UC San Diego has earned a STARS Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

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UC San Diego has earned a STARS Gold rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. To date more than 400 institutions have earned a STARS rating, making AASHE’s STARS program the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements through over 860 questions in five overall areas: 1) Academics, 2) Engagement, 3) Operations, 4) Planning & Administration, and 5) Innovation & Leadership.

UC San Diego’s STARS report is publicly available here.

This is the second time UC San Diego has received a STARS Gold rating, having received its first in 2013 under STARS version 1.2 and now its second under version 2.1. The university joins its sister institution UC Irvine in getting an updated STARS rating this year. UC Irvine recently received STARS Platinum, the first UC campus and one of only four institutions in the world to receive this highest STARS rating.

The very first university winner of the National Laboratory Freezer Challenge last year, UC San Diego has received recognition for its sustainability efforts from additional organizations like the USG National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), the Commercial Real Estate Digital Innovation Awards, San Diego Gas & Electric, Nature magazine, the San Diego Association of Governments, the San Diego Regional Clean Cities Coalition, and others. Highlights of our sustainability initiatives include innovative academic programs in climate and marine science, along with hundreds of courses related to sustainability; over 30 student organizations working on sustainability; completion of over $100 million in energy efficiency projects; a highly innovative energy park consisting of a microgrid, fuel cell powered by directed biogas, and an integrated energy storage system; 3.1 megawatts of solar photovoltaic generating capacity installed on and off campus, with plans to install more; the largest university electric vehicle (EV) charging system in the country; certification of all Housing, Dining and Hospitality restaurants and markets under the Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) program; and campus programs in everything from green laboratories to health and wellness to diversity, inclusion and support for underrepresented faculty, students and staff.

AASHE is an association of colleges and universities that are working to create a sustainable future. AASHE’s mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation. It provides resources, professional development and a network of support to enable institutions of higher education to model and advance sustainability in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research. For more information about AASHE, visit www.aashe.org.

Profile in Sustainability – Dana Gibson

Dana_Sustainbility Profile Image 20180605.jpgDana Gibson |AS AVP Environmental Justice Affairs and Inter-Sustainability Council Finance Chair | Class of 2021 | Structural Engineering major, Real Estate and Development minor

Why do you think sustainability is important and what are some ways you incorporate sustainability into your lifestyle?

Environmental Justice and Sustainability are important to me because I appreciate biodiversity, to me, this can be best understood and connected by understanding sustainable socio-ecological optimization (SSEO).

Sustainability, or in my terms sustainable socio-ecological optimization (SSEO), is the ability to continually improve the survival capacity of diverse life forms considering social and ecological constraints.

Sustainability and Environmental justice are interrelated and provide/advocate for the equity in any ecosystem; all places are located or are a part of an ecosystem which requires healthy functionality in all its diverse interdependent elements and all these elements merit equal access and support to maintain healthy functionality for the micro and macro environments.  

I incorporate sustainability into my life by reducing the amount I spend on products that are processed, packaged with unrecyclable materials, or produced by harmful or oppressive methods.  I also focus on waste reduction through self-sufficiency, like making my own hair and skin care products, and focusing on mostly plant-based nutrition as well as seeking out the best locally and organically sourced products.

Could you talk about your role and involvement with the UCSD Associated Students Office of Environmental Justice Affairs (ASEJA)? 

As the Associated Student Environmental Justice Affairs Outreach Intern I made every effort to increase collaboration with other sustainability groups that seek to achieve similar goals, host impactful and intentional events for the student body, and establish a good foundation for Environmental and Social Justice in the community at UC San Diego. With ASEJA, I’ve hosted events like Thrifty Thursday, a pop-up thrift store event, and Earth Week programming events supporting food justice and education on the history of environmentalism.

I am an Environmental and Social Justice Advocate with a Permaculture Design Certification (PDC), and I am very passionate about holistic sustainability research and development.  I’m also an Entrepreneur in the sustainability science, research, and redevelopment industries. My hope is to significantly advance sustainability in integrated ways taking into account social, economic, ecological, and technical challenges.  Therefore, as the AVP Environmental Justice Affairs, I will be advancing sustainability engineering and be focusing efforts toward education, engagement, and outreach for sustainability as well as environmental and social justice.

What other sustainability organizations/ projects are you involved with? 

