Beyond the classroom: students to present sustainability projects to UConn officials


The students in ARE 3434, also called environmental and resource policy, will present sustainability projects to the UConn Office of Environmental Policy and the public on Thurs., Nov. 19 in Wilbur Cross. (Courtesy/Nataliya Plesha)

An environmental and resource policy class will be presenting projects on sustainability to the University of Connecticut Office of Environmental Policy in an effort to further sustainability on campus in compliance with the university’s mission to be more environmentally friendly.

The environmental and resource policy class, comprised of around 40 students, is a 3000 level class in the agriculture and resource economics department. 

The presentation will take place on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the North Reading Room in the Wilbur Cross Building.

Class member Kristi Gagnon, a seventh semester environmental science and natural resources with a concentration in resource economics major, worked on a project examining grey recycling water — the gently used wash water that can be treated and stored for non-potable applications such as toilet flushing.

“This project for me made me really think about what it truly takes to be sustainable. In this case with grey water recycling, water is utilized to the maximum extent before it gets discharged,” Gagnon said. 

Another member, Vanessa Wolfe, a fifth semester resource economics with a concentration in marketing and business management major, studied vertical farming, a method of farming that uses vertical spaces, such as skyscrapers, to grow food more sustainably in developed or urban areas.

She hopes her project will help UConn to make pesticide-free food readily available.

“The concept is based on the idea that when you can no longer expand outward, the only way to go is up because feeding our growing population would require extreme amounts of agricultural land we don’t have,” she said.

Wolfe added that her project has made her more conscious of the implications of her every day actions on the environment. She hopes her project will help UConn to make pesticide-free food readily available. 

Two more students, Gunnar Eubank, a seventh semester agriculture and natural resource economics major, and David Benedetti, a fifth semester resource economics major concentrating in marketing and business administration, further delved into farming and water conservation. 

Eubank, like Wolfe, worked on the vertical farming project. He believes that vertical faming can be implemented at UConn and in Mansfield through an interdisciplinary approach. 

“We intend to enlist the help of multiple departments, including Plant Science, Engineering, Office of Environmental Policy and others to more precisely determine our possibilities for UConn. It is a challenging objective to strive for, but we think the rewards of having such a facility here would outweigh any cost to start it.”

Benedetti focused on the campus water conservation group, H20 Huskies. He found that the majority of water consumption by the UConn student body comes from showering, and that certain marketing strategies could effectively make students more conscious of their water consumption. Benedetti would like to expand his project in order to get data that can be better generalized to the UConn community.

“Ideally, we would be able to implement our project on a national basis. However, right now we will stick to the local community and continue to raise awareness. I realize that even if we only reach one person with this campaign, we have still made a difference in the community,” he said.

I realize that even if we only reach one person with this campaign, we have still made a difference in the community.
— David Benedetti, Environmental and Resource Policy Program member

Professor Nataliya Plesha says she is proud of the growth she’s seen in her students, which she says has been demonstrated in the quality of their projects. 

“It was incredible to observe how my students change and grew up as environmentalists and potential policy decision makers while conducting their team projects. It was amazing how productive, thoughtful and creative the students became in sharing ideas and solving problems together,” she said.

Rebecca Kaufman is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at

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