Thursday, February 11, 2016

4th Annual Zero Waste Youth Convergence on March 26, 2016!

Join Zero Waste Youth for the 4th Annual Zero Waste Youth Convergence
Saturday, March 26, 2016, City College of San Francisco, Ocean Campus, Multi-Use Building

Hear from inspiring speakers on hot zero waste topics from young professionals and community leaders.Topics and hands-on workshops include food waste reduction, composting & soil health, reducing & reusing, and student-led projects. 

*Breakfast, lunch, and snacks are provided!*
Please BYOE--Bring Your Own Essentials: reusable cup, plate/bowl, utensils, and handkerchief. The goal is to have a true Zero Waste event!

Please share this event with your network! Join their Thunderclap campaign to help spread !the word! (

Connect with Zero Waste Youth! Like them on Facebook. Email them at

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Registration & Applications Open: UCSC Bioneers Conference, April 23-24

Save the Date: You are invited to the 2nd Annual UC Santa Cruz Bioneers Conference the weekend of April 23rd-24th!

As you may already know, Bioneers is a national organization dedicated to social and environmental justice. They host an annual conference in Marin County that attracts more than 2000 scholars and activists.

The UCSC Bioneers Conference provides UC Santa Cruz and community members an opportunity to connect, share, learn, and grow together in a local version of the popular national conference. The two day event will showcase inspiring plenary talks, artistic performances, interactive workshops and delicious food from both on and off campus organizations. Themes include: Eco-nomics; Ecological Design; Ecological Literacy; Ecological Medicine; Every Women’s Leadership; Indigenous Knowledge; Justice: Racial, LGBT, Human Rights, Equity, Rights of Nature; Media; Nature, Culture, Spirit; Pre/Post Conference Intensive; Resilient Communities; Restorative Food Systems; Restoring the Bio-Sphere; Youth Leadership.

UCSC Bioneers is free and open to the public. Register for your free ticket at

Want to host a workshop? 
Please fill out this form by February 22nd.

Want to perform, sing, dance, or create an interactive art piece? 
Please fill out this form by February 22nd.

A committee of students will review applications and notify applicants in March.

The conference will take place in Kresge College at UCSC, and we expect 200 visitors each day to the event. In addition to tabling, workshops, food, and dancing, the conference will feature four 20-minute plenary presentations from people in the Bioneers community, as well as UCSC students and Santa Cruz community members. An agenda outlining the weekend is below. Please visit the Bioneers Facebook Page for updates and to spread the word about this conference.

Saturday, April 23rd:
9-10: Breakfast Social
10-11: Opening Plenary
11:00-11:15 - Break
11:15-12:45: Workshop
12:45-1:45: Lunch
2:00-3:30: Plenary
3:30-4:00: Break
4:00-5:30: Workshop
5:30-6:30: Dinner
7:00-9:30: Contra Dance! 

Sunday, April 24th:
9-10: Breakfast Social
10-11:30: 4 Workshops
11:30-11:45: Break
11:45-12:45: Plenary
12:45-1:45: Lunch
1:45-2:00: Break
2-3:30: Workshop
3:45-4:15: Plenary
4:15-5: Ice Cream Social

Please email commonground[at]ucsc[dot]edu if you have any questions.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

National News: Flint Water Crisis

Jake May/The Flint Journal, via Associated Press

Santa Cruz is privileged to have clean and safe to drink tap water. The situation in Flint, a city in Michigan that does not have this privilege, has recently been featured in the news as a result of the environmental neglect leading to Flint's current water crisis. The dangerous condition of Flint's water has spurred many conversations nationally about environmental racism and the ways in which communities of color are put at risk by environmental degradation and neglect.

Many articles are available online detailing the water crisis. "A Question of Environmental Racism in Flint" by John Eligon is one such article that provides an introduction to Flint's current condition as well as the danger of environmental racism.

