Today, November 1st, is World Vegan Day, a day to recognize and celebrate the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. Word Vegan Day also helps raise awareness of the ethical and environmental implications of animal agriculture.
For several years I worked with some of California’s largest dairies to advance energy and water conservation efforts. My time on these farms was enough to convince me to stop eating dairy products and drastically cut my meat intake. Many of the operations that I encountered housed 5,000-10,000 dairy cows. These large scale confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) are drastically different from the many small farms here in CT but they supply some of the biggest food distributors and restaurant chains in the world with an unsustainable and unethical product. I urge you to shop local and think about the impacts of these CAFO’s before visiting your local chain for a burger. Here is why.
Family farms vs industrial-scale dairy and meat production
There is a significant difference between family farms and industrial-scale dairy and meat production. Family farms are typically smaller, more diversified, and more sustainable. They often raise animals on pasture and use fewer antibiotics and hormones. Industrial-scale dairy and meat production, on the other hand, is characterized by large-scale CAFOs, where animals are too-frequently raised in crowded and unsanitary conditions. CAFOs have a very large environmental impact, sucking up precious ground water (especially in the case of Central CA) and are a major source of air and water pollution. Additionally, these industrial facilities contribute to climate change and antibiotic resistance.
Social impacts of industrial-scale dairy and meat production
There are also significant social impacts of meat and dairy production. For instance, workers in the meat and dairy industry often face poor working conditions and low wages. They are at increased risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals and diseases. Communities near CAFOs often suffer from air and water pollution, and they may also experience decreased property values. Sadly, many farm workers are food insecure and live in food deserts.
Environmental impacts of industrial-scale dairy and meat production
Industrial-scale dairy and meat production is a major contributor to climate change, water pollution, and biodiversity loss. It is also a major consumer of land and resources.
So….. What can we do?
There are a number of things we can do to reduce the negative social and environmental impacts of dairy and meat production. One is to choose to buy meat and dairy products from family farms whenever possible. We can also reduce our overall consumption of meat and dairy products. And we can support policies that promote sustainable and ethical agriculture.
I encourage you to learn more about the social and environmental impacts of dairy and meat production, and to make choices that support a more sustainable and ethical food system. To start, you can check out:
The Institute of the Environment (IoE) at the University of Connecticut is pleased to announce that Joe Fullerton will serve as the new Director of the UConn Office of Sustainability. Following a thorough national search, UConn is excited to welcome Fullerton to a university known for exceptional progress on sustainability from multiple perspectives.
As director, Joe Fullerton will work with senior UConn administrators, students, faculty members and staff members to set and achieve sustainability goals for the university in areas like; 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 of Sustainability (OS) develops outreach and engagement programs that feature experiential learning to raise awareness and improve performance around sustainable practices and behaviors related to campus life and beyond.
Fullerton has over 15 years of experience as a sustainability leader and change maker. In his most recent role, he was the Director of Energy and Sustainability programs at Prospect Silicon Valley, a San Jose, California based non-profit dedicated to accelerating the adoption of equitable cleantech solutions. For nearly a decade prior, he served as the Energy and Sustainability Manager at San Mateo County Community College District. Here, he led local and statewide efforts to advance sustainability internships and career development pathways for students as well as charting a path for decarbonization for the entire 115 California community college system by 2035.
One of the reasons Joe enjoys working in higher education is because he’s a life-long learner. He is currently an Executive MBA candidate at the Quantic School of Business and Technology. He holds a master’s degree in Sustainability Leadership from Arizona State University (ASU) and a bachelor’s in Sustainable Enterprise Management from the University of Phoenix. Additionally, Fullerton is a LEED Accredited Professional, Certified Educational Facilities Professional, and a Climate Reality Leader. His love of learning translates to teaching others. He has been a faculty associate at ASU’s School of Sustainability, and a professional sea kayaking instructor, climbing guide and mountain biking coach.
