Profiles In Sustainability


UCSD Sustainability Ambassadors

I was given the chance to talk to Tyler Valdes.

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How did you become interested in sustainability?

Like many folks, it really all began for me back in high school when I took AP Environmental Sciences and had a wonderful teacher who I also had the opportunity to travel with to the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador. That trip changed my life and sparked my interest in sustainability as I got to witness and immerse myself into rare and fragile ecosystems. Since then, nearly all of my academic, professional, and extracurricular experiences have been driven by my passion for sustainability, climate action, and environmental justice.

Were you involved with any sustainability organizations on campus while at UCSD and if so, could you talk about your involvement?  

Before coming to campus, I was quite involved with sustainability organizations at another UC campus. During my undergraduate studies at UC Irvine, I was keen on becoming involved with the vibrant sustainability community so I participated in a range of organizations and programs including: the Sustainability Resource Center, The Green Initiative Fund, Global Environmental Brigades, Costa Rica Program: Global Sustainability and Cultural Immersion, Campus as a Living Lab, Student Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Catalina Environmental Leadership Program, and Earth System Science Club. I then ended my undergraduate experience by spending a semester abroad in New Zealand at Lincoln University in its sustainability program where I studied Environmental Policy and Analysis and won an award for a sustainability design project with my friends. After graduating, I worked with various nonprofits in the field of outdoor education and community engagement where I had the opportunity to foster environmental stewardship in K-6 students and canvass for more street trees in disadvantaged communities. I also served as the Program Coordinator for the UC Irvine Sustainability Resource Center where I planned, implemented, and assessed collaborative programming and supervised innovative student projects that empowered a campus culture of sustainability.

Currently, I am a graduate student in the Climate Science and Policy program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. It is a one-year, intensive professional program so I have not been on campus for very long and will be leaving already by this summer! Luckily, I am participating in the sustainability community at UC San Diego by serving at the Carbon Neutrality Initiative Student Engagement Fellow where I oversee the UC San Diego Sustainability Ambassadors program. The Sustainability Ambassador program aims to promote climate action and raise awareness of UC’s carbon neutrality goals through peer education and programming with a focus on energy solutions. In collaboration with the Inter-Sustainability Council, I also co-direct UC San Diego’s 5th Annual Green Talks which has gone virtual this year! Green Talks is a TED-styled event that educates and engages the campus community on various local sustainability issues and inspires action toward addressing the climate crisis.  

Could you talk about your projects with the Sustainability Ambassador Program? What were some of the most valuable things you gained/learned from those experiences? 

The Sustainability Ambassadors hosted a series of Lunch and Learns as well as presentations and workshops in winter quarter where we discussed climate change, UC’s carbon neutrality goals and progress, and energy conserving actions. Currently, our team is planning for Green Talks which will include an amazing lineup of recorded presentations from sustainability professionals which students will be able to view online and submit questions that will be answered during a live Q&A event. Also, we are developing an official website and online training that will share resources for those keen on learning more about climate change, UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative, and actions they can take to help reduce their carbon footprint. The most valuable lesson that I have gained from this year with the Sustainability Ambassador program is that collaboration is key in education and engagement efforts as I have found that it always takes a team of talented and passionate individuals with unique strengths to create a successful project or event.

Why are sustainably minded projects important to you?

Projects that take sustainability into consideration are very important to me because we must be mindful of our resource consumption and consider the impacts of our projects in order to effectively sustain our economy, the environment, and overall society. I believe sustainability encourages people to use systems thinking when planning or managing a project. Projects founded on the principles of sustainability are key in creating an inclusive world centered on equity, resilience, and justice.

How have you been adapting to COVID-19?

While I much rather prefer to work in a collaborative setting, I have adapted well to working and studying from home. I take breaks to go for walks and ride my bike while practicing social distancing. I definitely enjoy watching shows and movies on Netflix and reading before bed. Right now, I am finishing The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – an excellent and quick read for anyone interested in personal development. Also, I have been enjoying plenty of Zoom happy hours and online calls with family and friends. I believe that practicing self-care and just doing the best you can on any given day is how we can keep moving forward during these challenging times.

What are your career goals and hope for the future?  

As a budding sustainability professional, I hope to establish and grow a career where I can build community resilience to climate change through education, engagement, and advocacy. Currently, my strongest career interests are centered on sustainability program management, climate science communications, and environmental justice. By expanding my understanding of the science-policy nexus through my graduate studies, I aspire to support the implementation of effective science-based climate solutions within higher education institutions, nonprofits, or local government in San Diego County.

I hope that moving forward, our communities can continue to engage in the climate conversation beyond Earth Day events and actively show up, speak up, vote, and take action on climate. I hope that the climate justice movement can continue to evolve so it centers and celebrates more youth activists including Black, Indigenous, and people of color leaders. In recovering from this pandemic, I hope that more people will understand the interconnectedness and interdependence of our economies, ecosystems, and social structures. I hope we shift away from capitalism and colonial hierarchies that perpetuate socioeconomic inequities. I hope for a world where there is enough for everyone, forever. 

UCSD Food Cooperative

I was given the chance to have talk to Shiva Das. Here is what she had to say…

How did you become interested in sustainability? 

I stopped eating meat when I was 11 and became more involved with environmental activism and sustainability communities. One of my biggest interests in sustainability is the impact that easily incorporated lifestyle choices can have on our individual environmental footprints. As college students or younger people, it can be difficult to implement some of the changes more commonly associated with sustainable living – electric cars, solar panels, going zero-waste, and the like. However, nearly all of us are able to make a significant positive impact in our lifestyles by making “smaller” changes such as reducing our consumption of animal products and single-use plastics. I have always been interested in helping people to live more sustainably without sacrificing the comforts or convenience in their lives!

Were you involved with any sustainability organizations on campus while at UCSD and if so, could you talk about your involvement?  

The main organization I am involved with at UCSD is the Food Cooperative (located in the Old Student Center in Muir). The Food Cooperative is a non-profit, non-hierarchical, student-run, and student-owned cooperative (one of four on campus – the others being Groundwork Books, The Che Cafe, and The G-Store). Our main goal is to provide healthy, low-cost vegan food to UCSD! Within this we also work towards combating food insecurity on campus and in the surrounding community through our donation-based free meal program. 

We work towards sustainable business practices in a number of ways. By serving vegan food (and especially locally sourced products, which we aim for), we try to make it easier for people to reduce the water use and emissions associated with their food production. We use reusable dishes and encourage people to bring their own – but we also offer compostable options for on-the-go! In addition to this, we work with the folks over at Roger’s Garden to both buy produce and to compost our food waste.

Could you talk about your projects at The Food Cooperative? What were some of the most valuable things you gained/learned from those experiences?  

My main project at the Food Cooperative is facilitating our basic needs program. I manage the operation and finances of our Pay-It-Forward fund, which allows those in need to obtain free meals, no questions asked. It is largely funded by customer donations in addition to various in-store item sales – for example, 100% of our coffee sales go towards the fund. 

The most valuable thing I have gained from facilitating this program is the knowledge of available resources on campus as well as the opportunity to communicate directly with community members who may be food or housing insecure. The Hub, The Triton Food Pantry, and the Food Cooperative are all resources that I believe not enough people on campus are aware of. 

Why are sustainably minded projects important to you?

Sustainability projects are important to me because while most of us agree that we have reached a critical point with environmental issues, not enough of us know what we can do to help combat them. It is easy to feel as though any positive impact of our individual choices will be drowned out by the damaging choices of large corporations – but this is not the case. Sustainability projects help remind us that environmentalism should not be about placing blame, but about doing what we can to improve our situation.

How have you been adapting to COVID-19?

Adapting to COVID-19 has been difficult between the social isolation and online classes. Thankfully, I live with roommates so I am never without company. As a silver lining, it makes sustainable choices easier since restaurant closures mean less single-use packaging and utensils. I am fortunate not to be in a high risk population or have my life severely impacted by this situation, and I truly feel for those who do. I think the most important thing to do right now is make sure to check in on each other (especially if you know someone who is quarantined alone), and if we are able, to donate to organizations like Feeding America which are helping people through this difficult time.