Those interested in providing aid may donate to any of the campaigns on GoFundMe's Flint Water Crisis Relief page here.

February 2016: Nicki Doan

What is your title, affiliation, and year?
Hi! My name is Nicki Doan, and I am an SSA, which stands for Student Sustainability Adviser, for the sister colleges of Porter and Kresge. I am a 2nd year Kresge affiliate.

What does “sustainability” mean to you?
When I imagine the term “sustainability,” I think of a ying-yang circle. The concept of ying and yang is that one side balances the other, in a uniformed manner. No side is sharper or more intricate than the other, hence the circular shape and the simplistic color schemes of black and white. I believe that sustainability has the same concept; it’s about taking only what you need, but also knowing that what you take comes with a price, and returning the favor. Like the symbol, sustaining means balancing, and when we take something from the environment, such as trees and paper, we must give it back, just as in recycling.

What made you interested in sustainability?
I think that being sustainable has always been a part of me as I was growing up. For example, my family always rewashed containers to use as portable food holders, and they have always kept gift bags and tissue papers to reuse next Christmas. My religion also plays a big role in my interest in sustainability. I was taught to treat every living thing with compassion, and to always give more than to take. I think these influences are very similar to the practice of sustainability.

Tell us about the Hydration Games, a campuswide competition in the colleges to reduce water.
The Hydration Games was a really fun project to do since I have never done anything campus wide! It also took a lot of time and outreach to make it work, and I think that is where my team and I lacked. The 7 of us were unable to spread awareness about water conservation as well as we had hoped. Other factors that didn’t give us the results that we had wanted could also have been due to the Carbon Neutrality project UC-wide that also sprang up during our Hydration Games.

Any similar events you're looking forward to this year?
Yes! We are promoting Zero Waste this quarter! To do so, we are going to be tabling during college nights and sending emails and a survey that we are working on to get a good idea of how aware our residents are about their waste contribution.

What’s your favorite thing about being an SSA?
My favorite thing about being an SSA is the experience. I have learned so much more about the “real world” than I do in a chemistry and biology class. We have guest speakers who are chemists and biologists working in the fields of sustainability. They express their passion for what they do, and it amazes me every time I listen. I am inspired by what they do and how they do what they do every time. Kinda makes me unsure about my future, but I mean, I do know now that I hope to find a career that I am extremely passionate about like them.

Have you had a favorite sustainability moment at UCSC?
You know, I think UCSC itself is a sustainability moment. Ever since coming here, I have adapted to the lifestyle of this campus, such as recycling pretty much everything, bringing reusable bags to the stores, and bringing my own reusable water bottle. Coming from a place where sustainability is a choice (SoCal) to a place where sustainability is a lifestyle (Santa Cruz), it’s quite amazing!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

February 2016: Contests and Funding

Write to Change the World: Deadline to Apply February 1
The “Write to Change the World” program is an opportunity for UC faculty that will build capacity to translate their research for the public and to engage in debate at a national level based on their areas of
 expertise. Invitational priorities for applicants include: 1) sustainability and the environment 2) social justice and inequality 3) big data and digital humanities 4) public health and medical humanities 5) arts and public life. After the 1-day workshop, fellows will have access to a yearlong mentorship with media mentors through the OpEd Project. This program provides extraordinary resources, access and support, including cutting edge game-based, research-driven programming, and access to a prestigious network of fellows at peer institutions nationwide. Learn more here.

Campus Sustainability Council Funding Applications: Deadline February 12
Apply for funding through the Campus Sustainability Council (CSC)! Proposals adhering to the criteria for student organizations and relevance to the Blueprint for a Sustainable Campus are eligible for funding. Review the Request for Proposal, which outlines all requirements and mandatory steps to apply for funding from CSC. For more information, visit the CSC website.

