This Tuesday, President Katsouleas announced the creation of a joint student-faculty working group to create “coordinated analysis, policy formulation and strategic planning on issues of sustainability, particularly reducing emissions.” In the announcement, which came via a campus-wide email, Katsouleas made an open call for applications from the student body, stressing that “diversity, including with respect to academic background, will be an important consideration.” The group will work for the remainder of the Fall semester and into the Spring to create a detailed action plan for the University.
The formation of this group comes in response to student demands from the Sept. 20th climate strike and subsequent sit-ins. Momentum for a student-led working group has been building since last semester, when UConn@COP24 fellows and Office of Sustainability interns discussed the idea with UConn’s Executive Vice President & CFO, months before President Katsouleas began his tenure as President on August 1st. The University Senate has played a key role, by endorsing the strikers’ demands and being continuous advocates for sustainability on campus. President Katsouleas has also agreed to convene a committee of the Board of Trustees, TAFS, to focus solely on coming up with recommendations for addressing the demands!
These are monumental steps in the right direction from the university administration. Not only is President Katsouleas committing to rapid forward momentum on the issue of sustainability, but he is also positioning students at the forefront of that effort.
All students who are interested can apply by sending a letter of interest and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. We strongly encourage all interested UConn students to apply!
On the weekend of September 8th, New Haven was brimming with energy. There were events happening throughout the city to foster progress for people and the environment.
The first was a summit presented by the Yale Art Gallery and Artspace, a contemporary art non-profit. This summit, called “Homage: Soil and Site” was seven hours long and drew in some of the national leaders in the environmental movement today—household names like Eddie Bautista and Elizabeth Yeampierre. Oh, you haven’t heard of them? There’s a reason for that. They are self-proclaimed environmental justice advocates, a group that has had little space or power in the environmental movement until recently.
Environmental justice, put simply, is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to environmental conditions, regulation, and change. Those on the frontlines of climate change and other forms of environmental degradation are often the most economically and politically repressed. Impoverished island nations facing increased hurricane activity, poor urban communities facing the worst of air pollution, minority communities having little influence over the siting of a landfill in their backyard, and indigenous people facing potential contamination of their rivers by powerful oil companies should be given a seat at the table in discussions of policy and change. After all, they’re the ones who have experience dealing with the problems that we’re trying to solve.
After decades of effort on the part of environmental justice advocates, we are finally reaching a point where all voices are being heard. This was evident at event number two of the September 8th weekend, a rally for “Climate, Jobs, and Justice.” This event was unique in the groups that came together in order to make it happen. There were the typical organizations that are an important presence at environmental rallies in the state, notably the Sierra Club and 350CT, in addition to other groups such as the CT Puerto Rican Alliance. This meant that there was a larger variety of speakers and performances than the typical rally. There was a presentation of an electric car, and there was also a performance by local rappers about police brutality. There was a call to action for protecting CT’s Green Bank, and there was a young Latinx girl who sung about coming together as one. One stop of the rally was to admire a fuel cell, while another was for a local group to speak on issues related to prison reform. Rallies like this give hope for continued collaboration as we strive to create a safe and healthy environment for all people.
The OEP is working on incorporating environmental justice as a focus as well. We recognize the importance of indigenous people to our country and to the environmental movement. Worldwide, they are protectors of 80% of the world’s biodiversity, despite only living on 20% of the world’s land. They hold Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) that is vital to the stewardship of land, and utilized by many, including the US National Park Service. To honor this, we have partnered with Global House to hold a film screening and discussion of Sacred Water: Standing Rock Part 2 on October 3rd about the Standing Rock protests. It’s the kickoff for Indigenous People’s Week, a series of events at UConn that aim to replace Columbus Day with a celebration of indigenous people in our country. Please join us in the Global House Lounge at 5:30pm to learn more about this incredible population of people!
Through recent innovations like bringing car-sharing service Zipcar to campus, implementing a shuttle service between Storrs and the UConn Health Center, and UConn Outdoor’s new bike share program, UConn has demonstrated its strong commitment to sustainable transportation. With the introduction of the 2020 Vision for Campus Sustainability and Climate Leadership by the UConn administration, new innovations in campus transportation are slated to be implemented soon.
