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:
On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I write to you to honor and celebrate the rich history, culture, and contributions of Indigenous peoples across our nation and around the world. I see Indigenous Peoples’ day is an opportunity for reflection, mindfulness and unity, to acknowledge and support Indigenous communities.
Before I go on, however, please take a moment to acknowledge the land on which our university stands. The University of Connecticut is located on the traditional lands of the Mohegan, Mashantucket Pequot, Eastern Pequot, Schaghticoke, Golden Hill Paugussett, Nipmuc, and Lenape peoples. Especially as an Office dedicated to cultivating a healthy relationship between humans and the environment, we honor and respect the enduring relationship that exists between these Indigenous nations and their ancestral lands.
In the spirit Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Office of Sustainability encourages all members of our community to learn about Indigenous history, culture, and contemporary issues. On campus, one of the best resources for this is the Native American Cultural Program: https://nacp.uconn.edu/.
In the coming months and years, we will engage deeply with the critical issue of environmental justice and will be sharing resources that provide opportunities for education, dialogue, and celebration of the many vibrant cultures and valuable perspectives of our community, including that of indigenous peoples.
I’d like to take a moment to encourage everyone to support Indigenous communities through acts of solidarity and allyship. One simple act is to understand the historical lands upon which you, your loved ones now stand: https://native-land.ca/
Indigenous Peoples’ Day reminds us to reflect and take action for an equitable, just and sustainable world. Let us use this day to honor the resilience and wisdom of Indigenous peoples while also acknowledging the challenges they continue to face.
Thank you for joining us in recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and for your ongoing support in our shared commitment to sustainability and inclusivity at the University of Connecticut.
As many of you know, September is Suicide Prevention Month.
Along with our colleagues throughout the UConn community, the Office of Sustainability is committed to raising awareness about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention.
In 2020, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, and it is the second leading cause of death for people ages 25-34. It is a serious issue that affects people of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences. Each of us has a role to play in preventing suicide and having the following information handy could save a life:
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text988 immediately.
If you are uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can chat the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988lifeline.org.
You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
Of course, many factors can contribute to suicide, including mental health conditions, substance abuse, and difficult life circumstances. That’s why, as part of our work to support mental health here at UConn (and beyond) we use trauma informed principles:
Here at the OS, we aren’t clinicians, and we don’t offer therapeutic services, but we do see it as our responsibility to be informed about, and supportive of, our mental health service teams and capabilities.
Here on campus, the best place to learn more about mental health services and get the care you need is through Student Health and Wellness: https://studenthealth.uconn.edu/
In addition to reaching out for help, there are also things that we can do as a community to prevent suicide. We can:
Talk about mental health openly and without judgment.
Challenge the stigma around suicide.
Be supportive of our friends, family, and colleagues.
Create a culture of caring and compassion.
Please join us as we work together to create a campus community where everyone feels safe and supported.
The steering committee for the UConn@COP Fellowship Program is pleased to extend a call for expressions of interest by UConn faculty and staff members who are interested in joining the UConn@COP28 contingent as it travels to Dubai, UAE from November 30th – December 7th, 2023 to attend the United Nations Conference of the Parties (UN COP28) climate change conference.
Critically, participation in the formal Fellowship Program and travel with the group require all travel expenses, including flight and hotel fees be self-funded. The UConn contingent will be staying at the Aloft Me’Aisam in Dubai.
Due to space limitations, only two faculty and staff members will be able to stay with the group as part of the official delegation. Nonetheless, anyone already planning to attend the conference is more than welcome to meet with the UConn delegation in Dubai.
Please note, conference passes are scarce and not guaranteed. Priority for passes will be given to students before faculty or staff members. We encourage applicants to seek alternative sources for obtaining an official UN conference badge.
Opportunities to contribute to the program include:
Leading topic-specific “breakfast club” conversations in the mornings at the conference with the UConn@COP fellows
Participating in group cultural immersion excursions
Leading or participating in pre-travel educational meetings
Participating in the COP@UConn Symposium (formerly called Climate Change Café) after returning to campus
To submit your expression of interest, please email the UConn@COP steering committee at firstname.lastname@example.org by July 24th. Please be sure to address the following questions in your email:
What contributions to the UConn@COP Fellowship Program might you offer the students?
What will you gain professionally by joining the UConn delegation attending COP28?
Please feel free to email the UConn@COP Fellowship Program steering committee with any questions, at: email@example.com
As a proud ally of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual community, I am writing today to mark the significance of the Stonewall Uprising and to highlight a few personal experiences that define the value and importance of human rights and equity.
Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Uprising of June 28, 1969. Stonewall helped galvanize and catalyze a global movement for LGBTQIA+ rights and liberation. For my family and I, Pride is a celebration of personal freedom and expression and of the unique capacity and value that every human possesses. It is also a recognition that the work must continue and that it is our collective responsibility to stand up for justice and equity.
I am personally influenced by the many LGBTQIA+ people who are striving to make the world a more just and equitable place in their own way. I am particularly inspired by my sister-in-law, who as a chef has overcome bigotry, misogyny and the all-to-frequent toxic masculinity of the food service industry to become one of the world’s leading plant-based culinary experts. She has done all this with deep authenticity and commitment to her core values. She shares her enthusiasm for food and its abilities to bring people together freely and is an especially magnetic personality to my 7-year-old son. I know he loves her for their shared cooking adventures but her influence on him to ‘always be yourself’ is obvious and critical. It does more than any father could enumerate in words. He knows, through her extraordinary example, how to embrace and celebrate differences.
It is these types of relationships – full of love, kindness and acceptance – that are to be gained when, as allies, we celebrate the accomplishments, contributions and uniquely valuable perspectives of people from all walks of life. For my young son and his peers, I want our world to be a joyful, verdant and peaceful place.
