HDH Eco-Container Pilot Program

UC San Diego Housing•Dining•Hospitality (HDH) is currently piloting a reusable to-go container program available at two on-campus dining locations, Roots and Pines in Muir College. When visiting either of these locations, you can swipe your ID to check out a container and fill it up at a self-serve station or pass a closed container to an employee at any food station.  When finished with it, simply rinse the container out, and then return the container to any residential dining facility. The UCSD Sustainability Resource Center reached out to HDH to find out more about this initiative and how it’s going so far.  Dave DeCaro, the Director of Marketing & Communications at HDH, got back to us with some great answers, providing more insight about the future of this program:  

How was this project started? Where did the initial interest in starting a program like this come from?

“It has been the goal of Dining Services for some time to reduce single use packaging in our operations. With the UC Zero Waste initiative, now more than ever this is a focus for us. Our student advisory committee identified reusable to-go containers as a point of emphasis for us last academic year, and we set about building a program to bring this to campus. Our current program was inspired by the success of a similar program at UC Irvine, and through reaching out to our contacts in University and College Food Services around the country, we were able to come up with what we feel is the best plan for a program like this to be successful at UC San Diego. The use of reusable to-go containers is something that we have tried to integrate into our practices a few times in the past 5 years, but our previous pilots at Café Ventanas and Oceanview lacked interested from the community at that time. With the current climate surrounding sustainability, now more than ever we are seeing an interest from our community and core customers in reducing their use of single use plastic items, and we’re confident and excited that this program will make an impact.”

What are the current goals of HDH with this project? Do you hope to expand across all the dining halls on campus?

“Our initial goals with this project are to determine how to best implement this program in a manner that will make it as customer friendly as possible, and that will encourage our customers – student, staff and faculty – to become active partners in our efforts to reduce single use packaging in our environment. Over the course of Winter and Spring Quarter we will track our success based on customer participation, container re-use, and reduction of single use packaging used at Pines and Roots. Our long term goal is to make this a program that is successful with our guests and operationally sustainable so that it can be expanded to include Residential Dining Facilities in all six colleges.”

This program has now been launched for a few days. Can you speak to its initial success? Are these reusable containers something that students seem interested in?  

“We’ve been pleased with the success of this program after its first week – we’ve seen increased participation each day of the program, and we’re now up to 36 active participants in the program. Compared to our previous pilots, this is already the most successful program we’ve instituted. We’re still working to get the message out to our residents through tabling, advertising in residential spaces and social media. UC San Diego is a diverse community with a number of different prospective – It’s clear to us that while l interest may be varied across the student body as a whole, there is a large community of students here at UC San Diego that are interested in the program and are passionate about making environmentally conscious decisions in how they dine with us. We’ve been pleased with the initial interest in the program and are looking forward to helping it to grow.”

Sign up for the HDH Community Plan to receive a 20% discount at all HDH restaurants and markets.

Did you know Roots is the University’s first exclusively vegan eatery and lounge? Click here to learn more about sustainable dining in HDH.

Profile in Sustainability – Ian Clampett

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Ian Clampett | B.A. Political Science – International Relations | Class of 2010

Why is sustainability meaningful to you?

From a young age, I was ingrained with a deep sense of appreciation for our local environment. As a native San Diegan, I was fortunate enough to have a father who taught me how to love and respect the ocean through the sport of surfing. The countless hours spent in the water over the last 20 years have instilled in me a strong passion to protect this natural resource so that my son and daughter can enjoy it the same way I did.  

Could you talk about your work pertaining to environmental protection, land use, transportation, water, etc.?

As the Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Director for Councilman Chris Cate, it is my responsibility to manage the legislative affairs of the office by providing sound analysis, research, and advice to guide the Councilman’s policy decisions. In the four years I have worked for Councilman Cate, I have had the opportunity to advise him in his role as the previous Vice Chair of the Environment Committee and former member of the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee. In addition to serving on these committees, our office has published policy recommendations for municipal stormwater regulations, citywide sustainability goals, illegal dumping enforcement, reforms to water department operations, and drought policy standards.

You’ve worked at the City of San Diego for several years now. What are some changes you’ve seen/helped implement to improve sustainability efforts for the city?

The City of San Diego was ranked the “greenest city” in the United States by a recent WalletHub report. A significant contributor to this achievement was the City’s adoption of a Climate Action Plan, an ambitious strategy approved in 2015 by the City Council that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and provide all of the City’s energy needs through renewable sources by 2035. As Councilman Cate’s advisor for the Environment Committee, I am proud to have recommended the adoption of this plan and worked on its approval.

