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Funding Opportunity: Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants OPEN!

Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants Program

The Office of Sustainability and the Institute of the Environment started a funding program to support student-faculty projects that enhance environmental sustainability and campus-wide engagement with sustainability issues at the University of Connecticut and in Connecticut communities through research, authentic community engagement, campus operations, or education. Projects must increase both environmental and social sustainability at UConn, and address one or more of UConn’s strategic sustainability goal areas (climate change, energy and buildings, waste, outreach and engagement, water resources, food and dining, purchasing, transportation, or grounds, open space and conservation areas) and one or more related social challenges (fostering inclusion of diverse perspectives, addressing systematic inequalities, environmental justice, social and health inequity, community development, etc). Project activities occur at any of the UConn campuses and extend to Connecticut communities outside of the University campuses. Special consideration is given to interdisciplinary projects that advance equity and justice or incorporate the arts and humanities. Funded teams present their project findings and impacts at a symposium in the Fall following their Spring award.

Application Opens: Sept 8, 2022

Application Closes: 4:00pm on October 11, 2022

 

Decisions will be made in early December 2022. Funding will be provided to selected grantees in January 2023.

Fall ’22 Call for Proposals

Eligibility: All currently enrolled University of Connecticut undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to apply. Students must be full-time during the time period of the grant. Applications can be submitted by an individual student or teams of students. Students can lead only one proposal each and can collaborate on up to three proposals (but can participate in no more than three proposals total).

Faculty/Staff Mentor Requirements: Each project must have at least one faculty or staff mentor who submits a support form with the application and will actively participate in the project. Mentors must be able to accept and manage grant funds on the students’ behalf. This includes responsibility for any student hiring. The mentor is responsible for ensuring the project budget is executed according to UConn policies and procedures, adheres to the guidelines outlined in this application and is expended at least three weeks before the close of the fiscal year. Faculty/staff members can collaborate on no more than three student proposals each.

Funding: Limited funding is available for proposed projects with budgets up to $10,000. Proposals should provide strong justification for all budgetary items. Awards will be announced by December 2022. Funds will transfer early January 2023 and should be fully spent by June 30, 2023.

Deadlines: For full consideration, all proposal documents must be submitted by October 11, 2022 at 4:00pm  Letters of support from faculty or staff members may be submitted through the google form application or via email to sustainability@uconn.edu. Projects should not extend past the start of Fall ’23.

How to Apply: There is a google form application which asks for contact information and a few short essay questions. You are also required to submit a project budget and faculty mentor support form. Download each form, complete, and then you can upload them into the google form application.

APPLY HERE

Environmental and Social Sustainability Grantee in the News!

Swap Don’t Shop: Sustainable Fashion is Coming to UConn

UConn Today published a story about one of our Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants awardees on August 31, 2022.

Grantee Madeline Kizer is part of the team of UConn students bringing the Swap Shop to life on campus. From the article:

“Cheap clothing has created a culture of “disposable fashion” also known as fast fashion.”

“If something is so cheap, that’s how you know it’s not sustainable,” says Madeline Kizer ’24 (BUS) who is determined to educate as many people as possible about fast fashion and sustainable alternatives. She and other UConn students have established the UConn Swap Shop, a second-hand clothing store aimed at promoting sustainable shopping habits which will open its doors on Thursday, September 8th in the Family Studies Building.”

“We want to raise awareness about sustainability and get people to talk about it,” she says. “If we can get more people to shop sustainably and raise awareness of the issues, hopefully, we can create change.”

The Swap Shop is a place where students can donate clothes or swap for different items.  Besides swapping clothes, Kizer says the shop will host events.

“We’re also planning to host sewing and upcycling workshops where we will teach people how to upcycle and the reasons for why we’re doing this,” Kizer says. “We also want to create other educational workshops or a talk series about fast fashion in general.”

Read the full story on UConn Today.

