Profile in Sustainability: Christy Schlutius

Christy Schlutius | Food Recovery NetworkEcoNauts |Class of 2020 |Major: Environmental systems: ecology, behavior, & evolution / Minor: Education studies

In your opinion, why is sustainability important and what are some of the aspects of sustainability that you are most interested in?

I think sustainability should be an integral aspect of our lives simply because the availability of resources depends on it. I’m a firm believer that we all share a responsibility in being stewards of the environment and implementing better practices into our lives to help alleviate anthropogenic stress on the environment. Many aspects of sustainability interest me, but I am most passionate about food waste. There is an increasing dialogue about food production and consumption, both of which concern environmental health, but I think food waste naturally comes as an afterthought even though it too can have detrimental environmental effects. However, what is exciting to me about food waste is that there are many different solutions, from source reduction to recovery to compost, that all have the capacity to have great positive impacts on the environment.

Could you talk about the problems of food waste/ food insecurity and how Food Recovery Network (FRN) helps solve it?

Food is wasted at all levels of food production on a global scale, but Food Recovery Network works to eliminate food waste at the pre-consumer level. On campus, this refers to food prepared at dining halls that did not get served or food prepared by vendors at the Farmer’s Market that did not get sold. Without a recovery program in place, this food is typically thrown out at the end of the day unless it can be repurposed into a meal the next day. However, the majority of the food thrown out is still perfectly good for human consumption, but perhaps does not meet the chef’s standards to cook with. Our chapter of Food Recovery Network has established relationships with Housing*Dining*Hospitality (HDH) and the Faculty Club, as well as the Farmer’s Market vendors, so that we can instead recover that food before it goes into the waste stream. It is important to recover food before it goes into the waste stream because if it ends up in the landfill it produces methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and even if it is composted all of the energy that went into growing, packaging, and transporting the food was used for no reason.

The second part of FRN’s mission is to link the problem of food waste to a solution for food insecurity. With this recovered food, we are able to provide resources to the food insecure community of San Diego. Food insecurity affects 12% of the population of San Diego County as well as many students on campus. Since our start, FRN has partnered with Urban Street Angels, a transitional youth homeless shelter in North Park that provides emergency overnight shelters for people ages 18 to 25. By delivering food recovered from the dining halls, Faculty Club, and Farmer’s Market, we provide roughly 150 meals per week for the homeless youth community at USA. Starting this quarter, we will also be able to provide meals for students with food from the Farmer’s Market and Faculty Club. These meals will go to students facing food insecurity who may or may not qualify for CalFresh or other food assistance programs.

What do you do as an EcoNaut and what are some things you hope to accomplish through this role? 

As an EcoNaut, I work with resident advisors (RAs) to help educate residents about campus sustainability efforts and how they can incorporate sustainability into their lives in ways they perhaps had not thought of before. My goal in talking to residents is to show them concrete steps they can take to help solve different environmental issues. The programming that the EcoNauts bring to RA events is great in that it informs residents of a variety of issues facing the environment in an interactive, informal setting, but I know that learning about these problems can sometimes feel overwhelming and hopeless. To me, the most important part of our programming is ensuring that when residents leave an event they feel like they have new knowledge and tools to help fix a problem rather than feeling doomed now that they know more about it.

Green Office Spotlight: EcoNauts

File_002.jpgUC San Diego Sustainability would like to highlight the Housing*Dining*Hospitality (HDH) EcoNauts office for achieving Gold Certification through the Green Office Certification Program. As an office, the EcoNauts have implemented creative ways to be more environmentally conscious. All of the computers in their office are defaulted to use Ecosia, which is a web search engine that donates 80% of its surplus income to non-profit conservation organizations. By simply changing their default search engine, they are able to promote tree planting and conservation efforts. This is an awesome and easy way to promote sustainability in your workspace! In addition, the EcoNauts are an active part of sustainability on campus. They support many programs like Fair Trade certified events, the Tritons Rock Hunger event, weekly trash sorts to divert waste, and move-in/move-out support that makes sure goods are disposed of properly.

Profile in Sustainability: Colin Moynihan

Colin Moynihan1.jpgColin Moynihan | HDH Sustainability Manager|Class of 2015 | B.S. Environmental Engineering

How did you first become involved with the EcoNauts and could you talk about what you did as an EcoNaut? 

I first became involved with the EcoNauts in the summer of 2012, when I was hired by Krista Mays. As an EcoNaut, I created programs and worked on projects to promote sustainability and living green on campus. I worked closely with the other EcoNauts to plan events, educate UC San Diego students about sustainability, perform waste audits, and implement various other programs to make Housing*Dining*Hospitality (HDH )and UC San Diego more sustainable. I particularly enjoyed the creativity that this position called for because it required that I think outside the box, and it helped my passion for sustainability grow!

