Green Game Day was a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing day for UConn football fans. The Huskies lost a close game on the field, but Mother Earth won outside the stadium where EcoHusky and EcoHouse volunteers, along with Office of Sustainability interns, took to the tailgating fields to collect cans and bottles from fans. Volunteers sporting blue Green Game Day shirts walked among the rows of cars, approaching UConn alumni, Connecticut locals and even some Illinois fans to help make their game day a bit greener.
Some student volunteers even ventured into the spirited student lot, all in the name of recycling! Unsurprisingly, they emerged with more bags than any other tailgate area.
In total, the volunteers collected 58 bags of recyclable bottles and cans.
While most of the volunteers scoured the fields, others staffed the Office of Sustainability tent in the HuskyFest fan zone, quizzing fans on their environmental knowledge and giving out prizes for correct answers. One notable addition to the prize table this year was the new UConn Sustainability Activity Book. Our youngest fans (and a few older ones) jumped at the chance to color and learn. One excited young Husky was heard walking away from the tent exclaiming: “Dad look! Jonathan’s on every page!”
From baby boomers to generation Z, all ages were equal parts enthralled, enthused and stumped by the intern’s questions. At the end of their experience at the tent, all participants had learned something about the environment and UConn’s sustainability efforts.
Once inside, fans were treated to a recycling PSA from none other than Jonathan the Husky. Likely due to the inspiring recycling video, the Huskies got off to a strong start, scoring the first 13 points. Alas, it was not to last, as Illinois came storming back to win 31-23.
While UConn’s first loss of the season was disappointing, it can teach us a valuable lesson about recycling: Care for the environment must be sustained, or else we risk losing all our progress. And vice versa: No matter what your habits are, you can always turn it around and become an EcoWarrior.
Green Game Day was a roaring success for all involved. We hope to see you during the basketball season at Gampel, or next year at the Rent!
There was something different and exciting about the second home game of UConn’s football season. For one, it turned out to be UConn’s first win of the season. But more importantly, Husky fans tailgating before the game were greeted by dozens of students in blue and green shirts carrying around trash bags, picking up bottles and cans, and giving out sustainability-themed trinkets.
Who were these students, and why were they at Rentschler Field? EcoHusky members and EcoHouse residents, along with OEP interns, had gotten together for our fall Green Game Day! Each year, the OEP partners with Athletics to educate not only UConn students but also Husky fans from all over Connecticut on the importance of recycling.
Volunteers walked around the parking lots, interacting with tailgaters while collecting bottles and cans. It was messy work – many shoes were dirtied with mysterious liquids in the process – but that did not dampen the students’ spirit. This year, 2.4 tons of recyclables were collected according to Windsor Sanitation, the most on record from any Green Game Day! Meanwhile, OEP staff and interns stationed at the Green Game Day tent during FanFest quizzed young and old on environmental facts while playing our brand new Plinko game for prizes.
Another exciting addition to this Green Game Day event was a recycling PSA video the office created featuring the one and only Jonathan the Husky! In the video, Jonathan teaches you how to recycle by recycling a plastic water bottle himself! If you haven’t seen it, it is one of the cutest videos you will see all year. It was shown on the Jumbo Tron before the game, and ‘awws’ could be heard throughout the stadium as it played. Check out our Facebook page to see it for yourself!
Thanks to our smiling, extremely dedicated, and hardworking volunteers, Green Game Day was a success! A big shout to all who made it possible. We’re looking forward to the next one in February!
Over 30 members of EcoHusky and the EcoHouse learning community got up bright and early on Saturday, October 8th, to volunteer at the Hartford Marathon in Bushnell Park. After a quick power nap on the bus, volunteers were ready for a day of excitement, positivity, and environmental awareness. Upon arrival at Bushnell Park in Hartford, volunteers mapped out the best locations for compost and heatsheet bins, as their primary responsibility for the day was to manage the waste stations throughout the park to ensure that runners and race-goers correctly disposed of food, recyclables, and foil blankets.
The Hartford Marathon Foundation has expressed strong interest in environmental initiatives over the years, with compost management as a top priority on the day of the event. Their composting partner is the KNOX Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization that partners with residents, businesses, and government to make Hartford more sustainable. This year, all of the food items on the race menu were compostable, including the soup, fruit, deserts, plates and napkins. The Marathon planners were also conscious in their other purchasing decisions, as the cups provided at the drink stations were recyclable as well.
