Student-Led Sustainability Projects funded by Office of Sustainability

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.

Spring valley student farm greenhouse

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

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.

For more details on the Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants Program, please visit:

UConn Recognized as a Bicycle Friendly University

Bicycle Friendly University Bronze Ranking


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.

Read the full story on UConn Today:

UConn Recognized as ‘Bicycle Friendly University,’ First Time it has Received the National Designation

COP27 Fellow Dr. Ben North Featured in CT Sustainable Business Council

Ben North in front of Cop27 sign

Dr. Ben North, a graduate MBA student and COP27 fellow, was recently interviewed by the Connecticut Sustainable Business Council.

An excerpt:

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. 


Read the full article:

UConn Ranked in Top 10 Most Sustainable Universities

Published in UConn Today on 12.23.2022:

UConn recognized as a top-performing institution by the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) and UI GreenMetric World University Rankings.

UConn continues to lead sustainability in higher education. The Sustainable Campus Index tracks universities’ efforts to improve performance in 17 sustainability impact areas, measured by STARS. This year, UConn was ranked 6th overall. The STARS process helps institutions all over the world measure, report and strengthen their contributions to sustainability.

Besides being #6 overall, UConn has the distinction of being one of 12 STARS Platinum-rated schools out of 1,105 participating institutions. When digging into the 2022 ratings, UConn excelled in a few categories:


#1 – Campus Engagement: Providing co-curricular activities that allow students, faculty and staff to deepen their understanding of sustainability. These efforts help integrate sustainability into campus culture and encourage more eco-friendly behavior change.

#1 – Public Engagement: Working with community members, governments, businesses and nonprofits to foster solutions to sustainability challenges. Examples include partnerships, community service, and public policy participation.

#2 (tie) – Water: Conserving water, effectively managing rainwater, and protecting groundwater supplies. These efforts reduce energy usage and improve local water ecosystem health.

#4 – Food & Dining: Designing dining programs that support local farms, environmentally friendly farming methods, agricultural worker equity, and uphold sustainable food systems (e.g. meatless dining).

#7 – Curriculum: Equipping students with learning opportunities in sustainability, including courses, living laboratories, immersive experiences and sustainability literacy.


STARS, a program of The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), is a self-reporting system that measures colleges’ and universities’ performances in several aspects of sustainability.

The framework scores institutions in 17 different impact areas. These include air and climate, buildings, energy, research, and grounds. Schools that earn the greatest percentage of possible points for each area are named top performers.

UConn joined the international network of STARS institutions in 2013, when it was designated as a Reporter. The University then achieved Gold status in 2016, 2017, and 2018. It was rated Platinum for the first time in 2020.

Erin Lindsay  ’23 (CLAS), a Senior Sustainability Intern at the UConn Office of Sustainability, is proud of the impressive ranking, but acknowledged there is still room for improvement.

“Participating in AASHE STARS gives our university the opportunity to be recognized within our community and beyond at the state and even national levels. We perform extremely well in areas related to student engagement and outreach which is a direct result of our incredible student body,” Lindsay says.

“With that being said, STARS also brings light to areas where we need more focus, especially at the institutional level,” she says. “We need greater emphasis on sustainable investments, especially those related to purchasing and energy in order to meet our campus-wide sustainability goals.”

UConn also ranked as the 2022 8th Most Sustainable University by the University of Indonesia’s GreenMetric World University Rankings program. GreenMetric measures 39 indicators in six criteria related to university environmental commitments and initiatives. Over 950 institutions participate across the globe.

Sustainability initiatives at the University contribute to its Platinum rating and top marks in GreenMetric. These include the EcoMadness conservation competition, UConn@COP program, and environmental literacy requirement. Learn more about UConn’s sustainability initiatives and goals at the Office of Sustainability website.

Head over to UConn Today to read the original story:

President Radenka Maric: Climate Action & Sustainability


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.




  • 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:


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,




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.




Dr. Radenka Maric

President | University of Connecticut
Office of the President: 860.486.2337


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 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.


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:

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.