Could you please talk about what you do as the Sustainability Manager in HDH?

As Sustainability Manager for HDH, it is my overall role to foster a culture of sustainability among students and staff. In order to do this, I have my hands in many different things. I manage and support the EcoNauts with their projects and events. Since they are HDH’s student sustainability advocates, it is important to make sure they have the tools they need to engage, educate, and inspire residents on a peer to peer level. I also review HDH’s programs and operations and suggest various sustainability improvements to help us achieve our many sustainability goals, such as Zero Waste by 2020. Such improvements range from waste management, to sustainable food procurement, to our back-of-house food scrap composting program.

My other responsibilities include collaborating with other areas and campus departments on projects such as UC San Diego’s zero waste plan and the UC Office of the President’s Annual Sustainability Report, advising the sustainability efforts of new building projects, and reviewing Green Grant applications, just to name a few more.

What are some of the sustainable practices that are currently being implemented or you hope to see implemented in the future in housing and dining facilities on campus? 

I am working on a pilot program to re-introduce post-consumer food scrap collection and composting in the HDH dining facilities. We’ve struggled with contamination of non-compostable items for many years, and have had a challenging time implementing a successful program. I am taking a different approach to capture this difficult waste stream, and am excited to see how well it performs. It is planned to be rolled-out this Winter Quarter, so keep an eye out for it!

In the future, I hope to see even greater sustainability innovations in future HDH buildings. With our various campus sustainability goals, such as zero waste and climate neutrality, fast approaching, it is important that we start designing our new building projects with the mindset that these goals have been achieved. Our next development, the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood, is planned to be cutting edge, but it is only the tip of the iceberg of what is ultimately possible in sustainable buildings. Designing with these goals in mind will push us to think more creatively about how to solve the challenges we are facing today.

What is your graduation year, major(s)/minor(s)

I graduated in early 2015, with a BS in Environmental Engineering. I ended my undergraduate career as a researcher at Osaka University, Japan, studying energy engineering. Upon my return, I took a position as a Project Engineer at a mechanical design and consulting firm in San Diego, where I designed HVAC systems for commercial buildings, including some of UC San Diego’s buildings. After a couple years I decided to make a transition to focus on my passion of sustainability, and I accepted the position as HDH Sustainability Manager. I’ve been on board since May of 2017, and have been especially enjoying the creativity and variety of work that this position allows. I am looking forward to contributing more to the sustainability of HDH, and UC San Diego overall!

Profile In Sustainability: Natalia King

natalia king.jpgNatalia King | Class of 2017 | Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution Major

As president of Sierra Club, what are some things you hope to accomplish/see happen with the club in the future?

Over the past year, one of the main focuses of Sierra Club at UCSD has been working collaboratively with Sierra Club San Diego on the My Generation Campaign. My Generation is a campaign that is working towards powering California with 100% clean energy by organizing communities across the state to demand local clean energy as a way to improve air quality, create jobs, and take action against climate change. Here in San Diego we have been working towards this goal in the form of a local political campaign, Community Choice Energy (CCE). CCE is a community choice program that would allow elected city officials to vote on what source San Diego residents and businesses would get their energy and how much they pay for it; if implemented, it could offer more renewable energy and lower rates than SDG&E, the region’s power monopoly.

Educating our communities about CCE and organizing meetings with our local Council-members and Mayor Faulconer hasn’t always been an easy ride, but it’s one that our club members feel strongly about. We, along with many other San Diego constituents, believe that CCE is the best and most efficient move we could make as a city in bringing our region to achieve its 100% renewable energy goal by 2035. It’s been an honor to have been a part of the team that has worked so hard to help progress this campaign. Going forward, I hope that the Sierra Club at UCSD team members continue their hard work on this campaign and that, before long, our coalition succeeds in bringing clean energy to San Diego and all its residents.

Why is sustainability important to you and what are some aspects of sustainability you are most interested in?

I first became interested in sustainability in 2013, during California’s most recent major drought. As a biology major attending community college in the Bay Area, I was shocked when I first heard about the drought – not through my biology courses and discussions nor through other community members, but instead from an electronic traffic sign on the freeway along my commute that pleaded “SERIOUS DROUGHT, PLEASE SAVE WATER”. After seeing that sign I became obsessed with learning all I could about the drought, and this obsession led me to my first sustainability passion – water conservation. Since then, I have remained dedicated to the conservation of water and community education on the matter.