According to Mike Willig, Executive Director of the IoE, “Joe will be an exceptional leader and administrator in the OS. He strongly reflects the core values of UConn, including “students first”, “sustainability”, “innovation” and “diversity, equity, and inclusion”. His experiences working for government, corporate, and education sectors will provide broad perspectives and insights to enrich programming and inform decision making. As a collaborator and mentor, he will be engaging and caring. I am confident that he will accelerate our progress, diversify our successes, and enhance our national and international reputation in sustainability.”
“I’m thrilled to be working with faculty, staff, students and the expansive UConn campus community as Director of the Office of Sustainability. I’m committed to leading sustainability efforts with a laser focus on inclusive engagement, equitable empowerment and meaningful enrichment,” shares Joe Fullerton.
Fullerton will begin as the Director of the UConn Office of Sustainability on April 7th, 2023.
The Environmental Leadership Award (ELA) winners and finalists were recognized at an award ceremony on March 22, 2023. ELAs are a means of recognizing individuals or groups who have worked alone or as part of organizations to support sustainability efforts at UConn and beyond. Nominations were submitted by faculty members, staff members, and students last fall. Nominees were evaluated by a committee appointed by the Office of Sustainability and Institute of the Environment.
The Awardees of the 2019-2022 Environmental Leadership Awards are:
Hudson is said to “exemplify sustainability through her consistent, dedicated and persistent leadership as the president of the UConn Horticulture Club and as a student worker in the UConn Floriculture Greenhouses. As greenhouse worker, she strongly advocated for reducing pesticides and actively worked to use natural biocontrol to handle pest issues. As Horticulture Club president, she pushes for more greenery on campus. The recent Crossroads Café was decorated in plants grown in the UConn Floriculture Greenhouses – which improves mood and air quality for students.” Our winner also educates others. “She educates upwards of 40 student club members on environmental issues and actions they can take to make change. She even quells students’ fear of bees and bugs through her passion for conservation and the role they play in creating a healthy environment.” Isabelle Hudson “fosters curiosity and a love for nature in everyone she comes in contact with.”
Graduate Student:Dr. Ben North (MBA ’23)
Dr. Ben North has been a graduate student multiple times! He recently completed a PhD in Natural Resource Economics from the University of Florida focused on the sustainable development of bioenergy markets in the southeast. He is currently an MBA student at UConn, combining his environmental science background with enhanced business skills to push for better climate action. His nominator says, “He was an Innovation Fellow with UConn’s Technology Incubation Program, and worked with US energy generation and emissions data to provide insights to improve software for his host company, Unscrambl. He also was a UConn@COP fellow in 2022. He has continued to demonstrate long-term commitment to sustainability by working for several eco-organizations in Connecticut, including: the Connecticut Green Bank, the Highstead Foundation, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.” We’re also impressed by his active membership in the Connecticut Sustainable Business Council and his efforts as lead portfolio manager of the UConn Student Managed Fund (SMF) MBA Team. In his role with the SMF program, he pushes for environmental sustainability considerations in investing their $1.1 million portfolio.
Faculty:Dr. Jamie Vaudrey (Marine Biology)
Dr. Vaudrey was nominated on the basis of excellence in outreach, academics and teamwork in support of the environment. On outreach, her nominator shared “Communicating science is the fiber that runs through all of her research and teaching. She does this across a broad array of stakeholders, shaping the stewardship trajectories of watersheds regionally and seagrass ecosystems worldwide. Her leadership roles in professional societies and on advisory councils have pushed for more integration of scientific results into decision making and broadened participation of underrepresented groups in marine science. The success of establishing the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve is largely due to this nominee who spearheaded the steering committee.” Additionally, “She works with Save the Sound and other public environmental education groups to engage citizens, senators, and federal agencies with nitrogen pollution and helped develop an Environmental Report Card for Long Island Sound. Her impact on understanding of environmental and sustainability in Connecticut’s local waters reaches far beyond the classroom.” Congratulations to Dr. Jamie Vaudrey who’s “compassion for nature and the future of Long Island Sound emanates from her everyday work, which is a key motivating force for every member of her team!”