I’m also involved with the Inter-Sustainability Council (ISC) and will begin GreenCORP, an initiative to provide volunteer and internship opportunities for hands-on engagement in Sustainable Living and Sustainability Thinking. Also, I will be expanding The Association for Women in Sustainability Engineering, Research, & Development (SE R&D), a pre-professional student organization passionate about environmental and social justice advocacy for disadvantaged communities and the development of software and products for establishing resilient food production systems through Sustainability R&D.  

As a sustainability science, research, and redevelopment entrepreneur the Resilient Redevelopment Project is an in-progress project focused on property maintenance, remodeling, and restoration with cost-efficient sustainable infrastructure powered by sustainability science and engineering.  

Please feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in getting involved with GreenCORP, SE R&D, or The Resilient Redevelopment Project!

Profile In Sustainability – Kristi Sobol

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Kristi Sobol | Class of 2015 | B.S. Environmental Engineering 
What made you want to pursue an Environmental Engineering degree?
Growing up in Southern California, I took up surfing at a very young age and have always spent as much time as possible in the ocean. I began to notice the effects litter, pollution, overdevelopment, offshore drilling, etc. has on the ocean and beach communities. I knew I wanted to pursue a career that could further prevent the deterioration of our environment and preserve it for future generations – so they too can enjoy outdoor activities like surfing. I chose to pursue a degree in Environmental Engineering because it is a vast and versatile field, where the ultimate goal is to improve and protect the environment, as well as create a better quality of life for human beings. Environmental Engineering includes, but is not limited to, waste management, water treatment, air pollution mitigation, alternative energy development, sustainable building, public health improvements, etc. Studying Environmental Engineering at UCSD was one of the most rewarding experiences!
What area of sustainability are you most interested in and why? 
The area of sustainability I am most interested in is green building and the sustainable development of communities. This interest sparked while I was an intern for the Southern California Gas Company, working out of the Energy Resource Center: a model energy-efficient building, using sustainable technologies to minimize its impact on the environment and natural resources. I had an eye-opening experience of how much waste buildings generate – everything from building materials, electricity, water usage, trash generated by the occupants, transportation to buildings, etc. As human beings, we need shelter; there will always be buildings and community development. I’m passionate about working towards solutions to make our buildings and communities more sustainable, smarter, and providing the most comfort for people. My interest in green building eventually led me to become a LEED GA (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Associate).
What sustainability organizations were you involved with while at UC San Diego?
While I was at UCSD, I was part of the Student Sustainability Collective (SSC), where my role was the Director of Finance and the Green Initiative Fund. I was responsible for approving and tracking funds for all SSC events and campus sustainability initiatives. I also managed the Green Initiative Fund, which is money given to student projects that promote sustainability on campus. Some of the projects I worked on during my time with the SSC include Solar Chill, expansion of the community gardens, and installation of hydro stations around campus.
Could you talk about your current and previous sustainability-related work experiences and what were some of the most valuable things you gained/learned from those experiences? 

I mentioned some of my previous sustainability-related work experiences above. Previously, I was also an intern for San Diego Gas & Electric and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, implementing company-wide sustainable initiatives, practices, and technologies. I currently work in the Public Works Department for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, working on installation development and construction; ensuring it protects natural resources, minimizes facility footprints, and enhances the quality of life for the military community.

From all these experiences, I have really learned the importance of teamwork and creating positive relationships. Many of my accomplishments are due to a team supporting me – whether it was my family, engineering senior design team, SSC directors, fellow interns, my coworkers, etc. A lot more is accomplished when people work together and help each other. In terms of sustainability, it is going to take a group effort to mitigate the damage to the environment and make efforts together to preserve it for the future.

Recycling just got easier on campus thanks to Keep America Beautiful and 150 new recycling bins!

UC San Diego Wins Keep America Beautiful Recycling Grant

Left to right: I Love A Clean San Diego Executive Director Pauline Martinson, UC San Diego Vice Chancellor for Resource Management and Planning Gary Matthews, Chief Procurement Officer Ted Johnson, undergraduate students, and Facilities Management Housekeeping staff celebrate the university’s win of a 2017 Keep America Beautiful recycling bin grant by — what else? — recycling! Photo credit: Rhett Miller, UC San Diego

Recycling just got easier on campus thanks to Keep America Beautiful and 150 new recycling bins!