Grad Slam: Deadline March 4
Grad Slam is a competition that challenges graduate students to present years' worth of academic research in a concise, compelling, three-minute talk to a non-expert audience. Doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy and are enrolled in winter and spring 2016 are eligible to compete in Grad Slam. The contest begins with a video round of competition, during which 10 finalists will be selected for our campus live event to be held on Wednesday, April 6. The winner from that event will take home $3,000 and go on to compete in the UC-wide Grad Slam in San Francisco on April 22. UCSC's runner-up receives $1,500, and the people's choice winner receives $750. Check out the online instructions for all the details.

Zero Waste Youth USA Convergence: Deadline February 1
Organized by youth, for youth, the Zero Waste Youth USA Convergence will include a full day of visioning, organizing and celebrating zero waste and will empower youth to bring the zero waste message back to their schools and communities. The day will feature a keynote address, hands-on activities, and presentations on exciting zero waste topics both from the youth as well as from exceptional leaders from the community. If you are interested in speaking or performing at the event on March 26, 2016 at the Ocean Campus of City College of San Francisco, please fill out this form.

8th Annual International Sustainable Campus Network Award: Deadline February 1
The International Sustainable Campus Excellence Awards recognize sustainable campus projects that demonstrate leadership, creativity, effectiveness and outstanding performance. The award categories have been modified this year to reflect the evolution of campus sustainability. Campus projects can be submitted for one of the following categories: Buildings and Innovative Infrastructure, Campus Planning and Management Systems, Innovative Collaboration, or Student Leadership. Click here to apply.

Get Loud (About Climate Change) Challenge
ACE and NextGen Climate America just launched a new initiative, the Get Loud Challenge, an innovative climate competition that will engage young people across the country to turn up the volume on climate change. The Get Loud Challenge will motivate young people (ages 13-24) in all 50 states to take highly visible, online and offline actions to catapult climate change into the spotlight. Earn points for a range of climate actions — from having a conversation about climate with a family member to calling on our leaders to embrace clean energy policies in their communities. Go to to learn more.

Students with Drive
Each month, Zipcar awards $27,000 in transportation grants to student organizations across the country so groups like yours can drive for free to volunteer opportunities, academic conferences, concerts, games or wherever you need to go.Ready to enter? Visit the Students With Drive page to enter your organization today. Each month, 15 finalists will get a chance to win big. Apply here!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Inter-Organizational Sustainability Retreat Highlights

Jay Luce Nelson, the Sustainability Office CUIP Events Coordinator, reports back on the Inter-Organizational Sustainability Retreat.

Over the weekend of January 8th-10th, members and representatives of 42 different UCSC organizations came together to enjoy the 6th Annual Inter-Organizational Sustainability Retreat. The retreat, coordinated by leaders of social and environmental sustainability efforts around campus, aims to build leadership skills, explore concepts of sustainability, build community, and promote collaboration between sustainability-minded organizations.

Friday's events included an alumni panel, dinner catered by Vivas Mexican Food, and small alumni group discussions. Student and staff attendees were given the opportunity to talk to alumni about their lives and careers post-graduation.

Saturday and Sunday's events took place at YMCA Camp Campbell in Boulder Creek. Saturday began with a group activity that explored our understanding of words and ideas such as "space" and "decolonizing," led by Adriana Renteria, People of Color Sustainability Collective Coordinator, and Elida Erickson, Interim Sustainability Director and Sustainability Programs Manager. Following was the keynote presentation by Pandora Thomas, environmental educator and co-founder of the Black Permaculture Network, who spoke about her experiences regarding community education, environmental racism, and the importance of recognizing and celebrating the sustainable practices of communities of color. Workshops later in the day explored topics such as self care, food sovereignty, the power of storytelling, global agricultural coalitions such as La Via Campesina, and more.

As a coordinator of the retreat, seeing the Planning, Programming and Logistics Committees' plans come to fruition was an amazing experience. The Inter-Org Retreat allowed me to meet members of other organizations that I might not have the opportunity to interact with otherwise; it was wonderful meeting so many people with such varied interests and backgrounds, each bringing their own ideas of sustainability.

