Hiring a Director for the Office of Sustainability

May 18, 2022

The Institute of the Environment seeks a strategic administrator and effective Director of the Office of Sustainability at the University of Connecticut, who will leverage our institutional reputation in sustainability to further advance our national and international leadership in sustainability and the environment.

The Office of Sustainability reports to the Institute of the Environment and works with senior administrators, students, faculty, and staff to set and achieve sustainability goals for the University in the areas of climate action and resilience, energy and buildings, waste reduction and diversion, water resources, food and dining, grounds, purchasing, transportation, open space and natural resource stewardship, and the intersection of these issues with environmental and social justice. The Office develops outreach and engagement programs that feature experiential learning to raise awareness and improve performance around sustainable practices and behaviors related to campus life.

UConn is internationally recognized as a leader in campus sustainability, consistently placing in the top 10 of the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools ranking and possessing a Platinum Rating with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). By convening and leading the Environmental Policy Advisory Council (EPAC), and more recently through its participation on President’s Working Group on Sustainability & the Environment, the Office of Sustainability provides the University community with a focal point for campus dialogue on energy and environmental issues, and has been integral to the successful planning and implementation of environmental sustainability initiatives at UConn.

Reporting to the Executive Director of the Institute of the Environment, the Director advocates for sustainable decision-making across diverse units at the University. From an administrative position, the Director manages a modest staff of professionals and students, and oversees fiscal operations of the Office.

To see the duties, responsibilities and desired qualifications, and application instructions please visit the job posting: https://jobs.hr.uconn.edu/en-us/job/496226/director-of-the-office-of-sustainability-university-staff-professional-2

Environmental & Social Sustainability Grantees in UConn Today

April 28, 2022

Eat Local: Raising Awareness of Local Food Sourcing in UConn Dining Halls

UConn Today published a story about on of our Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants awardees on April 28, 2022.

Grantees Matthew Chen and Hannah Colonies-Kelley are investigating student awareness of UConn’s local food purchasing. From the article:

[The students] “soon discovered UConn Dining Services was already purchasing 36% of its food locally. Other large public universities such as UMass Amherst purchase only 20% of their food locally, on average.”

“I think that especially as such a large university, the example UConn can lead for sustainability is important,” Chen says.

Read the full story on UConn Today.

Forest Bathing Meditation Walks – April 29

April 25, 2022

Come forest bathing with the Office of Sustainability and NatureRx on April 29th as Regan Stacey leads us through the forests of the HEEP.

Forest bathing is the practice of immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way, using your senses to derive a whole range of benefits for your physical, mental, emotional, and social health. It is also known as Shinrin-yoku in Japan. ‘Shinrin’ means forest and ‘Yoku’ stands for bathing.

There are two sessions available, capped at 20 participants each. Sign up for your desired time:

Friday, April 29

Meet by the Red Trail behind the Innovation Partnership Building. Here’s a google map link: https://goo.gl/maps/oEq8DA1uCZKmhh4S9

Apply to the Fall ’22 Internship at OS

April 19, 2022

The Office of Sustainability is Hiring!

The Office of Sustainability is hiring a new cohort of interns. These paid internships provide excellent work experience, hone leadership skills, and set students up for success in environmental positions after graduating. Please apply to our team of sustainability-minded student interns. Positions are 8-12 hours per week and will begin Fall ’22. Interns deal with all kinds of sustainability topics – from energy use to environmental communications. All majors welcome!

Apply by April 30th

Must be a current first-year or a second-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree at UConn

DETAILS + APPLICATION HERE

Green Careers Panel – Apr 13, 2022

April 6, 2022

What careers can help the planet?

April 13th from 6-8 PM

Green Careers Panel

The Green Careers Panel is an event sponsored by the Office of Sustainability to provide an opportunity for students to see how their interests align with real-life sustainability and environmental career paths and to gain general career advice. As there is increased momentum of student interest in careers in sustainability and the environment, we believe this year will be extremely helpful in providing students with insight into the many paths they can take to pursue a “green” career!

Wednesday April 13

6-8pm in McHugh Hall, Room 206

Format: 60-minute panel, 15-30 minute Q&A session, and  networking reception with free food to learn more from our panel of interdisciplinary environmental leaders.

 

Panelists
  • Harrison Goodale, Co-Founder of Sustain Music & Nature
  • Courtney Lindberg, Deputy Director Public Works for Sustainability and Materials Management, Town of Manchester
  • Lidia Howard, Air Pollution Control Engineer, CT DEEP
  • Jessica Larkin Wells, Farm Manager, Spring Valley Student Farm
Additional panelists will be added soon.

 

Although students are allowed to attend event without registering, we highly recommend registration for this panel as it will fill up quickly.