Staff:Katie Milardo (Facilities)
Katie Milardo’s nominator described her as “always being overwhelmingly kind and open to discussing anything. She has gone above and beyond with answering questions about EcoMadness in addition to scheduling tours of the Co-Generation Facility. Facilities is a large and complicated department, but she makes it easy to navigate.” She also recently became the advisor of the re-vamped Soil and Water Conservation Society UConn Student chapter, which works toward natural resource conservation.
UConn Group:Spring Valley Student Farm
SVSF is described as “always trying new, innovative sustainability techniques to make the land healthier. They host bees and pollinators, don’t use herbicides and pesticides, and are working on activating solar energy.” The group also is haven for students – “Student volunteers are provided weekly transportation to the farm, making it accessible for students without cars. The new composting privy is ADA accessible and they host learning opportunities about local food insecurity, zero-waste, and tree production. They over a diversity of activities and show commitment to building sustainable, green community.”
Environmental Justice – Faculty:Dr. Elle Ouimet (Anthropology)
Dr. Ouimet advances action through teaching courses and advising extracurricular work that empowers students to make change locally and build community. She is the advisor for EcoHusky and has connected the club with Environmental Justice partners like Keney Park Sustainability Project. As her nominator shares, “She exemplifies conservation because she motivates students to explore their personal relationship with nature and promotes the use of sustainable goods and services. Her courses provide students with knowledge needed to critically engage with their personal role in climate change and its unequal impact on marginalized communities.” She is a champion for collaboration, building bridges across campus to create change. Lastly, her nominator shares “she has been the catalyst for so many student voices at UConn pushing for environmental equity on campus, while bringing a global, regional and local approach to teaching environmental justice.”
Sydney Collins has worked for UConn Student Government to promote alternative transportation, organizing a community ride day to boost cycling on campus. She connects this work to the many social improvements that biking offers – improved health and mood, and healthier air for all. Her nominator says, “She is a strong leader for the environment. Her leadership inspires me and others to work on environmental issues and to try and make change. She took on her roles at USG to help create solutions and improve UConn. She feels everyone has a voice and enables all to be part of the discussion.” Collins focuses on environmental justice in and out of class. Her nominator shares that “she is passionate and dedicated to achieving environmental justice for everyone and making sure everyone has an equal living situation and life. She goes above and beyond to fight for environmental justice – and that passion has inspired my life path.”
Calabretta was nominated by a classmate who shares that she “has excelled in our environmental and climate law classes at UConn Law. She is an outstanding leader on our campus and helped develop and found the Energy and Environmental Law Negotiation Competition at UConn Law. She conducted research for CIRCA and is working to publish a paper on the fashion industry’s impact on climate change.” The Office of Sustainability grew familiar with this finalist during COP27 as a UConn@COP fellow. At COP and back at home, she has been a mentor to underclassmen and an inspiration on staying engaged and educated on environmental matters and ways to promote justice. She recently was offered a fellowship at DesegregateCT, which has a strong environmental justice component. Her nominator says, “She is a leader in environmental academics and outreach on UConn Law’s campus and deserves to be recognized for her efforts to grow an environmental law community.”
Faculty: Dr. Oksan Bayulgen (Political Science) Dr. Mike Dietz (CT Institute of Water Resources)
Dr. Bayulgen is described as “a tireless advocate of sustainability on the UConn campus and globally throughout her career. She has led students participating in the United Nations climate change conference and lent her expertise on renewable energy and sustainability practices to enhance UConn’s purchasing policies. She had developed innovative courses integral to the GenEd Sustainability mandate and Human Rights coursework. She leads with integrity and compassion and is a masterful consensus-builder, while deeply committed to ensuring equity in the process of economic growth.” Dr. Oksan Bayulgen is “the best example of a scholar-advocate and a leading voice on these issues globally”!
