Kol Chaiken | Class of 2018 | Environmental Systems – Policy
Could you explain the problem with the way we currently get our energy, and how renewable energy can solve these problems?
The majority of our current energy use comes from fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas. Fossil fuels release greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane into our atmosphere which are the primary cause of climate change. Climate change is a huge threat that will continue to get worse in the coming years, and we’re already starting to see some of the impacts including the fires and mudslides in Santa Barbara as well as the hurricanes that devastated the East Coast and Puerto Rico. In addition to climate change, carbon dioxide causes ocean acidification which kills ecologically important marine species like coral. Other impacts of fossil fuels include air and water pollution.The impact of the pollution usually falls on poor communities of color who experience higher rates of pollution-related diseases like asthma.
Switching to Renewable Energy like solar and wind means that fewer greenhouse gases and pollutants will be emitted, helping to curb the impact of climate change and improve overall health.
What is the 100% renewable energy campaign?
The 100% Renewable Energy Campaign is a national campaign run by the Student PIRGs in partnership with Environment California to get campuses to commit to procuring 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030 and all energy (including vehicles and heating) by the year 2050. We believe that college campuses as progressive and innovative institutions should lead the way to a renewable energy future. It’s completely doable and it will create a better future for all of us, so why not?
CALPIRG‘s Renewable Energy campaign is in a unique position because we have the opportunity right now to advocate for the state of California to commit to 100% renewable electricity by 2045. Last March a bill called SB 100 that would commit California to 100% renewable electricity was introduced in the state senate. I went with 12 other students from UC San Diego and 60 others from other UCs to Sacramento to advocate for this bill and it passed through the Senate in July! Right now the bill is making its way through California Assembly. This bill would be a HUGE step for renewable energy because California is a very influential state and when we make changes the world pays attention. Unfortunately, there are dirty energy lobbyists working to kill this bill so we need all the support we can get.
Our strategy to pass this bill is to convince our CA Assemblymembers that by voting yes on this bill they are helping to create a greener, healthier more meaningful future for young people across California. UC San Diego students can help out by doing things as simple as stopping to sign a petition with a CALPIRG volunteer, or making a phone call to their Assemblymember. And, if they’re interested in helping even further they can join CALPIRG and come with us to Sacramento to deliver petitions to our representative.
In your opinion, why is sustainability important?
To me, sustainability means helping to create a better world than the one you were given by preserving natural resources and creating a healthier environment. As an Environmental Policy major and campaign coordinator for CALPIRG, my role in sustainability is to help implement laws and regulations that break unsustainable norms. CALPIRG’s last big win was passing Prop 67 the plastic bag ban which makes California grocery stores more sustainable by providing incentives for people to bring their own reusable bags. This is important because often times based on the ways our laws, culture and infrastructure is now it’s hard to make sustainable choices, but it’s our job to make sustainability easier for everyone. I like to do little sustainable things each day like separating my compost and bringing it to Roger’s garden at the end of each week.
What other sustainability initiatives are you involved in?
I’m working on a project with Dr. Jane Teranes from Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the head of the Environmental Systems department to assess UC San Diego students’ understanding of climate change.
Megan Bart | CALPIRG
Could you talk about UCSD CALPIRG and your involvement?
CALPIRG’s mission is to promote a cleaner, healthier, and more meaningful future for all of us. As the campus organizer, and full-time staff person hired by the students, it’s my job to not only win our current campaigns within that mission, but to train student leaders so that they can go on to continue on as effective activists and engaged citizens, whether its on the next campaign, after graduation, or farther down the line.
I got involved in this work when I realized that this feeling that I had – that things weren’t quite sustainable at the rate they were going – was not isolated. That a lot of people felt like there was something that needed to be changed, but just didn’t know how. A lot of students, like myself not too long ago, were often just waiting to be asked to join the movement, to feel welcomed and trained. There’s a role for everyone in CALPIRG – a movement built on exclusivity will only see exclusive results itself. This movement, for a more sustainable future, is only just beginning to grow.
What are some of the ongoing campaigns related to sustainability?
Currently, CALPIRG’s lead campaign is to stop the worst impacts of climate change by stopping our dependence on dirty energy and switching to 100% renewable energy sources like solar and wind. We’ve been a part of a national effort to commit campuses, cities, and states to 100% renewables, and spent a majority of our work last quarter asking the UC system to make the switch. Across the state, CALPIRG chapters gathered 22,000 signatures of support from students and delivered them to the University Office of the President’s energy management team – and we’ve seen positive responses from their staff.
This Fall we are taking our focus statewide, with an effort to pass SB100 (De Leon) that would put California on track for 100% Renewable Energy by 2045. It’s a pretty big deal, given the size and influence of our state. As we continue to show the state assembly that there’s support from young people through petitions, online organizing, phone calls, and a lobbying trip later in March, we look forward to passing this historic legislation.
A long-term victory for renewable energy would be huge – but we still want to alleviate some of the more immediate impacts in our local community. Another project this fall is focused on committing San Diego to stopping the use of bee-killing pesticides. While pollinators play a vital role in our local ecology, they also pollinate a majority of our food supply. This issue draws attention to the reality that often we let the smallest corporate decisions slip, and need to work quickly to pass policy that will protect our environment and make our society more sustainable in the long run.
What are some things that people can do to help increase sustainability in their own lives or in the community?
I started doing this work because I have a vision of a world where your individual choices and access aren’t directly linked to the sustainability of the world we live in. I can’t look back and demonize a younger version of myself for not understanding the broader principles of recycling, or taking the reality of plastic bags as a given, natural thing. I believe in the power of people working together to address the bigger, profound, solution. In 100% renewable energy. In a world where our pollinators and plants aren’t threatened by man-made chemicals. In a world without plastic bags. A world where the choices we are offered day to day aren’t between one bad choice or another.
We get there through organizing: by signing every petition, by showing up to every meeting, by calling our senators or traveling to city hall or the capitol. Those small actions matter the most because they build a community. Community organizing in itself is far more sustainable, inherently. The community is stronger, lives longer, and builds more power than any of us on our own. It starts from there. So – get involved. There are many organizations at UC San Diego coming together to promote sustainable practices, and the Inter-Sustainability Council has done an excellent job of encouraging collaboration so that sustainable practices remain a constant part of life at UC San Diego. Imagine if every student on this campus came out in support of protecting our pollinators – we would see positive change after positive change quite quickly.
Kara Powell | Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution | Class of 2018
You were the first founder of Sierra Club at UCSD. Could you talk about that experience?
I’ve been involved with the Sierra Club for a long time off-campus, and when I first came to UC San Diego I found it odd that there wasn’t an on-campus chapter. The San Diego Sierra Club was looking to welcome more diversity to their member base, especially younger members. Unfortunately, it is time-consuming to take public transportation to the San Diego Sierra Club Chapter meetings, and most college students are faced with a busy schedule and not owning a car. I decided to rally a few of my dedicated, environmentally-conscious friends to create a Sierra Club Chapter on campus that could connect the students at UC San Diego to the campaigns that the San Diego Chapter works on. Our main focus as we gain momentum as a club is trying to establish Community Choice Energy. This is a campaign that the Student Sustainability Collective has also been involved in, and it is a great opportunity for students to gain experience participating in political discussions and processes. We have organized public meetings with San Diego Councilmembers that were meant to inform both the council and the public about the harm caused by an electrical provider monopoly, which is what currently exists with SDG&E. SEMPRA, the corporation behind SDG&E, has the power to control prices of our energy and decide where the energy comes from, often supporting fossil fuel use when renewable technology is ready for us to take advantage of. Community Choice Energy seeks to place that decisive power in the hands of elected city officials, who are more likely to listen to the people of San Diego, instead of corporate executives. In the future, I hope to expand the club and continue to regularly hold nature outings in order to provide students with the opportunity to experience the outdoors if they otherwise are unable to.
