Monday, October 27, 2014

Venturing Out of My Neck of The Woods

Student Perspective Piece Written by Meghan Neureither, Education and Outreach Associate

As a member of the Sustainability Office, I feel that I am no stranger to sustainability and environmental activism. However, I am a novice when it comes to tackling issues in the realm of social justice. Since I am the student lead on tabling for this year, I am beginning to recognize the importance of integrating and relating social issues into our message. After watching a Ted Talk by Van Jones, the importance of emphasizing how the physical and human aspects of the planet are so intertwined really dawned on me. 

Education and Outreach Team (L-R)
Preethi Ruvva, Meghan Neureither, Melina Meseroll,
Mitch Mastroni, Rebecca Sale, Christine Ongjoco
An example of the union between social and environmental justice is "Cancer Alley." This is an area along the Mississippi River, where many individuals of low socioeconomic status live, and are being adversely affected by the industrial plants and the toxic materials that the plants are releasing. Sadly, Cancer Alley is only one of a plethora of examples of the link between the pollution of the planet, and the poisoning of people. We do not have disposable resources, and we do not have throwaway people. Thus, it is important that our message encompasses the human aspect as well.

This year, I have committed myself and am encouraging my team members to furthering our education about both sustainable and social issues. And while the environment is the main recipient of our office's focus, it is so crucial to recognize the bridge between the two sectors. They are not separate worlds, and we would be doing a huge injustice to both people and the environment to treat them as such. This reminds me of something that John Muir once said, "when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."  (John Muir, 1911).

Look out for the Education and Outreach team at various events both on and off campus! Come talk to us and let us know how we are doing! Feel free to teach us something too. 
While one of our focuses is educating about sustainability, 
there is always more to learn and more knowledge to be shared and we would absolutely love to hear what you have to say. Stay sustainable, slugs!

Innovative Approaches to Sustainability at Other Campuses

Here are a few selections of the innovative approaches to sustainability taking place on other college campuses. Each of these examples was chosen because they represent ideas that UCSC could potentially implement in some form, or in some cases, already has begun to. If you see something here that you want to make a reality at UCSC, contact the Sustainability Office and we will help you direct your ideas toward fruition!

Bikablity analysis

Students Suggest Ways to Get Peers Biking to SF State University. The survey found that 30 percent of respondents said that poor bike infrastructure and unsafe streets leading to the campus made bicycling unfeasible, and another 13 percent cited a lack of secure and convenient bike parking. Bicyclists need to feel safe and comfortable on city streets. To address the concerns that students raised, the report recommended new bikeways to make students’ commutes safer, as well as providing more secure and convenient bike parking once they arrive on campus. Students from a Bicycle Geographies class that is held as SFSU imagined how nearby streets might be improved to make them more comfortable for more novice riders. One such solution was to turn a side street into a bicycle boulevard — a slow-speed street that prioritizes bicycling through physical design measures that slow drivers and reduce cut-through car traffic, including signage, pavement markings, and traffic diverters. 
It would be great to have a side street like King st. here in Santa Cruz be turned into a "bicycle boulevard".

UC Davis Gone Solar!

Though the first time that UC Davis has entered the contest, they were selected as one of thr 20 universities to compete in the Solar Decathalon. This contest draws national entries, everyone competing to design and construct solar powered homes that are both energy efficient and aethetically pleasing. The UC David project is designed to be a marketable, sustainable house for farmworkers and other low income communities. Aggie Sol, UC Davis' team, will be completing the plans for the house in January, then construction will begin. And in October 2015, the home will be disassembled, packed into pieces and transported to the competition site in Irvine, CA. Congratulations for the bid of entry, and best of luck to our sustainable sister campus in this competition!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Facing Mega-Drought, California Will Avoid Defeat

Researchers and scientists recognize that traumatic changes would occur in our great state during what is recognized as dire circumstances. But Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, an Oakland think tank says that mega-drought "doesn't mean no will mean using what we have more effectively." The Department of Water and Power is planning to build a treatment system that would cleanse industrially contaminated groundwater in the San Fernando Valley.
And if conditions continue to worsen, L.A. could ban landscape irrigation completely, using an ordinance already in place. In Los Angeles, it is high time to make the shift from extraordinarily lavish greenery everywhere, and instead embrace the new normal by installing heat and drought resistant plants, desert rocks, and a low-water drip irrigation system that is operated by a controller that measures soil moisture. We must educate ourselves about the possibilities incurred from the drought, and how to go forth and to be more sustainable individuals. Read the Los Angeles Times article for information on the subject.

Virtual Green Room to Guide Your Sustainable Living!

Are you looking to become a more sustainable and environmentally-conscious individual but are just not sure where to start? Look no further than the new, interactive page on the UC Santa Cruz Housing website. This tool is easy to access, easy to use, and has valuable information about living sustainably. By simply clicking on the green circles, explore the many ways to be more environmentally conscious. For example, by clicking on the desk lamp, you are given access to information about electricity and how to select lightbulbs that use less energy. Share with a student you know, or consider how these tips apply to your own life!

Explore the page here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

UCSC Receives Silver Bicycle Friendly University Award

The League of American Bicyclists recognized UC Santa Cruz with a Silver Bicycle Friendly University award, joining 100 visionary colleges and universities from across the country.
(Left to right) Robert Jones, a student bicycle commuter who also works with sustainability organizations on campus; Cathy Crowe, who manages transportation programs like the Bike Library, as well as permit sales for TAPS; and Melissa Ott, a recent UCSC graduate who actively supported bicycling as a student and now works in the Sustainability Office.