UC San Diego is one of 48 recipients nationwide of a recycling bin grant from Keep America Beautiful, which has been working since 1953 to end littering, improve recycling, and beautify America’s communities.

Staff have already begun placing 150 new bins across the university inside buildings like the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (CaliT2), several engineering buildings, and its iconic Geisel Library.

To celebrate, Vice Chancellor for Resource Management and Planning Gary Matthews and Chief Procurement Officer Ted Johnson welcomed I Love A Clean San Diego Executive Director Pauline Martinson to campus on Friday, April 13. A local affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, I Love A Clean San Diego leads and inspires the San Diego region to conserve and enhance the environment through example, outreach, and local involvement. VC Matthews, CPO Johnson, and ED Martinson had the chance to interact with a few of our dedicated Housekeeping staff from Facilities Management staff, the “boots on the ground” who make sure recyclables go into our blue bins and, from there, into the outside larger bins that will be emptied and taken to off-site sorting facilities.

They also had the chance to meet a few of our inspiring students, all of whom are currently interning for offices on campus like Planning or Sustainability,  learning about and assisting with green building or environmental planning efforts. ED Martinson also got a tour of the Sustainability Resource Center, where our center manager and students have developed a number of recycling collection centers and educational displays — all part of UC San Diego’s zero waste initiative.

This is a milestone year for Keep America Beautiful and its corporate sponsor, Coca-Cola. With the help of Keep America Beautiful and many other partners and communities across the country, The Coca-Cola Company achieved the 1 million mark for recycling bins donated to communities this year.

A very big thank you to Keep America Beautiful for this generous grant. We are already putting the bins to good use making sure we recycling more and send less to the landfill!

PS Want to know what to put in one of those new blue bins you might see in a building on campus? Print a recycling sign for your residence hall or on-campus apartment, office or laboratory!

Sara McKinstry, Campus Sustainability Manager, on behalf of lots of staff and students who help move us towards zero waste

Profile in Sustainability – Yung Nguyen

Headshot2.PNGYung Nguyen | Class of 2014 | B.S. Environmental Engineering, minor in Urban Studies and Planning

Why is sustainability important to you? 

I was born in Vietnam and grew up there until I was 10. Even though I lived in Sai Gon, the old capital of Southern Vietnam, much of where I lived was underdeveloped and sidewalks were separated by canals of streams, wastes, and rainwater runoffs. Flood, blackouts, and contaminated water supply – they were no stranger to my life.  I have seen people living in huts where decaying woods and leaves are holding up the structure. I have seen trash and blackened water flow next to a 4-story apartment’s bricks. Even though things are a lot better now as my hometown is more developed, I believe climate change can quickly make them almost permanent or long enough to be a hazard to many people’s livelihood. I still have a lot of family in Vietnam, so I do not want to see climate change destroy their lives.  Another strong influence is my spiritual origin that changed my attitude toward animal agriculture and silent suffering of billions of sentient beings being murdered every year for flesh. Often, I felt helpless and powerless to see such unnecessary suffering that these intelligent beings have to go through.

Sustainability has many branches, but I think the mission in any sustainability line of work- whether it be water work, waste management, resource management, energy efficiency, and etcetera – will always have a humble purpose of protecting someone or something. From my personal journey, I knew I wouldn’t be here without the help of people who cared about others without knowing who the others are personally.  When I was thinking about what I want to do with my life, I wanted to be in a profession to pay it forward, protect my family, and protect those who didn’t have a voice. And sustainability was it!

Could you talk about your current work at DNV GL and how it helps to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals?  

At DNV GL, formerly known as KEMA, I currently work as an engineer in the Sustainable Buildings & Communities (SBC) group. My business unit is specialized in building science services and large-scale planning studies such as climate action plan, resiliency planning, and energy planning. We work with cities, developers, and design teams to come up with strategies to attain the highest sustainable goals. My team works on delivering at least 50 Platinum Certified LEED projects and some of the first few net-zero energy buildings.

I am one of the technical support staff where my skill sets are in energy modeling, building science, and data analytics. On a daily basis, I support the energy modeling work and create complex calculations to inform a decision. I enjoy bringing visualization of solutions to the table and supporting my senior co-workers with quality deliverable to clients.