This campaign has been an amazing experience, and it has taught us about the way the government is run in San Diego and the influence that a group of people can have if they educate and organize themselves to take action. Especially in the wake of Trump’s election, it has inspired students to be more involved and to voice their opinions on political issues. It has shown them that making a difference is possible and given us hope that we can change the status quo.
As I was working for the Sierra Club, I continued to stay involved in several other sustainability organizations on campus. It is common for multiple groups to have similar interests and goals, and I was involved in trying to organize clubs into cooperative events and campaigns. The Inter-Sustainability Council at UC San Diego is a great resource for people involved in sustainability. I attended their meetings and was able to connect members from CALPIRG, who were running a “Save the Bees” campaign, to members of Roger’s Garden in Revelle College. Roger’s Garden needed help maintaining their native plant garden, and was hoping to develop it into an educational resource for people to learn more about drought-tolerant landscaping and native pollinator sanctuaries. Every week members from the Sierra Club, CALPIRG, and Roger’s would meet up and collaborate on this project. I enjoy staying involved with multiple clubs on campus so I can continue to meet new people and create collaborations like the Native Plant Garden at Roger’s. Working together is important for any movement, especially for sustainability.
Could you talk about your work at the Ruth Bancroft Garden and how drought-tolerant gardening practices are implemented?
I’ve been involved with sustainability since high school, when my part-time job was at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Ruth Bancroft was a cacti and succulent enthusiast with a large amount of land. She created a beautiful collection of these plants and opened it to the public. The Garden uses the landscaping to teach visitors about the importance of water conservation and habitat protection. Frequent workshops are held that show participants how to turn their stereotypical, water-sucking, ecologically useless American lawn into a diverse array of drought-tolerant native plants that support wildlife and save on water bills. There are many ways to make your lawn more sustainable, especially by establishing native plants. Plants native to California are already adapted to a lack of water, and they are able to consume less water than grass and still be aesthetically pleasing. Native plants are also already a part of the local ecosystem, and they provide food and shelter for wildlife that typical lawn grass cannot. If the majority of suburban households replaced their lawns with drought-tolerant native landscaping, it would create a network of habitat fragments that could support populations of wildlife that provide us with useful services (such as crop pollination). The experience of working at the garden inspired me to learn more ways that I could make a difference and eventually led me to become an Ecology major at UC San Diego.
I was particularly interested in the protection of native wildlife, and during my time at UC San Diego, I started to focus on native pollinators and the important services they provide us. I began working in the Holway lab during my first year, studying the effects of habitat fragmentation on pollinator abundance and efficiency (a project led by James Hung). My work on plant-pollinator interactions continued through my time at UC San Diego.
What did you do while working at the San Diego Zoo Institute For Conservation Research and could you talk about the importance of conservation/ methods used to help endangered species?
In the summer of 2017, I received a fellowship to conduct research at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. The San Diego Zoo emphasizes the importance of conservation through habitat protection and endangered species protection, and the Institute is heavily involved in conservation research and education. I worked with the Plant Conservation team and the Center for Plant Conservation Research to develop a shiny app that focuses on plant-pollinator interactions. Pollination is an important ecosystem service, providing one out of every three bites of food that we consume. Native pollinators are also vital components of ecosystems, allowing plant diversity to flourish and support the food chain. The shiny app that I developed with the help of Katherine Heineman analyzes these plant-pollinator interactions and educates site visitors about pollinator conservation. I had an amazing experience at the San Diego Zoo and I gained many skills that have helped me in my later projects.
Allyson Long | Safety Coordinator at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Could you talk about your role as an active member of the Green Labs Team?
I joined the Green Labs Team when I was working with EH&S Research Safety to promote safety in sustainability – to protect both laboratory personnel and the environment. I’ve used my transition to Scripps Institution of Oceanography to encourage SIO labs to become more involved and be leaders in UC sustainability. The Vernet Lab at SIO was the winner of last year’s North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge (NALFC), and there are now 7 SIO labs and 5 SIO offices Green Certified. I love working with a research community that is forward thinking and action driven. Some upcoming projects the GL Team is pursuing are reviving the Chemcycle program, getting more labs to chill their freezers up, and collecting data on lab waste. Any UC San Diego lab is welcome to join the monthly Green Labs meetings just to listen in on or to actively participate in ongoing projects.
What are some sustainable habits for energy use, recycling, and waste management that support sustainability initiatives for UC San Diego?
It’s important to know that we all make trash and consume energy. But we can all certainly make less trash and consume less energy! UC San Diego makes simple acts of sustainability easy: Coffee carts/cafes will give you a discount for bringing your own coffee mug and some places offer reusable mugs (you just have to ask!); Hydration stations are virtually everywhere so there’s no reason to buy disposable plastic water bottles; Dining facilities like Roots offer reusable dishware and post-consumer composting; And every space on campus has recycling bins.
An important and impactful habit is to start becoming disengaged from single-use disposable plastics. You can’t avoid every plastic thing, but you can refuse a plastic straw or lid that is handed to you. Consider bringing your own reusable silverware to your next office potluck, or buying a fresh piece of fruit instead of fruit in a plastic container. I bring a basket of reusable mugs and a reusable coffee carafe from an on-campus coffee cart when I host meetings. People still go for the disposable items because it’s what they know or because it’s more convenient, but some of my SIO colleagues now ask to “check out” the basket of reusable mugs for their meetings. Look at what other spaces are doing around you; I borrowed the reusable mug share program idea from the Sustainability Resource Center located in Price Center.
Know that changes take time and don’t become discouraged or feel guilty when you can’t avoid waste. Learning new habits and practicing things differently will be hard in the beginning, and certainly, not everyone around you is going to embrace sustainability the same way you do. Engage and inform your colleagues by putting up a UC San Diego recycling guide next to your kitchen waste bins or host a Writing Instrument Brigade collection in your office. Join one of the campus sustainability groups to become connected with others in our community. I’m so glad to be part of both the Staff Sustainability Network and SIO for Sustainability groups because they keep me motivated and remind me that we’re all part of something bigger. Keep things simple and know that little actions lead to big changes.
You established a recycling center at SIO to collect items that can’t be properly recycled in the single stream bins. Could you talk about how you went about doing this and why it’s important to the goal of Zero Waste?
Diverting waste from landfills is an easy task when it’s convenient, which was my goal. “Universal waste” are items that California prohibits from going into the trash and landfill, but can be recycled. These include batteries, fluorescent lights, and electronics which contain human and environmental hazards like lead, mercury, and cadmium. UC San Diego already has great programs established to collect these types of waste, such as sending batteries for disposal through intra-campus mail or dropping off your used cell phones at the collection point in the Price Center Bookstore. There is also the Writing Instrument Brigade program where you can send in your unused writing instruments (pens, pencils, markers, etc) to be diverted from the landfill and upcycled.
Knowing how to navigate all the information on Blink and knowing where to go on campus to find these services is half the battle, so providing a central recycling collection point for SIO just made sense (even more so considering SIO’s location from main campus). Recycling is a universally recognizable component of waste minimization and everyone on campus can help divert hazardous materials from being landfilled. Every item diverted from the landfill contributes to the Zero Waste Goal!
Natalia 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 UC San Diego, 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 UC San Diego 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 UC San Diego 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 seem overwhelming 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 UC San Diego’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 UC San Diego 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).
Matt Ellis | Measurabl | Class of 2003 | B.A. Economics, Religion
How did you first become interested in sustainability?