That is exactly what my family and I experienced in my own small town’s first Pride parade earlier this month. Hundreds of people come together to celebrate diversity and the genuine feeling of belonging was palpable. My son was so excited to take part in the parade and to be welcomed by so many different people and families. Through this experience he learned a lot about what it means to be proud of who you are…. and I know he was not the only young person who felt empowered and inspired.
Here at UConn, I am also inspired and energized by the many activities, organizations, and groups that strive for justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. The Vergnano Institute for Inclusion and the Rainbow Center are just a few that are committed to creating a campus where all people feel safe and welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Here at the Office of Sustainability we are committed to helping build and maintain a healthy, inclusive community as well; A community that is as talented and authentic as my sister, as joyous and inclusive as a small-town Pride parade and as influential and impactful as the Queer Science Conference.
Specifically, this Office is committed to supporting LGBTQIA+ people by:
Using inclusive language and pronouns.
Being an ally in the workplace and in the classroom.
Challenging discrimination and harassment.
Participating in LGBTQIA+ events and activities.
Supporting LGBTQIA+ organizations.
I know that by working together, we will create a more welcoming, vibrant and empowering environment for all! Happy Pride!
Applications for EcoCaptain Interns for the Fall ’23/Spring ’24 semesters are now open.
EcoCaptain Interns serve as paid sustainability champions and ambassadors for the Office of Sustainability. In collaboration with ResLife, this program allows for EcoCaptains to lead sustainability related programming and educational activities in their Storrs residence halls. Below are some of responsibilities of an EcoCaptain:
Work 5 hours per week @ $15.00/hr
Collaborate with Hall Directors and Resident Assistants to lead sustainability related programming and educational activities in residence halls
Attend monthly EcoCaptain Intern meetings
Provide weekly updates to OS staff and intern leads
Participate in EcoCaptain Intern trainings and team building
Participate and encourage student participation in Office of Sustainability led events and programming such as EcoMadness, RecycleThon, Green Game Days, Earth Day Spring Fling, and Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP) trail maintenance events.
Distribute Recycling Bags and Sustainability Activity books to residents
Lead sustainability education and engagement activities in residence halls like the following:
Weekly recycling audits and scoring
Monthly hall meetings about different topics related to sustainability
Environmental film screenings or movie nights, discussion forums, guest speakers
EcoCaptain “office hours” where people can ask questions about sustainability or give suggestions
Educational flyers, social media, etc.
Weekly tips for living more sustainably
Volunteer clean-up events
Week-long or one-day events or activities, such as a “power-down” day or other fun competitions
As we observe Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the UConn Office of Sustainability would like to recognize and celebrate the important contributions of the AAPI community in advancing sustainability and environmental justice.
The AAPI community is a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and traditions, many of which have a deep connection to the natural world and a respect for the environment. From the indigenous communities of the Pacific Islands to ancient practices of sustainable agriculture in China, AAPI cultures have long recognized the interdependence of human health and well-being with the health of our planet.
Currently, AAPI activists and leaders are at the forefront of the fight for environmental justice, advocating for policies that prioritize the health and safety of marginalized communities and working to build a more just and sustainable world for all. Examples of these efforts include the work of organizations like the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, which has been fighting for environmental justice in AAPI communities for over two decades, and the Youth Climate Strike movement, which was founded by AAPI youth activists and has played a key role in raising awareness about the urgent need for climate action.
At UConn, we are committed to supporting and uplifting the voices of all communities in our efforts to build a more sustainable and just future. As we reflect on the significant contributions of the Asian and Pacific Islander community during this heritage month, we recommit ourselves to advancing sustainability and environmental justice for all.
You can be part of UConn’s flagship experiential learning program, UConn@COP! Attend the United Nations’ global climate negotiations – the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Dubai this November 30 – December 7. The event brings together diplomats, business executives, heads of government, university leaders, environmental activists, NGO’s and other delegates to discuss progress in dealing with climate change. Through this program, UConn students have participated on panels at international press conferences, networked with global NGO’s, environmentally-minded businesses & renewable energy companies, engaged in immersive art exhibitions, attended film screenings put on by the directors themselves, interacted with international delegates & core members of environmental justice movements, and connected with like-minded, passionate students at other colleges & universities in the U.S. and around the world.
The UConn@COP program funds nearly all travel and registration costs thanks to generous donors. Fellows are responsible for $250, but can request a waiver in the event of hardship.
If you have an interest in climate action, apply! Details on the program and application information can be found HERE.
Applications and references are due by May 7, 2023.
What: Earth Day Spring Fling is an annual celebration of sustainability co-sponsored by UConn's Office of Sustainability and the Department of Dining Services. Established in 2008, the festival features vendors of sustainable and hand-crafted goods, organic and local foods, environmental organizations, and student groups that come together to produce the greatest day of environmental awareness all year! Coinciding with the event is UConn's annual Arbor Day celebration and ceremonial "class tree" planting.
When: Wednesday, April 19th, 2023 from 11am to 2pm
The rain date is set for April 27th
Where: Fairfield Way!
The BBQ, vendors, bike tour, and art show will all be located along Fairfield Way. Outdoor yoga will take place on the Founders Green and the class tree planting will be between the Benton Museum and the Wilbur Cross building.
Who: There will be many unique, sustainability-minded vendors attending EDSF! The event is open to everyone – we encourage you to come out and celebrate the Earth with the OS and Dining Services! Some of the highlights include:
Local conservation non-profits
UConn’s environmental clubs
Organic treat vendors
Seed planting station
Why: Our Earth does so much for us - Earth Day Spring Fling is our way of celebrating the beauty and wonders of our planet, while honoring our commitment to protect our environment. We're also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Office of Sustainability!
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.