Green Game Day Sept 10 – Volunteers Needed

volunteers smiling outside of green game day tentVolunteers needed for the 13th annual Football Green Game Day (GGD)! GGD is an event organized by UConn’s Office of Sustainability and UConn Athletics. GGD volunteers are responsible for collecting recyclables from tailgaters prior to the start of the game and promoting environmental awareness to the thousands of UConn Husky fans in attendance! Without volunteers like you, this event would not be possible. This year Football Green Game Day will be held on September 10th, as the Huskies take on the University of Syracuse at Rentschler Field at 7:00pm. Free transportation, dinner, and a ticket to the game will be provided to all volunteers. Please bring your own water bottle and sunscreen! The buses to the stadium will be departing from Hillside Road in front of the Student Union at 2:45 PM. Volunteers can either choose to take one of our buses back to campus around half-time (approx. 9:00 PM) or stay later and take one of the free Husky Roadshow buses back to campus.

Sign up: https://uconn.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1LKdQmAu4jG3SWG

Carbon Neutral Commuter Program Launches at UConn

New! Take your commute out of the climate by joining the Carbon Neutral Commuter Program. Donate $5 to help offset the 13,000 metric tons of carbon that are emitted by UConn commuters annually.

Staff and student personal vehicle commuting at UConn contributes over 13,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. That contributes to approximately 12% of UConn’s annual carbon footprint, and is equivalent to burning 1.5 million gallons of gasoline. Historically, UConn has very limited influence over this significant portion of its carbon footprint because it doesn’t own or choose the cars that employees and students drive. Now we’re offering an option for commuters to offset their commute’s carbon emissions. Anyone who chooses to participate can enroll in the Carbon Neutral Commuter Program (CNCP) after purchasing their parking pass.

 

What Is It?

A voluntary annual donation of $5 (or more if you’d like!) that goes towards projects that effectively prevent carbon emissions from being emitted into the atmosphere. These carbon negative projects work to offset the carbon emissions created by employees and students through their commute to campus.

How Do I Participate?

You can become a member at any point by making a donation! We recommend making your donation annually right after you purchase or renew your parking permit on the Parking Services website.

How Does My Donation Combat Climate Change?

For the inaugural year of the CNCP, 100% of funds raised by the program will be used to purchase third-party verified carbon offsets. Verified carbon offsets are projects that reduce, remove or avoid emission of one metric ton of carbon dioxide (or equivalent) from going into the atmosphere. Offsets must meet the OS’s stringent environmental integrity and environmental justice standards. Moving forward, the OS is forming a committee of students, faculty and staff who will convene to determine the best ways to direct CNCP funds in order to support the goals of offsetting commuter emissions, supporting students and local communities, and addressing historical environmental injustices. To learn more about carbon offsets and the program in detail, please see our FAQ section on the CNCP page.

Learn more: https://sustainability.uconn.edu/uconn-carbon-neutral-commuter-program/

Donate + Join: https://www.foundation.uconn.edu/fund/campus-sustainability-fund/?utm_source=uconn&utm_medium=web&utm_term=XXDDG072301 

Campus Sustainability Fund

Apply to the Fall ’22 Internship at OS

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

Considering Sustainability During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Lauren Pawlowski

Plants growing at the community gardens in Derby, CT.

Personal, financial, and health requirements may prevent you from being your most environmentally-friendly self right now, but there are still small steps you can take each day to support a more sustainable lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health and safety is of utmost importance at this time, but if you have the time and means to do so, you can try out the following tips for living more sustainably during a pandemic. 