I was working in the commercial real estate business at CBRE and the concept of “green building” started coming up routinely. This is in 2008, the start of the recession. I was curious: what made a green building? What was the value to the tenant and landlord? As you can imagine, business was relatively slow so I started looking into “green” during my spare time and found there wasn’t much guidance or literature, particularly in plain English and accessible for brokers like myself. So I started taking what was available and condensing that into a newsletter about “green leasing,” which I shared regularly around the office. That caught on and CBRE encouraged me to learn more about sustainability and then share those lessons with the broader company. The more I learned, the more convinced I became that sustainability was transformative to the way we did business as a real estate services company and the built environment: buildings, infrastructure, cities, and homes. That original interest, and my education in sustainability from there, compelled me to start Measurabl and put effort into sustainability full-time.
Could you talk about what you do at Measurabl and how you help other companies to become more sustainable?
You “can’t manage what you don’t measure,” so Measurabl made it simple to measure what matters – the environmental impact of your organization – using software. Whether you are a commercial building owner, a corporation, a city, or a university, you can easily and cost-effectively collect the data on your environmental performance like utilities and projects, as well as understand how you’re doing relative to peers, which means you are empowered to take action and improve performance.
You noticed that companies had difficulty collecting sustainability data, and you took the initiative and started Measurabl to address this issue. What are some things you learned from this experience of starting your own company?
It’s incredibly rewarding and equally challenging; there were many lessons learned. The main ones are: (1) Build what you believe in foremost, but be willing to hear and apply criticism dispassionately. (2) Have fun. If you aren’t having fun (most of the time) then something is wrong in the organization – your people, product, investors… Find that and fix it, or get out of the business. (3) People are everything and it’s more than just your employees that matter: build and maintain good relationships with your clients, investors, and partners. They will help you more than you realize.
Is there any advice you would like to share with students who are interested in pursuing a career in sustainability or trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle?
#1 thing to know is that sustainability is a real and growing industry; you can build a career in sustainability. #2 is to know that “career” can take many forms beyond the growing ranks of “Director of Sustainability” who occupy the mid or senior executive level at many large organizations. The trick is to recognize the type of role you want by perfecting the skill set you already have. So if you’re an engineer, look at environmental engineering. If you’re in finance, look at green bonds or impact investing. If you’re already employed and a sustainability role doesn’t exist at your company, create it by writing the job definition and listing competitors with that role, then go to your leadership to ask for their sponsorship.
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.
Colin 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!
Cameron Ravanbach | Center for Sustainable Energy |Class of 2015 | B.S. Environmental Engineering
The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) has many programs. Which program(s) are you involved in?
I am part of CSE’s Technology Integration team and we administer research and demonstration projects focused on increasing the market penetration of emerging technologies in the energy space. I am currently supporting two projects, both of which are funded by the California Energy Commission. One is focused on identifying value streams for the integration of distributed energy resources into California wholesale markets, and the other is called SD ZN3, a project in which we are working with the City of San Diego to convert three public libraries to zero-net-energy buildings through advanced energy efficiency measures and photovoltaics.
Could you talk a bit about your work, addressing sustainability issues and how you and your company is working to resolve them?
CSE is a mission-driven, non-profit organization focused on accelerating the transition to a sustainable world powered by clean energy. The current electric grid is outdated, inefficient and more than 40% of California’s power generation mix still comes from fossil-based fuels (source). The solution to reducing emissions will not only come from technical advancements but needs to make sense economically and while meeting regulatory standards. Our organization is at the forefront of this fight, providing services and information focused on electric vehicles, renewables, building and energy efficiency and energy policy.
Can you explain why you think clean energy is important and how you see it playing a role in a sustainable future?
Clean energy simply makes sense. The Earth’s resources are limited, so why would we invest in energy production methods that are depleting them? The solar industry has seen an average annual growth rate of 68% over the last decade and now employs more than 260,000 Americans (source: https://www.seia.org/solar-industry-data). If we invest in renewable technologies, we will see positive outcomes for both the economy and environment alike. Clearly, certain renewable technologies are intermittent in power generation and can only be utilized at specific times, which creates a grid reliability issue. The argument for fossil fuel based generation is that they can provide baseload generation and increase grid reliability, which is true. Currently, and in the future, we will see increased market penetration of technologies like battery storage and demand response which are leading to a greener and more reliable grid.
What got you interested in sustainability and made you want to pursue a career at a sustainability-focused company?
I first became interested in sustainability when I got my first job on campus working for Krista Mays in Housing, Dining & Hospitality Services as an EcoNaut. It was an awesome experience where we were able to be extremely creative and promote sustainability around campus. Shortly afterward, I linked up with Byron Washom, Director of UC San Diego’s Strategic Energy Initiatives, and he exposed me to the world of clean energy. He would describe UC San Diego’s energy infrastructure as an orchestra in which the energy systems would represent various orchestra sections that work harmoniously to create a beautiful melody, all at the speed of light. It was fascinating. That’s when I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in this field.
How did you first get involved with Grow and Ellie’s Garden?
I have been gardening since I was a little kid, so when I first came to UC San Diego, I immediately started searching for a community garden that I could be a part of. I found that in Ellie’s Garden. As I got more involved in that organization, I became aware that our co-chairs at the time were attending occasional Grow at UC San Diego meetings consisting of representatives from many other campus community gardens. Ellie’s Garden members began getting news from the other gardens and we started helping each other when we could. By Spring Quarter of my freshman year, I was one of Ellie’s Garden’s new future co-chairs, so I started joining my predecessors at the Grow meetings and kept coming after I officially became co-chair. Over the summer, I became more involved as the organization shifted leadership as a result of students graduating. Now, I have become the secretary of Grow and am one of its principal members. I was lucky to have my garden friends to welcome me and help me become more involved in Ellie’s and Grow.
Could you discuss the campus arboretum proposal?
One of Grow’s goals is working towards making Chris Johnson’s proposal for an arboretum on our campus a reality. We have made steady progress in spreading the word and gaining people’s interest and enthusiasm in the project, largely because it would contribute to addressing many of campus’ existing sustainability challenges. The arboretum would consist of a food forest, which would allow us to supply more healthy fruits and vegetables to food insecure individuals on our campus and in our community. It would also contain a composting center, which would contribute enormously to the Zero Waste and Carbon Neutrality Initiatives, as well as educate and promote sustainability on campus. Furthermore, our arboretum would include opportunities for recreation, education and research while contributing resources to Landscape Services that the university would otherwise purchase. We are very excited to promote this project and hope we can work to see it become a reality.
What are some of the sustainable practices Ellie’s Garden implements?
Ellie’s Garden works towards sustainability whenever it can. We grow organic food that is available to anyone in the community and helps to feed our food insecure students through donations to the Triton Food Pantry. We compost an estimated seven tons of food and green waste each year, which we then use as soil to help our plants grow stronger and produce more food. We also share our extra compost with the other gardens when they need it. When we host student events, such as our free three-course homemade meals at our quarterly Harvest Days, we serve the food on reusable plates with reusable silverware, to minimize waste production. Ellie’s Garden is committed to sustainable gardening that serves the whole community.
What are some things you hope to see happen with Ellie’s Garden and/or Grow in the future?
In the future, I would love to see more student involvement and awareness for both Ellie’s Garden and Grow at UC San Diego because ultimately, these organizations exist to serve the community and give students a chance to enjoy themselves in a great environment, as well as grow as individuals. I would like to see more collaboration with other gardens, UC San Diego departments and other campus organizations, sustainability or otherwise. I would also like more people to view Grow as a resource for students, faculty, staff and community members if ever they need assistance or advice with a project or problem. Finally, I would like to see Grow implement more projects, such as tree plantings or compost collections, in addition to more educational events.