The most challenging projects that I have worked on at DNV GL are international projects where there are economic and social issues that first world countries are not used to. However, I feel very fortunate to be involved in these projects and apply the best practices I’ve learned to recommend solutions. Most often the long-term goals such as UN Sustainable Development Goals are translated or integrated into our work where we show clients other key metrics that are not usually considered in the equation. I am very much inspired by my team members who really believe the solutions we deliver and having the data to show for it.

My company also shows its dedication to innovation by investing a portion of our earnings toward research and development. As a company, DNV GL produces Energy Transition Outlook Report as well as A Safe & Sustainable Future roadmap report updated every few years or so, where our research team laid out the vision for the future with UN Sustainable Development Goals in mind. Our team works together with our forward-thinking customers very hard every day to bring these visions to life.

Could you talk about your involvement with the student organizations at UCSD? What projects/campaigns were you a part of?

Out of my student org involvement, the most memorable experience was being the outreach coordinator/lead for Engineers without Borders. While admittedly I had no idea what I was doing, I had help from Saura Naderi, who now works at Qualcomm Think-a-Bit STEM program, as well as anyone who was there at every outreach meeting *shout out to OG squad*.

Students working on outreach project

Second Chance students working on an outreach project. 

We organized a group of volunteers to deliver a lesson plan with students at the Second Chance Program who works with incarcerated youths and even took them to UC San Diego for a campus tour. The project later on expanded to building an actual aquaponic system with the students on their community farm. While being an outreach coordinator didn’t seem like it was applicable to my future engineering position, this experience was a great blessing as I connected with many friends and learned a great deal in creating a curriculum. Recently, I was working on creating an energy efficiency curriculum for the Chula Vista Elementary School District with the City of Chula Vista. By working with students and the outreach community previously, it has helped me to think from the student’s perspective and create the best product as possible.

 

Secondly, I really appreciated the experience of starting a student organization back then (Association of Energy Engineers – UCSD chapter). With AEE, my friends and I were able to participate in a Department of Energy Better Building Case Competition. With the help of campus resources and our amazing treasurer, Michelle Tang, our team traveled to Washington D.C., competed with 27 other universities, and brought back the “Most Innovative Award”. It caught us by surprise, and that feeling still left a smile on my face.

 

PEACE group on meatout day

PEACE group on meatout day.

Third, I truly met a lot of inspiring human beings from PEACE (People for the Elimination of Animal Cruelty through Education). We worked together to hand out free vegan foods on library walk once a year on MeatOut Day to show people how delicious vegan foods are. PEACE also worked very hard to get an all-vegan restaurant on campus among other grassroots activities. I remember I made 170 vegan cupcakes one year and worked at a food booth during SunGod to bring vegan options to the festival. A lot of my role models were my peers from this group who continue to be torch-carrier of kindness and sustainability in different corners of the earth.

 

All in all, I think these involvements really shaped who I am and have a special place in my heart.

What’s your graduation year, major(s)/minor(s)? 

 I graduated in 2014 with Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering and a minor in Urban Studies and Planning. For my technical track, I took static, dynamics, control series, and SIO classes in hydrology and ArcGIS.

I often get asked whether what I learned in school is useful in my current work and what I would recommend. The short-ish answer: Yes, usually the classes will be useful if you can include what you learned and illustrate it in your project portfolio. Thus, I would recommend practical classes outside of your standard curriculum, such as classes taught by industry leaders and/or classes that offer training in a particular software or particular skill set. My thinking has become more pragmatic as an engineer, so by finding classes that apply “learning by doing” really worked for me.

Profile in Sustainability – Carly Bonnell

IMG_0651.jpgCarly Bonnell | Critical Gender Studies & Sociology | Class of 2004 

How did you first become interested in sustainability and are there any particular aspects of sustainability you are most interested in? (e.g. reducing waste, saving water, etc).
I was the 5th-grader in school who developed a recycling program for their science project. I grew up on an organic farm in Fallbrook and have enjoyed a simpler, more rural life living close with the earth.

I’m a UC San Diego and UCLA alumnae. Before coming back to UC San Diego to work, I was able to serve as the co-chair of the Green Committee, a program at SDSU Research Foundation. This allowed me to see how work cultures can be increasingly flexible in integrating and changing practices to prioritize saving our earth. We were able to enact policies to stop the purchase of wasteful products, such as K-cups & straws, promoted recycling programs and reducing waste in office spaces, as well as organizing clean-up days where we would clean-up our outdoor work environments together as staff.