Furthermore, during Councilman Cate’s time on the Environment Committee, the City made significant strides in developing a new, locally-controlled source of water through the Pure Water project, the largest infrastructure endeavor in the City’s history. By 2035, this project will provide one-third of the City’s potable water needs. Pure Water will also help meet the City’s renewable energy goals by utilizing captured methane gas from the Miramar Landfill to power operations at the new North City Pure Water Facility. The first phase of this project will break ground in 2019.  

Finally, our office has been working directly with UC San Diego’s Sustainability team to create a partnership between the university and local breweries to convert spent grain, a byproduct of the brewing process, into renewable energy via anaerobic digestion. This partnership will not only help keep this substance away from local landfills, but it will assist the City and UC San Diego in meeting their respective Zero Waste goals, while creating a new, clean, and local source of energy.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while pursuing your degree at UC San Diego?

As a Political Science – International Relations major, learning how to formulate and defend an argument through rigorous research was vital to my growth and development as a student. This skill was taught consistently amongst my professors and at the highest level. I am proud to have been a part of UC San Diego’s acclaimed international relations program. Now working in the political world, the skills I learned at UC San Diego have proven to be critical to my responsibility to develop and defend policy solutions for San Diego’s most pressing issues.

(Posted 11/15/2018)

2018-19 Global Food Initiative Fellows


(From left to right: Christiana Schlutius, Luke Lindgren, Erica Ferrer, and Belinda Ramirez)

The University of California President’s Global Food Initiative (GFI) Student Fellowship Program funds student-generated research, related projects, or internships that focus on food issues. All 10 UC campuses, plus the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, participate in this program. The UC San Diego Bioregional Center is proud to announce the 2018-19 GFI Student Fellows and Student Ambassador: Christiana Schlutius, Luke Lindgren, Erica Ferrer, and Belinda Ramirez. See below to read more about the Fellows’ projects, such as conducting cooking demos to encourage healthy eating, developing data-collecting prototypes to help grow food in greenhouses more sustainably, and using visual media to bring to light the importance of small-scale fisheries for global food security.

As a GFI Fellow, Christiana strives to improve food security among UC San Diego students. One way of doing this is to connect healthy, fresh produce from Roger’s Community Garden (the largest community garden on campus) to the Triton Food Pantry. To facilitate this process, Christiana will conduct weekly cooking demos at The Hub on Thursdays from 12:30-1:30pm, featuring the same fresh produce served at the pantry. Check out the first cooking demo from this year, “Cooking on a Student Budget.” The goal of these demos is to help educate students on how to use the food they receive and to build meal preparation skills.

Luke’s GFI project centers around the creation of a smart, aquaponic greenhouse that utilizes off-the-shelf technologies. While this test greenhouse will be relatively small, it is hoped that any lessons learned from this experience can be used to help the University of California campuses grow food in a more sustainable manner. Unfortunately, green and smart technologies have a high cost of entry and knowledge, so Luke has joined forces with a group of coders and gardeners to start the group Computer Science for Agriculture with the goal of training others to set up production sensor and control nodes. These nodes, or “boxes,” can do anything from monitor the temperature and pH of soil and water to gather atmospheric data like gas concentrations. While still in the prototype phase, Luke and his team aim to get several of these “boxes” up and running so that they can install them in the greenhouses at Roger’s Community Garden on campus.

Erica is a second-year Ph.D. student at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography in Dr. Octavio Aburto’s lab. As part of the Aburto lab, she is interested in questions related to sustainability across marine systems, focusing her graduate research on small-scale fisheries ecology in Latin America. Did you know that anywhere from 30-50% of the world’s seafood is supplied by small-scale fisheries? The catch from small-scale fisheries and industrial fisheries alike comprise an important component of global food security, while contributing to the economic vitality of communities across every continent. But how sustainable are these food systems with respect to their environment? With collaboration and guidance from Zack Osborn, Student and Community Engagement Specialist for the Bioregional Center for Sustainability Science, Planning, and Design, Erica is working to produce a video that outlines fisheries research being conducted at the University of California and beyond. She hopes that this video will demonstrate successful ways to sustainably fish from the ocean without resorting to destructive and unhealthy practices.

Belinda’s efforts as this year’s UC San Diego GFI Student Ambassador will focus on strengthening the connections between UC GFI Student Ambassadors across the UC system by collaborating and maintaining consistent communication. As a former GFI Fellow, she believes that this will have the effect of helping the UC San Diego GFI Fellows understand their role in the larger UC Global Food Initiative. Using her experience with event programming and social organizing, Belinda hopes to connect UC San Diego students with sustainability and food organizations, initiatives, and events on campus, including the many gardens on campus. This can help to create a stronger push toward bringing sustainability, food, and agricultural issues to the foreground at UC San Diego. Belinda is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in sociocultural anthropology. Her dissertation research—which explores the intersections of race, politics, place, and values within the urban agriculture movement in San Diego and Tijuana—builds off of her work as a GFI Fellow and Student Ambassador.