  1. Use washable, reusable masks. Many people hand make them out of extra fabric or other materials and sell them on Etsy, Facebook sale pages, etc. You can also make your own, if you have free time. Wearing disposable masks every time you need to use one creates a great amount of waste that can be avoided if you are able to wash and wear reusable masks. 
  2. Try to stick to reusable containers, towels, etc.  You’ll need to wash them more frequently, but this will prevent unnecessary waste.
  3. Buy in bulk when you can.  This reduces wasteful packaging and helps minimize grocery store visits. 
  4. Clean up your spaces and declutter!  Now’s a great time to clean out any junk drawers or messy spaces in your home. Donate these materials to Goodwill, Savers, the Salvation Army, or other organizations near you. Many of these organizations will sell the donated items if they can, or send the unsaleable materials to other processing centers for reuse or recycling. If you want a new project to tackle, repainting furniture from a thrift store can save you some money and make your stuff more meaningful.
  5. Spend quarantine free time reading new books – audio books and earbuds allow you to multitask while you learn. You might even get a head start on the UConn Reads book this fall, Amitav Ghosh’s “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable,” which addresses climate justice from a Global South perspective. Many websites, such as Alibris and Betterworldbooks, have great selections of used books online for low prices. This saves you money while also encouraging reuse of materials! You can also choose to go paperless and tune into TV shows, YouTube videos, movies, and podcasts.
  6. Volunteer at a community garden, urban forestry initiative, coastal cleanup, land trust, watershed group, or other environmentally-focused organization. This can include planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, grounds maintenance and more to benefit your local community. Helping out sustainable community initiatives provides support to people in need and also the local environment. 
  7. Get outside! Now is the perfect time to explore the great outdoors, where there is plenty of room for social distancing. Go hiking, walking, running, biking, kayaking, boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking or gardening. Travel to new places nearby or visit a local park. Get your friends and family outside to spend some time together in nature. Take a garbage bag with you to make sure you leave “nothing but footsteps” or even to clean up after others!
  8. Research and support sustainable brands. This can include cosmetics, clothing, household products, and more that produce durable products and are committed to protecting environmental and human health.
  9. Grow your own fruits and veggies, visit local farmers’ markets, and try new recipes that are meatless or more sustainable. Some farmers’ markets are still operating even in these times by offering goods for sale online or by outdoor vendors. Individual farms may have their own stores operating as well, although you should call ahead or check online for hours and restrictions. If you have free time, it could be fun to test out some new recipes with different vegetables, grains, and other ingredients that are healthy and sustainable.  
  10. Start a compost pile. This prevents food waste from entering the waste stream in landfills, where, in CT, it will be incinerated as trash. Instead, you can use the healthy soil from the compost in your garden or for any plants you have!

 

Disclaimer: CDC, state, and local health department guidelines should always be followed in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and risk of infection. The above recommendations should not supplant health guidelines from public health agencies and the medical community.  These suggestions should only be employed as they align with CDC, state, and local health guidelines.  

Congrats and Farewell: Our Seniors

Four of our interns are now officially UConn graduates! Although this was not the senior year we wanted for them, and our office graduation traditions are now happening over WebEx, we are still so proud of them. They have all been integral members of the office over the past four years, and they will be greatly missed. Below we share everything they have accomplished during their time at UConn, what the future holds for them, and our favorite memories with these special people.

 

Matt McKenna

Matt joined our sustainability staff in the spring of 2018 and has been a key contributor on many of the Office’s more technical assignments. He was the author of UConn’s 2018 and 2019 Greenhouse Gas Inventory and served on the Bicycle Friendly University working group. In 2019 Matt took a more active role in outreach and engagement initiatives and led a volunteer team in trailblazing the Blue Trail in the Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP) while helping advise on the design of a Pollinator Garden and Pavilion which will be constructed in the HEEP in the near future. He also provided critical leadership in completing UConn’s 2019-2020 AASHE STARS report. His “steady Eddy” demeanor in the office made him a reliable teammate and provided reassurance in his abilities to turn around an assignment quickly and accurately.  In the summer of 2019 Matt had the opportunity to further round his engineering skill set while working on wastewater effluent treatment methods for nutrients and chlorine during his internship with Arconic in Davenport, Iowa. Outside the office, Matt is a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and is well known for his Duck Pin bowling prowess. He is graduating from UConn with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering. Matt’s post grad career begins in Plainville, CT, where he will be working for Loureiro Engineering. His presence will be greatly missed in the office. 

