News

President Radenka Maric: Climate Action & Sustainability

Source:  https://president.uconn.edu/communications/


To the UConn Community,

 

Yesterday, UConn organized a conference called Navigating Climate Change & Energy Security in the Northeast, bringing together educators, industry, state legislators, and our U.S. senators and representatives. Climate change is an existential threat, and we are fully committed to being a national leader in education, research innovation, and technology deployment to combat it. In addition, as the president of UConn and an internationally recognized expert in clean energy, I will work with the state, the federal government, donors, industry, and global partners to reduce UConn’s carbon footprint to carbon neutral by 2030.

 

UConn is already working closely with the state and industry to participate in new technology development, including making use of hydrogen as a clean energy source. Hydrogen can potentially play an important role in addressing the climate crisis, energy security, and resiliency. Though there are still significant challenges, zero and low-carbon hydrogen can be a key part of a comprehensive portfolio of solutions to achieve a sustainable and equitable clean energy future.

 

In 2019 when the President’s Working Group on Sustainability and the Environment examined UConn’s carbon emission reduction goals and our progress to achieving them, the landscape was different than it is today. As we were reminded yesterday during the conference by Senator Blumenthal and others, in November 2021 Congress passed and President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Public Law 117-58), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This historic, once-in-a-generation legislation authorizes and appropriates $62 billion for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), including $9.5 billion for clean hydrogen.

 

Furthermore, in August 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law (Public Law 117-169), which provides additional policies and incentives for hydrogen, including a production tax credit that will further boost a U.S. market for clean hydrogen. Moreover, Connecticut, under Public Act 22-5 (2022) requires 100% zero-emission electricity to be supplied to in-state electric consumers by 2040. Thus, the nation, the state, and UConn are stepping up to accelerate progress in zero-carbon emissions through unprecedented investments in clean and sustainable energy sources and technologies, which includes planning for the creation of our own microgrid at UConn.

 

Our Sustainability Action Plan will be posted on the president’s website in the spring and will clearly outline our vision, goals, and targets for sustainability initiatives on our campuses and in our communities. We will post the new initiatives monthly and annually review our goals and achievements to help us understand where we are going and how we will get there. UConn’s leaders and experts in clean energy will work closely with our many students who are passionate and active in the area of sustainability and the environment, focused on addressing climate change and environmental equity.

 

Over the years, significant investments have been made in many areas at UConn, including research, education, planning, staffing, conservation, infrastructure, and operations. Our next step will be the deployment of clean energy technologies, such as those capable of capturing the CO2 created by our co-generation plant. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm visited UConn in May 2022 to highlight the importance of clean energy, noting UConn’s major contributions to the field. She stated: “It’s just really an exciting time to be in this energy space. We feel like we’re in the middle of history being made.”

 

At UConn, we have a legacy of making that history. I would like to summarize our Sustainability Performance Plan and ongoing implementation efforts toward that future and define obtainable goals for the 2022-2023 academic years.

 

Highlights:

 

  • As of FY2021, UConn has achieved a 45% reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions below the benchmark year of 2001 while nearly doubling the size of the Storrs campus via the UConn 2000 and Next Generation Connecticut programs. This growth is required for UConn to develop the talent required to meet the challenges of climate change. This places UConn well ahead of the state’s interim goal of a 45% reduction by 2030 as we move toward reducing our carbon footprint to carbon neutral by 2030.

 

  • Our intense focus has been on addressing Scope 1 (direct from sources controlled by UConn) and Scope 2 (indirect from the purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling) emissions which originate from the need to power, heat, and cool the university. First, by reducing the overall amount of energy required through Conservation Measures, UConn has achieved a significantly lower carbon footprint than peers such as Cornell and UMass Amherst. Secondly, by reducing purchased energy using state-of-the-art combined heat and power, which is cleaner than the regional grid and allows 90% of campus power to be produced while capturing enough exhaust energy to heat and cool 67% of the campus – all with zero additional carbon required.

 

  • At our Depot Campus, UConn commissioned our new HyAxiom Fuel Cell on Aug. 16, 2022, which provides 100% of the power required for the campus plus cooling for our Center of Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2) high bay research laboratories. This Power Purchase Agreement provides state-of-the-art technology that is hydrogen economy ready. The concepts and research within C2E2 are realized immediately outside the lab in a viable commercial partnership which significantly lowers emissions and operating costs.

 

  • Governor Lamont has positioned Connecticut to become a leader developing the hydrogen economy as a founding member of the regional clean hydrogen hubs designated through the federal Clean Hydrogen Hubs program included in the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). UConn is partnering with our peers in New York, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The IIJA includes historic levels of funding for hydrogen research and development as well as deployment of clean hydrogen infrastructure. UConn’s longstanding leadership in fuel cell development positions us as leaders in hydrogen development since fuel cell technology can produce, store, and generate electricity from hydrogen.