On Saturday I attended the workshop "Food Justice & Oppression" facilitated by Adriana Renteria and Crystal Owings, Food Equity and Access Specialist for the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. Participants at this workshop were enabled to examine bias and injustice inherent in our food system. Later I attended "La Via Campesina: Globalizing Hope, Globalizing the Struggle" with People of Color Sustainability Collective interns Amran Khan, Catherine Alfaro, Raymond Lebeau, and Cristal Gonzalez. Through role-playing, we learned about the various agricultural groups comprising the agricultural justice coalition La Via Campesina. I highly encourage others to look into this movement if you, like myself before attending this workshop, do not have prior knowledge of it.

Special thanks go out to the Sustainability Office Zero Waste Team for providing funding used to make Friday a zero waste event; everyone involved in the planning process; our many carpool drivers; the workshop leaders; Camp Campbell, which has recently made the switch to reduce waste by using reusable cloth napkins; and keynote speaker Pandora Thomas. Pandora's website can be found at

Pictures from the retreat can be found on Facebook here. For future updates about this annual retreat, please visit the website here.

Sustainability Minor in Full Swing

Written by Kelsee Hurschman, with contributions by Christine Ongjoco

Opportunities for UCSC students to pursue sustainability education and research are growing! The College Eight Sustainable Studies pilot minor is now in full swing. Sustainability Studies was officially launched in 2014 and provides students with hands-on, interdisciplinary educational experiences -- teaching students applied skills and knowledge through a focus on real-world problem solving.

Students enrolled in the minor have the freedom to choose between a broad range of upper division courses offered by several different departments including anthropology, economics, sociology, and legal studies. The minor can be completed easily in two years; see the website for more information about requirements and how to enroll.

Angela Duong, a student in the Sustainability minor, believes that "sustainability is such a 'new age' field and it's super cool that UCSC has a minor for it! [It] is important to learn and practice in our everyday lives and will help improve our future."

Another student, Kelsee Hurshman, says "... learning about living sustainably is important because all of our resources come from the earth and we need to change our habits so that we can live in harmony with the planet. Being in these classes sheds light on problem-solving instead on dwelling on the horrible state of the planet other classes do, giving a feeling of hopelessness."

In the minor, the Sustainability Practicum allows students to work in research groups to develop policy solutions for sustainability problems and fieldwork projects that build analytical and applied skills.

Some students like Jamison Czarneck transferred to UCSC exactly for the Sustainability minor because of the hands-on experience in the program. He was involved with a project that did a LEED analysis of a building in downtown Santa Cruz and looked at the predicted energy usage versus the actual energy usage of the building with 2 years of data.
So far, it has been a positive and rewarding impact on my studies and my perception on the challenges around achieving sustainability. I am looking into sustainability management as a career so the minor seemed to make a lot of sense. So far I've learned about service learning, life cycle analysis of products, energy efficiency strategies, social behavior of sustainability problems, analytical tools and policy influences, and a lot more.  - Jamison Czarneck
This year, other students are working on three projects: an Urban Agriculture protocol, “Ecotopia House”, and a Renewable Energy Microgrid.

The Urban Agriculture Research Project is working to obtain quantifiable data by developing small-scale, long-term planting beds in College Eight Garden and PICA.  Students have developed a system to measure all of the inputs and end products of the garden. Analyzing this, students will find the best practices for urban agriculture – to create a maximum output of crops with little labor in the garden and money spent.

A student part of the Urban Agriculture Research Projects, gave us an update on the project:
Last quarter we set up galvanized beds and felt pots in the College Eight Garden. We planted lettuce, spinach, kale, garlic, snap peas, beets, and onions. We will be harvesting some produce soon and recording the pounds of produce as well as the amount of calories of food harvested. Who thought I could be doing research as I garden and produce food to eat? - Kelsee Hurshman

Ecotopia House is a collaboration between College Eight and Cabrillo Community College as part of a collegiate competition sponsored by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. The completed Ecotopia House will be a small living space with a smaller carbon footprint directed toward affordable and resource-efficient housing, especially for urban areas. Students are analyzing various household features to include the most energy efficiency, cost-effective attributes.