New Water Refill Stations Across Campus

As part of the UC San Diego’s zero waste and healthy campus goals, Facilities Management finished installing 10 new water refill stations across campus!
Bring your reusable water bottle or mug to get clean drinking water at these new locations:
  • Wells Fargo Hall 1W102 (Rady)
  • Wells Fargo Hall 2N116 (Rady)
  • Hubbs Hall 1st floor near elevator (SIO)
  • Svredrup Hall 1st floor  (SIO)
  • Ritter Hall 1st floor  (SIO)
  • Skaggs School of Pharmacy (2 installed)
  • Solis Hall
  • York Hall
  • Warren Lecture Hall

Funded by the Vice Chancellor for Resource Management and Planning, the stations join many others across the university, keeping the campus community hydrated without the use of plastic bottles. Locate a water refill station near you via the online campus map.

Profile in Sustainability – Jared Senese

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Jared Senese | Bachelor’s Degree, Electrical and Electronics Engineering| Class of 2017 

Why is sustainability meaningful to you, and how did you first become interested in renewable energy?

Sustainability is a way to beat the system. No one wants to go green unless there’s a profit. That’s what sustainability does. I’ve always had an interest in renewable energy, I had this naive image of it being the future, similar to flying cars. The more I learned about it, the more I was able to realistically picture renewable methods being used in today’s world. I will continue to consciously use, and actually re-use reusable bags, along with support companies that want to make a cleaner planet.

Could you talk about your experience working at the bike shop on campus and why alternative transportation methods are important to reducing emissions? 
I’ve grown up mountain biking. I’ve also grown up with the mindset of saving money and spend modestly, which is why I drive a 2000 PT Cruiser that costs $2000 and barely passes smog. Biking, along with public transportation is by far the way to go in order to not only reduce emissions, but also traffic and basically just make life less stressful. Unfortunately, San Diego is awful when it comes to planning public transit and they simply don’t care. Their solution is to simply make more houses so there’s even more traffic, so people’s lives are even more stressful. So how does a San Diegan fight this? With bikes! I ride wherever I can. I’ve done grocery trips on my bike and encourage many others to do the same as well. It’s my way of giving those politicians a middle finger.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while pursuing your degree at UC San Diego?
I learned that UCSD is filled with competitive students and you can get caught up competing against them and hating life. You can reach deep, dark places of misery and never see a light at the end of the tunnel. I envisioned working as an engineer would be the same as pursuing my Engineering degree in college, except with an angry boss that would always get upset with you. Fortunately, I am so thankful that this isn’t true. Engineering is booming right now. My current team with Keysight Technologies is always encouraging and supporting me. I couldn’t ask for a better company dynamic. All the hard work and grinding I did in college has paid off, and I encourage all engineers at UCSD that it is worth it. I had a college GPA of 2.7 and had to retake two classes, so it’s alright if you’re not the stellar student with the highest GPA (though I will say it is nice to have a high GPA).

Engineers for a Sustainable World [ESW] Solar Interact Unveiling

IMG_9617.JPGOn Wednesday, October 24, Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) celebrated the official unveiling of Solar Interact with a ribbon cutting at the Sustainability Resource Center.  Solar Interact is an exhibit where a user can interact with solar energy through a hand crank generator game. The user picks a difficulty level on the tablet and competes with a simulated solar panel located on top of Price Center. The goal of the game is to generate more power than a solar panel for 30 seconds. The different difficulty modes come from competing against different size solar panels. The solar panel measurements are from the solar panels on top of Price Center during peak hours of the day.

The lights on Geisel will light up corresponding to the instantaneous power generated by the solar panel on the left side and the user on the right side. This output of instantaneous power can also be seen on the tablet. 

The beginning of the game is initialized by the tablet sending the Arduino a start message via bluetooth. The Arduino begins reading measurements from the 3D printed crank. The 3D printed crank is attached through a metal rod to an encoder. The encoder tracks the rate at which the crank spins and reports this information to the Arduino microcontroller. The Arduino microcontroller processes the information and sends power output to the tablet via bluetooth. The Arduino also lights up the Geisel model with both the solar panel information and the user information. When the game ends, the tablet sends an end game message to the Arduino.