Triton Food Pantry

I was given the chance to speak with Alexis Wesley, Lead Manager at the Triton Food Pantry.

How did you become interested in sustainability? 

I became involved in sustainability primarily through my work with the Triton Food Pantry, beginning in my first year at UCSD. Now in my third year at UCSD, I have witnessed the significant effects of sustainability on our environment, specifically in regards to food waste and providing our food insecure population with the proper nutrition and resources to thrive at UCSD and beyond.

Were you involved with any sustainability organizations on campus while at UCSD and if so, could you talk about your involvement?  

Through my work with the Triton Food Pantry and various organizations on campus, I have been able to work alongside individuals in the Student Sustainability Collective, the Inter-Sustainability Collective, and Econauts, as well as various gardens on campus, such as Roger’s Garden or the Marshall Community Garden. My interactions and work with these organizations has further strengthened my knowledge of and passion for sustainability as well. 

Could you talk about your projects at Procurement?

The Triton Food Pantry aims to best serve our food insecure population while achieving our sustainability-related goals. We are constantly working to improve our sustainability efforts in regards to our normal methods of operations, events, and any projects we see through. Our most recent sustainability projects have been our zero-waste events partnering with HDH, in which we provide participants with reusable food containers in pursuit of lessening the environmental impact of one-use containers. We also encourage our users to bring their own reusable bags while obtaining items from the pantry in pursuit of eliminating plastic bag usage in our pantry. 

The pantry also prides itself in partnering with gardens and various organizations on and off campus in pursuit of lessening and eliminating food waste and negative environmental impacts. However, due to the effects of COVID-19, we have altered our policies in pursuit of protecting the health of our users, managers, and community as a whole; we look forward to resuming our normal methods of operations and the sustainability efforts we aim for as soon as the health of our community is ensured after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What were some of the most valuable things you gained/learned from those experiences? Why are sustainably minded projects important to you?

 Through my work with the Triton Food Pantry and our various efforts and achievements in sustainability, I have learned the valuable importance of zero-waste initiatives and efforts to end waste of all types. Sustainability is essential in preserving the purity of our environment and the commodities produced within our systems, specifically in regards to food items. I have witnessed the various efforts of our community in prioritizing sustainability, while also providing our population with the nutrition needed for a successful and impactful future; efforts such as hydroponics and bio-cultural diversity in our community are commendable in improving our environment and achieving sustainability goals. 

How have you been adapting to COVID-19?

COVID-19 has presented our community with a multitude of challenges of which I have not personally witnessed before, and therefore I am prioritizing my work with the Triton Food Pantry alongside self-care and sustainable activities. Situations such as these really bring to light the importance of staying in touch with loved ones, friends and co-workers, as well as appreciating the environment in which we live in; I have been prioritizing these actions and appreciations to a great extent these days. 

Due to the COVID-19 situation, the Triton Food Pantry has altered its methods of operations to a pick-up window-style service, in which users fill out a form with items they are in need of and a time in which they are able to pick them up from our resource. We have also altered our methods to include social distancing and increased disinfecting in our resource in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Triton Food Pantry is also initiating projects such as a Mobile Pantry, in which individuals can obtain items in pre-packaged bags at various locations surrounding the UCSD area. We aim to provide our food insecure population with the proper nutrition while at UCSD, while also protecting the health of our users, managers, and community; our altered operations and new projects are in pursuit of these goals. Throughout the COVID-19 situation, the Triton Food Pantry will remain open, prioritizing health, safety, and sustainability as always. Thank you!

The EcoNauts

I was given the opportunity to interview Christy, thrid-year Econaut.

Can you give a brief description on the Econauts and what the organization does?

The EcoNauts are a group of student workers under the HDH Sustainability Department. We focus on spreading awareness about sustainability around campus, and we do this mainly by partnering with RA’s and HA’s to host educational events with their residents. In addition, we take on a variety of other projects like creating vlogs centered around sustainability topics, conducting quarterly waste audits, and hosting Sixth Week Swaps to promote clothing donations and thrifting.

How is your organization involved in the sustainability community?

We attend Inter-Sustainability Council meetings to see how we can partner with other campus organizations, and we are always happy to partner with different groups for their events. In the past, we have attended resource fairs for a variety of campus organizations, allowing us to spread messages about sustainability to many different parts of campus and the student population. We also like to use our vlogs to highlight campus partners working on sustainability initiatives within HDH or that directly impact residents.

Do the Econauts have any specific goals for the 2019-2020 school year?

Over the summer, we revamped a lot of our programs so we are excited to be bringing new, exciting information to residents across campus. We even have digital versions of our programs now that help reduce our carbon footprint further by reducing paper use. We also conducted a bigger and better version of our waste audits this year during fall and winter quarters, which should help us with waste diversion in residential and dining areas.

How are you adapting to COVID-19?

The EcoNauts are sheltering in place at their respective homes but are still working hard to bring sustainability programs and tips to students. With the new virtual format, we are engaging students primarily through social media and our vlogs. Find this great content on the UC San Diego Housing and Dining Facebook and Instagram accounts. As a team, we are looking to come back better than ever during fall quarter. Be on the lookout for all the exciting things we have planned!

Gary Oshima | UC San Diego Construction Commodity Manager

To find out more about sustainable practices in campus construction, I conversed with Gary Oshima, the Construction Commodity Manager.

What is the role of a construction commodity manager?

In its simplest sense, my role is to develop strategies to maximize our campus spend for construction related expenses.  My position is within the Procurement (IPPS) department of Business Finance but my role deals closely with Capital Planning Management (CPM) which is responsible for new and large construction projects, Housing, Dining and Hospitality (HDH) which is responsible for construction of all student housing and dining projects, Facilities Management (FM) which is responsible for maintenance, repairs and minor remodels of the buildings on campus as well as limited work with the Medical Center and the UC Office of the President regarding system wide construction measures. I look for synergies in each of these departments that may not be realized individually.  “Maximizing our spend” of course means reducing costs but it also could mean adding value where it didn’t previously exist.  For example, I am working to establish a campus standard interactive information kiosk which will provide immediate, on-line information for any user on campus.

What Procurement Sustainability Goals is UC San Diego trying to achieve?  How are we doing?

You are certainly aware of the Sustainability goals that the University has both system-wide and campus-wide.  CPM and HDH have similar construction goals – minimum LEED Silver, Energy and Utility efficiency, Sustainable materials, etc.  For Procurements, our goals are not as well defined because part of what we are trying to develop is a mindset that includes environmental responsibility in the all the decisions that we make.  Yes, we do procure energy efficient or environmentally friendly products but we are also looking at how we can improve our services or how we can influence our suppliers to be more responsible.

An excellent example of improving our services is our Material Support Services team.  The MSS is responsible for delivering packages and supplies to all the campus users.  They have set daily routes and have knowledge and access to all buildings on campus.  With the rise of Amazon, Federal Express and other direct shipping services, there was a considerable increase of delivery trucks on our already crowded campus.  MSS has reached an agreement with these private companies to provide the “last mile delivery”.  Essentially, all packages are now delivered to our central receiving and MSS has assumed the responsibility of delivering those packages to their final destination.  The benefit to the shippers is that they no longer have to negotiate delivery to a campus which has no building addresses and the benefit to the University is that we get more reliable delivery, considerably less traffic and a reduced carbon footprint.

An example of how we influence suppliers is that we encourage companies who have implemented good sustainable practices.  Each RFQ that is issued has a “Sustainability” component in the evaluation which rewards those suppliers who are awarded the contracts.

What challenges do you experience when trying to incorporate sustainability into a construction project?