Have you previously been or are currently involved with any other sustainability organizations projects and if so, could you talk about your role?
Besides acting as co-chair for Ellie’s Garden and Secretary for Grow at UC San Diego, I also volunteer with the Food Recovery Network when I can and I attend ISC meetings to stay up to date with everything sustainability-related that’s happening on campus. I’m very passionate about the future of sustainability at UC San Diego and I hope I can help it reach its full potential.
Kevin Huo | Leader of the EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge at UC San Diego | Class of 2019 | B.S. Environmental Engineering
What is the EPA RainWorks Challenge?
Each year, the Environmental Protection Agency hosts the Campus RainWorks Challenge competition to challenge students to rethink and re-plan stormwater practices on their campuses. The UC San Diego team’s goal is to draft a master plan for the Triton Pavilion area with written and visual communication. The team aspires to gain an in-depth understanding of green infrastructure and planning and the real-world parameters of a master plan by working with planning staff and faculty.
Please explain the issues regarding the sustainability of our water and how this project is helping to solve it.
Water is an extremely precious resource and stormwater runoff is a huge factor in ocean contamination. The first rainfall of the season picks up pollutants on the ground and carries them all to the ocean. The Campus RainWorks Challenge is designed to draft a master plan to implement infrastructure to collect that stormwater runoff and have it be absorbed into the ground, preventing a majority of the pollutants from entering the ocean.
What got you interested in sustainability and how did you first get involved with the Campus RainWorks Challenge?
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
From The Lorax, sustainability is an extremely important issue because the resources we have today are the only resources we have. I heard about the EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge a few weeks before school started and decided that it was a great opportunity to learn new ways to push for sustainability while improving my professional skills. The project is a model example of how opportunities are always out there and learning isn’t exclusive to the lecture hall.
What other sustainability-related projects have you worked on?
In the past, I have worked on Lotus, a river filtration project, from Engineers for a Sustainable World. The conceptual goal was to design and place airfoil-shaped pillars into the river and bounce floating trash onto the shore while gradually filtering out river water pollutants.
Andre Almeida | SESPE Consulting | Class of 2016 |Chemical Engineering
You worked with UC San Diego Facilities Management in energy management systems optimization. Could you elaborate on the work that you did and why energy efficiency is an important part of sustainability?
With UC San Diego Facilities Management I had the privilege of working directly under the Assistant Campus Energy Manager, Anna Levitt. Because 80% of the energy on the UC San Diego campus is used by lab facilities and operations, our work focused mainly on improving the energy efficiency of lab buildings and processes, specifically, the largest energy users, such as HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems and ultralow temperature freezers. We also ran pilot projects with new lighting technologies, plug load timers and other energy saving technologies.
As with any resource, using energy efficiently is an important part of being sustainable. However, to understand the magnitude of the impact energy efficiency can have, one needs to understand how energy production and distribution works. Usually, a metropolitan electrical grid is powered by a combination of relatively efficient processes. In California for example, natural gas, wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear all contribute to our grids. While efficient, these energy generation methods can be slow moving when it comes to ramping up energy production. There are times when demand on the grid spikes (e.g., a hot afternoon where many people turn on their air conditioners) and temporarily exceeds what our standard processes can generate on short notice. In these cases, comparatively dirty and inefficient diesel or ethanol burning turbine engines are fired up to ensure the grid has enough electricity. By retrofitting and improving the efficiency of operations and equipment that are responsible for these peaks in demand, we reduce our dependence on these less than ideal energy sources.
How did you get into sustainability and which aspects of sustainability are you most interested in?
As far back as I can remember, I have loved the outdoors and a lot of my passion for environmental science comes from that. Over the course of my education and career, however, I have realized how privileged and simplistic my initial outlook of “let’s protect the environment so I have nice places to go backpacking” really is. Preserving natural spaces is important, but I’ve come to gain a much more nuanced appreciation for the impact of sustainability on individuals and communities.
Could you describe the issues of sustainability that you’re working to solve and how your work makes an important contribution?
Because I work for a consulting firm, I am currently contributing to a wide range of projects. Air quality modeling, however, is the focus of my work. Using production data from my clients (often mining sites or other industrial entities), government developed software and meteorological data, I put together models that help determine the health risk posed by a project or facility. These risk models factor in things like population data, gas dispersion and the associated cancer, chronic, or acute risk associated with exposure to certain chemicals.
What advice would you give to students who want to minimize their impact on the environment?
Considering the big picture is important when it comes to the environment. For example, hybrid and electric cars are a marvelous technology, but I believe their true cost is often underestimated. Mining the materials to make them burns fossil fuels, manufacturing them burns fossil fuels and creates pollution, shipping them (often from Asia) burns fossil fuels, and the environmental impacts of disposal are staggering. An efficient, used, 4-cylinder vehicle, on the other hand, requires no investment of raw materials with only a minor loss in fuel economy. I am not against new or hybrid cars, but in an era where corporations will do their best to conflate the modernity of a product with its sustainability, it is essential for students to be able to critically analyze all the relevant metrics by which we judge sustainability.
Derek Chung | Green Charge Network | Class of 2012 | Environmental Engineering
You work at Green Charge Networks, a company that focuses on sustainability. Could you elaborate on your work in energy storage and how you see it fitting into a renewable energy future?
Green Charge Networks focus on a renewable energy future lies in the realm of energy storage. I believe that energy storage is the key piece in transitioning to a renewable energy future. With renewable energy technology, such as solar and wind, being inconsistent sources of energy, we are working with channel partners to pair solar photovoltaics with energy storage. This will provide the grid with the capability to utilize clean energy generation sources in a stable and robust manner. As we scale, we will be able to function as a virtual power plant, creating clean energy competition to fossil-fuel burning power plants in times of high energy demand. In addition, as electric vehicles become more popular and replace gasoline-powered engines, we will see energy storage as a solution to mitigate the electric load demands coming from EVs. Ultimately, I believe in the immediate future, energy storage is crucial on two levels: capturing and returning stable and reliable renewable energy to the grid as well as compensating for the electrical demand expected from electric vehicles.
What got you interested in the renewable energy aspect of sustainability?
While I was an undergrad at UC San Diego, I took a series of classes that informed me about the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment. I saw the energy sector as something quite fascinating that I wanted to be a part of. I originally started my career in the environmental engineering industry; however, I saw a real career growth opportunity in the renewable energy sector, so I applied to Green Charge Networks. I knew energy storage would be a game changer in the renewable sector because of a professor named Jan Kleissl. He was also an advisor to Engineers for a Sustainable World, an organization I participated in to a great extent. He advised my senior project team when we worked with the Center for Sustainable Energy to model the use of second-life batteries from electric vehicles as a method to reduce peak demand charges. I believe that experience and knowledge helped me get to the dream job I have today.
In your opinion, why is renewable energy important in sustainability?
Greenhouse gases are being produced by burning fossil fuels to create energy. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are an affordable way to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution. As electricity usage and transportation together cause the majority of greenhouse gas production, renewable energy is a key way to target reducing dependency on fossil fuels.
What advice would you give to a student if they wanted to minimize their impact on the environment by reducing energy use/waste?
Bike to a party and turn off the lights everywhere else. Just kidding, but seriously, turn off lights.
Mark Jacobsen Ph.D. Professor of Economics
You are currently working with vehicle fleets to minimize the amount of smog emitted into the atmosphere. Can you briefly describe the vehicle fleets you work with and what “bad smog cars” are and their environmental impact?
