UCSD Sustainability Ambassadors

I was given the chance to talk to Tyler Valdes.

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.

Engineers for a Sustainable World

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 esw.ucsd@gmail.com. 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

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

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.