IPPS procures nearly everything that the University buys: equipment, furniture, office supplies, clothing, food, cars, and more.  The one exception is that, typically, we do not buy construction materials.  The reason that we don’t is because we hire General Contractors to build our buildings and it is the Contractor’s responsibility to procure all of the materials that they need.  As such, we don’t directly control what materials and products are purchased for our capital improvements.  Certainly we have some impact in the materials by what we require in our specifications but we cannot dictate which suppliers or sub-contractors that the General Contractor selects.  In general, the Contractors that work on new capital projects on campus have sustainability goals and values that align with the University but construction is a very budget oriented business.  There is a saying, “In the end, nobody cares about being noble – show me the money” that is apropos. Everyone agrees that Green building practices are beneficial but each initiative still must prove to be fiscally prudent.  One of the challenges that we face as a University is to look at the cost of a building holistically on a life cycle cost basis rather than on a construction cost basis.  In short, there are decisions that we can make during the construction phase which may cost more initially but will prove to save money during the lifetime of the building.  We need to adopt this long range vision of our buildings in order to justify some more significant changes our new buildings. 

The recycled plastic asphalt road was such a huge success.  What other cutting edge solutions are being considered?

The Recycled Plastic Asphalt road has been a success for reasons that are yet to be fully realized.  The amount of waste plastic that we used for our road is insignificant and, even if we paved every street on campus, the impact wouldn’t move the needle on our global waste plastic problem.  The real success of our road is that we got the ball rolling.  Our road was the first of its kind in the United States and the increased interest that we have seen in cities and counties and national paving associations is increasing every month.  The cities of San Diego, Los Angeles and Oakland are considering pilot programs with this product.  California State Senator Ben Hueso’s office has contacted us regarding our street.  Two California based manufacturers have signed licensing agreements which will allow them to source the waste plastic locally – a huge plus for the domestic viability.  Studies with CalTrans have begun as well as the DOT – approval from these agencies would be instrumental in pushing the technology.  It has been 18 months since we laid our street but I feel like the technology is finally taking traction with the public and I expect the interest to grow exponentially over the near future.  What direct impact does that success have to UC San Diego?  None.  How much money is saved or generated by the University?  None.  However, the fact that we were instrumental in introducing this technology to the US and the potential global impact that that technology might have is immeasurable.

Why are sustainably minded projects important to you?

UC San Diego is one of the leading research Universities in the country.  In fields ranging from nanotechnology to climate science to social mobility to marine biology to geopolitical policy to animal behavior to Alzheimer’s research, UC San Diego is a hub for cutting edge technology and the testing of unproven theory.  Innovation and Invention and Discovery are the hallmark of what makes this University thrive.  It is core to our campus and is integral in everything we do.  Perhaps the most important result of this mission is that it teaches our students to open their minds to new ideas and new possibilities; reach beyond the status quo and search for new answers.  And that attitude isn’t something that should just come from the classrooms and labs; that is an attitude that should be fostered everywhere on campus.  No one knows what small idea may trigger another idea that leads to something bigger.  The mindset to always be looking for new opportunities should permeate the campus in every facet of college life.    The reason why it is important to build a recycled plastic asphalt road is not so that our students will go out and build a better street; the reason it’s important is because it helps show people that maybe there’s a better way to do things.  Innovation is everywhere and it is the responsibility of all of us in the University community to remember to promote that ideal.  We don’t offer any classes in it and we don’t offer any degrees but the ability to wonder and experiment and invent are among the greatest lessons to be learned.

Each fall, we get 10,000 new students coming to campus.  They’re young, they’re bright and they’re eager to learn.  We have four years to influence how they look at the world and how they are going to make their mark.  After that, they all go off in 10,000 different directions to shape the world in their own way.  Who knows what small idea or thought leads them to greater things.  We will never know exactly how their four years with us have impacted their careers or their lives – or if it’s even impacted them at all.  But it’s important to remember that it is all of our responsibility to be sure that those four years are a positive and responsible experience.  That’s all we can do.  The road starts here – and our road is paved in recycled plastic asphalt.

“We are the University of California, and there is no reason that UC can’t lead the world in this quest, as it has in so many others.”  President Janet Napolitano, University of California.  Statement issued during the announcement of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative of the University of California.

ESW | Billy Park

I sat down with Billy Park, Vice President of Public Relations of Engineers for a Sustainable World. 

Can you give a brief description on ESW and what the organization does?  

The way I like to describe ESW is that we are a prof/ social engineering club.  We work on 12-14 projects every year, such as solar panels and Bottles to Models,  in which we melt down bottles to 3D print stuff. We also do a lot of networking and outreach with local high schools and hold social events every weekend to make more friends. We also go camping every quarter! 

How is your organization involved in the sustainability community? 

The very nature of our club is being sustainable. We do more looking for ways to spread innovative technologies rather than the political aspect. We also do outreach, and we always do it with the message of sustainability. 

How does your club strive to make your events more sustainable?

When we get utensils we come to the SRC, and we always go down to Roger’s garden to get biodegradable containers so that we can compost. We also always do vegetarian food! A big thing for me is that we don’t do flyers when we table, because they’re not sustainable so instead we do QR codes and posters to try and be as zero waste as possible. 

Does ESW  have any specific goals for the 2019-2020 school year?

Specific goals would probably be increase outreach to high schools. We are planning to network with other universities who have ESW chapters, and we have a networking event(RegCon), where we invite other schools including other schools like SDSU who don’t have ESW. We are also working on sponsorship, and increasing contacts with local industries. 

Do you have any advice for how an individual on campus can be mindful of sustainability?

When it comes down to it, you don’t have to use a plastic bottle. Hydroflasks are much cooler anyways. You don’t have to use plastic plates, or plastic cups. It’s so much better to have a reusable plate, you can just wash it! Pick up after yourself, its common decency! If you can, use public transport or bike!

How could someone get involved in ESW?

You can get involved anytime! We have year round recruitments. Follow us on Facebook or Insta, or email us at You don’t have to be an engineer! Personally, I’m a Math/ Computer Science major. We are looking for all sorts of people who are interested in sustainability. 

Is there anything else you would like people to know about ESW? 

Personally, I like to think of ESW as caring about sustainability, but there is a sort of stigma against people who want sustainability, but if you care about engineering or sustainability or making friends, we are all pretty chill, check us out. 

Ellie’s Garden | Clara Pierone

I sat down with Clara Pierone, president of Ellie’s Garden, located in Eleanor Roosevelt College. 

Can you give a brief description on Ellie’s Garden and what the organization does?  

Ellie’s garden is a club that tends to three plots in ERC. We plant foods and flowers and all types of plants, and we also do composting. We get coffee grounds and food scraps from students and events! We also really encourage the community to take what we grow. 

How is your organization involved in the sustainability community? 

For, one we promote growing your own food, and eating food directly from the ground, trying to educate people for healthier and more sustainable eating. We promote composting, and lend compost bins to students. We also are known to do a lot of tree plantings which are good for our planet!

Does Ellie’s Garden have any specific goals for the 2019-2020 school year?

I think we are really interested in getting more students composting. We’d really like to get a solid bin loaning program operating and a more educational program to get as many people do do it as possible. That’s definitely a goal this year. We are hoping to get another fourth plot and turn it into something beautiful, like maybe a butterfly garden! 

Do you have any advice for how an individual on campus can contribute to sustainability?

Definitely being aware of where your food is coming from and reducing packaging and being aware of campus resources, like Ellie’s Garden. Be aware of what can and can’t be composted!

How could someone get involved in Ellie’s Garden?

It’s so easy! Show up and garden wit us anytime. We have gardening sessions Sat 12:30-2:30, and Wednesday 10am-11am between Africa and Asia halls. You can come and go as you please! Not a large commitment to be a member. We also love to take people’s requests for things to plant, especially if it will be eaten. 

Is there anything you’d want people to know? 

There are so many places which promote sustainability who are happy to talk to people! We’d love to talk to you about sustainability.  The resources are there, you just need to take advantage of it. 

How could you start composting at home? 