I study the private vehicle fleet, meaning the personal cars and light duty trucks—including pickups and SUVs—owned by households. I mainly study choices and environmental consequences in the U.S. fleet which is currently about 200 million vehicles. My latest project involves considering smog-forming pollutants; much of my earlier work focused on greenhouse gas emissions and gasoline consumption. The incredible heterogeneity in pollution (some older vehicles and those with broken pollution control systems emit many times more pollutants than average) makes it a difficult problem for policymakers to address. States like California require individual vehicle testing (smog check), but this is quite expensive and still misses many problems. Most other states don’t test individual vehicles at all, relying on pollution ratings from when the cars were new (EPA testing). The question I’m working on now is what sorts of policies we could use, other than or in addition to smog check, to help remove some of the worst vehicles. Policies like differentiated registration taxes (where the annual registration tax is based on what can be estimated about a vehicle’s likely emissions) offer some potential gains and I am working on a statistical analysis to consider how big those gains might be.
As a UC San Diego Professor of Economics, has your passion and research always been environmentally focused?
Yes, for the most part. I enjoy the outdoors very much when I’m not at work and am happy to be able to study ways to preserve that environment for the future! I majored in economics as an undergraduate and relatively quickly decided that I wanted to study environmental policy. The tools of economics allow us to consider tradeoffs: How much do different policies cost, and, importantly, are there improvements that can be made so a policy with the same cost produces more environmental gain?
You’ve mentioned that, in your opinion, academia will play a fundamental role in filling the potential vacancy of environmental progress under the current presidential administration. Can you elaborate on this?
I would restate this as follows: I think that potential skepticism from the Trump administration about new environmental policies (though it is still unclear what changes the new leader of EPA will make) mean that it becomes even more important for academic economists to help identify the costs and benefits of policy. If we can more precisely understand the concrete gains that result from an environmental policy (things like reduced medical spending, increased worker productivity and improved property values) and the costs of policy (in cars this would be factors like reduced horsepower, or higher car prices holding horsepower the same) the best policy choice becomes clear regardless of political ideology. I also think that California is quite likely to push ahead with new environmental policies in spite of potential pressure from above to relax environmental policy. This creates a laboratory for studying the influence of policy changes (both from a physical science perspective and in studying the state’s economy) that academics should find valuable for improving understanding.
Sara Rupp ’17 & Chaz Woxland ’17 Co-Presidents, Food Recovery Network
Sara Alura Rupp | Major: Literature-Writing; Minors: Earth Science and Third World Studies
How did you become aware of food waste on campus?
We’ve all seen it—unsold pizzas at the end of Pine’s dinner rush, half-finished dessert trays after a catered campus event. I never questioned what happened to the uneaten food until I became the one responsible for throwing it out. In my two years as a prep cook for UC San Diego Catering, I threw out hundreds of pounds of food that my coworkers and I spent hours preparing.
While I was working at Catering, I happened to be volunteering with Intervarsity’s Homeless Ministry. Tuesday nights they share sandwiches and conversation in the underpasses of downtown San Diego. There was such a disconnect between passing out homemade sandwiches to grateful people and then throwing out gourmet dishes the next day. That was my impetus for searching for a solution and finding one in food recovery.
Why is food waste a problem?
Food waste is problematic for three broad reasons. One is economical; if you waste food, you waste money. The average American family of four throws out $1,600 worth of food a year. When we waste food, we also waste the resources that were used to produce it—human labor, production and transportation costs.
The second is environmental. If we consumed and produced only what we needed, we would save ecosystems, water, trees and land from being unnecessarily exploited. Food waste in landfills is also a leading producer of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2.
Finally, food waste is occurring in a world where famine, chronic malnutrition and food insecurity are daily realities for millions. I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with wasting food in the face of such deprivation.
What advice do you have for students who want to tackle a sustainability or environmental problem?
For students who want to solve a social justice or environmental issue (and they’re all a bit of both), I’d want them to know that they don’t need to be an expert in order to challenge the status quo. The first step to changing anything is not averting your attention, asking critical questions, pointing the problem out to others and finally, consciously choosing not to be part of the problem. If you can stop perpetuating the problem, then you are much farther along than most of society. It doesn’t take an expert to do any of those things.
Our members have no background in administration or food systems. We’ve managed with little to no funding. FRN was built and is sustained by passionate, dedicated people. Period. That’s all you need.
Chaz Woxland | B.S. Chemistry/Biochemistry, Major; B.A. Sociology, Culture & Communication, Major
Why do you believe an organization like the Food Recovery Network (FRN) is important to have on our campus?
FRN is the largest student movement against food waste in America. Having an organization on campus that has collectively recovered over 1.7 million pounds of food nationwide shows that change is achievable when a network of people work together. UC San Diego’s Food Recovery Network is on this campus to inspire that change on the local level.
Tell us about a fulfilling experience you’ve had while serving the public through FRN.
My fulfillment has been through looking back on this club and all that our team has gone through. From recovering 6.3 pounds at our first recovery last spring, we now collect several hundred each week. Although the development this network has made is truly astonishing, I know there is still so much work to do. That is why this organization has been so fulfilling; the possibilities for students to help our surrounding community are endless.
Where does your passion lie as a student and how does FRN fulfill it?
My central belief and passions lie in providing intangible service to others. Whether that’s through facilitating the development of bio-diesel projects on campus or inspiring restaurants to lower waste production to reduce their overhead costs, FRN has helped me pursue these passions in a way that I would have never imagined otherwise.
Arindam Chatterji ’17 Electrical Engineering
Tell us about the Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) Solar Car Project that you’re leading.
The Solar Car Project aims to design, build, test and race UC San Diego’s first vehicle powered solely by the sun. The goal of this project is to create a solar car-building culture at UC San Diego wherein students from various majors can collaborate to build a vehicle from the ground up and participate in national solar racing competitions, such as The Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) and American Solar Challenge (ASC) as well as international competitions, such as the World Solar Challenge (WSC). The project aims to showcase the power of renewable and sustainable energy which could be implemented on a large scale in the near future.
How did you become interested in solar technology?
I think the first time I really interacted with solar technology was in fifth grade when I was given a digital watch with a solar-rechargeable cell as a gift. It worked for about 7 years. It was fascinating to see something powered and charged solely by the sun, and I think that’s when I started appreciating its power. Eventually, as I saw more widespread applications in powering homes, devices, and even workplaces, it became quite evident that solar energy is a pivotal source of energy for the future.
How do you foresee your experience in leading this project will impact your future goals?
Leading this project has been a great learning experience in terms of working with a range of information not taught in classes. It’s been great working with a variety of people with different skillsets and perspectives towards a common goal. Being a part of this project has definitely allowed me to appreciate the applications of renewable energy in unique, experimental settings to the point where I strongly wish to pursue a career in the renewable or electric vehicle industry. I also strongly believe that solar energy will be an important part of the future automobile industry, and when that does happen I hope to be in a position to contribute to it.
David Liao ‘17 Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, minoring in Marine Science Director of Plastic Water Bottle Ban, Student Sustainability Collective
How did you get involved with the Student Sustainability Collective?
I heard about the Student Sustainability Collective (SSC) from the Environmental Systems program at the end of my freshmen year as the Collective then was recruiting directors for the next academic year. I jumped at the opportunity to be a marketing director because the position perfectly combines my passions for graphic design and sustainability. It has always been important for me to use graphic design to appeal to a wider audience and educate people about various social and environmental justice issues. And this was a perfect opportunity for me to get involved.
What is the Plastic Water Bottle Ban and how can people support it?