 

Environmental and Social Sustainability Grants Awarded

April 4, 2022

UConn Office of Sustainability Awards Environmental and Social Sustainability Grants to Student-Led Projects

Five projects will increase environmental and social sustainability at UConn

Solar panels at Spring Valley Student Farm
Solar panels at UConn’s Spring Valley Student Farm. Thanks to a new small grants fund, students will be working with staff and faculty mentors to complete sustainability projects on UConn campuses. Photo by Spring Valley Student Farm.

UConn, consistently one of the top ten most sustainable universities in the United States, will be getting even better at upholding sustainable practices with the help of five student-led projects that are being initiated this spring.

These innovative projects are funded by the Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants Program through the Office of Sustainability at the Institute of the Environment. Creative student-faculty teams applied for funding this past winter to support campus programs that enhance environmental and social sustainability while engaging students and community members. Applicants shared ideas spanning education, research, authentic community engagement, and campus operations. Projects include everything from an ADA-accessible mouldering privy at the Spring Valley Student Farm, to studying how UConn sources food from local farms. “We are thrilled to support a diverse set of student-led initiatives spanning four UConn schools and colleges. Each project will contribute in important ways to continuing to improve the sustainability across many facets of our university,” shares Ashley Helton, associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Five projects were awarded funds due to their interdisciplinary nature and ability to advance sustainability and equity.

  • Farm to Institution Local Food Procurement Study: Working to Highlight Sustainable Options for Students
      • Students: Matt Chen ‘22 (CLAS, CAHNR), Hannah Colonies-Kelley ‘22 (CAHNR)
      • Faculty Mentors: Cristina Connolly, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics
  • Spring Valley Student Farm Privy Project
      • Students: Phoebe Mrozinski ‘22 (CAHNR), Andrew Muller ‘23 (CAHNR), Isaac Betts ‘23 (CAHNR)
      • Staff and Faculty Mentors: Phoebe Godfrey, Associate Professor, Sociology. Jessica Larkin-Wells, Farm Manager, Spring Valley Student Farm
  • UConn Swap Shop
      • Students: Madeline Kizer ‘24 (SOB), Efua Koomson ‘22 (CLAS) and Lyla Andrick ‘24 (CAHNR)
      • Staff Mentors: Megan Baro, Program Assistant for Inclusion & Global Initiatives, Honors Program. Katie Britt, Leadership Programs Coordinator, Werth Institute
  • Solar Photovoltaic Tie-in at Spring Valley Student Farm
      • Students: Rory Monaco ‘23 (CLAS), Zachary Stone ‘22 (SOE)
      • Staff and Faculty Mentors: Ali Bazzi, Associate Professor, Electrical Engineering. Jessica Larkin-Wells, Farm Manager, Spring Valley Student Farm
  • Green Practice and Pedagogy: Enhancing UConn Avery Point’s Sustainability Performance and Programming
    • Students: UConn Avery Point EcoHusky Club, Sakshee Patel ‘24 (SOB), Kelsey DiCesare, Richard Krenitsky ‘22 (CLAS), Ian Bradley ‘22 (CLAS)
    • Faculty Mentors: Syma Ebbin, Associate Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics

“This innovative program supports entrepreneurial activities by students, who co-design projects with mentors, providing authentic, collaborative experiences that will enrich their education and enhance sustainable practices and social responsibility. Students are making a difference!” says Michael Willig, Executive Director of the Institute of the Environment. 

Students will present their project findings and impacts this fall. “We are all very much excited for this opportunity to support UConn’s mission to enhance environmental and social sustainability on campus! This funding will certainly help us uphold UConn’s values and achieve our vision,” shares Efua Koomson ‘22 (CLAS), a team member on the UConn Swap Shop project and actuarial sciences major. Fellow team member Maeline Kizer, ‘24 (SOB) writes, “This can provide students with so many opportunities and resources.”

 

For more details on the Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants Program, please visit: https://sustainability.uconn.edu/environmental-social-sustainability-small-grants-program/ 

Emtithat Mamhoud at COP26

January 26, 2022

by Sena Wazer

The first panel I attended at COP26 was focused on Climate Refugees. Honestly, it’s ironic when you consider that COP26 has a severe lack of focus on climate refugees included in the actual platform and agenda, even though more and more people are being displaced and will continue to be displaced moving forward. However, it was also one of the best panels that I attended during my time at COP26 because of a speaker named Emtithat Mamhoud. She is a Sudanese-American poet whose family fled from Sudan as refugees during the Darfur genocide, moving to the United States in 1998.

Several UConn Students and Climate Activist Emtithal Mahmoud hold up sign stating “Act Now”

She spoke about the need to listen to climate refugees and ensure that they are present and included in the spaces where decisions are made. She expressed frustration that resonated deeply with me regarding the lack of meaningful equitable climate action that generally comes out of these COP meetings. She shared a new poem, named, Di Baladna – Our Land in English – which starts off with the following quote:

“If you are reading this, I forgive you/You have grown far from the heart of me my child/have lost the familiar love we held for one another in your first years of life.”

