Month: December 2022

UConn Ranked in Top 10 Most Sustainable Universities

Published in UConn Today on 12.23.2022:

UConn recognized as a top-performing institution by the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) and UI GreenMetric World University Rankings.

UConn continues to lead sustainability in higher education. The Sustainable Campus Index tracks universities’ efforts to improve performance in 17 sustainability impact areas, measured by STARS. This year, UConn was ranked 6th overall. The STARS process helps institutions all over the world measure, report and strengthen their contributions to sustainability.

Besides being #6 overall, UConn has the distinction of being one of 12 STARS Platinum-rated schools out of 1,105 participating institutions. When digging into the 2022 ratings, UConn excelled in a few categories:


#1 – Campus Engagement: Providing co-curricular activities that allow students, faculty and staff to deepen their understanding of sustainability. These efforts help integrate sustainability into campus culture and encourage more eco-friendly behavior change.

#1 – Public Engagement: Working with community members, governments, businesses and nonprofits to foster solutions to sustainability challenges. Examples include partnerships, community service, and public policy participation.

#2 (tie) – Water: Conserving water, effectively managing rainwater, and protecting groundwater supplies. These efforts reduce energy usage and improve local water ecosystem health.

#4 – Food & Dining: Designing dining programs that support local farms, environmentally friendly farming methods, agricultural worker equity, and uphold sustainable food systems (e.g. meatless dining).

#7 – Curriculum: Equipping students with learning opportunities in sustainability, including courses, living laboratories, immersive experiences and sustainability literacy.


STARS, a program of The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), is a self-reporting system that measures colleges’ and universities’ performances in several aspects of sustainability.

The framework scores institutions in 17 different impact areas. These include air and climate, buildings, energy, research, and grounds. Schools that earn the greatest percentage of possible points for each area are named top performers.

UConn joined the international network of STARS institutions in 2013, when it was designated as a Reporter. The University then achieved Gold status in 2016, 2017, and 2018. It was rated Platinum for the first time in 2020.

Erin Lindsay  ’23 (CLAS), a Senior Sustainability Intern at the UConn Office of Sustainability, is proud of the impressive ranking, but acknowledged there is still room for improvement.

“Participating in AASHE STARS gives our university the opportunity to be recognized within our community and beyond at the state and even national levels. We perform extremely well in areas related to student engagement and outreach which is a direct result of our incredible student body,” Lindsay says.

“With that being said, STARS also brings light to areas where we need more focus, especially at the institutional level,” she says. “We need greater emphasis on sustainable investments, especially those related to purchasing and energy in order to meet our campus-wide sustainability goals.”

UConn also ranked as the 2022 8th Most Sustainable University by the University of Indonesia’s GreenMetric World University Rankings program. GreenMetric measures 39 indicators in six criteria related to university environmental commitments and initiatives. Over 950 institutions participate across the globe.

Sustainability initiatives at the University contribute to its Platinum rating and top marks in GreenMetric. These include the EcoMadness conservation competition, UConn@COP program, and environmental literacy requirement. Learn more about UConn’s sustainability initiatives and goals at the Office of Sustainability website.

Head over to UConn Today to read the original story:

COP27: A Transformative Experience – Dr. Ben North

UConn@COP fellows group photoAs I reflect on my experience attending COP27, there are several key takeaways I would like to discuss. My first takeaway is that I believe this experience is invaluable for both UConn graduate and undergraduate students and provides a transformative real-world component to their experience at UConn. Specifically, the UConn@COP Fellowship Program provides students direct exposure to learn about international policy negotiations, network with diplomats and business leaders, and connect with people from cultures around the world at an unparalleled scale. In 1995, COP1 had just under 4,000 attendees but this number has continued to swell with almost 50,000 attendees at COP27 making it by far the largest diplomatic gathering on earth. The scale of this conference reflects the overwhelming consensus by over 190 countries for the need to address climate change and the tremendous opportunity for students to derive value from attending this event as a springboard for professional development.