Now, I am so excited to be working for UC San Diego in the School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry’s Alzheimer’s Caregiver Study, as well as serving as the Treasurer for the Staff Sustainability Network (SSN)! I am committed to assisting UC San Diego in our goal of Zero Waste by 2020 and increasing SSN’s continued impacts on campus.

I see sustainability as intrinsically tied to well-being and quality of life. I am increasingly concerned with issues of global warming, overpopulation, overconsumption, and a throw-away type culture. I have always held strong values of commitment to protect our earth and conserve our environments. As a mental health researcher, I see everyday how much our physical environments affect our mental health; this relationship is very literal to me and drives my passion to create a better world — one that has moment-to-moment intention and respect for our planet.

Also, I am an aspiring Vegan and am very interested in the ways in which intentional living, including plant-based and cruelty-free living, can create a more sustainable planet for all 🙂

Could you talk about your involvement as the Treasurer of SSN?
As Treasurer for SSN at UC San Diego, I am responsible for the fiscal activities of the group, mostly tied to membership, development and operations. I provide general accounting for our network and produce monthly reports and cash flow forecasting feedback about our funds. I am part of the Executive Board at SSN and contribute to planning meetings, coordination of our services, as well as general outreach for our awesome network of committed members!

What are some of the projects/events that happen with SSN?
SSN holds a general meeting each month for our members and any UC San Diego staff interested in promoting sustainability on campus. We have presentations, tours and provide a general space for staff committed to creating improved impacts on our environment.

We also provide funds available to staff for special projects on campus or in their specific departments, and we also work with larger initiatives on campus, such as Zero Waste 2020 to help UC San Diego reach our sustainability goals.

Profile in Sustainability – Geoffrey Alves

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Geoffrey Alves | Bachelor’s Degree Environmental Engineering | Class of 2017

What does sustainability mean to you?

 To me, sustainability is something that is much more easily talked about than actually implemented. While at UC San Diego, I took several classes on environmental challenges, climate policy, and climate science. In all of these classes, it became obvious that climate change was rooted in anthropogenic desires to progress in the world, and that sustainability has become a hot topic in response to climate change. Since the industrial revolution, we have used fossil fuels to feed a consumerist culture and now we are seeing the negative impacts of these actions in the form of global warming, pollution, rising ocean levels, droughts, species extinction, and more. While I’m sure there have been plenty of sustainably minded people in the past, I believe sustainability is more important now than it has ever been before. In a sense, sustainability is reactive to fixing the problems of climate change, but I believe it should also be seen as proactive in preventing further damage to Earth.

I know I am not a perfect model citizen of sustainability, but I did decide to pursue an environmental engineering degree in the hopes that I could someday make a positive impact in a sustainability-oriented career. I believe clean energy (especially at an industrial level) is at the center of changing the course of Earth’s climate, and I hope that my background in environmental engineering will allow to me to be a part of the clean energy movement. Sustainability is also highly societal in nature because it requires an open mind and willingness to consume less and recycle more. It is easy to predict how sustainability can change the course of Earth’s climate, but much harder to convince people to change their mindsets and lifestyles in order for these predictions to come true. However, college organizations like the Sustainability Office and Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), as well as increasing climate politics and an emerging green energy sector give me confidence that we can come together collectively to create a more sustainable future that could rebalance Earth’s climate.

Could you talk about your involvement with ESW while at UC San Diego? What project(s) did you work on?

I was a member of Engineers for a Sustainable World for three years while attending UC San Diego. In Fall Quarter of my second year, I joined a brand new project, “Bottles to Models” (B2M for short), and I eventually became project co-leader for one year. The goal for B2M was to reduce campus waste by investigating the usefulness of reusing plastics, such as milk jugs used in coffee shops, as material for 3D printing. In the first year of the project, we spent a lot of time researching the feasibility of using milk jugs and the process for converting it into filament. The process included shredding down the plastic, feeding it into a heated filament extruder, and testing the recycled filament in our own 3D printer. While we were discussing our project with some of the 3D printing studios on campus, we discovered that they have bins of scrapped 3D prints that they didn’t have a use for. In my last meeting as project co-leader, we successfully shredded and extruded the scraps into new filament. Although we were never able to get to the milk jugs during my tenure, the project is ongoing with two new leaders and I am excited to see where it goes. We also created a long-term goal to start supplying our filament back to the 3D printing studios, and to reach out to local schools in order to promote STEM and sustainability.