After transferring to UCSD, my passion for sustainability really took off thanks to being introduced to the sustainability community, Sustainability Resource Center, and especially thanks to Jen Bowser. At the 2016 UCSD Sustainability Awards hosted by Jen, I had my first real glimpse into a world of sustainably-minded individuals like I’d never seen and I was blown away; finally, it felt like I had found my people! Since then, I have continued my education of sustainability through personal research, local and UCSD organizations, and the many projects that I have been a part of. Today, my main focuses in sustainability pertain to climate change, the journey to zero waste, water conservation, educating my communities, and empowering my fellow earthlings to create and live more sustainable lives of their own.

To me, sustainability is important because without it there is no happy future for us and the future generations of this planet. We need to learn to better coexist with our earth instead of using up all its resources and giving nothing back in return. Instead of leaving too much power in the hand of economics, we must find and fight for the ways that we can maintain a fair balance between economics, environment, and equity.

What are some easy ways that people can be more sustainable in their everyday lives?

One thing that people can do is to work on decreasing their dependence on wasteful single-use plastics by instead opting for reusable products. Easy ways to do this include bringing your own water bottle, thermos, reusable bags, straw, and even cutlery when you leave the house. I find it makes it easier for people to do this if they plan ahead and leave things in places they know they’ll need them! For instance, I carry a cool 3-in-1 stainless steel utensil in my backpack and I leave reusable shopping bags and some tupperware in my car so that when I go out to shop or eat, it’s one less thing I need to remember!

Another tip I’d suggest expands upon the idea of “reduce, reuse, recycle” to include other R’s, such as “refuse” and “rot” (or compost) whenever you can. Refusing can be as easy as asking for “a water with no straw, please” or letting the host at your favorite restaurant know that you don’t need a bag or cutlery for your to-go food!

Additionally, I always encourage people to ask questions, do more research, and take it a step at a time. There’s a lot of ways to work towards sustainability and it can be seem over-whelming if you try to change every aspect of your life all at once. Instead, focus on one or two things at a time, and then expand from there! Sustainability may be a spectrum, but so long as you’re actively working towards leading a more sustainable life – even in the form of baby steps – I think you can be proud of that! On top of that, don’t let sustainability be a taboo topic! Talk to and educate your friends, your family, your neighbors, and even the waiters that sometimes look at you confused when you pull out your bamboo straw or own utensils.

What other sustainability orgs have you been involved with?

In addition to Sierra Club I have been directly involved with one other sustainability focused organization – the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI)’s Sustainability Ambassadors. Having been accepted into the year-long program with 11 other Ambassadors, I took on a role as one of UCSD’s Climate Change Ambassadors. We met weekly to learn about different fields of sustainability from working experts and used our gained knowledge to create engaging sustainability-focused programs, such as the series of programs we titled “Climate Change: A Culture Change”. The Ambassador program was one that I’ll forever be glad to have been a part of, as not only did it do so much to teach me more about so many aspects of sustainability, but it also worked as a “teach the teachers” program that really gave me the tools and training to best go out and effectively share these ideas with my community members.

Aside from working directly with Sierra Club and the Ambassadors, I have worked to bring aspects of sustainability to every opportunity that I can. As a Resident Assistant (RA) in the Village a majority of my programs focused on sustainability opportunities and I whenever I could collaborate with the Econauts on events, I made sure to. Two other RAs and I also collaborated on a “Village Goes Green” recycling campaign and hosted recycling parties in which people could come get rid of their recyclables that needed special handling while engaging in “Recycling Jeopardy” with the Econauts.

Today, my main sustainability focus is in working with the awesome start-up founded by Michael Mnatsakanian, SustainaBinity. Together, we work to simplify the process of beginning and maintaining sustainable lives by supporting and inspiring individuals and communities to bring the best zero-waste, sustainable products and practices into their daily lives while eliminating their dependence on single-use plastics and products. To achieve this, we work on two main goals: empowering, educating, and inspiring those on their zero-waste journey by offering ethically-sourced, high-quality sustainable products, and also providing consulting services to create customized solutions to environmental problems by integrating sustainable practices into homes, businesses, and communities. Most recently, we worked with RIMAC Sports Facilities at UCSD in conducting an initial waste audit to aid the university in working towards their zero waste by 2020 goal. The audit may have been a lot of work, but it was so fulfilling to work with our university on such an important goal! Now that the first phase of the project (waste auditing, baselining, reporting, and recommendations) has been completed, we are gearing up for phase two (waste auditing, tracking progress, determining realistic waste diversion goals, and training their staff to conduct waste audits).