 

 

Sophie MacDonald

Sophie joined our Sustainability staff in the spring of 2017 and has been a talented intern and truly supportive leader. She has been the graphic designer and webmaster for the office during her time here, using her skills to elevate the brand of the office via a new office logo, a complete overhaul of the website, and countless graphics for t-shirts, events, the campus sustainability fund and more. Sophie was also a lead on many projects, including the Green Office Certification Program, where she led the effort to reach 100 certified offices and before that took on completion of the 2017 campus greenhouse gas inventory.  Outside the office, Sophie has an incredible passion for renewable energy, and has been a valued team member of countless labs and projects on campus from developing community microgrids to studying solar cells to analyzing termites. She co-authored the student declaration that was a vital part of this September’s climate strike, and her honors thesis is a holistic assessment of renewable energy implementation options on campus. In her free time, Sophie enjoys hiking, climbing, and writing philosophy essays. This year she received the 2020 UConn Spirer/Dueker Student Humanitarian Achievement Award. Sophie is graduating from UConn with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and a minor in Philosophy. Starting this summer, Sophie will continue her passion for ethical renewable energy as a design engineer at MPR Associates in Alexandria, VA.

 

 

 

Charlotte Rhodes

Charlotte joined our sustainability staff in the spring of 2018. With a level of professionalism and organization that we were all inspired by, Charlotte brings whatever initiative she leads to the next level, whether it be the annual Climate Change Cafe, the office’s newsletter, UConn fundraising events or any other communication piece. She is also always coming up with new ideas to bring the whole office to the next level, whether that be the photo contest she created and executed her first semester in the office, or a creative promo video she filmed and edited documenting the student experience at COP24. In her free time, Charlotte was just as impressive, completing internships that included being a Public Service & U.S. Forest Service Sustainability Operations, Climate Change, and Wildlife Ecology Intern as part of the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership and an REU at the University of  Maine where she completed an independent project titled Documenting Human and Societal Impacts of Extreme Weather Events. In her free time, Charlotte can be found collecting bugs for her classes, taking notes in calligraphy, and color-code organizing her planner. Charlotte is graduating from UConn with a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  After graduation Charlotte will be moving to College Station Texas to attend Texas A&M University to pursue a PhD in entomology.

 

 

 

Jon Ursillo

Jon joined our Sustainability staff in the fall of 2017. He has been the OS’s waste guru, working to streamline UConn’s recycling procedures during his time as an intern. With the ability to inform as he pushes for sustainability, Jon has created personal connections with different stakeholders across campus in these efforts to move UConn towards zero-waste. Jon has brought a wonderful sense of professionalism mixed with humor to our office environment. Outside the office, Jon played a key role in the formation of the President’s Working Group on Sustainability and the Environment, and has been an active member of the working group and its report writing sub-group. Jon is also an undergraduate researcher for EPA-funded clean water valuation research, which he is incorporating into his honor’s thesis. In his free time, Jon is a member of the fraternity Zeta Beta Tau, and has a passion for connecting business & sustainability. Jon is graduating from UConn with a B.S. in Environmental Sciences and a second major in Economics. Jon’s post graduation plan is to obtain a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation and pursue employment that unifies his interests in sustainability strategy and financial analysis.

 

 

“Campus Cup” project brings free menstrual cups to UConn. Period.

The fight against plastic continues. Single-use plastic is pervasive in our lives and there is no exception for menstrual products. The products themselves and plastic packaging of tampons, pads, and panty liners generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. In the US alone, 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are thrown out and end up in landfills, sewage lines, and our oceans annually! 

Students Posing at USH Womxn's Health & Empowerment Fair
Emma MacDonald (left) and Natalie Roach (right) posing at the USG Womxn’s Health and Empowerment Fair at the Office of Sustainability booth!

Luckily, many different reusable products have been popping up as alternatives on the market. This movement has been led by empowered feminists looking to redefine the quality of products available and take down the stigma of periods while shifting away from these single-use menstrual products. You can find reusable cloth pads, period underwear, menstrual disks, menstrual cups and many more creative solutions and continued innovations!

OrganiCup, a women-led Danish menstrual cup company, is one such company focused both on empowering menstruators and tackling this menstrual waste problem. By providing silicone menstrual cups that are reusable for years and come in multiple sizes, this company is breaking barriers, destigmafying periods, and generating much less waste. 

Organicup has launched the “Campus Cup” program, an initiative to introduce their reusable menstrual cups to college students as a sustainable alternative to traditional menstrual products by providing students with free menstrual cups. Identified via our GreenMetric rating, UConn served as a pilot for this initiative.