The Plastic Water Bottle Ban campaign was started by the SSC in 2010 as an effort to help support UC San Diego’s Climate Action Plan by eliminating the sale of single-use plastic bottled water and making Hydration Stations more accessible. This is also in tandem with the University of California Office of the President’s goal to achieve zero waste by 2020. These are the important points of this campaign:
- Human Rights Implications:
- Water privatization:
- Bottling water in local communities negatively affects the communities while allowing corporations to gain significant profits.
- Damages local environments.
- In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized water as a human right.
- Water privatization:
- Environmental Implications:
- 30–40% of the water involved in the process is wasted
- 17 million barrels of oil used annually
- 13% of water bottles end up recycled
- 2.5 million tons of CO2 emitted
- Plastic is the #1 threat to marine ecosystems
- Public Health Implications:
- Tap water has stricter chemical content regulations (EPA) than bottled water (FDA)
- Plastic may contain hormone-disrupting chemicals
You can support the campaign by signing our petition, taking our survey, stop buying plastic water bottles, switching to reusable water bottles, and telling your friends and family about how plastic water bottle use is not only an environmental justice issue but also a social justice issue.
What is one action you suggest students can easily take to be more sustainable?
As a student, we do have a lot of purchasing power and we can choose to purchase more sustainability. We can choose products that are certified to be sustainable (e.g., Fair Trade Certification, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Marine Stewardship Council Certified Sustainable Seafood, etc.) or products that have as little packaging as possible to reduce waste. Or simply buying only what you need to reduce your carbon footprint and choosing to switch to reusable containers and water bottles instead of using to-go containers or buying plastic water bottles.
Krista Mays Sustainability Coordinator, Housing, Dining & Hospitality
How can students save money and reduce waste by reusing a cup or bag at HDH locations?
Bring your own reusable/travel mug to markets and get 20 cents off your drink. If you bring a reusable bag or use your backpack, you can get 5 cents off — only applies to purchases where you would otherwise need a bag, not for small items, like a bar. Also, lots of hydration stations are located throughout campus where you can get free filtered, chilled water. Visit hdh.ucsd.edu/sustainability to see the latest hydration station map.
What do you recommend as best practices for residents who want to live sustainably on campus?
- Don’t get caught up in the latest trend. You end up wasting money on stuff you only use once.
- Share. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but really, share stuff with your roommates.
- Skip the to-go stuff. Sit down with friends and share a meal using “real” plates and silverware.
- Reduce your impact:
- Turn off lights, take shorter showers.
- Reuse. Recycle. Buy recycled products. Learn about what it takes to get “stuff” to you.
- Ask yourself: “Who made it?” “How far did it travel? And, think about whether it’s really worth it.
Who are the Econauts?
The EcoNauts are my student workers in Housing, Dining & Hospitality. Their job is to educate and inspire campus residents to live a more sustainable life while they’re here and hopefully learn some new habits to take with them when they leave.
Chris Johnson | Groundskeeper
You were instrumental in creating the gardens at Eleanor Roosevelt College, now known as Ellie’s Victory Garden, Backyard and Farm. What was the motivation to build these gardens, and what have you learned from this process?
When I started working at Eleanor Roosevelt College (ERC) Housing six years ago, there were four bare courtyards except for a few eucalyptus trees—some stunted by disease. I thought that this would be an excellent place for a student garden as it is flat, weed-free, has water, and is next to the dorms. The Resident Dean, Rey Guerrero, liked the idea, and I happened to meet a student, Hanah Yendler, who aspired to create a student garden. We agreed to work together: she handled the organizational part and I handled the physical part. The original idea was successful. This became Ellie’s Garden, and the students did such a great job that it was followed by Ellie’s Farm and Ellie’s Backyard. These plots were easier to create due to our success. If you have a good idea and find the right people to work with, you can realize your goals.
You were awarded one of UC San Diego’s Exemplary Staff Employees of 2015-16, 2016 Outstanding Staff in Sustainability from UC San Diego Sustainability, and 2015-16 Staff Employee of the Year from the Staff Sustainability Network! What inspires you each day to go above and beyond to make UC San Diego more sustainable?
Much of my work at UC San Diego has revolved around trash, litter and general clean up. Whether it was in the University Center area or ERC, I have tried to demonstrate how simple it is to recycle and clean up after yourself and others. It may not seem easy, but it is always simple. It really is easy to act in a sustainable manner, but many people don’t know how or were never shown how to do this. UC San Diego is making it easier to be sustainable.
Tell us about your proposal to establish one here at UC San Diego.
Along with two coworkers, Mike Scarry and Andre Leon, I’ve been engaging people in campus in thinking about creating an arboretum at UC San Diego. This started as an idea to supply Landscape Services with items that were too difficult to get, like plants, mulch and compost, and evolved into an effort to offer these to the entire campus. The theme of the arboretum would be sustainability, including dedicatation to the landscape and outdoor environment, and would focus on four main areas: a composting center, food forest, plant nursery, and recreation facilities that use no power or water. Also, this arboretum could help address the university’s goals of carbon neutrality by 2025 and zero waste by 2020, food insecurity, community engagement, and other environmental concerns. This movement is growing with staff, student, faculty and administrative support.
Moon Pankam ‘17 2015-16 Associate Vice President, Associated Students Office of Environmental Justice Affairs
Explain the role of the Associated Students Office of Environmental Justice Affairs, and how you and your team have been able to promote sustainability for the student body and get students involved in environmental justice affairs.
The AS Office of Environmental Justice Affairs (ASEJA) oversees Associated Students operations pertaining to sustainability, environmental stewardship, and environmental justice on UC San Diego’s campus and around the local San Diego area. Basically, we do everything and anything to promote a culture of sustainable and eco-friendly practices, whether that’s hosting workshops on environmental justice topics; engaging in peer-to-peer education about environmental stewardship; holding fun events and giveaways designed to get folks thinking about how wasteful we can be, and how we can improve our lifestyles; meeting with faculty and administration to discuss ways in which UC San Diego can meet its Climate Action Plan goals, and beyond! I’ve got a wonderful team of seven who help make this office run smoothly — my wonderful Chief of Staff, Olivia, and my six interns, Hector, Kimberly, Alex, Elaine, Andrew and Marci.
If you could force students to do one thing that’s environmentally friendly/sustainable every day (essentially, make one action mandatory), what would that action be, and why?
I always tell people to watch how much water they use! It’s such a simple step, but folks can be so unaware of how much water goes down the drain when they leave the tap running while brushing their teeth, or how much water goes into a thirty-minute shower. Be mindful! I also think that everyone should take up gardening — it instills a love for the earth that I think many folks don’t have, and it’s a relaxing activity that can also burn some calories!
What are your short- and long-term goals? How do you see yourself implementing those changes and making a positive impact on our campus for future Tritons?
My short-term goal for the office is to put on a few more fun, educational events for the student body before the school year ends. My long-term goal is to help UC San Diego meet its Climate Action Plan goals through the promotion and maintenance of the campus culture of sustainability that I was talking about earlier. It takes everyone to move a mountain. So ASEJA will keep reaching out, educating, meeting, negotiating, talking and learning. Instituting positive social change on and around campus is and always will be an on-going effort.
Andrew Le, Muir College ‘14 Environmental Affairs Technical Assistant
As an undergraduate, you were a UC San Diego Sustainability Office intern. How have your responsibilities and views changed, now that you work with Environment, Health & Safety?
Going from an intern at the Sustainability Office to an EH&S staff member has been a true blessing. I am honored to give back to the campus that taught me so much. My responsibilities have definitely increased since I’m no longer a full time student, but I don’t think my views have changed. I believe that students are the heart and soul of this campus! Students have the freedom to present ideas and run with them, while staff and faculty provide support and the guidance needed. I have seen this collaboration first hand with the Solar Chill project. As a student, I witnessed the Solar Chill idea begin with my friends and Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW). With the help of staff, administration and faculty, that idea is finally becoming a reality! I hope to see and work with students on more campus projects like this one in the future.