ESW also provided great volunteering opportunities in sustainability. I was able to participate in a beach cleanup and Solarthon with Grid Alternatives. I think joining ESW was one of the best decisions I made in college because of the project experience, volunteering, but most importantly the people I met. I saw the organization grow every year in the number of projects and members, and it was very inspirational to see how passionate people could be for sustainability. As a national organization, ESW is truly fostering the future engineers that will lead the way in creating long-term sustainability solutions.

You work at Solar Turbines, a company committed to manufacturing reliable, efficient, low-emitting turbines. Could you talk about your work (or other projects at Solar Turbines) and how you see that fitting in with a sustainable future?

I will start off by stating that Solar Turbines (Solar) is an oil and gas company that does support the oil and gas industry, among others. However, here is my take on why we can lead the way in sustainability. First, our turbines run on natural gas, which burns much cleaner than coal, and we have SoLoNOx™ technology for even lower pollutant emissions. Currently, our turbines are necessary to fill in the gaps when renewable energy cannot meet power needs. Through emission monitoring, we are constantly researching and designing new technology to more efficiently burn natural gas. In my role as a hydromechanical design engineer, I will be a part of designing these fuel systems on customer turbine packages. Second, Solar has developed several technologies for sustainable power generation. Our combined heat and power packages reclaim exhaust heat from natural gas combustion to be used in applications, such as boilers, instead of using more fuel to boil water. We also have turbines that run on reclaimed methane-rich gas coming from landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Lastly, what I am most excited about and hope to contribute to is Solar’s energy storage. Essentially, we are already very good at creating frames and enclosures to house our turbines, so we decided to design a new package to fill with batteries. At up to a megawatt in energy storage, these packages can be deployed anywhere to support renewable energy sources. Due to the intermittency of renewables, energy storage will be critical to hold excess generated power for use during times when no power can be generated. Solar Turbines is an international industry leader in power generation, and with the backing of Caterpillar (American Fortune 100, Global Fortune 500), I believe we can have great influence in the future of sustainable power.

Preuss Interns at the UC San Diego Sustainability Resource Center

IMG_8578[1].JPGAs part of The Preuss School UCSD curriculum, seniors have to participate in service learning, research, and internship rotating between classes each trimester. Since the high school has a major focus on getting their students to attend a four-year university, they want students to have experience in each of those classes to become better prepared for higher education. For their internship class, students intern with different organizations on the UC San Diego campus.
Preuss seniors, Lesley Vo and Erick Ramos were assigned with the UC San Diego Sustainability Resource Center (SRC) during their internship class.  From September to November of 2017, Lesley developed a presentation on sustainable products, which she presented to the Sustainability Ambassadors.  Lesly also learned about the Green Labs Program at UC San Diego and researched different green labs programs at other universities.  During Erick’s internship from November 2017 to March 2018, he learned how to use SolidWorks so he could 3D print a model of Solar Chill, which is to be put on display in the SRC.  While interning at the SRC, Erick and Lesley (pictured above/left/right) offered to take multiple stacks of manila folders for their high school staff and teachers to reuse.

Troemel Lab 

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Interview with Ivana Sfarcic from the Troemel Lab 

 

What about your research gets you the most excited?

In the Troemel lab, our research goal is to learn more about ways in which intracellular pathogens interact with their host cells and vice versa. Therefore, we are working on pathogens that can be studied in a convenient but powerful whole-animal host, the nematode C. elegans. Working with a whole-animal model gives us the opportunity to study the effects of an infection on various tissues (like intestine and neurons) in the same animal. C. elegans is a very versatile model that is actually infected by many species of intracellular pathogens in the wild. Our main focus in the lab is on a unicellular fungal-like pathogen of the phylum Microsporidia. Different Microsporidia species have been found to infect virtually all animals, including immune suppressed humans. Microsporidia can also cause severe damage in agricultural settings, which is currently most problematic in fish and shrimp farming. I think, what makes us most excited, is when we manage to get a controlled infection of our worms with intracellular pathogens and are able to monitor interactions between host and pathogen. It is extremely interesting to see how a constant arms race of host defense and pathogen intrusion shaped the genetic equipment of both organisms. We want to answer questions like: How does the pathogen exploit the host cell to thrive? How does the host cell sense the invasion of a pathogen? and, Which mechanisms does it have to fight against the intruder?