Additionally, as UConn continues to increase its role as a national leader in sustainability and climate tech innovation, the UConn@COP Fellowship Program is a critical piece of this equation. UConn’s recent announcement to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, the creation of the UConn Climate Venture Studio in 2022, and the inaugural Global Business Leadership in Sustainability Summit held at UConn in 2022 are all important recent developments which send strong signals about the future of climate innovation and leadership at UConn and the cascading effects that will have for the state. These developments at UConn also coincide with recent legislation (Public Act No. 22-5) approved by the state of Connecticut in May 2022 which requires that the state achieve a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2040. As commitments to address climate change continue to rise globally, in our state, and at our university, this experience provides students vital access to cutting-edge knowledge and innovations that will enable students to become leaders at the forefront of this transition to deliver on these ambitious targets. Therefore, I highly encourage the University of Connecticut and its state partners to allocate additional resources and further develop the UConn@COP Fellowship Program to invest in our students as a means to empower climate innovation and leadership in the state.

Another key takeaway from this experience is that I came to realize quite clearly the United Nations COP is not just about the collective fight to address climate change, but it is a critical mechanism for fostering collaboration and dialogue with countries around the world, including those engaged in rising tension and conflict. Neglecting to participate in this dialogue is a massive setback which stifles relationships and economic ties with countries around the world. Also, while the formal negotiations are often a central focus of these COP meetings, the COP continues to play an increasingly impactful role for addressing climate change by acting as a conduit for creating agreements, facilitating the flow of capital, and disseminating innovations between countries, businesses, and NGOs. Therefore, the COP helps precipitate a much greater climate impact beyond merely the outcomes of the formal negotiation process.

If you are interested in supporting UConn students to attend future COP meetings, please consider donating to the UConn@COP Program Fund. Additionally, if you would like to become a business or organizational sponsor of the UConn@COP Fellowship Program, please contact the UConn Office of Sustainability (

Building Upon Frameworks – Lillian Adamo

Echoing my thoughts from earlier in the week, my gratitude as well as my perspective has only grown after participating in a full week of discussion, presentations, and negotiations at COP27. The Conference of Parties allows for a unique insight into the forefront of climate conversations and innovation. While it may seem as though people are acting independently in regard to sustainability and addressing climate change, ideally there are larger frameworks behind the actions of individuals, nations, and actors.COP27 speaker panel

The major framework present at COP is the goals set by each country, which are self-determined and administered in the form of Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs. NDCs are living documents that each nation in the Paris Agreement draft that outline their individual goals in regard to their reducing their contributions to climate change. I had the opportunity to hear further about the opportunities for partnerships between the U.S. and developing nations while attending events that included speakers from the NDC partnership. While there are mechanisms for support associated with the NDCs, there is no true accountability. This can lead to the creation of ambitious goals, with little action. Especially when nations in the Global North seem to be offsetting responsibility, by aiding developing nations that ultimately have much smaller carbon footprints rather than minimizing their emissions and recognizing their massive contributions to the climate crisis. To date, the NDCs have been the most successful framework for climate action than a climate conference, but there are flaws that stall progress.

Another framework that I was able to see was the urban implementation cookbook. On the last day, I attended “Taste Test: a First Look-back on the Urban Implementation Cookbook” at the UN Global Innovation Hub. It explained urban planning and creating sustainable cities through a cooking metaphor. The metaphor is intended to be an accessible and universal framework that can be applied at various scales. It includes conceptualizing the menu, accessing kitchen capacity, selecting an adaptable recipe, shopping for additional ingredients, creating the dish, sharing the recipe, and updating the menu. The framework itself is cyclical in nature, so it can be applied no matter the stage of the project. I found the presentation fascinating, but there was a lag between the creation of this framework and having access to true resources. There also seemed to be minimal pathways to collaboration and implementation. When I had a chance to speak shortly with one of the panelists following the event they mentioned building intercity collaboration as a next step. Within the presentation itself they highlighted that they hope to have further scaling of the framework itself by COP28. While there seems to be a commitment to progress and advancement there needs to be a greater sense of urgency and immediate action.

I found that these two examples of frameworks are indicative of the larger outcomes of the conference, while there is a large amount of discussion of potential pathways and determination of potential options there need to be subsequent, and rapid implementation. Now there are comprehensive frameworks in place, and we are now in a position where there needs to be collective international action to make true progress. As someone who is interested in the intersections of environmental science and policy, these frameworks seem to lack a regulatory structure or mechanism to ensure compliance or measure progress. That is a challenge with a wicked problem, like climate change. There are many different actors and since it is a global problem, there is no one enforceable regulatory body, with legislative capacities, that can ensure compliance. We are reaching a critical point that will hopefully lead to action and compliance on the part of individual nations. I have left the conference with a greater sense of urgency, but also a better understanding of the truly complex nature of international relations. Attending COP27 will be an experience that will undoubtedly impact the rest of my life and has encouraged me to think about sustainability in a broader context, but also to be critical of the current structures in place and expect more of world leaders.