 

Several other locations for renewable energy are being evaluated at UConn and UConn Health. Our new South Campus Residence Hall and Mansfield Apartments projects are evaluating the synergy of geothermal systems with hydrogen economy ready fuel cell systems and combined heat and power microgrid systems for resiliency. Our new Science 1 research building opening this academic year will have a 520-kW solar PV roof to complement the Werth Residence Hall solar PV, which has avoided more than 241,000 pounds of CO2 since 2017.

 

Facilities Operations is essential to operating and maintaining the renewable and sustainable assets on our campuses. A reorganization of leadership is in process to refocus resources in the world of climate change and carbon footprint reduction. The life cycle costs of carbon, social justice, equity, market availability, and future proofing will be included in the calculations to determine project viability. This retooling takes existing resources and sets priorities to accelerate our current sustainability efforts, seeking to double the historic rate of reduction to meet the increasing pace of global warming. Facilities Operations has transitioned its Transportation staff into Scope 3 (result of activities from non-UConn controlled assets that impact the value chain) emissions reduction task force.

 

Research teams are essential to tackling the growing threats of climate change. Opportunities are abundant for our students and staff to engage on topics as diverse as Extreme Weather and Its Impact on Our Shorelines and Critical Infrastructure, Removing Microplastics from Wastewater, Sustaining the Food Supply, Diversity and Inclusion, Human Rights on Global and Local Scales, Eversource Energy Center Storm Outage Prediction, and Microgrid Resiliency.

 

We started a climate venture studio to attract new start-up companies to UConn and Connecticut with the significant support of R/GA Ventures and our state. Learn more at: www.futureclimateventurestudio.com.

 

The entire UConn community can serve as champions for fighting climate change and in supporting clean energy implementation, and we will provide significant workforce development for our state in this area.

 

We are putting our university on an accelerated path to net zero emissions for buildings and our energy supply as well as significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to become carbon neutral by 2030.

 

As I said, I believe in our students and am looking forward to working together and inspiring even greater student engagement in the fight against climate change and for green energy.

 

Leading with love for all,

 

Radenka

 

UConn is a great university.

But it’s more than that. A top-ranked research institution, with campuses and staff across Connecticut, built to inspire the global community that is UConn Nation. UConn’s talented students exceed expectations. Our expert researchers, faculty, staff, and alumni drive Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (CIE) for a better tomorrow. We fuel the State’s economy and are committed to inclusivity in benefiting the greater good. This is UConn.

 

STUDENTS FIRST, UCONN ALWAYS. HUSKIES FOREVER.

 

Dr. Radenka Maric

President | University of Connecticut
Office of the President: 860.486.2337

radenka.maric@uconn.edu

 

Twitter: @UConnPresident

Instagram: @UConnPres

The Case for Not Despairing Over the Fate of the Earth – Podcast

Institute of the Environment Executive Director Mike Willig was recently featured on the UConn360 podcast!

Episode 102: The Case for Not Despairing Over the Fate of the Earth

We’re joined by Michael Willig, executive director of the Institute of the Environment and a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, who talks about why he doesn’t lose hope even in the face of grim news about the climate and environment. One of the things that encourages him is the work that UConn is doing on a number of fronts, which he tells us about. He also discusses what it was like to start his field career in a remote corner of Brazil, and how that taught him about more than just evolutionary biology. Afterwards, we travel back to the Golden Age of Radio to meet a UConn professor reluctant to relive his childhood celebrity.

Listen to the episode HERE!

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

Grantee in NBC News!

The UConn Swap Shop, one of the grantees of the inaugural Environmental and Social Sustainability Grants program, was featured in an NBC Connecticut news story. Read the full article here:

https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/uconn-student-creates-clothing-swap-shop-on-campus/2864689/

Anyone with a UConn ID, students or faculty can shop at the swap shop by bringing in an item they no longer wear. Each item gets a credit based on its quality and brand name and then shoppers can walk away with a new item.”

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

Environmental and Social Sustainability Grantee in the News!

Saving the Planet, One Clothing Swap at a Time

CT Health I-Team published a story about one of our Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants awardees on July 5, 2022.

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

“According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “The [Fast Fashion] textiles system operates in an almost completely linear way: large amounts of non-renewable
resources are extracted to produce clothes that are often used for only a short time, after which the materials are mostly sent to landfill or incinerated,” under-utilizing recycling. And, many of the industry workers are women, age 18-24, who are exploited working long hours, making low wages, reports re/make.”

Madeline Kizer of Wallingford hosts clothing swaps to promote second-hand shopping, aiming to raise awareness of fast fashion’s impact on the environment.”

For the rest of the summer, Kizer and two classmates are finalizing UConn Swap Shop, an on-campus thrift store. Students will have the opportunity to swap clothing, each item having a designated point value. Kizer recalled being a freshman without a car on-campus and wanting to thrift in her free time. She hopes that the thrift store will teach students the importance of shopping second-hand.”

Read the full story on CT Health I-Team.