Get a bin, you can get a bin from us or you can use your own. We just don’t take milk and meat products, but we take eggshells, onion skins, other produce scraps, stems, coffee grounds and tea bags. Empty it when it starts to get full. Compost bins are between Europe Hall and North America hall. I will add that we have been getting a lot of composting bags, but they take a much longer time to degrade than their food. It is important to note that plastic can’t be composted! People still don’t get that sometimes. Although, paper can be composted, and compostable containers, like the ones that come from the Food Co-op can go into the compost! Compost is basically green stuff, brown stuff, water, oxygen, and little bugs! 

Ocean Lover’s Club | Kylie Morgan 

In an effort to promote sustainable organizations on campus, this interview focuses on the Ocean Lover’s Club, represented here by club officer Kylie Morgan. The Ocean Lover’s Club is a student organization which promotes community engagement and clean oceans. 

Can you give a brief description on Ocean Lover’s club and what the organization does?  

“As a club, we work toward keeping the ocean clean, educating the community, and appreciating where we live. We host ocean cleanups and assist larger organizations on campus in order to promote the larger goal of sustainability. A few of the events we hold include bi- weekly ocean cleanups. We also host bigger, fun days where everyone is welcome, so that people can appreciate the ocean.”

What does it mean to appreciate the ocean?

 Appreciating the ocean means spending time there in a positive manner. Go there when you have a bad day! I was there recently and as the wave crested, I thought I had seen a big fish, but we figured out it was actually a leopard shark! That’s another thing, we try and make sure people aren’t scared of the ocean, or scared of sharks. 

How is your organization involved in the sustainability community? 

We are a part of the Inter- Sustainability Council (ISC), and we attend ISC events.  We also collaborate with Students for Conservation to do beach cleanups! Additionally, we attend sustainable events on campus. For example, even though the Ocean Lover’s Club doesn’t focus on food, we sent officers to the Sustainable Food Expo to support sustainability events! 

Does Ocean Lover’s Club have any specific goals for the 2019-2020 school year?

This academic year is about growth as a club. Last year was the first full year for us! The Ocean Lover’s Club is still a small club but this year we are looking to expand! 

Do you have any advice for how an individual on campus can be mindful of our oceans?

Being really mindful of microplastics! A lot of people aren’t really aware about the issue of microplastics, but a lot of beauty products and facial scrubs contain harmful microbeads! Also,  support local brands who are also for the ocean when you can. 

How could someone get involved in Ocean Lover’s Club?

We have club meetings every other weekend, and beach clean ups every other weekend. We also have snorkeling and kayak events every quarter and ANYONE can come out! 

Is there anything else you would want people to know about the Ocean Lover’s Club? We are just a really happy community of friends and positive growth. We want to try and support you in any way we can to support the sustainability community in the way we know how!

Jon Biltucci | UCSD Staff Member | Program Manager, Rooted in Flavor

How did the idea for Rooted in Flavor come about?

Rooted in Flavor was inspired by the national Menus of Change® initiative and similar programs throughout the UC System. Housing, Dining and Hospitality (HDH) has been a member of the Menus of Change collective for more than four years.

Given the positive impact that implementing the principles of Menus of Change had already had on the food we serve, we decided that now was a good time to really dial in on a few key goals to further guide our efforts. We came up with a set of initial goals, with a long-term plan to evaluate and add new goals on an annual basis.

We decided that our initial approach would be to work to reduce the amount of beef that we serve, while increasing seafood, whole grains and wellness items on our menus. Every member of our team had a voice in the process. We collectively make changes to our menus, recipes, supply chains, systems and messaging that will support this direction.

How would you describe your role?

My role has been to act as a project manager and liaison between the different groups working on this program, while ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to have their voice heard and their concerns addressed. As we all have very different priorities and ideas, we identified the need to create forums and subcommittees where everyone’s voice could be heard, which enables us to make collective decisions. My role has been to act as the central voice of the project in its infancy and ensure that, once the group makes decisions, we continue to move forward without losing momentum.

Give us an idea of how much the menu options have changed since last academic year. What changes stand out most to you?

We have many new and exciting options at our restaurants this year. We’re focusing on bringing local and sustainable seafood to more of our stations, and making plant-forward options a focus of every station. We’re paring down some of the beef offerings that we have, including a beefless Monday initiative. To support this, we’re introducing new and exciting options on Mondays, such as shrimp burritos, potato soyrizo tacos and black bean rajas burgers. Our goal is to make Mondays about trying something new and exciting, not about missing the beef.

Additionally, we’ve made changes to our pricing structure and the presentation of several of our Rooted in Flavor dishes. This makes them more accessible, and provides more value to students and the campus community.

I’m most excited about one of our most subtle changes: making artisan, handmade pizza dough at OceanView out of whole-grain flour. It’s small changes like this that will have a huge impact for us.

What has been the impact of this program on staff, so far?

With any large rollout, having the entire team on board is key. In our education and training about this program, we’ve chosen to highlight the “why” — for example, why we should decrease beef or the impacts of whole grains on health. Our team is excited to embrace the program, and have their voices heard through our trainings and discussions.

What was most challenging about developing this program? How did you and your team overcome that challenge?

The most challenging part was knowing where to start and getting everyone to buy into our initial set of goals. We leaned on the student community to find out what they’d be interested in trying and what they’d like to keep the way it is. We conducted more than a dozen tastings, surveys and tabling events during spring quarter to capture this feedback. It’s something we plan to continue.

How did you and your team break the rollout of this program down into small, achievable steps, so the work wouldn’t become overwhelming?

We formed six subcommittees that each worked on different areas: menus, recipes, procurement, systems, training and engagement. It was my role to ensure that each group had the resources it needed to meet its milestones. Each group had a chair, and the chairs would meet on a biweekly basis to collaborate and make sure that each aspect of the program was in harmony with everything else.

What have you learned from your involvement in Rooted in Flavor? What are you still learning?

I’ve learned that there is a huge interest from our student community, especially when it comes to food sustainability. I’m excited to learn more from our students as we continue our efforts.

What emerging trends in sustainable food initiatives inspire you?

There’s so much good stuff out there! Something we’re excited about doing is urban farming here at UC San Diego. We’re opening our second aeroponic tower farm at Canyon Vista this fall. We already have one at 64 Degrees, and we’re excited to grow our own produce a few feet away from where it’s served.

Do you have any favorite books or films about food or food sustainability?

I would highly recommend the Eat-Lancet Commission on food sustainability. It’s a scientific report highlighting the changes we need to make to our diets to accommodate a growing population to avoid critical climate change impacts.

2019 Sustainability Awardees!

Outstanding Student Group: Food Recovery Network (FRN)

The Food Recovery Network (FRN)works hard to bridge the gap between food insecurity and food waste. They have given healthy meals to countless deserving individuals, while also teaching the student body about just how many of their student peers are food insecure. Being sustainable by reducing food waste is important, and FRN has been a crucial piece in fighting for these sustainable means. Their work has helped feed many homeless youths from Urban Street Angels and UC San Diego students who self identify as food insecure. They also tirelessly educate students on the importance of reducing food waste and advertise for the available resources on campus for food insecurity.  Since receiving state funding in the winter of 2018, they built out and piloted the first ever Fresh & Full Food Transportation program. This program hires and trains students to be recovery leads and drivers. They were also able to use funding to rent vehicles, giving them reliable transportation. With close partnerships in The Hub Basic Needs Resource Center and the Center for Student Involvement, they have been able to organize community efforts to reduce food waste and feed students on campus. They have started the food distributions twice a week outside of The Hub, open to any student facing food insecurity, in a dignified, no questions asked manner. They have also expanded to recovering off campus, from a nearby Vons and soon the Hillcrest Medical Center.