The Marathon’s efforts to reduce waste at the event are commendable; however, it was up to the volunteers from EcoHusky and EcoHouse to ensure that those efforts were seen through. Composting and recycling can have such positive waste diversion impacts, but only if the items are separated into the correct bins. Not only did volunteers ensure that this was done at the event, they also educated race-goers about recycling and composting so they could be more sustainable in their daily lives. Additionally, they tracked the bags of compost, weighing hundreds of pounds over the course of the day.
“I definitely thought the volunteers had a positive impact on the people attending the Marathon. Most race-goers were eager to learn, asking us questions to make sure they were throwing their waste out in the appropriate bins.” -Eddie McInerney, EcoHusky member
In addition to manning the waste stations throughout the park, EcoHusky also had an environmental awareness tent, with an interactive basketball and recycling-themed game that encouraged players to think about what items are recyclable, compostable, and trash, then throw the items into the correct basketball hoops.
“Race-goers were attracted to the EcoHusky tent because of its peculiar set up – needless to say, no one else had a conglomeration of “waste” items and handmade basketball hoops scattered around their table. For such a simple and low budget idea, we still managed to make a big impact with the people we spoke to.” -Katie Main, EcoHusky Treasurer
Each year, members of EcoHusky and EcoHouse refer to the Hartford Marathon as one of their favorite volunteer events. The positive atmosphere surrounding the marathon, and the receptiveness of the race-goers to the message about sustainability, consistently leave the volunteers feeling both cheerful and optimistic.
This 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.
Later 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.
After 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.
This past October 24th was the 10th annual Campus Sustainability Day (CSD). CSD is an occasion for college and university campuses to celebrate the unique role they play in the movement towards a sustainable society. Sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), CSD is a national event with 151 institutions participating from coast to coast. This was the first year that the University of Connecticut joined in.
As a center of higher learning and forward thinking, UConn has a growing culture interested in practicing and spreading awareness about sustainability. From student organizations to faculty and staff initiatives, UConn has distinguished itself as one of the “greenest” schools in the country (as we were proudly recognized by the Sierra Club!). The contributors to UConn’s CSD were equally diverse, including sustainability staff from the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP), the EcoHouse Learning Community, Green Grads, EcoHusky Student Group, Spring Valley Student Farm, and even Ballroom Dancing Club.
The first part of CSD focused on sharing information about the various opportunities available for students to get involved in the green movement on campus. This was a great opportunity for these groups to advertise their ongoing activities and projects. Tables, tents, and displays were set up on Fairfield Way. Participants brought games, produce, and a range of information for students to take on their way through campus. The fair-style event provided a physical representation of the sustainable movement at UConn.
The second component of CSD was a review of UConn’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) by sustainability intern Emily McInerney. The CAP is a guidance document that is a product of the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) intended to outline steps to lead UConn to carbon neutrality by the year 2050. Emily gave a brief presentation on the history of the CAP, its progress since implementation in 2009, and what the future holds in light of the goals it sets out.
The talk set the stage for a breakout session in which the (mostly undergraduate) crowd formed groups to discuss the student-centric aspects of UConn’s CAP and sustainability initiatives. Conversation focused on ways in which students can learn about and get involved with sustainability programs on campus. Groups identified information gaps, including the general lack of awareness about electronic waste recycling and car share programs, and pressing campus issues like food waste, recycling, and sustainable transport.
Finally, the discussion turned towards ways to address these problems or promote the progress that UConn has made. Including sustainability-related information early in students’ UConn experience such as during freshman orientation or campus tours received widespread support, as did adjusting the parking fee structure to encourage alternative transit or carpooling. Students suggested that simple relatable messages could be effective in addressing issue like food or electricity waste.
Overall, CSD proved to be a success. The greatest accomplishment of 2012’s CSD was the collaboration and communication that occurred between the diverse factions of students and organizations. Networking, conversation, and education were focal points of the day’s events and these exchanges between the different parties will be a platform for which UConn can continue to build itself, both in practice and in philosophy, as a school dedicated to long-term sustainability. We look forward to participating in 2013!