Beyond,” a discussion hosted by John Rumpler of Environment America and Khiara Bridges, a Professor of Law at Boston University. The crisis in Flint has acted as a window to a more serious issue, a concept they referred to as environmental racism. Residents in minority communities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards and toxins, including poor drinking water quality, proximity to fracking and factory farms, and susceptibility to the toxic chemicals from manufacturing. As Bridges stated, the lead and toxins are colorblind; governmental decisions and responses have shown racial inequality. Perhaps the best solution is to frame all of these environmental and human rights issues more broadly to encourage the interest convergence necessary for positive change.

Following was the panel, “Integrated Strategies for Climate Change,” comprised of Michael Gerrard, Kassie Siegel, Heather Whiteman, and Lemuel M. Srolovic. They spoke of the anticipated effects of current pledges and policies on global temperature based on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as feedback mechanisms and sensitive ecosystems. Whiteman focused on the impact of climate change on indigenous people and tribal water rights. She pointed out that tribal interests are often underrepresented in the Supreme Court; however, a notable accomplishment was the inclusion of indigenous rights in the COP21 agreement.

Lastly, Dr. Mark Mitchell, Founder and Senior Policy Advisor for the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, closed the conference with remarks that tied the entire experience together. Although there exists a disproportionate impact of certain environmental issues, we are all affected, and conferences like this one provide us with the dialogue and tools necessary to change the future.