Outstanding Alumni: Luke Vickrey

Luke Vickrey contributed a lot as a founding member of the Food Recovery Network (FRN) at UC San Diego, a student organization, which helps solve issues like food waste and food insecurity.  He has been a very active and vital member of the UCSD FRN Chapter despite having graduated three years ago. His enthusiasm and passion for sustainability is infectious. He has done incredible work in the field of food and sustainability.  He was the liaison between FRN and Pedal The Cause that allowed FRN to recover food from that event. To this date, we have not recovered as much food as we did during Pedal The Cause in one single day. Additionally, he was the person in charge of the regional summit for FRN National last April, which brought together several chapters from Southern California to discuss different perspectives and potential events that chapters could host. This was an exciting event because it allowed FRN chapters to meet other people that focused on the same issues.  He also serves as an amazing resource on the history and culture of our chapter, keeping our values alive and inspiring everyone he talks to. He is truly the embodiment of mentorship and ensuring sustainable growth of an organization by staying involved beyond his undergraduate years.

Outstanding Student: Quiana Stodder

Quiana Stodder is a carbon neutrality intern in UC San Diego Facilities Management helping to create a carbon neutral campus by the year 2025. This year, she developed complex calculations to predict energy use based on outdoor air temperature, which will help staff identify real energy waste and address operational issues. As a part of the UC San Diego Green Lab’s program, she performed outreach to researchers regarding proper freezer maintenance. She even designed and collaborated with others in Facilities Management to build a demonstration Freezer Defrost Catch Basin called “The Skoop,” to facilitate the safe defrosting of ultralow temperature freezers. As an active member of the Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) Club, she helps make a difference in the world through community events and sustainable projects. Most recently, she accomplished planning and implementing the “Sustain a Thon” event for ESW. She and her peers educated a diverse group of enthusiastic students on our campus’ sustainability issues, then motivated them to create and present their unique solutions. As an environmental engineering major, she pursues a sustainable life. She thoroughly lives this out and advocates for it, telling her close friends, colleagues, and peers how to practice a more sustainable lifestyle. She attempts to share sustainable technologies and practices worldwide, envisioning a world in which sustainability is a common practice. She embodies the characteristics of this year’s Sustainability Award recipient due to her involvement in sharing and creating projects to reach sustainable goals, in addition to her leadership.

Outstanding Staff: Zack Osborn

As the manager of Roger’s Community Garden, Zack Osborn has augmented the role and capacity of this space, bringing in students from diverse majors and backgrounds and highlighting the importance of sustainability, agriculture, and technology. He has been instrumental in advancing the goals of UC San Diego’s Global Food Initiative (GFI), run through the Bioregional Center for Sustainability Science, Planning and Design. He has been helping one GFI Fellow complete a video focused on sustainable seafood. In this regard, he goes above and beyond to ensure that students succeed in various sustainability endeavors, often volunteering extra hours of his time (for which he is not paid) to lend a hand.  Harnessing the power of STEM majors, he has made the garden space attractive to student entrepreneurialism and technological research. In so doing, he has made the proper connections to bring these advances to the broader campus community, advocating for the real application of sustainability initiatives campus-wide. Furthermore, he has brought these same messages, and those of healthy eating, to elementary school children in the wider San Diego community by teaching at local schools, as well as to low-income residents through the Ocean View Growing Grounds community garden. In Computer Science & Agriculture he connected students to projects that involve both hardware and software with the goal of making more modern tools for agriculture. In particular, he led a vision that smaller growers would be able to just use an app to get started on sustainable agricultural pursuits — because right now, it is difficult for aspiring growers to constantly monitor things like soil moisture and pH.  He is described as a strategic, soulful, unstinting sustainability warrior and sage. He works tenaciously, humbly, and VERY effectively to run Roger’s. He tirelessly supports, scaffolds and uplifts students as they do their own sustainability magic (turning food waste to compost, and to energy through biodigesters; turning coffee grounds into mushrooms; building photovoltaic and aquaponics systems, food forestry, urban agriculture, soil toxicant remediation, etc). He has selflessly given of his time well beyond his “regular” workday to help numerous students find and write grant proposals, and execute projects that foster health, sustainability, and wellbeing for all.

Outstanding Campus Vendor: Pinpoint Cafe

Staffed by a team of kind and capable women, and founded by a talented sister pair from Brazil, Pinpoint Cafe admirably accomplishes high customer service while honoring its commitment to sustainable business and great food!  Many may be surprised to learn that team behind the cafe actually bid for its selective location on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) campus and won because of their creative and genuine vision for sustainable food service. Specifically, their sustainability efforts include: (1) minimal packaging that is either reusable, compostable, or recyclable; (2) delicious vegetarian options that promote the voluntary exploration of diverse and plant based-foods; (3) a mug sharing program, where patrons can borrow a “cup for here”; (4) the sale of reusable utensils; and (5) growing participation in UC San Diego’s composting program at Roger’s Garden.  In addition to the basic things of offering discounts for bringing your own cup, they’re going above and beyond in reducing waste and working with the SIO community to become more sustainable in our practices. For example, they’re selling salads and soups in reusable glass containers that can be returned for a small deposit. Having this vendor on campus inspires all of us to do better in our own lives. Furthermore, their efforts help share sustainable practices with visitors and community members who stop by. They are truly making a positive contribution to SIO, UC San Diego and La Jolla communities, and I would love to see this business recognized. At a critical time during UC San Diego’s waste reduction efforts, having a vendor who understands the University’s zero waste goals and is happily willing to do extra steps to be a model for behavior change deserves recognition.  Everyone I know who has visited them only has positive things to say!

Outstanding Department: UC San Diego Health Facilities Engineering

UC San Diego Health Facilities Engineering has the great responsibility of maintaining and operating 1.4 million square feet of hospitals to meet extensive regulatory requirements and provide high class patient care.  They began an Ongoing Commissioning Program in early 2018. Every 1-2 months, the energy manager identifies a “Top 10 List” of operational improvements to reduce energy waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Staff in this department have become the implementers – the real “do-ers” – of this program.  In the last 12 months, this team has implemented 33 operational improvements that collectively reduced energy use by 1357 one million British Thermal Units (MMBTU), prevented greenhouse gas emissions of 600 metric tons, and reduced energy bills by more than $200,000/year. The team went above and beyond, identifying and addressing additional opportunities for improvement that resulted in a significant portion of these savings.

Outstanding Faculty: Dr. Keith Pezzoli

Dr. Keith Pezzoli is the Director of Urban Studies & Planning, the Bioregional Center for Sustainability Science, Planning & Design, and the MetroLab Network’s Green Infrastructure and Planning Project.  Dr. Pezzoli is described as someone who integrates concerns about, and solutions to, our dual human and ecological crises into every context of his life and work: courses, research, projects, conversations, and writing. He works tirelessly (collaborating, creating, and contributing) in so many different ways, always without fanfare. His work has had an impact at every level: national, statewide, UC-wide (Bending the Curve, working with the Global Food and Carbon Neutrality Initiatives), on campus, in the surrounding communities, across the border/bioregion, and across the urban-rural divide. He cares deeply about people, planet, ecosystems, climate and the health and wellbeing of all.  

Climate Action and Policy Committee | Graduate Student Association

UC San Diego graduate students across disciplines are coming together to strategically pressure the administration to achieve ambitious goals like the full decarbonization of campus operations as quickly as possible. Pioneering this initiative are the members of the Graduate Student Association who recently established the Climate Action and Policy Committee (CAP). One of the founding members, Erica Ferrer, answered some questions I had about this committee on behalf of CAP and its additional eleven members!

From left to right: Pascal Polonik (SIO – Climate Sciences), Peter Sloan (Music), Tricia Light (SIO – Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry), Erica Ferrer (SIO – Marine Biology), Luke Stroth (Anthropology), Kelly Hunter (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Jason O’Neill (Mathematics), Akanksha Harish (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering), Nathan Mariano (Political Science), Krish Bhutwala (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering). Members not pictured here: Veronica Uribe-del-Aguila (Communication, Science Studies), Viona Deconinck (Visual Arts)

Why is sustainability important to your committee?