Dr. Dietz also received glowing remarks from his nominator. “He is always looking for practical ways to bridge findings from scientific research to the lifestyles of everyone outside of our academic system. He promotes public health and community knowledge in many ways. He began a low cost well water testing program for rural areas of Connecticut, identifying toxins that otherwise are prohibitively costly to detect. He’s also put on the Green Snow Pro program to educate state and municipal workers on environmentally conscious salt application – this directly improves human, plant and aquatic health. His joint Stormwater Corps course demonstrates to students how to create environmental change in towns through green stormwater infrastructure installation, combining theory with practice. His unconventional routes as a professor helps students see the world from different perspectives. He never misses an opportunity to meet with students individually.” From Dr. Dietz’s graduate student, “I know that I have a one-in-a-million advisor. If Mike Dietz has done anything in the past year, he’s given me countless reasons to pursue a lifetime in environmental research and conservation.”
What: An interdisciplinary panel of experts, designed to inform students on the ways in which their desired career path can intersect with sustainability and the environment. A green career does not have to be one solely in the environmental field! Green careers are found in business, art, science, education, government, and more. The GCP will help you as a student find a career that connects your unique talents and interests with sustainability. This is also an Honors event! (Categories: Career, Professional, & Personal Development OR Social Change, Service, & Sustainability – #UHLevent10468)
When: Thursday, March 30th, from 5:30-6:45PM
Where: BPB (Bio Physics Building), room 130
91 N. Eagleville Road, Storrs CT 06269
Who: see our list of panelists below! Students of any and all majors are encouraged to attend. Green careers are not limited to environmental majors! We want to show you all how your majors can be related to a green career.
Why: The Earth is facing an imminent crisis: climate change. We will need all hands on deck to make progress in our goals as a global community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save our planet. We at the OS want to show YOU, all the students here at UConn, that ‘green’ does not have to mean strictly environmental science. Our panelists include engineers, businesspeople, and more – sustainability initiatives can be incorporated into any job! There is a place for all of you in the fight for sustainability and environmental justice; you all have a role to play, big or small.
Dr. Sean Bradshaw, Senior Technical Fellow for Propulsion at Pratt & Whitney
Dr. Bradshaw is the senior technical fellow for sustainability propulsion at Pratt & Whitney. His primary focus is on the development of advanced aircraft propulsion technologies that enable the aviation industry to reduce its environmental footprint. Dr. Bradshaw is the chairman of the Gas Turbine Association, the chairman of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Gas Turbine Technology Group, an associate editor of the Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines and Power, a member of the ASME Heat Transfer Committee, and an adjunct professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University. Dr. Bradshaw is also a recipient of the BEYA Professional Achievement in Industry Award, and received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in aerospace engineering from MIT.
Samuel King, Co-owner of Blue Earth Compost, Inc.
Samuel King is an experienced sustainability entrepreneur and advocate in the fields of waste, energy, and climate change. He is a co-owner of Blue Earth Compost in Hartford, CT, where he works in various roles relating to the growth and management of the business. As an advocate, Mr. King has been involved as a community organizer in fighting fossil fuel projects locally and nationally. Mr. King’s work now centers around finding solutions for a transition to a sustainable waste infrastructure in CT. Sam is a 2014 graduate of UMass Amherst with a BA. Sc. in Sustainable Community Development.
Aziz Dehkan, Executive Director and Lead Organizer of CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs
Aziz Dehkan was born and raised in New York City. With a degree in Biological Sciences from Rutgers University, Aziz built an award-winning passive-solar house and started one of the first organic farms in New Jersey.
In management and development roles, Aziz has worked for social and environmental justice organizations including The Coalition for the Homeless, STRIVE, The Fortune Society, and Mother Jones. As a community organizer and Executive Director of the NYC Community Garden Coalition, in response to structural racism, he has led the fight for land tenure and food security. Aziz served on the steering committee for the People’s Climate Movement rallies in NYC, Washington DC and #Sandy5.
Aziz is the current Executive Director and Lead Organizer of the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, which builds alliances among diverse constituencies to combat climate change, create jobs and promote racial, economic and environmental justice. In 2021The Roundtable passed historically significant legislation that attaches strong Labor standards on larger renewable energy projects in CT. The Roundtable’s most recent legislative action is The Carbon Free Healthy School Initiative, a Statewide Bill that seeks to rehab, renovate, and rebuild schools throughout CT.
