The past few weeks, Giesel has been surrounded by graduating seniors trying to snap an iconic portrait – we’ve all seen them. They’re a great way to commemorate the accomplishment of graduating college! But, many people have also noticed the leftover glitter dotting the grasses on the 3rd floor of Giesel and around campus.
Although confetti-throwing pictures may be entirely instagram worthy (and show how you feel now that graduation is FINALLY here), confetti comes with a dark side. Confetti litter can have detrimental impacts on our local environment because it runs into our waterways and can also confuse wildlife that might think the colorful pieces are food.
Here are some confetti alternatives to use this graduation season:
Flower petals: Flower or rose petal confetti is a great alternative to paper or plastic confetti that will make for some absolutely gorgeous grad photos while also keeping our campus clean.
Plant or bird seeds: Seeds are an eco-friendly option that can either lead to more flowers being planted or provide a snack for local birds.
Vanishing confetti: You can take the DIY route by creating this vanishing confetti that disappears when it gets wet.
When you’re taking grad photos this year, remember that confetti is litter and although it might make for one or two fun pictures, it’s negative effects remain in our local environment for much longer than the couples of minutes it takes to make a photograph.
UC San Diego student, Enid Partika (pictured left), was recently honored with the annual President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership. Partika, a fourth-year environmental chemistry major, has been building an anaerobic digester, which works to turn food waste into fertilizer and biogas, on campus in partnership with Roger’s Community Garden. Over the course of the academic year, her team collected more than 41,000 pounds of food waste, succeeding in sequestering the equivalent of 6,637 pounds of carbon dioxide!
UC San Diego announced its top point-earning individual, team and residential college for the April 2019 Cool Campus Challenge at its annual sustainability awards ceremony held May 9 at The Loft.
The University of California’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative and the Center for Sustainable Energy sponsored the Cool Campus Challenge. During the four-week online competition, students, faculty and staff from every UC campus and the Office of the President logged actions that they were taking to reduce their carbon footprint, including things like washing laundry in cold water, going meatless at mealtime, shutting fume hood sashes when not in use, biking, walking and taking transit.
More than 22,000 students, faculty and staff from all UC campuses and locations participated in the challenge. UC Berkeley won the competition based on total points, followed closely by UCLA and UC Irvine, the first winner in 2015. UC Merced had the highest overall participation rate. At UC San Diego, more than 1,250 students, staff and faculty, including the Preuss School, joined in the fun, preventing nearly 1.4 million pounds of greenhouse gases emissions, the equivalent of removing 135 passenger vehicles from roadways for one year. Tritons came in seventh place overall.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Eleanor Roosevelt College team leaders found that uniting their peers in a fun spirit of competition helped reinforce their existing sustainable behaviors. “I think when SIO peers started seeing how even small actions made an impact on the challenge, it became an easy and all-encompassing spirited competition,” said Allyson Long, SIO Safety and Sustainability Coordinator. “Really, most people were doing these things already, so it was a matter of getting into the team spirit and collaborating as a group, which ultimately proved victorious.” Vanessa Le, ERC Student Council Sustainability Advocate and ERC Cool Campus Challenge team lead organizer, expressed a similar sentiment. “Our victory in the Cool Campus Challenge sets ERC on the right path to UC San Diego’s zero waste and carbon neutral goals. We could not have done it without the collaboration of ERC council members, residents and students.”
The larger impact of the Cool Campus Challenge is what excited Long, Le and Ji most about being involved. “I think working towards UC-wide, statewide and nationwide change is the most important thing to do, and showing that individuals truly care about and support sustainable practices is the first step to tackling the main contributors to climate change, like corporations and big institutions like the UC system,” Ji said.
“The challenge for all of us now is to keep taking action even though the competition has ended,” said Michelle Perez, UC San Diego’s Interim Director of Sustainability and Carbon Neutrality. “The climate we depend on is now depending on us. So let’s keep up the great actions we saw Tritons taking during the Cool Campus Challenge.”
Environment America, a partner organization to CALPIRG here at UC San Diego, recently released a report detailing how college campuses rank in clean energy. UC San Diego ranked among America’s Top Colleges for Renewable Energy!