We are a group of graduate students from across disciplines, with a variety of interests surrounding sustainability and the natural world. While we each have our own specific reasons for participating in CAP, we are united by our shared concern for living creatures and human well-being now and in the future.

Where did the idea for a committee like this originate? Can you speak to the formation of this committee? 

We noticed a need for a space and institutional umbrella under which graduate students could plug into sustainability efforts here at UC San Diego. Like many other campus organizations and student groups working to promote social justice and positive change, this committee was born from the “fierce urgency of now.” We must act to reduce the impacts of climate change and stave off environmental degradation in every way we know how!

As graduate students, we are in a unique position to contribute climate solutions and adaptations in our daily lives, both on campus and beyond. As founding member of CAP, Peter Sloan, explains in his Triton op-ed, we are turning our climate grief into hope and action.

What are the primary goals of the Climate Action and Policy committee and what is the role of this committee within the Graduate Student Association? 

The role of CAP within the GSA is two-fold: CAP seeks to communicate the sentiments of UCSD graduate students on climate action and sustainability, especially those that reflect an urgent need for cultural and policy changes at all institutional levels of UCSD, while foregrounding voices of frontline and marginalized communities.

We exist under the auspices of GSA to foster oversight of our work and provide a clear channel for recruiting graduate student members and staying connected to the larger student body. Additionally, if anyone has disagreements about the actions or opinions espoused by our committee, they are free to express them during the public comment periods held at the beginning of all GSA Council meetings.

How do you hope to impact the GSA and UCSD as a whole, particularly in regards to graduate students like yourselves?

We hope to foster a sense of empowerment and hope amongst graduate students who care about the environment and want to contribute to a more sustainable future. We also want to act as a liaison between graduate students and sustainability services available to them here at UCSD. We understand that graduate students generally do not have a lot of spare time and benefit from groups like ours that can distill information and act as an“information desk” for sustainability news and services that pertain to them.

Graduate students interested in joining the GSA Climate Action and Policy (CAP) committee can email for more information.

Karalani Cross | UCSD Staff Member | Founder of Mist & Sea

How did you become interested in sustainability?       

My interest in sustainability is rooted in my early life experiences growing up in San Diego and spending much of my free time outdoors hiking and enjoying the ocean. I grew up going to the La Jolla Cove tide pools with my dad many summers. Spending time in nature instilled a deep appreciation and curiosity about nature. After learning about human environmental impacts in later years, I felt inspired to make some significant life changes as a young adult, such as eating plant-based for the past 9 years. Even seemingly simpler changes, such as using cloth towels instead of paper towels at home and buying used clothes and other items are significant ways I try to reduce my environmental footprint. Although I am certainly not zero waste, I admire people who make these efforts and strive to cause the least amount of waste that I can. I strongly feel that every drop in the bucket to reduce waste counts. In addition, I am fascinated with learning about the natural world from a scientific perspective, and this has instilled more amazement and gratitude for our earth’s natural resources.   Why was it important to you for your business to be as sustainable as possible?        I feel compelled to reflect on how my day to day actions and resource use impact the environment, so it naturally followed to have my startup business reflect this type of ethic as well. Personally, I wouldn’t be in good conscience having a lucrative business that took no care in its environmental impact. I actually held off on pursuing this business for over a year after I realized how much packaging materials I would need to ship my products. For instance, I wasn’t comfortable buying new plastics, such as bubble wrap, to ensure the products didn’t break. However, over the past few months I began to brainstorm ways to get around contributing to more waste. I started reaching out to various businesses in the community asking them if they could help me with my goal of making less packaging waste by giving me their used packaging materials. I contacted less than 10 businesses/organizations, and the UCSD Sustainability Resource Center and Textbooks department were the two organizations that said they would be able to donate their used packaging items to me. I was absolutely thrilled, and still feel very grateful that UCSD has centers and people with this type of ethic.        Additionally, I wanted to create an artistic product that people would feel good supporting. When I buy a product, being aware of where it comes from and how it’s made is really important to me. I’m interested if it was produced using sustainable or recycled materials, and I am always thrilled to find reused products because this means less environmental resources are being used and less waste created. At Mist & Sea, many of my air plant designs use at least one upcycled design material. These are design items I’ve found at used art supply stores or thrift stores that are in beautiful condition. Any packaging materials are made of at least 95% recycled materials or were previously used. One of my future goals is to use all upcycled design materials!

  Overall, the theme behind Mist & Sea is appreciating the beauty of our natural world through designs that incorporate nature, such as live air plants, rocks, wood, sand, and stone. Creating artistic designs that incorporate live plants and natural elements while having a minimal footprint is fundamental to how I am operating my business. I hope very soon to find an organization working towards conservation of the environment to donate a percentage of profit to.   Where did the idea for your business originate?        My passion to create art, love for nature, and desire to bring peace to my life and others is what lead me to create Mist & Sea. Many of us live and work in places that are far away from nature, including myself. Although beaches or mountains may be close distance-wise, many of us don’t physically go there often because we are busy with work other other life responsibilities. If you are someone who is able to enjoy nature frequently, then that is wonderful, but I think many people aren’t able to do this. For the most part, my designs place items in their natural form together in a way that you may bring into your home or office. I have had an artistic passion since I was a child, so it’s very enjoyable for me to create these designs that revolve around outdoor materials. Nature is the real artist, I’m just an intermediary.        My hope is that bringing these naturalistic elements into urban settings will be a joyful addition to others lives. There is certainly research that suggests that there are health benefits to having plants close by. Likely due to the influence of my background in psychology, I have been interested in ways to increase sense of well-being and pleasure in life, so I very much hope that these creations create a more peaceful and joyful atmosphere wherever they go.   Where can people support your eco-friendly business and buy your air plant designs?    People can support my eco-friendly business by visiting my online shop at
I am currently working on creating more designs for my shop since it is very new!  Feel free to message me through my shop page if there are any custom designs you might be interested in that you don’t see (e.g., including moss, creating a color themed design, or a design that a loved one would like!). I greatly appreciate your support and interest in Mist & Sea.   (Posted 2/12/19)

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

Why is sustainability meaningful to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted 11/15/2018)

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted 10/11/18)


Ronnie Das | Environmental Systems/ Environmental Policy, Economics Minor | Class of 2009

Could you elaborate on how you are achieving an integration of art and science to inform the community on environmental topics while exploring the individual voice of the people and organizations that are making a difference around the world through your work and what do you enjoy most about your job?

Undergraduate degrees are split into two broad categories, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Sciences, which is really unfortunate because the two actually overlap quite a bit. With a scientific backbone in Environmental Systems and the ability to creatively present information through Environmental Policy, UC San Diego provided me the skill set necessary to solve real-world issues. The path towards sustainability requires presenting information in an approachable and easy to understand way. Environmental solutions require everyone to participate from coal miners to politicians and from middle America to the Middle East, but those working on the cutting edge of scientific discovery and those who are making policy decisions are oftentimes miles apart with completely different motivations. Bridging the gap by giving an individual voice to the people and organizations making a difference around the world helps provide the necessary toolkit for voters, politicians, and governments to make more informed decisions. The art of science is teaching important information without overwhelming your audience about learning the solutions. The part of my job I enjoy most is teaching environmental topics while learning how to share that information in an effective way that is approachable for my audience. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

How did you first become interested in sustainability and why do you think it is important?

Everyone in the sustainability field has a moment where they are shaken into consciousness and make the switch from simple consumer to active participants in the global community around them. I became aware of sustainability and enthusiastic to make a difference after Hurricane Katrina, the magnitude of the hurricane was magnified by the warmer temperatures of the ocean due to climate change while the issues that happened in New Orleans were compounded by the degrading infrastructure that stemmed from economic inequality as well as social injustice. So I changed my major from Biology (Pre-Med) to Environmental Systems with a new understanding that in the midst of chaos, sustainability is the saving grace for an often overwhelming world. It is the single greatest opportunity to combine scientific innovation and cross-cultural communication with natural systems and biomimicry to alleviate social inequality and environmental issues. “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

What is the most valuable thing you learned while pursuing your degree in Environmental Systems/Environmental Policy at UC San Diego?