The Renewable Energy Microgrid project involves behavioral analysis and technical monitoring of energy and water consumption at a cohousing development in Santa Cruz county. Fieldwork includes behavioral surveys and interviews focused on residents energy attitudes and practices; high resolution, real-time monitoring of electric energy use (with more funding, gas energy and water use as well) at a plug load, circuit load, and meter load level; and design, deployment (subject to the outcome of emerging electric energy policy), and monitoring of an advanced neighborhood microgrid.

Students can also do the IDEASS program as an elective for the minor. IDEASS participants work with researchers and professionals to plan, design, and then implement a selection of projects that use cutting-edge technologies in the development of sustainable systems. In 2016, there are five IDEASS projects: Clean Oceans International, Smart Irrigation, Tiny House, Smart Energy, Solar Lanterns, DROPS, and Porter Purple Pipes.

IDEASS students are partnering with Clean Oceans International, a nonprofit using Captain Homer’s plastics-to-fuel (P2F) conversion machine, to explore the costs and benefits of using this technology to clean up the vast amounts of plastics accumulating in our biosphere and threatening marine ecology. The new P2F conversion machine is expected to recycle about ten pounds of plastic into a gallon of clean fuel per hour. Students at UCSC are working with the non-profit to analyze the machine’s energy efficiency and characterize pollutants and other byproducts of the conversion process.

The Smart Irrigation II project is expanding on the software design and electrical system components delivered by a team of engineering students in spring of 2014-2015. This project will demonstrate how sensor network will use real-time data to calibrate the release of capture rainwater with changes in soil moisture. The improved system will not only use moisture sensors to offer autonomous irrigation control but will integrate sensors to monitor temperature, pH, phosphorous, potassium, salt, and nitrogen concentration. Accommodations for off-grid solar power and energy storage make this system truly avant garde. The irrigation system will be installed on campus at Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) and College Eight garden after initial installation at Natural Bridges High School.

Students are working to create industry standards for the manufacture and distribution of off-grid Solar Lanterns to replace kerosene lanterns used across the Global South, especially Africa. Although international organizations including Solar Aid and the World Trade Organization, promote this off-grid alternative, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition has determined that the short life span of these products and lack of proper waste management is unsustainable. Old or broken lanterns are usually incinerated with other refuse in communities that lack the resources, knowledge or infrastructure to repair or recycle components. Students involved During 2016, IDEASS Solar Lantern students are working to disassemble and re-engineer the lanterns in order to develop guidelines for a more sustainable prototype.

DROPS students are reducing negative water quality impacts on Neary Lagoon, and Bayview Elementary School by using rainwater catchment, bioswales, and rain gardens to recycle greywater for lawn and garden irrigation. Bayview Elementary School has a Life Lab Program that will integrate water conservation into the curriculum and teach students about how water travels across the watershed and how to test water quality in nearby watersheds.

Bayview Elementary’s lawn (left) Lifelab classroom vegetable beds (right)

Graphene is a potential material that could replace silicon as a semiconductor. Smart Energy (also see this website) students are determining the best methods of Graphene production in terms of cost, environmental impact, and scalability. They are composing a list of methods to maximize the effectiveness of graphene as a substrate supercapacitor with the smallest impacts to the environment.

IDEASS students working on the Porter Purple Pipes Project are collaborating with engineers, planners, and plumbers to participate in the process of planning, designing, and constructing a graywater recycling system for flushing toilets in Porter dorms.


With the Sustainability Studies minor now in full swing, we can't wait to see what future student-led projects will accomplish!