The 2020 Vision for Campus Sustainability and Climate Leadership sets out a series of goals for increasing campus sustainability, broken into categories including Energy & Buildings, Waste Reduction & Diversion, Food & Dining, and Transportation. Through the 2020 Vision, UConn has declared an intention to increase the percentage of electric and hybrid vehicles in UConn’s light duty fleet to 25% from the 18% baseline in 2015. UConn is also hoping to increase passenger trips on the University shuttle buses from 1.3 million per year in 2015 to 1.5 million per year by 2020. In addition to these initiatives, actions have already been taken this semester to increase sustainable transportation on campus. New buses have joined UConn’s fleet, equipped with bike racks for passengers who cycle.
Moving forward, the Office of Environmental Policy is examining how else we can increase sustainable transportation. At a recent student summit based around the 2020 Vision, transportation was a key topic of discussion. Many students were interested in increasing the number and frequency of bus routes going to off campus housing locations like Northwood Apartments, Carriage House Apartments, and Hunting Lodge Apartments. Additionally, students wanted more bike paths to be added to major roads such as 195. They also noted that sustainable transportation would increase if there was more awareness of programs on campus that support sustainable transportation, such as the carpool app, Zipcar, and UConn Outdoor’s bike share program, which is new as of last semester.
Interestingly, while the 2020 Vision focuses primarily on UConn’s campus fleet and buses, student ideas were based on support for sustainable transportation by students and faculty, including increased bike paths and carpooling. Thus, the combined perspective of the student viewpoint and administration priorities create a more holistic picture of how transportation at UConn can be made more sustainable.
Living at UConn Storrs without a car can be challenging if you are a student that likes to adventure off campus. Even the simplest trips can be difficult. Living in an apartment, I have found that I often need to rely on friends to drive me to the grocery store. Luckily, a new alternative to having a car on campus just came to UConn! Zipcar, a car-sharing service, arrived on campus this fall.
Zipcar allows students, faculty, staff, and community members to reserve cars on an hourly basis. There are currently 10 vehicles parked in several designated spots around campus. These locations include Northwest and Towers Residence Halls, Whitney Road, the Field House, and the Nathan Hale Inn. These cars are available 24/7, and after paying a $15 membership fee, can be reserved for as little as $7.50 per hour or $69 per day. After the first year, the annual membership fee increases to $25. The cost includes insurance, gas, and up to 180 miles of driving per day. Another attractive feature of this program is that unlike traditional car-rental, many of which have age limits between 21 and 24, the age limit for membership for this service is 18 for UConn students, faculty, and staff, and 21 for local community members.
This car-sharing service provides a new option for students who do not have cars or cannot afford to have a car on campus. The cheapest resident student parking permit costs $122 for the year and only allows you to park in C Lot, one of the farthest parking lots from the campus core. Additionally, Zipcar represents a more sustainable option for students wishing to travel. Car sharing is an alternative form of transportation that allows for fewer cars to be driven on campus. According to Zipcar’s website, each Zipcar covers the transportation needs of about 40 of their members, and surveys show that 1 in 4 members said they would have bought a car if they had not had the option of using Zipcar. This represents a significant number of cars not on the road. In this way, car sharing has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because fewer students may bring cars to campus in light of this option. Furthermore, this may reduce the need for parking spaces on campus, and Zipcar could act as a Low Impact Development, or LID, feature by reducing runoff. Thus, having this new car-sharing service at UConn will not only give students the option to be more independent, but also allow them to reduce their environmental impact.
Personally, I used Zipcar just this past week, and I found the process easy to navigate. After reserving a car using the Zipcar app on my cellphone, I was able to get the car at the parking lot in front of the UConn Field House, and drive from there. I unlocked the car using my Zipcard, which was sent to me in the mail. The actual car keys are left in the vehicle. The Zipcard is used to pay for gas, so that you do not have to pay for gas out of your own pocket. The car that I drove was clean and new, and my trip was smooth. When I had finished with my travels, I simply returned the car to the place where I had found it (a spot clearly marked where only Zipcars are allowed to park), left the keys in the car, and locked the car using my Zipcard. A few hours later, I received an email with trip details and the total cost.
I found my Zipcar experience to be very convenient, and I would recommend it to anyone who does not have a car and is looking to make a quick trip to the grocery trip, visit a friend, or go on an adventure. Along the way, you can feel good knowing your decision will help our community reduce its carbon footprint, and make UConn a more sustainable place to work and play!