The most valuable thing I learned while pursuing my degree in Environmental Systems/Environmental Policy was how to learn. Most physical sciences are reactive with a narrow focus on molecular interaction, physiological mechanism, or physical structure. Environmental Systems/Environmental Policy proactively opens up an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the delicate interaction of science, culture, and economics to find holistic, reasonable, and ethical solutions. Pursuing a degree in Environmental Systems/Environmental Policy innately develops a unique learning style of approaching a wide range of subject matters from multiple perspectives to open up a world of opportunities. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

(Posted 9/25/18)


Thanh Tran | B.S. Environmental Systems (Evolution, Behavior, & Ecology), Business Minor | Class of 2015

Why is sustainability important to you? 

Sustainability is important to me because I believe everyone should be responsible for their own actions; this includes the environmental impact one has on the planet. Everyone has contributed to Climate Change in one form or another and has been, or will be, affected by it. Sustainability allows us to be accountable for our actions and help mitigate the effects of Climate Change so that we can create a better planet for future generations.

Could you talk about your role with the Student Sustainability Collective and Inter-Sustainability Council? What are some things you learned from these experiences? 

During my time as the Director of Community & Outreach with the Student Sustainability Collection (SSC), I spent a great deal of my time working with other organizations, on and off campus, on events and campaigns throughout the campus. One of my greatest accomplishments in this position was establishing the Inter-Sustainability Council. My goal for the Council was to have a centralized community where organizations could collaborate and support one another. What I learned from these experiences is that a little help can go a long way. The support I received from the SSC and Inter-Sustainability Council allowed me to continuously work towards my professional goals and assist others in theirs.

Could you talk about your current position as the Sustainability Coordinator at CR&R? What do you enjoy about having a career in sustainability?

I currently work in the Solid Waste and Recycling Industry as the Sustainability Specialist for CR&R Environmental Services. The State implements laws, such as Assembly Bill 341 (Mandatory Commercial Recycling) and Assembly Bill 1826 (Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling), that require businesses that generate a certain amount of waste to have recycling programs. My role is to work with cities and sanitary districts to promote recycling and organics to business owners and residents. What I enjoy most about having a career in Sustainability is being surrounded by colleagues with a similar passion and mindset. Even though we work for a corporate entity, we always have the environment’s best interest in mind.

(Posted 8/30/18)


Gayle Ta | Management Science Major | Class of 2001 | Director, Student Financial Solutions at UC San Diego

How did you become interested in sustainability?

I previously worked at a supply chain organization on campus and during that time sustainability was a relatively new concept in that department.  No one in the organization had true ownership or oversight in that area so I volunteered to take it on as part of my regular job responsibilities.  Learning more about what sustainability is, I reflected on my own behaviors and was shock how wasteful I was from how much food I threw out to how much energy I consumed.  I ended up being one of the early adopters of the Nissan LEAF electric car when it came out!  I’m proud to say I have been driving an electric car since 2011. 

What sustainability organizations were you involved with at UC San Diego? 

I am one of the founding members of the Staff Sustainability Network.  We came together because there weren’t any sustainability resources for staff on campus and we felt that staff wanted to be more sustainable but didn’t know how.  There were several student groups but nothing that was targeted for staff. The association was created to provide a network of resources and empower staff to make an impactful change on campus.  The idea came about during a town hall meeting related to sustainability when the Chancellor was developing his strategic plan.  During the first year of the association, I served on the executive board as the treasurer.

Could you talk about your projects at Procurement? What were some of the most valuable things you gained/learned from those experiences? 

Departments can purchase supplies through an e-commerce site called UC San Diego Marketplace.  One of my earlier projects was to create different sustainability attributes such as recycled content, energy star, and a green flag to help users identify more environmentally friendly products.  What I learned from that project is that most staff want to do the right thing but you have to make it easier for them to buy the right products. 

(Posted 8/17/18)

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Sarah Heim | Staff Sustainability Network 

How did you first become interested in sustainability and saving our oceans? What are the current problems being faced by the oceans and what’s being done to solve them? 

I think the root of sustainability started at home as kid. I grew up on a small farm in Minnesota. We recycled and grew a lot of our own produce and meat. So I like having a connection with my food, which I now buy most of my produce and some products from local farmers market, and enjoy having a relationship with the farmers there. And I try to give thought to how I get my food: how and where was it grown, who grew it (small farm vs corporation), water usage, how far it traveled.   I studied computer science and geography at MN State University, Mankato. And while studying abroad in Australia, I fell deeply in love with the ocean. I wanted to have a job/career with GIS (Geographic Information Systems), but loved the idea of using it on a topic I’m passionate about, like conservation and science.   There numerous issues with the ocean: pollution (runoff, plastics, oil drilling), ocean acidification, unsustainable fishing, et cetera. Various laws can be helpful, but I think it really helps when people are able to practice sustainable living in their everything lives. For example, single-use plastic is a serious problem. And while they passed laws to ban plastic bags, companies just made them thicker. So its incredibly helpful when people take the initiative to bring their own bags, utensils, plates, cups, as well as refusing plastic straws.

Could you talk about your involvement with SSN and the SIO for Sustainability group? What are some things being done in these groups (events, cleanups, etc) and how can others get involved? 

I became co-board of the Staff Sustainability Network (SSN) fairly recently. I’d been coming to SSN meetings for years (they have monthly meetings with a range of topics and presenters), and wanted to help bring up topics I’m interested in. I was excited to bring in Klean Kanteen cups for our fundraising efforts. I have an extensive collection of stainless steel bottles (because I’m very athletically active), for my water, tea, and coffee, but I love using a for when I go camping or order a drink from somewhere and save using a single-use cup.   SIO for Sustainability (staff, students, and faculty) has been a little more spaced out, but we’re hoping to make it more regular and organize more events like beach cleanups and so on. There were some bike enthusiasts in the group so I was able to organize some electric bikes for people to try for Bike to Work Month.   Both groups have Facebook pages which they post their events. SIO for Sustainability has a new webpage a lot of information!:

Could you share some sustainable lifestyle tips that you use? What are some small changes you would encourage other people to make in order to be more sustainable?  

I mostly commute now by electric bicycle, and years of taking public transportation, which I love both for so many reason. I even managed to paddleboard to work a couple days when I lived in La Jolla. What I like most about e-biking to work is that I don’t have to break a sweat if I don’t want to, and its really affordable in the long run (compared to car expenses, maintenance, insurance, gas, etc). I really hope people give more thought to their commutes; the time they sit in traffic, the frustration it can cause, the lack of daily exercise. Living closer to your work (or telecommuting) can reduce your carbon footprint, but also greatly improve your quality of life. I’m hoping to be more involved with having more incentives and partnerships for UCSD staff for alternate modes of transportation.   I’m a re-use/upcycle junkie. I regularly pull things from the alleys and garbage bins to save them, as well as things around my home (clean up and/or repurpose). I.e. Reusing old hairbands to tie cords. I wish people could give a quick thought before they throw things out: Can I reuse this for something else? Can it be donated? Can it be fixed? Can it be recycled?   I continue to make a lot of personal sustainability goals. I started composting this last year, and have made so many worms happy. I’m hoping to get solar panels and expand my edible potted garden soon.   I hope people become more conscious of their impact on Mother Nature. She is very powerful, but she is getting exhausted by being taken for granted. But we rely heavily on her, more than most know or give her credit.

(Posted 7/12/18)

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Nancy Moya | Sustainable Business Practices & Screenwriting | 2018

What got you interested in sustainability and drove you to pursue a career in the field?

Allow me to begin by outlining my motives for entering the sustainability field. My passion in sustainability was sparked in 2010, while living in Germany. There, I had the opportunity to fully understand environmental issues and concerns, along with the influence of green businesses in creating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives for the benefit of its stakeholders – which did not resort to greenwashing.