The goal of this project is to create an educational exhibit related to the positive impacts of using solar energy over electrical energy. It also features an interactive game where a user attempts to generate more energy than a solar panel through a hand crank. Not only is this exhibit educational, but it will also provide a service in the form of an interactive map of UC San Diego’s Price Center, and allow three engineering disciplines to gain hands-on experience in one project.

Learn more about Solar Interact here.

Global Climate Action Summit – Nikko Bouck


Global Climate Action Summit 2018 

In early September, hundreds of people came together at the Global Climate Action Summit to address climate change and to “Take Ambition to the Next Level”. This conference has been developed on the belief that all social sectors play a critical role in mitigating climate change and have the responsibility to collectively commit to this mission. Undergraduate computer engineering student, Nikko Bouck was invited to the summit as a youth delegate and attended as a representative of UC San Diego.

Picture2Reflecting on his experience, Nikko summarized by saying “Thousands of dignitaries and delegates at this event were working to build some kind of sustainable infrastructure, system, or business” and iterated that much of the conversation revolved around the electrification of the transportation sector. While he appreciated the intent of the e-vehicle movement, he was critical of the hazards created by lithium-ion battery waste. Because battery recycling has not been developed to a sustainable and standardized scale, he worries that converting to electric vehicle fleets will catalyze “an ubiquitous environmental problem, as [lithium-ion batteries] are certainly volatile and can burn at great temperatures if not disposed of correctly”.


Nikko with Arsenio Y. Mataka, Environmental Advisor to the California General, Xavier Becerra, discussing concerns about the electric vehicle push.

In voicing these concerns, Nikko also elaborated on potential solutions via his non-profit organization One Habitat Foundation. His organization has developed a software called Operation Trash Route that will be “introducing an e-waste collection option as a way to reduce the hassle people face when trying to find hazardous waste disposal”. He discussed this project with many representatives at the summit, including small-business owners, the Buenos Aires President of the EPA, and a member of the Mayoral Committee in Johannesburg.

Nikko truly embodied the theme of the Climate Action Summit – “Take Ambition to the Next Level”. Instead of simply celebrating the idea of converting the transportation sector to electric vehicles, he processed it with a critical eye and is making efforts to address its weaknesses.

Nikko was the 2018 recipient of UC San Diego Sustainability’s Outstanding Student Award. Read more about his accomplishments here.

Closing the Loop: Roger’s Community Garden’s Living Laboratory and Food Waste Collection Program

unnamed.jpgRoger’s Community Garden and Living Laboratory, part of the Bioregional Center for Sustainability, Planning, and Design, partner of UC San Diego’s Sustainability Department, and 2018 Winner of the UC San Diego Student Organization Sustainability Award, is raising the bar to reach UC Office of the President goals of carbon neutrality by 2025 and zero waste by 2020. Through its student-centered approach to experiential learning, Roger’s has been able to support a fully-functioning food waste to food and fuel system that converts food waste into renewable electricity, compost, and nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer, which all converge to produce more food to address student food insecurity at the Triton Food Pantry. The electricity generated by this system will feed into the battery storage banks incorporated into the Garden’s nanogrid, modeled after UC San Diego’s own microgrid. All aspects of the food-waste-to-food-and-fuel system are also working to be automated by undergraduates majoring in computer science and engineering disciplines using microprocessors such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. This student-created design approach allows this system to close the carbon loop and make a recirculating food production system that uses all of its waste products to produce more food in a sustainable manner. In order to power the food-waste-to-food-and-fuel system, 1000 lbs of food waste per week from a dozen Price Center restaurant vendors is collected by student interns and volunteers in collaboration with University Centers.

Picture2.jpgThrough the interdisciplinary collaboration of students studying chemistry, engineering, computer science, speculative design, social sciences, and others, student-managed Roger’s Garden and Living Laboratory has been able to collect 10,100 lbs of food waste from January 22 to September 3, 2018, which equates to 1.14 tCO2eq sequestered, not including biogas generated or the CO2 sequestered from the resulting plant growth. Unlike other waste management solutions used by the university, which use trucks to transport food waste from Price Center to facilities in Otay Mesa or Oceanside, Roger’s program stays onsite, reducing carbon emissions and the associated costs from transportation. Roger’s Garden and Living Laboratory has also formed a unique series of partnerships with academia such as the Bioregional Center, local industry and nonprofits such as GRID Alternatives, Food2Soil, Global ARC of Oceanview Growing Grounds, Backyard Fruit Tree San Diego, alumni, and researchers which has provided undergraduates with the opportunity to engage with a variety of stakeholders and foster a interdisciplinary collaborative environment that encourages innovative solutions to climate change, food insecurity, waste diversion, conservation, and energy demands. Looking forward, Roger’s hopes to incorporate its innovations into the University Long Range Development Plan and standard university practices in order to lessen the footprint and improve the well-being of the students of UC San Diego and the people of the surrounding communities.