USG Tampon Time volunteer opens an OrganiCup package to display a Size A menstrual cup to fellow student.
OrganiCups, with their minimal packaging, lined up, ready to be picked up and used by UConn menstruators!

The UConn Office of Sustainability brought the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Tampon Time program on board in order to effectively distribute 500 menstrual cups during USG’s Womxn’s* Health and Empowerment Fair on March 2nd, 2020 for the OrganiCup Campus Cup launch date!

During the Womxn’s Health and Empowerment Fair, excitement and chatter filled the Student Union Ballroom, as students and attendees engaged with different booths highlighting organizations catered towards supporting female/womxn students. At each booth, students could learn about how resources on and off campus connect sustainability, physical & mental health, sex, gender-based violence, intersectional identities, and other topics related to female health & empowerment. The Office of Sustainability even had our own booth with giveaways where we highlighted the cost of different menstrual products and the connections between climate justice, sexual assault, & female empowerment. The biggest draw to the fair, though, was by far the free menstrual cups given out, with students lining up out the door to pick up their very own.

The line for free menstrual cups was out the door for most of the event.

With the opportunity to try out one of the many reusable products on the market for free, menstruating college students on a budget are able to test something potentially out of their comfort zones without spending anything, all while getting one step closer to a more sustainable lifestyle and bringing sustainability to a part of their life that they may have never thought of. 

Students walked away that day excited and ready to try out their free menstrual cup! This was a wonderful reminder to support continued efforts to talk about periods, provide comfortable and cost-saving products & resources for menstruating students, and find creative opportunities to incorporate sustainability on the college campus. And this fair was just the start; there are many more menstrual cups that will be distributed at UConn, through the Women’s Center and in public bathrooms across campus alongside USG Tampon Time’s disposable menstrual products.

Keep your eyes open as OrganiCup launches their nation-wide Campus Cup program this fall! Feel free to reach out to the UConn Office of Sustainability with any questions.

To learn more about OrganiCup and the company goals/impact: https://www.organicup.com/impact/

*Womxn: term used, especially in intersectional feminism, as a way to move away from patriarchal language and explicitly include non-cisgender women and women of color.

“The Pollinators” Film Screening

By Maizey MabrySmith

Looking for something to watch while you’re stuck at home? Eco House has a suggestion for you. On February 25th, the Eco House learning community held a screening of the exciting new documentary, “The Pollinators.” The event, held in the Student Union Theatre, was open to all students as well as members of the general public. Over 90 students turned out and many more watched remotely.

The film profiles large-scale American beekeepers whose jobs are getting increasingly harder as the years go by. As pesticides such as neonicotinoids become more widespread, bees are dying in record numbers, and bee die-offs are becoming part of the daily routine. To keep up with demand despite this challenge, there is now a constant and large scale movement of hives back and forth across the United States by freight trucks. The almond industry plays an immense role in this, as they rent almost 100% of the nation’s hives for their pollination period. The almond industry’s high demand leaves behind only a small number of bees to pollinate other crops for that period. One emerging solution explored in the film is the regenerative agricultural practices, such as no-till farming, silvo-pasturing and creating habitats for beneficial pollinators. Many of these practices work in conjunction with one another to support the bee population. For instance, the growth of nitrogen-fixing cover crops between normal planting seasons allows for no-till practices and reduces the need for harmful pesticides.

The film was followed by a lively Q&A session with the director, Peter Nelson and producer Sally Roy. The audience came prepared to discuss solutions to the issues facing bee populations and ways in which we can keep the pollinator industry alive. Nelson promoted the importance of supporting local farmers and beekeepers, but also focused on spreading knowledge. The film itself is available upon request for screenings by towns and other large groups, like UConn. Nelson emphasized the importance of spreading the knowledge of these issues so that they can be better understood by the general public, either through the documentary or through alternative educational efforts.

Nelson, a beekeeper himself, personally explained the struggles within the work force and is excited to get to work on his next big project!

The event was co-sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, the Institute of the Environment, the UConn Honors Program and the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture.