UC San Diego graduate students across disciplines are coming together to strategically pressure the administration to achieve ambitious goals like the full decarbonization of campus operations as quickly as possible. Pioneering this initiative are the members of the Graduate Student Association who recently established the Climate Action and Policy Committee (CAP). One of the founding members, Erica Ferrer, answered some questions I had about this committee on behalf of CAP and its additional eleven members!
Why is sustainability important to your committee?
We are a group of graduate students from across disciplines, with a variety of interests surrounding sustainability and the natural world. While we each have our own specific reasons for participating in CAP, we are united by our shared concern for living creatures and human well-being now and in the future.
Where did the idea for a committee like this originate? Can you speak to the formation of this committee?
We noticed a need for a space and institutional umbrella under which graduate students could plug into sustainability efforts here at UC San Diego. Like many other campus organizations and student groups working to promote social justice and positive change, this committee was born from the “fierce urgency of now.” We must act to reduce the impacts of climate change and stave off environmental degradation in every way we know how!
As graduate students, we are in a unique position to contribute climate solutions and adaptations in our daily lives, both on campus and beyond. As founding member of CAP, Peter Sloan, explains in his Triton op-ed, we are turning our climate grief into hope and action.
What are the primary goals of the Climate Action and Policy committee and what is the role of this committee within the Graduate Student Association?
The role of CAP within the GSA is two-fold: CAP seeks to communicate the sentiments of UCSD graduate students on climate action and sustainability, especially those that reflect an urgent need for cultural and policy changes at all institutional levels of UCSD, while foregrounding voices of frontline and marginalized communities.
We exist under the auspices of GSA to foster oversight of our work and provide a clear channel for recruiting graduate student members and staying connected to the larger student body. Additionally, if anyone has disagreements about the actions or opinions espoused by our committee, they are free to express them during the public comment periods held at the beginning of all GSA Council meetings.
How do you hope to impact the GSA and UCSD as a whole, particularly in regards to graduate students like yourselves?
We hope to foster a sense of empowerment and hope amongst graduate students who care about the environment and want to contribute to a more sustainable future. We also want to act as a liaison between graduate students and sustainability services available to them here at UCSD. We understand that graduate students generally do not have a lot of spare time and benefit from groups like ours that can distill information and act as an“information desk” for sustainability news and services that pertain to them.
Graduate students interested in joining the GSA Climate Action and Policy (CAP) committee can email email@example.com for more information.
You may have seen these black and white #UNLITTER stickers popping up across campus and on social media recently – they just arrived from the East Coast! What began with 100 of these stickers being distributed across the University of Florida campus with the intention of promoting environmental consciousness and advocating for action, has become a social movement inspiring people to “unlitter” the planet and their lives. Be sure to check out the @unlitter instagram account, share how you #unlitter, and visit http://www.unlitter.org to get a sticker!
The objectives of this movement are pretty simple –
inspire people to be aware of their actions
influence businesses and events to reduce the amount of waste they produce
Karalani Cross | UCSD Staff Member | Founder of Sea & Mist
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 https://www.etsy.com/shop/MistandSea. 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.
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 aClimate 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 thePure 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 newNorth City Pure Water Facility. The first phase of this project will break ground in 2019.
Finally, our office has been working directly withUC San Diego’s Sustainabilityteam 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 respectiveZero 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.
(From left to right: Christiana Schlutius, Luke Lindgren, Erica Ferrer, and Belinda Ramirez)
The University of California President’s Global Food Initiative (GFI) Student Fellowship Program funds student-generated research, related projects, or internships that focus on food issues. All 10 UC campuses, plus the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, participate in this program. The UC San Diego Bioregional Center is proud to announce the 2018-19 GFI Student Fellows and Student Ambassador: Christiana Schlutius, Luke Lindgren, Erica Ferrer, and Belinda Ramirez. See below to read more about the Fellows’ projects, such as conducting cooking demos to encourage healthy eating, developing data-collecting prototypes to help grow food in greenhouses more sustainably, and using visual media to bring to light the importance of small-scale fisheries for global food security.
As a GFI Fellow, Christiana strives to improve food security among UC San Diego students. One way of doing this is to connect healthy, fresh produce from Roger’s Community Garden (the largest community garden on campus) to the Triton Food Pantry. To facilitate this process, Christiana will conduct weekly cooking demos at The Hub on Thursdays from 12:30-1:30pm, featuring the same fresh produce served at the pantry. Check out the first cooking demo from this year, “Cooking on a Student Budget.” The goal of these demos is to help educate students on how to use the food they receive and to build meal preparation skills.