Hearing her speak this poem gave me chills.

This experience was very powerful, and also very different from many of the events I attended. It was different because Mahmoud spoke from a personal perspective, being a refugee who has been affected by environmental issues herself. While many events – although certainly not all – felt impersonal, this one struck a deep chord with me and others in the room. It is indicative, I believe, of what effective environmental communication can do. Specifically, it helps one to understand a different perspective and more effectively convey an environmental issue in a way that feels personal and real. Through listening to people like Emtithat, I hope that bolder and more equitable climate action is possible. I believe it is, and if we are able to achieve this then I think COP could become a much more just and equitable place.

UConn@COP26

by Nidhi Nair

As a young girl growing up in a coastal state called Kerala in India, I was exposed to the devastating effects of climate change from an early age. Summers were sweltering, monsoons were ferocious and floods were frequent. In 2018, as I was packing up to move to the United States, my plans were delayed because of severe floods in Kerala caused by climate change, leading to the death of nearly 500 people in my state. I watched fearfully from my window as water filled my grandmother’s farm, and as roads became rivers in the deluge. This year, these trends have continued as nearly 22 people have died from flash floods and landslides caused by anomalous rainfall.

Nidhi Nair at COP26

Having grown up surrounded by the effects of climate change, I was motivated to understand and contribute to climate action, particularly climate finance, global data partnerships and R&D spending in climate research. As a student of economics, mathematics and statistics at the University of Connecticut, the opportunity to attend COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland this year was the perfect chance for me to combine these interests and learn more about the work done by a global coalition of environmental economists and policy makers.

COP26 started with a few space and timing issues, along with questions of inclusivity and representation. Many students, activists, researchers and policymakers from the Global South were not allowed to participate in the conference because of inequalities in vaccine access and cost considerations. I noticed that this led to clear differences in the number of observer passes handed out to delegates from developed countries like the United States compared to developing nations from across the globe.

Reasonably, this led to an air of despair and hopelessness among the young activists at COP26. After years of climate conferences after the seminal Paris conference, many of my fellow attendees seem to have given up on the prospect of multilateral discussions ever leading to fruitful outcomes. While this is an understandable reaction, I believe complete hopelessness about concerted climate action is impractical as there are many moving parts to global action, and compromise can only come through engaged discussion from multiple stakeholders. Beyond the global climate policy advancements made at Glasgow, the conference was a treasure trove of great ideas, conversations and discussions, and attending events hosted by scientists and grassroots organizations gave me hope for the future.

A summary of this week –

1. Events in the pavilion section of the conference included many researchers from around 70 different countries and organizations – and I tried to visit all of them! One of the best pavilion events I attended was in a section titled “All in for 1.5°” in which several small business owners with grassroots connections in six countries detailed their partnerships on climate finance. The global banks pavilion also held several interesting events throughout the week. It featured talks by representatives from the World Bank, Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, Climate Investment Funds, European Development Bank and many other financial and regulatory bodies. International development banks play a huge role in financing climate research in developing countries, where the impacts of climate change are the strongest.

2. I met Nancy Pelosi and other members of the American congressional delegation for an event titled “Gender Equity in Climate Action”. Various political leaders across the world discussed their country commitments, and I was disappointed by the symbolic and virtue signalling nature of their statements. Many representatives made empty promises to include gender based conditional requirements for the foreign aid they hand out for climate change. I thought this was inadequate and cumbersome as it handed the onus of responsibility to developing countries that are already battling the devastating consequences of climate change. On the plus side, Ecuador and Canada both discussed non-party stakeholder accountability from corporations which I saw as a positive sign.

3. An incredible event I attended was “Enhancing climate resilience for LDCs and SIDS through space data, finance mechanisms and partnerships” with speakers from Gambia, Scotland, Malawi, India and other countries. I was very impressed by the idea of a “data co-operative” to empower researchers to share their data with each other in ways that encourage innovative creation in least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS). I was also inspired by Brazilian researchers who used space data to reduce indigenous vulnerabilities in the Amazon.

4. The U.S. Center also featured amazing presentations by organizations like the NOAA that detailed the U.S Climate Resilience toolkit in North Carolina, and the data analysis behind American climate action. Climate resilience in the United States is a fascinating topic that is more pertinent today than ever before, and I am glad that the U.S. Center emphasized the work that environmental economists are doing in building data tools to strengthen vulnerable communities.

As a cautious optimist, despite the many flaws associated with COP26, I left the conference more determined, hopeful and educated about the steps I can take to battle drastic climate change. COP26 was one of the most incredible weeks of my life, and I am more motivated than ever to pursue a career as an economist and to work on domestic economic policy that identifies financing gaps in underserved communities, and helps to strengthen vulnerable groups in the United States.