What’s one practice your lab has implemented to be sustainable in its research?

I firmly believe that even small changes in a lab setting can have a large, cumulative impact on the sustainability of the given lab. I think the biggest impact on our sustainability was identifying areas in which we could save energy and implementing changes. For example, we had energy saving light bulbs installed in the whole lab, equipped our heating blocks with timers, and switched off some heating blocks completely after realizing that they are not in every-day use. On another note, we are transitioning to bio-degradable gloves, which are actually stunningly similar to the non-biodegradable ones we used before (-and cheaper!).

 

Profile in Sustainability – Kim Kane

Kim Kane | Library Sustainability Committee kim(500x500)

How did you first become interested in sustainability?

I have always been interested in sustainability on a personal level and love the thought of getting to zero waste. I feel the choices each of us makes on a daily basis make a difference. If we all incorporate a few green acts into our daily habits, we can reduce the amount of trash we generate just by doing simple things like packing a lunch, using reusable containers, bringing a refillable water bottle, using cloth napkins, and refusing one-time-use items.

How did you become involved with the Library’s Sustainability Committee? 

At one point, a few of us went to the Library’s administration and asked about starting a sustainability group in the Library. Later when they put a call out for members, I immediately volunteered and have been on the team ever since. A few years ago, I became chair of the committee.

Could you talk about your role as chair of the Library Sustainability Committee? 

The focus of the Library Sustainability Committee (LSC) is to promote sustainability in the library with staff and library users. We have a dedicated team of committee members– everyone brings a special talent to the group. For example, one person is excellent at writing, another at graphics, someone else is good at organization, and everyone volunteers at the events we host and serves as a resource person when questions are brought to the group. As chair, I help guide the group, meet with other sustainability organizations on campus, and share information with group members and report on our doings to library administration.

What does your group do?

Each year we come up with goals to accomplish. Many times we look at what the campus and the student groups are working on and align some of our projects with these initiatives.

This year, one of our goals is creating clear signage for our recycling and trash containers in the Library. We are working with Jennifer Bowser at the Sustainability Resource Center to get wording that is consistent with other places on campus. This will help library users know what can be recycled and help us meet the campus goals for zero waste.

The committee also holds various events in the Library. Some are for staff members only, such as the free Summertime Swap where we bring in items from home that we no longer need and exchange them with each other. We also host a staff training on recycling and energy and water conservation.

One event the Library hosts for the public is the Makers Day in April. Library staff help attendees how make various items, some from natural ingredients, others from recycled materials, and people take their projects home. Some of the things we do pretty regularly are mixing up green cleaning and beauty products, planting succulents that library staff have brought from home, and making buttons out of recycled book covers. One year we gathered hundreds of t-shirts donated by staff and the International Center’s thrift shop and people turned them into shopping bags.

Ideally, I would love to see the LSC used as a model for other departments on campus to create their own sustainability teams. Then all of those teams could get together to talk about best practices and share ideas about greening our work spaces. That would be acting locally on a level that could really make a difference.

What are some small things you do to incorporate sustainability into your everyday habits?

I look at trying to be more sustainable in my personal life as a challenge, and each year try to do one more thing. For the past four years I have eaten a predominately plant-based diet. This past year I tried to remember to bring my own “to-go” container for leftovers when I go out to eat. After forgetting a few times, I decided to leave the container in the car, so I would have it with me at all times.

This year, I was thinking about the number of papers towels I use on a daily basis and decided to cut way back. At home I’ve begun using a cloth to wipe up spills and at work I’ve been trying to use only one paper towel to dry my hands. One of my co-workers at the Library brings a small cloth with her to dry her hands–now that is dedication!

Do you belong to any other sustainability groups on campus?

I regularly attend meetings of the Staff Sustainability Network. This is a wonderful association that promotes sustainability on campus. Members meet monthly; sometimes we go on tours of sustainable buildings on campus and other times we host speakers. It’s a great way to meet new people who are passionate about sustainability and also learn new things.

Books I am currently reading:

“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power: Your Action Handbook to Learn the Science, Find Your Voice, and Help Solve the Climate Crisis” by Al Gore.

“Drawdown The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming” edited by Paul Hawken

“The No Meat Athlete Cookbook” by Matt Frazier and Stepfanie Romine.

(Posted 3/09/18)