While some campuses are well on the way to 100 percent renewable energy, others are leading the renewable energy transition by purchasing their electricity from off-campus renewable energy projects — an important option for campuses without the space or resources to make on-campus renewable energy viable. Below are the rankings released by Environment America, listing UC San Diego at #4.
Top Five Schools for Renewable Electricity Purchased from Off-Campus Sources per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Student
Electricity per FTE Student (MMBtu)
George Washington University
University of California, San Diego
The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., leads surveyed campuses nationwide for purchasing renewable electricity from off-campus projects. In conjunction with American University and the George Washington University Hospital, the university purchases electricity from large, off-campus solar arrays to cover 53 percent of its electricity consumption.
For UC San Diego, these are some exciting statistics as the UCs continue to strive to be more sustainable campuses.
On Wednesday, March 27th 2019, UC San Diego Housing • Dining • Hospitality in partnership with UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, Human Resources, Recreation, Global Health, School of Medicine, and UC San Diego Health held their 4th annual Wellness Fair in Revelle Plaza. The event was free for all UC San Diego staff, faculty, and students to attend and focused on exploring the healing power of food and other dimensions of wellness. This zero-waste event included a variety of workshops, fitness classes, health screenings, and education sessions from campus and community organizations as well as lots of vendor giveaways! Attendees were also invited to enjoy a complimentary meal from UC San Diego Catering, who were introducing items from their new anti-inflammatory menu.
Many sustainability organizations across campus took part in the zero waste planning team for this event. Participants, Catering, Vendor Fair, and Giveaways achieved a 99%+ waste diversion rate. However, the vendor from which the farmers market produce was ordered had wax-lined cardboard for the Swiss chard (see picture below). Each one of the wax-lined boxes weighed 4-5 lbs, totaling 41.45 lbs. All the 9 other produce items were boxed in recyclable cardboard boxes. HDH plans to work with procurement and dining to help educate the produce vendor to ensure that sustainable cartons are used in the future for this item.
Overall, 219.25 lbs of waste was diverted from the landfill, totaling to 81.1% of all waste produced by this event.
Waste Diversion Stats
Recycling: 74.15 lbs
Compost: 92.65 lbs
Terracycle: 11 lbs
Participant Trash: 2 oz (2 coffee cups, and 5 small cups)
Vendor Trash: 41.45lbs (9 wax lined cardboard boxes from the Farmers Market Swiss Chard)
Total Waste: 219.25
Waste Diversion Percentage: 81.1%
However, the University of California Office of the President standards of a zero waste includes 90% waste diversion, which was missed by just under 10%.
WellFest had a total of 440 lbs. of waste, with about the same number of participants, a 50% waste reduction overall! This was done through concentrated efforts to reduce food waste by lessening the Catering order and making signage such as A-Frames signs reusable as oppose to recyclable or compostable. These are valuable lessons to be learned as UC San Diego continues to iterate large scale zero waste events.
After multiple years of correspondence between different departments on campus and of multiple students’ efforts, and under the invaluable guidance of Sharmila Krishnamurty, a LEED consultant with Ackerstein Sustainability, UC San Diego’s LEED v4 EBOM Master Site was submitted on Jan 28, 2019.
You may be wondering, “what does ‘LEED v4 EBOM Master Site’ even mean”?
Taking the phrase piece by piece, “LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” is “the most widely used green building rating system in the world”, as proclaimed by its parent organization, USGBC (US Green Building Council). It’s an assessment used to determine and certify how sustainable a building is, from “Certified” to “Platinum”, based on the building phase, whether still in design or already in operation. The assessment assigns buildings points through different credits under 8 different categories, such as “Water Efficiency”, “Energy and Atmosphere”, and “Materials and Resources”. “v4” is the latest version of the LEED assessment system, most up to date with current regulations established under Title 24, ASHRAE, and other entities integrated into California’s own statewide building standards. “EBOM (Existing Building Operations + Maintenance)” refers to the specific LEED rating assessment type that was used for the campus. And finally, the “Master Site” is a collection of LEED v4 EBOM assessment credits which were deemed as relevant to all of UC San Diego’s main campus and SIO based on current policies and operations. As such, any building project done in that scope of territory automatically has those credit points towards LEED v4 O+M certification. The credits enveloped in the Master Site include:
Site Management: we have site management practices that preserve ecological integrity and encourage environmentally conscious practices.