He is now living in Clinton, CT with his wife, Barbara Moss, and their 13-yr-old dog, Tinkerbell. A dyed-in-the-wool pacifist, Aziz enjoys boxing as a challenging workout form, fully recognizing the irony of this choice. An enthusiastic cook, he loves American roots music, live theater, and the Yankees; dreams of a free Iran, and is grateful for the ocean’s positive ions.
Aziz is tirelessly searching for progressive solutions that support justice, equality, and liberation and disrupting the status quo.
Emma MacDonald, Environmental Analyst for CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Emma MacDonald is a passionate environmentalist and educator. They grew up in Northwest CT, where they garnered a love and respect for nature. Emma attended UConn for their BS in Natural Resources (their focus was Sustainable Forest Resources and their minor was in Ornamental Horticulture). During their time at UConn, they were an intern at the University’s Office of Sustainability and the President of EcoHusky. She graduated in May 2021 and went on to become a nature educator at Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust for the 2021 Summer Camp session. She then became a Seasonal Resource Assistant for the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP’s) New England Cottontail Program. At this position they trapped rabbits for a breeding program and collected data for a joint DEEP-UConn research project. They also assisted with the Waterfowl and White-Tailed Deer programs before the temporary position ended, at which point they began their current job as an Environmental Analyst in DEEP’s Sustainable Materials Management Group (SMM). In SMM, Emma works on various projects such as interactive GIS mapping projects intended to make sustainable practices more accessible as well as website editing, supporting the CT Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management, and community outreach and engagement through recycling presentations and social media. Emma hopes to continue to prioritize accessibility and connection to people and nature in their work as they move forward in their career.
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 ’23. Interns deal with all kinds of sustainability topics – from energy use to environmental communications. All majors welcome!
Apply by 11:59pm on April 19th
Must be a current first-year or a second-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree at UConn
The Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants Program, run by the Office of Sustainability and Institute of the Environment, awarded seven student teams working to elevate sustainability in Connecticut.
UConn has ambitiously committed to being carbon-neutral by 2030, and has a successful track record of incorporating sustainability into its operations, education and student opportunities. Students play an important role in elevating sustainability at UConn, and the latest round of Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants (ESSSG) awards supports them.
Started by the Office of Sustainability and Institute of the Environment in 2021, the ESSSG program competitively funds student-led initiatives that enhance environmental and social sustainability for UConn communities. Applications for this round spanned everything from graduate-level engineering research to planet-friendly farming practices.
Seven projects were awarded funds due to their interdisciplinary nature and ability to advance both sustainability and equity.
Non-Violence Mindfulness Training for Environmental Justice and Mother Earth Day Festival
This project will offer non-violence embodiment training to students, held by students and national experts. It’ll culminate in a campus event around Mother Earth Day for the students and other groups to showcase art and connect to the UCONN community by teaching embodiment and non-violence.
Students: Juan Pablo Yepes Tobon ’24 (CLAS), Laura Augenbraun ’24 (CLAS)
Faculty Mentors: Phoebe Godfrey, Professor-in-Residence of Sociology, Stacy Maddern – Assist. Professor-in-Residence of Urban and Community Studies
Renewed Outdoor Classroom and Chestnut Orchard
Locally and sustainably-sourced raw materials will be produced by students to create infrastructure for teaching, outreach, meeting, and artistic performance space that is ADA accessible. This project will also materially advance development of a planned American chestnut seed orchard.
Students: Isaac Betts ‘23 (CAHNR), Andrew Muller ’23 (CAHNR), Zachary Bates ‘23 (CAHNR)
Faculty Mentors: Thomas Worthley, Extension Educator Forest Sustainability, Robert Fahey, UConn Forest Director and Assoc. Professor
Huskies for Harkness
Huskies for Harkness is an initiative immersing New London high school students into conservation and sustainability, addressing the systemic barriers surrounding historically gatekept fields. It does this through a vocational enrichment trip to Harkness Memorial Park, focusing on education, engagement, and exploration.