What are your goals for the Environment, Health & Safety Office?
- Provide technical support for the Environmental Affairs division and programs including storm water pollution prevention, hazardous waste management and air pollution management.
- Assist UC San Diego to achieve climate neutrality by 2025.
- Work with Green Labs to encourage sustainability within campus laboratories.
- Collaborate with AQUAholics Anonymous to educate students, staff and faculty to be water wise.
- Encourage more staff members to join the Staff Sustainability Network.
What are your motivations for being sustainable?
I think my biggest motivation for being sustainable is setting an example for others. With issues like climate change affecting our planet, it is important that everyone helps out. I know I’m only a small part of the equation, but if I can influence or inspire others to be more sustainable, I believe it is a step in the right direction.
Karyn Speidel ’16 Public Health
How did the intergenerational collaboration effort come about?
The intergenerational collaboration effort grew from a discussion in an aging and cultures class taught by Dr. Steven Parish. Dr. Parish structured the class in a way that facilitated a lot of class participation. We discovered that many students were feeling disconnected from our UC San Diego faculty, staff and retirement communities. The overwhelming consensus was that the learning experience at UC San Diego could be enhanced with more intergenerational and intercultural interaction to achieve a more inclusive and supportive environment. So, the undergraduates of this class put together an Intergenerational Center Proposal and presented it to Vice Chancellor Gary Matthews.
What is intergenerational collaboration and how does it apply to sustainability?
Environmental sustainability is not intuitive; it is learned through structures such as, economy, policy, technology, culture, demographic shifts, healthcare, immigration, education and social values. Undoubtedly, the role of wisdom from older generations is one of our most valuable resources; yet when years of experience and knowledge are not transferred and shared with our youth, this information is lost. However, when both youth and elders are invited to the table and engaged with one another in dialogue, environmental competency develops, language barriers dissipate and innovations that achieve a sustainable future can be explored, developed, implemented and disseminated.
Tell us about the intergenerational collaborative efforts and campus housing project you are developing.
Recently, we began hosting Intergenerational Roundtable Discussions. These discussions provide an opportunity for UC San Diego undergraduate students and Casa De Manana retirement community members to learn about each other’s lives, build intergenerational friendships and share wisdom, insights and stories.
The first discussion was a huge success for students and residents. Everyone in the room participated. The richness and honesty of the conversation was beyond what any of us could have imagined. Students and residents shared openly to inform, relate and respect each person’s views. There was even an “aha moment” when we all suddenly realized that we learned so much from each other and we do have so much in common. The experience was amazing! There is so much potential to achieve cultural competence, diminish ageism and reach environmental equity and justice for current and future generations.
One fairly new and exciting development has been the enthusiasm surrounding the intergenerational housing on campus. Intergenerational housing has been used in many different settings nationwide and has shown to improve the health and wellbeing of multiple generations and underserved populations. We are currently involved in the program development stage. We hope to add this project to the UC San Diego Long Range Development Plan so we can help to solve our complex cultural, economic, environmental and housing problems that face our campus and greater San Diego communities.
As a public health major, how would you describe the intersection of public health and sustainability?
Public health covers almost everything we do as humans. It addresses age, culture, economics, education, environment, health, technology and many more complex and important issues. Intergenerational thinking and decision-making can potentially transform asymmetrical age relationships, increase cultural competence and improve equity, diversity and inclusion. Intergenerational programs and housing create environments that allow intergenerational learning and sharing to occur. They allow for interactive and collaborative interactions that foster the transfer of wisdom from older populations to younger ones and support elders as they transition from work to retirement. The enhanced relationship guides and empowers youth and provides emotional and intellectual support for all generations involved. One of the most exciting benefits of intergenerational relationship building and mentoring is that it provides students with the political and social capital they need to embrace leadership roles.
Special thanks to our UC San Diego undergraduate students, Dr. Harvey Checkoway and Dr. Deborah Kado, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, the help of Dr. Leslie Lewis and Dr. Mirle Bussell, Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the Casa De Manana Retirement Community.
Jimmy Luong ’16 Environmental Engineering
Tell us about Engineers for a Sustainable World.
Engineers for a Sustainable World is a student-run organization whose mission is to bring communities together to develop, implement and share sustainable technologies and practices worldwide. We provide resources for UC San Diego students to create their own engineering projects, which focus on water and energy, resource management and solar technology. A significant part of ESW’s mission is to inspire younger generations to be more sustainable. Our largest community outreach event of the year is Student Sustainability Outreach Day, in which we invite freshmen and sophomore high school students to visit UC San Diego for a day of interactive workshops to teach them about the importance of sustainability. Are you interested? Students (and faculty) from any discipline are welcome to join our thriving community that will continue to make UC San Diego a greener place!
As ESW president, what has been one of your biggest achievements in the last year?
One of the most rewarding experiences from leading ESW is to see the excitement generated by students when they come up with their own organic ideas and find a way to see them to fruition. ESW now has twelve active projects, with one of our higher profile projects, the Solar Chill charging station at The Village, slated to finish within a few weeks. I’m most proud of the growth of our projects and community as a whole that we have achieved within the past few years. This could not have happened without the hard work and support of our Project Leads, Cabinet and Board of Project Directors. Shout out to them!
What drove you to pursue graduate school in civil/environmental engineering and why focus on water?
My interest in water resource management hits pretty close to home. I knew I had to do something about our water crisis when my dad, who is a suburban farmer in Los Angeles, called me one day and mentioned that the city had shut off the water supply to our crops because there was an unprecedented water shortage. That’s what drove me to study Hydrology and Water Resources in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at UCLA. The challenge of providing healthy, potable water for humans is not limited to southern California. It’s a global issue and there is not one solution that can address it. We’ll have to research and develop creative water management practices, more efficient filtration techniques, multi-stage water reuse, stormwater capture systems, passive collection methods—the list is endless! I look forward to developing the technologies that will create sustainable water resources for generations to come.
Lesly Figueroa | Carbon Neutrality Initiative Fellow
How has being a Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) Fellow affected/shaped your view of sustainability?
The Carbon Neutrality Initiative Fellowship has shaped the way I look at sustainability at a local and global level. The resources I have received have made me even more passionate about my work and helped me develop tangible goals for the future. The fellowship has connected me with sustainability fellows at other UC campuses. We are able to share our experiences, think of larger issues and use creative problem solving to improve and reach our sustainability goals at the campus and system-wide level.
Tell us about the Environment Advocates program that you are creating in conjunction with the CNI program.
The UC San Diego Sustainability Ambassadors Program is a volunteer peer education program. It will educate and engage students through peer education and programming designed to raise awareness. Six ambassadors will each focus on an area or subject to educate the student body on (climate change, food systems, public/environmental health, waste/recycling, renewable energy/green technology, and facilities management). The ambassadors will play an essential role in UC San Diego Sustainability, training and educating other students through educational workshops, projects and social media engagement. The program aims to incorporate culture, art, politics and social justice into all disciplines of sustainability education.
What drives you to be sustainable?
I think my family and love for the outdoors drives me. In particular, my dad has always taught me to care for nature and the planet to help ensure people’s health. He works for waste and recycling in my Coachella Valley home town and loves the outdoors. My dad is one of my biggest inspirations; his love and commitment to farming and gardening is something I truly admire about him. In this way, sustainability education has always been in my life. Understanding that to build healthy communities, you need a healthy environment drives me to act on sustainability issues. Making sure everyone has equal access to a healthy environment and basic human rights like clean water and air is one of the points that drives me to continue my work in sustainability.