Luke’s GFI project centers around the creation of a smart, aquaponic greenhouse that utilizes off-the-shelf technologies. While this test greenhouse will be relatively small, it is hoped that any lessons learned from this experience can be used to help the University of California campuses grow food in a more sustainable manner. Unfortunately, green and smart technologies have a high cost of entry and knowledge, so Luke has joined forces with a group of coders and gardeners to start the group Computer Science for Agriculture with the goal of training others to set up production sensor and control nodes. These nodes, or “boxes,” can do anything from monitor the temperature and pH of soil and water to gather atmospheric data like gas concentrations. While still in the prototype phase, Luke and his team aim to get several of these “boxes” up and running so that they can install them in the greenhouses at Roger’s Community Garden on campus.
Erica is a second-year Ph.D. student at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography in Dr. Octavio Aburto’s lab. As part of the Aburto lab, she is interested in questions related to sustainability across marine systems, focusing her graduate research on small-scale fisheries ecology in Latin America. Did you know that anywhere from 30-50% of the world’s seafood is supplied by small-scale fisheries? The catch from small-scale fisheries and industrial fisheries alike comprise an important component of global food security, while contributing to the economic vitality of communities across every continent. But how sustainable are these food systems with respect to their environment? With collaboration and guidance from Zack Osborn, Student and Community Engagement Specialist for the Bioregional Center for Sustainability Science, Planning, and Design, Erica is working to produce a video that outlines fisheries research being conducted at the University of California and beyond. She hopes that this video will demonstrate successful ways to sustainably fish from the ocean without resorting to destructive and unhealthy practices.
Belinda’s efforts as this year’s UC San Diego GFI Student Ambassador will focus on strengthening the connections between UC GFI Student Ambassadors across the UC system by collaborating and maintaining consistent communication. As a former GFI Fellow, she believes that this will have the effect of helping the UC San Diego GFI Fellows understand their role in the larger UC Global Food Initiative. Using her experience with event programming and social organizing, Belinda hopes to connect UC San Diego students with sustainability and food organizations, initiatives, and events on campus, including the many gardens on campus. This can help to create a stronger push toward bringing sustainability, food, and agricultural issues to the foreground at UC San Diego. Belinda is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in sociocultural anthropology. Her dissertation research—which explores the intersections of race, politics, place, and values within the urban agriculture movement in San Diego and Tijuana—builds off of her work as a GFI Fellow and Student Ambassador.
Jared Senese | Bachelor’s Degree, Electrical and Electronics Engineering| Class of 2017
Why is sustainability meaningful to you, and how did you first become interested in renewable energy?
Sustainability is a way to beat the system. No one wants to go green unless there’s a profit. That’s what sustainability does. I’ve always had an interest in renewable energy, I had this naive image of it being the future, similar to flying cars. The more I learned about it, the more I was able to realistically picture renewable methods being used in today’s world. I will continue to consciously use, and actually re-use reusable bags, along with support companies that want to make a cleaner planet.
Could you talk about your experience working at the bike shop on campus and why alternative transportation methods are important to reducing emissions?
I’ve grown up mountain biking. I’ve also grown up with the mindset of saving money and spend modestly, which is why I drive a 2000 PT Cruiser that costs $2000 and barely passes smog. Biking, along with public transportation is by far the way to go in order to not only reduce emissions, but also traffic and basically just make life less stressful. Unfortunately, San Diego is awful when it comes to planning public transit and they simply don’t care. Their solution is to simply make more houses so there’s even more traffic, so people’s lives are even more stressful. So how does a San Diegan fight this? With bikes! I ride wherever I can. I’ve done grocery trips on my bike and encourage many others to do the same as well. It’s my way of giving those politicians a middle finger.
What is the most valuable thing you learned while pursuing your degree at UC San Diego?
I learned that UCSD is filled with competitive students and you can get caught up competing against them and hating life. You can reach deep, dark places of misery and never see a light at the end of the tunnel. I envisioned working as an engineer would be the same as pursuing my Engineering degree in college, except with an angry boss that would always get upset with you. Fortunately, I am so thankful that this isn’t true. Engineering is booming right now. My current team with Keysight Technologies is always encouraging and supporting me. I couldn’t ask for a better company dynamic. All the hard work and grinding I did in college has paid off, and I encourage all engineers at UCSD that it is worth it. I had a college GPA of 2.7 and had to retake two classes, so it’s alright if you’re not the stellar student with the highest GPA (though I will say it is nice to have a high GPA).
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.”
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.
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.