brianna church

Learning about BioDiesel

The price of fuel, whether it is heating oil, diesel, or gasoline, seems to perpetually be on the rise here in Connecticut, making it increasingly more important for consumers to be informed about the different types of fuel available.

After attending the 2013 Regional Biodiesel Industry Forum hosted at the University of Connecticut, I learned a lot about the benefits of one fuel source that few consumers are familiar with; biodiesel.

Biodiesel is actually less expensive than petroleum based-diesel, outperforms both natural gas and petrodiesel in home-heating systems, and is one of the more sustainable fuel sources.  The following are just a few more things that I didn’t know about biodiesel; they surprised me and they very well might surprise you too!



  • With state incentives, biodiesel can be up to 50 cents cheaper per gallon than petrodiesel

Great performance

  • Vehicles running on B20, a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% petrodiesel, have the same fuel consumption, horsepower, and torque as vehicles running on conventional petrodiesel
  • When mixed with No. 2 diesel, B20 performs the same as petrodiesel in cold weather
  • Biodiesel has a BTU value comparable to petrodiesel
  • Most vehicles manufactured after 1993 can use biodiesel blends up to B20 without any impact on operating performance
  • When biodiesel is first introduced to an engine the filters get clogged more frequently because the biodiesel actually cleans out build-up left behind from petrodiesel
  • The waste cooking oil used to manufacture biodiesel must be purified and meet very specific standards in order to be used as biofuel
  • Biodiesel actually performs better than petrodiesel in many systems due to better lubricity and other chemical properties of the biodiesel

Sustainable fuel source

  • Biodiesel releases fewer toxins, particulate matter, and greenhouse gas emissions than conventional diesel
  • Biodiesel is an advanced fuel meaning that it is produced on existing land and reduces life-cycle carbon emissions by 80% as compared to petrodiesel
  • Biodiesel is a byproduct of producing high-quality meats, fried foods, and high-protein soybean meal and as demand for biodiesel increases the cost of these food staples can decrease

By switching to biodiesel in home-heating systems as well as in vehicles you can save money without sacrificing performance, and at the same time you can help improve environmental quality.

If you would like to learn more about biodiesel or if you would like to learn if your diesel vehicle can run on biodiesel, visit!


Preparing for EcoMadness

Here at the Office of Environmental Policy, we are in the midst of preparing for this year’s EcoMadness Event.  During the month of EcoMadness, participating residence halls contend in a race to reduce their energy and water usage.  The 7th annual EcoMadness competition will kick off next week, beginning on Sunday, September 29.

There are several ways to measure energy efficiency. Observing trends in the consumption of water and electricity are only a couple of the various approaches. Imagine being able to access this kind of information at any point of the day, and being able to look back at previous energy consumption trends throughout the week, or even throughout the month. Are you a resident of Buckley, and have you ever been curious about the amount of water the entire dormitory consumes at any given day? Or, maybe you are a resident of Whitney, and are curious about how having a dining hall included in your dormitory affects total water and energy consumption?

Unbeknownst to most of the campus community, these kinds of energy statistics are available to anyone online at the campus energy dashboard. Located as a part of the UConn Facilities Operations webpage (, the campus energy dashboard, graphically and statistically, tracks various trends in water and electricity usage for buildings and residence halls on campus. At the Office of Environmental Policy, the campus energy dashboard is accessed on a regular basis. The energy statistics are compiled into spreadsheets to ultimately be used to determine the baseline water and electricity figures for the dormitories participating in EcoMadness. When EcoMadness begins, the campus energy dashboard will still be accessed in order to compare current water or electricity consumption figures to the baseline consumption figures. The dormitories that show the greatest reduction in consumption will be rewarded (with ice cream), although any reduction will be applauded (because conservation is its own reward). The primary goal of EcoMadness is to instill a behavioral change in students that will cause them to be mindful of how their everyday actions impact their carbon footprint and the environment.

By accessing the campus energy dashboard, you can always check to see how much water and energy your building is using on a daily basis. You can even compare these values to your competition’s water and energy use (We should note that our office has to make some adjustments for additional features like emergency lighting and dining halls for the official competition results).  In the future, the energy dashboards located in Oak and Laurel Hall will also be able to provide anyone on campus with access to data on water and energy consumption.  In the meantime, though, it’s time to go green with EcoMadness! Stay blue, UConn.