1,450+ Solutions- Laura Augenbraun

COP27 was a whirlwind of inspiring and deterring feelings that left me both excited for my environmental work in the future, yet extremely worried about the state of the Earth. It’s no secret the outcome of COP27 was disappointing – many countries neglected to take on full responsibility to decrease emissions in an effort to keep our warming climate at 1.5°C – the necessary temperature to stay at in order to ensure we don’t reach a climate tipping point where the effects of climate change will become irreversible. 

Laura and Sofya at COP27My hope for the future faltered originally on the very first day I attended the conference and listened to a panel about how corporations are resilient in the face of climate change. In this, there was simply no talk about the corporation’s plan for the future, or even what they’re currently doing to help reduce emissions and take part in the fight against climate change. Instead, all the speaker said were empty words that had no real meaning that fell along the lines of ‘we need to de-risk a small solution’ and that we must be ‘resilience multipliers,’ but what does that actually look like? What does that really mean? I remember being baffled at how little depth there was to the presentation, and walked out wondering if this was what the entirety of the COP27 discussions would be like. Thankfully, for the Earth and my sanity, it was not. 

Unfortunately, though, the second day followed along a similar path. I attended the Emissions Gap Report, hosted by Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, and Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC. During this report, they spoke about how critical it is for us to reduce emissions by 30-40% by 2030, as this will be one of the only ways we prevent irreversible change to our Earth and climate. However, they followed this information with the fact that while this reduction in emissions goal has been set for the past ~10 years, we have only reduced emissions by 1% and we are currently on track for a warming of 2.8°C. I quoted Stiell saying that we are currently at 1.1°C, and many are already “in living hell” as a result. This reality hit me like a truck, that while it may seem as though the world is doing something to try and fix our climate issues, like hosting conferences, it really is not as productive as many may think. What really stood out to me, though, was the lack of humanity in the reporting of these devastating facts. As Inger said we have only reduced emissions by 1%, and as Chief Scientific Editor of the Emissions Gap Report 2022, Annie Olhoff, stated that we are on set to reach a warming of about 2.8°C, there did not seem to be any sort of falter or fear in their voices. It felt as though this information was nothing new to them, and at this point they seemed as though numb to it. What I want to bring back to UConn and share with my fellow students, friends and really anyone that will listen, is the humanity to this discussion. These are not just numbers that will someday a few years down the line maybe impact us. These are already impacting us. I listened to a representative for Pakistan speak about how ⅓ of his country is currently underwater, 8 million houses are destroyed, and there are millions of people living on the streets because of catastrophic weather events brought on by climate change. Disastrous events are already happening, and they will only get worse. We need to bring a sense of urgency back into the discussion because it is so much more than a simple worry for the future. 

I know it may be hard to come back from hearing that, but I do want to shed some light on the more positive discussions I sat in on that made me feel as though not all hope is lost. On the second to last day of the conference, which was dubbed “Solutions Day,” I attended a discussion called 1,000+ Clean Solutions to COP27. In this, a handbook called the Solutions Guide for Cities Booklet was presented, which contained 1,450 solutions to climate change and emissions. Not only were they just solutions, they were companies that have researched and are currently implementing these solutions – and they’re working! For example, the CEO of Turbulent Hydro discussed what his company has been doing. Basically, they put turbines into waterways that create whirlpools within the water, which then turns the moving water into electricity, and provides energy to anywhere between 60 – 350 houses. They currently have 25 turbines working in 13 different countries, getting clean energy to houses without the use of fossil fuels. A second solution that was presented was by the VP of Sustainability at a company called UBQ Materials. This company takes waste that cannot be recycled and turns it into plastic and wood substitutes. The point was even made that UBQ Materials could have created all of the buildings Egypt had put up to hold the conference out of waste, using items that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill. This was the discussion that when leaving, made me feel extremely inspired and gave me hope for a future. There are people that are devoting their lives to helping combat climate change, and the number of those people is only increasing.