Green Outlet Project

Interview with Natalia Koga

econauts-natalia.jpgThrough the Green Outlet Program, students and staff can recycle materials that cannot go into single-stream recycling, and would otherwise go to the landfill. The Program consists of six compartment waste collection systems that are placed in the reslife offices. Using the compartments we collect batteries, ink cartridges, air cushions, writing instruments, water filters, and electronic waste. Once the bins are full, the Econauts team in HDH will then collect the waste and source the waste properly for disposal. 

When I was coming up with this project, I had done hours of research, looking at the factors that contribute to recycling. I had researched different processes and programs in other countries like Sweden, for example, and tried to understand what they have done to make it more compelling for people to mitigate their trash. I found that there were two major factors impacting an individual’s will to recycle–availability and time. If the resource isn’t there to collect or source items, it becomes very hard to even think to properly mitigate non-recyclable items. Those who are more aware and passionate about sustainability might look for outside sources, but most people aren’t aware so they won’t know to look. 

IMG_20181011_094404.jpgThe second issue is time. Time is precious, and if it requires a person to go “out of the way,” it’s inconvenient. UC San Diego, in fact, has many resources to collect these items already, but because they’re in specific locations spread around campus, it’s inconvenient for most students. More so, these locations are less known because they’re not the center of student involvement.

So that’s when I thought about making some sort of system that will be more convenient and more readily available at locations centered around student involvement. I was inspired by the Sustainability Resource Center‘s bin collection in their office, and I wanted to take what they did and apply it for HDH housing, the department that I worked for. Thereafter, it wasn’t long before I created a proposal, sorting out all the details and limitations that I then proposed to my manager. 

After my proposal was accepted, it didn’t take long to get the project off the ground and into reslife offices. The program exists in two reslife offices so far, Revelle and the Village. We hope to be able to have the program bins in every reslife office, and maybe even one day spread to other departments. This waste does not have a place inside our landfills and cannot be easily diverted here on campus. This project’s objectives is to provide closer outlets to students for proper disposal of particular waste, to promote utilization of resources on campus, and to promote sustainable practices. 

IMG_20181011_094520.jpgI actually have passed this project along to another team member of mine, as I decided to depart the Econaut‘s team to pursue other goals. With that said, I am so excited to see where the Econauts take the program and I hope students will get to hear more about what the Econauts at HDH do because they’re doing great things! 

My message to students would be to stay aware of how their waste systems work and stay mindful about how their practices affect the community. Every person’s actions are a contribution to a bigger cause, in some way or another. A person’s trash doesn’t end when they toss it in a bin–it lives to another place, another landfill, another ocean. The initiative to be more sustainable and a waste-free campus starts with us, the people. And I hope with the Green Outlet Program, it will help others to change where their contribution leads. 

Charrette Brings Campus Stakeholders Together to Update Green Building Policy for Campus 

42725434010_55a7c768ea_o.jpgAs UC San Diego continues to transform physically and intellectually, Vice Chancellor for Resource Management and Planning Gary Matthews brought together over 40 faculty, staff, and students on August 29 to begin the process of updating UC San Diego’s building policies and practices to ensure that environmental sustainability and human health and wellness are core requirements of building planning, design, construction, and long term facility operation and maintenance.

Organized by a team from the Sustainablity Programs Office (including a student intern from the US Green Building Council student chapter on campus), Capital Programs Management, and Campus Planning, the charrette embodied the collaborative approach that will be needed going forward to develop a new Sustainability Building Guide for campus. Departments represented included Housing, Dining and Hospitality, Procurement, the Health System and Medical Centers, Recreation, University Centers, and more.

Key themes that emerged from the charrette included:

  • Strengthening a focus on reliability, redundancy, resiliency, and safety.
  • Incorporating students and meaningful learning opportunities wherever possible.
  • Looking at life-cycle cost factors and return on investment.
  • Thinking through how best to address public-private partnership development, leaseholds, and retail spaces.
  • Ensuring that the unique requirements of UC San Diego Health programs are considered.
  • Considering long-term operational and maintenance impacts upfront and throughout planning, design and construction.
  • Factoring in the ability to incorporate new technology.

In addition to a new Sustainability Building Guide for campus, future outcomes could include having new buildings pilot one or more green building certifications beyond the current standard of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver, such as WELL, Zero Net Energy, BREEAM, and/or petals of the Living Building Challenge.

Learn more about UC San Diego’s current green building efforts on campus here.