New sustainability plan encourages students to do their part

Photo taken outside of Laurel Hall, one of the buildings heading towards more sustainability. (Amar Batra/ The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut announced a new plan this week to create specific environmentally sustainable goals for the university to meet.

The “2020 Vision For Campus Sustainability & Climate Leadership Plan” is an interdisciplinary effort to establish UConn as a leader in environmental sustainability.

While crafting the plan, Richard Miller, director of the Office of Environmental Policy, and his colleagues contacted several student groups to see what they considered the most important sustainable issues through a survey. The responses were then used to help create the plan.

The goals that were ranked higher are placed at the beginning of the plan, while the goals that were ranked lower are at the end.

“Energy and buildings” is listed as the first goal. Within energy, the main goals are to reduce UConn’s carbon footprint through renewable and clean energy and design, construct and renovate cleaner buildings.

Miller said he thought the energy goal might prove the most challenging, because incorporating renewable energy can be expensive up-front.

“Energy goals are very important because 80 percent of our emissions come from powering our buildings with heating, cooling and electricity,” Miller said. “Renewable energy may be a little more expensive but it has other benefits, like achieving the goals in this plan and creating a greener campus.

As more energy becomes available and cost competitive, renewable energy is more accessible.”

Chadwick Rittenhouse, an assistant research professor of natural resources and the environment, said the plan uses forward-thinking, clear goals. Of the eight goals listed, he thought “outreach and engagement” would be the most challenging for the university, because the budget line is currently non-existent.

Rittenhouse applauded the leadership of the Office of Environmental Policy and the use of clear goals and metrics within the plan. He did, however, suggest a few areas where improvements could be made.

“Under transportation, most of the metrics involve the use of UConn’s fleets. The use of bikes is not included as an alternative,” Rittenhouse said. “There aren’t any dedicated bike lanes on Route 195, some parts of South Eagleville and Discovery Drive, as well as smaller roads within campus. There is low hanging fruit where biking needs could be met to reduce carbon and make connections all around campus.”

Miller also reminded students that the plan is not an abstract one. Rather, many of the goals are a part of students’ everyday lives, he said.

“There are things individuals deal with every day, mostly the choices they make and their behaviors,” Miller said. “Nothing is more obvious than recycling and waste diversion goals. We have attempted to make recycling as convenient and easy as possible. The question becomes: How do we ensure that people are modifying their behaviors?”

The plan includes a goal to increase the waste diversion rate from 47 percent – the 2015 baseline – to 60 percent, and to minimize waste to achieve a 33 percent reduction in total waste generated per person,

per year. Compared to the 2005 baseline, that means reducing from 360 pounds to 240 pounds per person, per year, a significant reduction, Miller said.

“I am optimistic,” Miller said. “I like to think positively that we will get there, and we will adjust as needed to meet those goals.”


Claire Galvin is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.