I like to think of all I am doing as something bigger than me. Caring for and working with others to make certain we are able to live long, healthy lives, while enjoying the beautiful world we live in makes sustainability worthwhile, So, if everyone incorporated sustainability into their daily lives, we could make further progress and actually create a bigger change. Everything is possible when communities organize for change. As the environmentalist John Muir said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
Jennifer Bowser | Sustainability Program Coordinator
You received a Bachelor of Science degree in Administration and Accounting from Western New England College. Why switch to sustainability?
Sustainability has been my passion for most of my life. My father was a middle school science teacher and he taught me to appreciate my surroundings and value the precious resources our planet has to offer. I’ve had a great career in accounting for the last 15 years, however, I was given an amazing opportunity to co-lead a green team while working at Harvard and ever since then, I’ve wanted to work full-time in the sustainability field.
Name three goals or projects that you have in mind for the Sustainability Office?
My role as the Sustainability Program Coordinator focuses on students and staff outreach and engagement. My overall goals are to increase campus awareness about the university’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative, identify ways people can get more involved and provide resources to educate people about sustainability at UC San Diego.
You co-chaired the EcoOpportunity team at Harvard. What skillsets from that project are you bringing to UC San Diego’s sustainability team?
My experience with EcoOpportunity was extremely rewarding because it helped me sharpen my communication skills. I quickly realized that a single form of communication wasn’t enough to reach all audiences. In addition to co-chairing the team, I volunteered to lead communications. As the Communications Chair, I worked with my team to identify various mechanisms for disseminating information, including email listservs, postering, word of mouth, Facebook and a monthly newsletter. Leading our communications efforts taught me how to partner with other groups on and off campus to accomplish common goals.
Alison Sanchirico | Fluency Development Program Coordinator | Membership Chair, Staff Sustainability Network
You’re the new membership chair of the Staff Sustainability Network. Why should UC San Diego staff join this association?
Joining a staff association is a great opportunity for meeting employees from all over campus. It provides an effective platform for networking, brainstorming, formulating plans and executing actions. With the Staff Sustainability Network, one can join other eco-passionate UC San Diego staff members to collaborate on sustainability efforts and have a positive impact on the campus and the community.
You were nominated as a “climate hero” as part of the Cool Campus Challenge. What does being a climate hero mean to you?
It means mitigating our at-risk planet’s changing climate needs to be a very collaborative effort. To me, a “climate hero” is one who incorporates more carbon neutral actions into their lifestyle than the “average” person, and one who advocates for the environment and sets a positive example for others about what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint.
What motivates you personally to be engaged in sustainability?
I feel that I am privileged, not entitled, to live on this planet and I consequently feel a responsibility to take care of it, for myself, others that I share it with, future generations and out of respect to Mother Nature. The declining state of our world’s natural environments and resources is undeniable and can be largely attributed to the human race. Fortunately, we do have the power to decrease our detrimental impact and I want to be part of the positive impact that we can have.
Dr. Robert Pomeroy | Faculty Climate Champion
What is a common misperception from non-scientists about climate research?
There are 2 key misconceptions, one difference between climate and weather. The difference between the two is time scale. Weather describes the conditions of the recent past and climate describes the conditions over longer time intervals, like decades. The second misconception is that because scientists speak of findings with 95% confidence, the interpretation is that we are uncertain about climate change. But, the physics is well established.
What is the most rewarding part about being a UC Climate Action Champion?
I have used this opportunity to speak to students on campus and the public at large about climate change and sustainability. The point of the surfboard is not that surfboards will change the world, but that we have alternatives for manufactured goods and that sustainable doesn’t have to mean inferior in terms of quality.
What do you hope your project contributes to your university, the UC-system, and society?
The goal of green chemistry is to create products that are environmentally sustainable and economically viable. Green chemistry is cleaner, cheaper, smarter chemistry; it is pollution prevention at the molecular level. The design of environmentally preferable products can reduce waste, prevent costly end of the pipe treatments, lead to safer products, and save resources like energy and water. These practices should favor renewable materials over petroleum and incorporate the design of chemicals to break down into innocuous substances after use. There is also a simple fact that cannot be avoided: the petroleum will run out!
What is one thing you want to tell non-scientists about climate change?
It is not the end of the world, but there will be consequences that involve our economies, public health, food security, our life styles and the planet we leave to our children.
Sara McKinstry | Campus Sustainability Manager
You’re celebrating your first year as UC San Diego’s sustainability manager. What have you learned so far?
I’ve learned that we are doing A LOT to be a leader in sustainability! I’ve really enjoyed my first year here getting to know and working with the many faculty, staff, students and community members who make sustainability happen across campus. From our microgrid to our cutting-edge climate research, we have much to be proud of, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We have big sustainability goals to meet over the next 5-10 years and beyond.
What are your goals for this academic year?
- Updating the university’s Climate Action Plan to help us meet our climate neutrality by 2025 goal
- Ensuring that we cut our potable water use even further
- Creating more opportunities for students to become engaged in sustainability, both on and off campus
- Greening our labs so they’re not only safe and productive but more efficient
- Growing our sustainable food system work (pun intended)
- Putting measures in place to help us meet our zero-waste goal by 2020
- Helping people realize that social justice is key to sustainability: You can’t have a healthy environment without healthy people and communities
- Collaborating with more faculty members to connect their sustainability scholarships to campus operations—our “living lab” of sustainability
- Improving communication about what we are doing
- Doing all of this, and more, in collaboration with others across and beyond campus: It’s all about collaboration!
What motivates you personally to be engaged in sustainability?
My three-year-old niece’s future and the kind of planet she’ll inherit. All the ecological and cultural beauty that surrounds us and we need to thrive, like: a La Jolla Coves sunset; sea horses and polar bears; orchids and deserts; music, a great book I can’t put down; an incredible meal shared with family and friends; love, always love; and, those moments when we work together to do the right thing for others and the planet.
I’m far from perfect, but if I can reflect on my life and know I tried to make the world a better place, then I’ll have had a life worth living.
Kimberly O’Connell | Environmental Specialist
You helped start AQUAholics Anonymous at UC San Diego. What does this program do?
The mission of AQUAholics Anonymous is to encourage behavioral changes related to saving water and to serve as a networking and collaboration resource for students, staff, and faculty who are interested in water conservation.
If someone did only one thing to conserve water, what would you recommend?
Eat less beef. A single hamburger requires about 660 gallons of water to produce. Eating 14 fewer hamburgers a year will save the same amount of water as not showering for AN ENTIRE YEAR.
What personally motivates you to be involved in sustainability?
Seeing how the little things we all can do really make a big difference. I am excited to be part of a campus community where so many innovative students, faculty, and staff are actively engaged in sustainability.
Kyle Heiskala ’15 Environmental Systems & Environmental Policy
I have always seen the potential for change across campus. The opportunity to work on these various projects was there so I dove right in and never looked back. I have a passion for making positive change happen and will likely help out with nearly every project that comes my way, if I can. I have trouble saying no to such wonderful opportunities.
You’re graduating this spring. What do you hope is your legacy?
I hope that my legacy goes beyond what I have accomplished to be a symbol of what is possible. I hope to inspire future student dreamers to know that students have a large impact and if they want to change something, ask questions to see how it can be done and then do it.
What personally motivates you to be involved in sustainability?
I am motivated by the idea that there is a better future without environmental destruction or global warming. I do my part because if we all do nothing, the idea of living peacefully in a sustainable world never has a chance to become a reality.