Students: Jessica Bostick ‘23 (CAHNR), EcoHuskies
Faculty Mentor: Eleanor Shoreman-Ouimet, Assist. Professor of Anthropology
UConn Gleaning Corps
The Spring Valley Student Farm Gleaning Interns will assist the Windham Community Food Network to expand gleaning in Eastern CT. Gleaning is the practice of harvesting excess produce that doesn’t get sent to market, and is instead used to support people experiencing food insecurity. The student farmers will harvest, wash and deliver produce to various pantries in the Willimantic area. They’ll also develop a training guide to be used by volunteers to keep the program running in the future.
Students: Sydney Clements, Ph.D. Candidate in Geography
Staff Mentor: Jessica Larkin-Wells, Farm Manager, Spring Valley Student Farm
Reimagining a Community Garden
EcoGarden is reimagining the student club’s garden space. Educational signage, a new composting area, a variety of new perennial plants, and an outdoor picnic area are coming to EcoGarden. Community gardens help tackle the issues of climate change and food deserts.
Students: Kristopher Dow ’24 (ENG, CLAS), EcoGarden Club
Staff Mentor: Jessica Larkin-Wells, Farm Manager, Spring Valley Student Farm
Ecoposium, UConn is an organization that serves to plan and promote UConn’s first student-led environmental symposium. The club strives to spread awareness and educate the UConn community about relevant environmental issues through symposium sessions covering environmental topics elected by the organization.
Students: Claire Lee ’24 (CLAS), Ecoposium Club
Faculty Mentors: David Wagner, Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Scott Wallace, Assoc. Professor of Journalism
Material World: Design for a Healthful and Equitable Future
This project will create an interactive and sustainably-built pop-up exhibition educating students on the impacts of environmentally and socially sustainable design methods and materials aimed at empowering them to act as agents of change in their professional careers and personal lives.
Students: Cameron Slocum ’23 (SFA)
Faculty Mentors: Chris Sancomb, Assist. Professor of Industrial Design, Shareen Hertel, Professor of Political Science
“This signature program catalyzes and supports entrepreneurial activities by students, who co-design projects with faculty and staff mentors. The resulting projects represent authentic, collaborative experiences that substantively enrich educational experiences and that enhance sustainable practices that intimately integrate social responsibility. It is clear that our students are making a difference and are leading efforts to make the world more just and more resilient!”, says Michael Willig, Executive Director of the Institute of the Environment.
“Despite “small” in being in the name of this grant program, I believe that these grants will leave a large impact on our community, even beyond the environmental sphere. Thanks to the Office of Sustainability, the hard work of our team at Ecoposium, UConn, and the endless support of our faculty advisors, we are excited to utilize these funds in supporting the university’s first student-run environmental symposium this semester. My hope is for members of the UConn community from all disciplines to be able to come together through this event under a shared love and commitment to the environment,” shares Claire Lee, president and founder of student organization Ecoposium, UConn.
Students will present their project findings and impacts at the Climate Change Café in early Spring’24.
UConn has been named among a group of higher education institutions nationwide to receive “Bicycle Friendly University” status for the first time, a designation that recognizes its work to support and encourage bicycling as a healthy, environmentally friendly transportation option.
Dr. Ben North, a graduate MBA student and COP27 fellow, was recently interviewed by the Connecticut Sustainable Business Council.
It’s very difficult to get an invitation to attend COP27. What made it possible for you?
Attending the COP27 would not have been possible without the critical coordination and fundraising support provided by the UConn Office of Sustainability through the UConn@COP Fellowship program. This year, 14 students and seven faculty and staff members attended the conference from UConn. Funding for the program comes from a variety of sources, including business sponsors, alumni donors, and university departments and professors. The UConn@COP Fellowship program depends on the continued support from these donors every year to give students access to this transformative experience as part of their time at UConn.