Site Management Policy: we ensure our site management practices in our surrounding ecological integrity via official, documented rules
Integrated Pest Management Policy: we minimize pest problems and exposure to pesticide whenever possible
Green Cleaning Policy: we use cleaning products with lower levels of contaminants that compromise air quality and human health than found in conventional products
Environmental Tobacco Smoke: we’re a smoke free campus
Your follow-up question might be, “why does this matter?”
The UC Office of the President requires all new buildings and major renovations built on UC campus property to attain a LEED rating of at least “Silver”: that’s how seriously LEED is taken as an indicator for efficiency in building design and performance. In fact, some LEED credits which the team found UC San Diego didn’t meet became topics of conversation on whether the related parts of those policies and operations should be changed, in the effort to be more sustainable. Soon enough, with strengthening efforts to meet zero-waste conditions and carbon neutrality, the LEED rating requirement might bump up to “Gold”. This makes sense since, according to the IEA (International Energy Agency), CO2 emissions from building construction and operations account for almost 40% of all CO2 emissions in the world; it’s undeniable that the building industry plays a significant hand in how global warming develops through the future.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this Master Site project’s conclusion is that review from USGBC’s side came back without questions! I guess you could say the 4 years of work were worth it.
Many thanks to Sharmila for her important guidance in combing through the necessary details for this Master Site, and to the original student team which spearheaded this effort, USGBC Students at UC San Diego.
If you’re a student who’s interested in learning more about green buildings and joining related on-campus projects, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
UC San Diego graduate students across disciplines are coming together to strategically pressure the administration to achieve ambitious goals like the full decarbonization of campus operations as quickly as possible. Pioneering this initiative are the members of the Graduate Student Association who recently established the Climate Action and Policy Committee (CAP). One of the founding members, Erica Ferrer, answered some questions I had about this committee on behalf of CAP and its additional eleven members!
Why is sustainability important to your committee?
We are a group of graduate students from across disciplines, with a variety of interests surrounding sustainability and the natural world. While we each have our own specific reasons for participating in CAP, we are united by our shared concern for living creatures and human well-being now and in the future.
Where did the idea for a committee like this originate? Can you speak to the formation of this committee?
We noticed a need for a space and institutional umbrella under which graduate students could plug into sustainability efforts here at UC San Diego. Like many other campus organizations and student groups working to promote social justice and positive change, this committee was born from the “fierce urgency of now.” We must act to reduce the impacts of climate change and stave off environmental degradation in every way we know how!
As graduate students, we are in a unique position to contribute climate solutions and adaptations in our daily lives, both on campus and beyond. As founding member of CAP, Peter Sloan, explains in his Triton op-ed, we are turning our climate grief into hope and action.
What are the primary goals of the Climate Action and Policy committee and what is the role of this committee within the Graduate Student Association?
The role of CAP within the GSA is two-fold: CAP seeks to communicate the sentiments of UCSD graduate students on climate action and sustainability, especially those that reflect an urgent need for cultural and policy changes at all institutional levels of UCSD, while foregrounding voices of frontline and marginalized communities.
We exist under the auspices of GSA to foster oversight of our work and provide a clear channel for recruiting graduate student members and staying connected to the larger student body. Additionally, if anyone has disagreements about the actions or opinions espoused by our committee, they are free to express them during the public comment periods held at the beginning of all GSA Council meetings.
How do you hope to impact the GSA and UCSD as a whole, particularly in regards to graduate students like yourselves?
We hope to foster a sense of empowerment and hope amongst graduate students who care about the environment and want to contribute to a more sustainable future. We also want to act as a liaison between graduate students and sustainability services available to them here at UCSD. We understand that graduate students generally do not have a lot of spare time and benefit from groups like ours that can distill information and act as an“information desk” for sustainability news and services that pertain to them.
Graduate students interested in joining the GSA Climate Action and Policy (CAP) committee can email email@example.com for more information.
Where does recycling go once it leaves your hand? Since 2001, China has been one of the largest purchasers of American recyclables. Last year, China stopped buying through Operation National Sword. How did this impact recycling as we know it?