After college, I dove right into a career as a reporter for various local newspapers and magazines, reporting and writing news and feature stories in English and Spanish related to immigration and business topics in the borderlands. Five years ago, I expanded my freelance experience in Europe by writing feature stories in Spanish for El Ibérico, the only Spanish newspaper located in London. I also acquired international experience at Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, where I started writing articles about sustainability issues and their impact on German companies in Latin America.

Could you talk about your current work in sustainability? 

I am currently an environmental freelance journalist for a national business magazine in Mexico, Mundo Ejecutivo. My focus is squarely on business/environmental angles (e.g., Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR], sustainable development and climate change) involving multinational and small-and-medium-size businesses located mostly in Mexico City. I also attended the Paris Agreement signing ceremony in New York, where I wrote a special report focusing on the importance of national parks – something former Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned as part of his speech during the event.

My experience in sustainability abroad expanded when I completed part of my master thesis in Bonn, Germany, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). There, I was able to carry out a quantitative and qualitative study of UNFCC’s publications in international media outlets. I also gained experience in Mexico City, where I started my consulting work as a co-editor of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reports for PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) clients. These kinds of sustainability reporting assist organizations to measure, understand and communicate their economic, environmental, social and governance performances, and then set goals and manage change more effectively.

I recently moved to San Diego, where I have had the opportunity to be an external consultant for the National City Chamber of Commerce (NCCC). For five months, I undertook a sustainability report, which included a waste management and energy audit that will assist the NCCC to achieve its LEED certification for v4 for O+M (Building Operations and Maintenance). As part of this study, I also conducted a transportation survey, which is arguably the most important credit in the LEED for Existing Building (LEED-EB) Rating System.

Additional information:  

In addition to my career in journalism and work as a sustainability consultant, I also bring three years of experience dealing with small businesses as a public relations and business development Manager. I have also written press releases which turn technical documents into interesting news stories on construction and engineering projects. I consider myself to be hard- working and a self-starter, who quickly understands exactly what a project requires and how to complete it quickly and effectively.

(Posted 7/12/18)

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Dana Gibson |AS AVP Environmental Justice Affairs and Inter-Sustainability Council Finance Chair | Class of 2021 | Structural Engineering major, Real Estate and Development minor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What other sustainability organizations/ projects are you involved with? 

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

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

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

(Posted 6/6/18)

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Kristi Sobol | Class of 2015 | B.S. Environmental Engineering 

What made you want to pursue an Environmental Engineering degree?

Growing up in Southern California, I took up surfing at a very young age and have always spent as much time as possible in the ocean. I began to notice the effects litter, pollution, overdevelopment, offshore drilling, etc. has on the ocean and beach communities. I knew I wanted to pursue a career that could further prevent the deterioration of our environment and preserve it for future generations – so they too can enjoy outdoor activities like surfing. I chose to pursue a degree in Environmental Engineering because it is a vast and versatile field, where the ultimate goal is to improve and protect the environment, as well as create a better quality of life for human beings. Environmental Engineering includes, but is not limited to, waste management, water treatment, air pollution mitigation, alternative energy development, sustainable building, public health improvements, etc. Studying Environmental Engineering at UCSD was one of the most rewarding experiences!  

What area of sustainability are you most interested in and why? 

The area of sustainability I am most interested in is green building and the sustainable development of communities. This interest sparked while I was an intern for the Southern California Gas Company, working out of the Energy Resource Center: a model energy-efficient building, using sustainable technologies to minimize its impact on the environment and natural resources. I had an eye-opening experience of how much waste buildings generate – everything from building materials, electricity, water usage, trash generated by the occupants, transportation to buildings, etc. As human beings, we need shelter; there will always be buildings and community development. I’m passionate about working towards solutions to make our buildings and communities more sustainable, smarter, and providing the most comfort for people. My interest in green building eventually led me to become a LEED GA (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Associate).  

What sustainability organizations were you involved with while at UC San Diego?

While I was at UCSD, I was part of the Student Sustainability Collective (SSC), where my role was the Director of Finance and the Green Initiative Fund. I was responsible for approving and tracking funds for all SSC events and campus sustainability initiatives. I also managed the Green Initiative Fund, which is money given to student projects that promote sustainability on campus. Some of the projects I worked on during my time with the SSC include Solar Chill, expansion of the community gardens, and installation of hydro stations around campus.  

Could you talk about your current and previous sustainability-related work experiences and what were some of the most valuable things you gained/learned from those experiences? 

I mentioned some of my previous sustainability-related work experiences above. Previously, I was also an intern for San Diego Gas & Electric and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, implementing company-wide sustainable initiatives, practices, and technologies. I currently work in the Public Works Department for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, working on installation development and construction; ensuring it protects natural resources, minimizes facility footprints, and enhances the quality of life for the military community.   From all these experiences, I have really learned the importance of teamwork and creating positive relationships. Many of my accomplishments are due to a team supporting me – whether it was my family, engineering senior design team, SSC directors, fellow interns, my coworkers, etc. A lot more is accomplished when people work together and help each other. In terms of sustainability, it is going to take a group effort to mitigate the damage to the environment and make efforts together to preserve it for the future. (Posted 5/24/18)


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

Why is sustainability important to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students working on outreach project

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

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

PEACE group on meatout day

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

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

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

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

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


Carly Bonnell | Critical Gender Studies & Sociology | Class of 2004 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

What does sustainability mean to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kim Kane | Library Sustainability Committee 

How did you first become interested in sustainability?

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

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

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

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

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

What does your group do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you belong to any other sustainability groups on campus?

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

Books I am currently reading:

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

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

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

(Posted 3/09/18)

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Chase Cockerill | BA in Political Science, Business Minor | Class of 2016

What got you interested in sustainability?

I love being outdoors! I was fortunate enough to grow up surfing, camping, fishing, and hiking frequently so it was at a young age that I appreciated the world’s natural beauty and understood the importance of acting in a sustainable manner so that future generations could enjoy the same activities that I do.

My interest in the sustainability field really ramped up when I was in high school and was asked to lead our school’s recycling club. It was through this club that I learned how a small group of people could implement strategies that significantly enhanced how sustainable a relatively large institution is. Our club organized recycling challenges and raised enough money from turning bottles/cans into recycling centers that we were able to purchase all new recycling bins for the campus that directly increased the percentage of the student population who recycled.

After graduation you took a job at Measurabl, could you talk about what you do at here? 

I work in Business Development at Measurabl so I’m directly responsible for expanding the global market share of our SaaS (software as a service) platform. Measurabl is precision software that allows any organization to collect, act and report on their sustainability data. I have the pleasure of speaking with and educating many individuals at Fortune 500 companies, professional sports organizations, and institutional real estate owners/operators on how they can best accomplish their sustainability goals and initiatives. 

Do you have any particular interests regarding sustainability? 

At this point in my career, I have a really broad interest in sustainability, but am working most closely with real estate assets and the utility cost/consumption data associated with their use. My favorite part of my job is that I have the opportunity to work with so many different organizations and each one is looking to enhance their sustainability in a slightly different way. I find a lot of joy in being able to offer creative, technological solutions that meet an organization’s unique needs.

(Posted 3/12/18)


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.

(Posted 2/13/18)


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.

(Posted 2/5/18)


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. 

(Posted 1/29/18) 

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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!

(Posted 1/24/18)

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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).

(Posted 1/22/18)

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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.

(Posted 1/17/18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted 1/14/18)

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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!

(Posted 1/10/18)

Cameron Ravanbach ‘15

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: 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.

Katie Oberman ‘20

Katie Oberman |Ellie’s Garden and Grow at UC San Diego | Class of 2020 | sociology major, double minor in math and education studies

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, B.S. Environmental Engineering ‘19

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 '12

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

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.
  • 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

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 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

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 2015-162016 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

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

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

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

You do a lot of sustainability-related work on campus: bike planningStudent Sustainability CollectiveGraffiti Art Park. What first got you interested in these topics?

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.