– Meredith and Brianna

Reflections on Green Game Days Gone Past

It’s that time of year when school spirit is at a high as students to prepare to cheer on the UConn football team.  There is no shortage of Husky pride here at the Office of Environmental Policy, but we have more to celebrate than just football. On September 14th the OEP and UConn Athletics will carry out the fifth annual football Green Game Day.

The annual football Green Game Day event is dedicated to educating the fans about recycling.  Individual volunteers, as well as volunteers from EcoHusky, EcoHouse, and from a freshman sustainability course (taught by Rich Miller, Director of the OEP), gather together to collect recyclables from fans tailgating at the game.  The volunteers also promote awareness about recycling and educate the fans about proper disposal of recyclables within the stadium.

I had the privilege of volunteering at the Green Game Day last year through my freshman sustainability course.  The experience I had at my first Green Game Day is one that I will never forget.  By volunteering, I helped to reduce the amount of solid waste produced at the game.  I also got to reach out to students and fans about the importance of recycling.  This experience was incredibly rewarding and led me to participate in other sustainability events on campus thereafter.

Before the football game started, I walked around the parking areas with about half of the other volunteers armed with a green bag sporting the EcoHusky logo, as we collected all manner of recyclables from the tailgaters.  The fans were all very responsive to our efforts and began putting their recyclables in bags or in a central location so that we could access them more easily.  Many tailgaters commended us on our dedication to the environment and some even mentioned their hopes for a more permanent recycling program at the field.

I also got to work at the information tent at FanFest, located just outside the stadium.  While there we informed fans and students alike about the Office of Environmental Policy, about our Green Game Day initiatives throughout the year, and about the end-products of recycling.  We also set up sustainability-oriented games that people could play and gave away prizes if we saw anyone recycling on their own.  While spending time at the tent, the OEP was able to reach out to a lot of people and help them realize just how essential recycling is.

Finally, just before kickoff, the volunteers went in waves into the stadium to man the garbage cans for the first half of the game.  Once stationed, our goal was to educate the fans about proper disposal of recyclables.  Many people do not have a clear idea of what is or is not recyclable.  As a result, they either throw everything away or end up contaminating the recycling stream with non-recyclables. Through the Green Game Day, we were able to encourage recycling and to make people more aware of what can and cannot be recycled.

At the end of the day we were able to completely fill three dumpsters with recyclable goods that would otherwise have been thrown away.  The greater accomplishment, though, was to make people more aware of correct recycling procedures as well as the importance of recycling.  I cannot wait to participate in Green Game Day again this year so that I can again make a positive impact on the fans that are there and so that I can cheer on my team!  Go Huskies!


Meet Brianna!

We’re welcoming some new interns here at the OEP!

Brianna Church is a part-time intern at the Office of Environmental Policy. She has already hit the ground running this summer! She is starting her second year at UConn as an Environmental Engineering major in the Honors Program.  She learned about the OEP when she took a freshman honors class with Rich Miller on environmental sustainability.  She was excited to apply for an internship position with the OEP because of her interest in sustainability and the important experience working at the OEP provides.  At the OEP, Brianna will be focusing on outreach events.  She’s not entirely sure which area of environmental engineering will be her focus, but outreach is essential for all programs to promote environmental change.

“I have always wanted to pursue a career that would enable me to help people but for a long time I was unsure of which path would be most rewarding and most fitting for me. It was in the seventh grade that I discovered my dream job. That year my school hosted a presentation given by two members of the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. The younger of the two was an environmental engineering major. After describing the technology that she and her colleagues managed to design, and even implement in another country, I knew exactly what field I wanted to pursue. I had always had a love for animals and the natural environment. In addition, I was strong in math and science and have always tried to understand how things work. It was clear that environmental engineering was, and still is, a perfect fit for me.”

Brianna Church
Brianna Church

“I cannot wait to meet and work alongside of all of you here at the Office of Environmental Policy and am very grateful for this opportunity. Additionally I am very excited to get some hands on experience in my field.”

Welcome aboard, Brianna!  Look for her face at OEP events this fall!