With the announcement of 33 new and renewing BFUs in 20 states, UC Santa Cruz joins a cutting-edge group of colleges and universities from across the United States transforming their campuses and the communities around them. There are now 100 BFUs in 37 states and Washington, D.C.

“Campus leaders are recognizing the immediate and long-term impact that a vibrant bike culture can create for their institutions,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists. “We applaud this new round of colleges and universities for investing in a more sustainable future for the country and a healthier lifestyle for their staff, students and surrounding communities.”

Robert Jones rides his bike to campus nearly every day for class. He also works for UCSC's PowerSave Campus and the UCSC Sustainability Office. 

UC Santa Cruz encourages bicycling as an easy option for transportation and provides amenities such as free bike safety classes, bike maintenance clinics, bike fix-it stations, and bike licensing; a variety of bike parking options, including smart bike lockers; a bike lending library; a bike shuttle from two off-campus locations; and a zero-interest bike loan for academic and staff employees. The UCSC bike program also conducts a Bicycle Safety Campaign twice each year to educate cyclists about safe cycling techniques; helmets and bike lights are distributed free of charge to participants who don’t currently have them.

Jonny Zelaya was an intern with the Student Environmental Center's Transportation Campaign, which encourages sustainable transportation, including bicycling. He is now a Student Sustainability Advisor for College 8 and Oakes.

Students have been a driving force in the promotion of bicycles at UCSC, launching several successful programs such as the Bike Library, the Bike Co-op, the Bicycle Transit Planning Team, and a student Transportation Campaign. Melissa Ott, a recent graduate who was highly involved with bicycle advocacy efforts at UCSC, is excited about the Bicycle Friendly status. "I am so proud that the efforts of hardworking individuals and organizations at UCSC have been recognized with this award. I hope this helps inspire more students, staff, and faculty to hop on a bicycle and explore our campus on two wheels."

Ott, who now works in the UCSC Sustainability Office, acknowledges that the topography of the campus is a challenge. "It's not easy to convince people to bike up our hilly campus, but those of us who have made the trip up know that once you challenge yourself to do so, the rewarding views, endorphins, and sense of community that result are so worth the sweat!With this award, UC Santa Cruz will now have access to a variety of free tools and technical assistance from the League to become even more bicycle-friendly.

More information about UCSC’s bike program can be found online at

November 2014: Classes, Training and Community

PICA Workshop - From Garden to Plate
PICA is an experiential learning/living program meant to engage students with sustainability through practical experience and the sharing of community based knowledge.  The first workshop will be “From Garden to Plate: How to Create a Locally Sourced Feast” on Sunday, November 9th from 11AM-2PM at the Village in the F Quad kitchen. The following workshop will be If you are interested in reserving a space for this workshop please contact Kelsey Jones (, PICA's Outreach Coordinator.

PICA Workshop - Fermentation 
PICA will be offering hands on sustainable workshops this Fall Quarter. The fermentation workshop with Sally Neas will teach participants how to make sauerkraut and bread on Sunday, November 23rd from 11:00-1:30 at The Village Kitchen.  The Workshop is being capped at 20 people so you must RSVP to by Thursday November 20th!

PICA Garden Workdays 
The Program in Community and Agroecology (PICA) welcomes all UCSC students to our Saturday Garden Workdays. You can learn how to grow your own food and enjoy fun and a fabulous garden fresh lunch. The PICA Garden Workdays will be held every Saturday from 10am to 2pm, Nov 8th through Dec 6th. For more information, please visit

Students for Organic Solutions 
Check out the SEC's newly updated Students for Organic Solutions website showing all the ways you can get involved in your local food systems, environment, and sustainability movements. This is inclusive of ALL of our wonderful campus resources from college garden work days to Arboretum workshops and faculty lectures. Take care of the land that take's care of you and have fun!

Maui Wowi: Food Systems, Agriculture, and Outdoor Adventure 
Though this is fall quarter registration is open (and will fill) for our annual experiential learning and food system engagement spring break trip. Join us on Maui to explore traditional food and farming sites, explore different aspects of culture, and adventure into bamboo forests, ranch lands, and marine sanctuaries to explore the ecological aspects of the island. This trip will also include a 2 unit ENVS internship in winter quarter to prepare our group for different concepts and frameworks of food system engagement we will explore in March.  Sign up on the OPERS Recreation website this quarter to reserve your spot! 

Lead a Class for ESLP Spring 2014
Imagine being able to share your knowledge and passion with your peers! Guess what, you can do that! Every spring quarter, the Education for Sustainable Living Program offers a wide variety of sustainability-themed courses. In past years, they've held classes on food system, fossil fuel divestment, indigeneity, personal sustainability, bee keeping, and activism. Here's the awesome part: all of these classes were CREATED and LEAD by students like you! Visit the website ( for the facilitator application. Applications due November 12th

The General Gathering Series: The Food Movement and How to Eat Your Way To A More Sustainable World 
Want to know how to eat your way to a more sustainable world? Join the Student Environmental Center for the General Gathering Series on Wednesday November 5th at the College 8 Red Room from 5:30-7:30PM. Students and community members are coming together to discuss how the food movement can advance sustainability. There will also be a free vegetarian meal!

The General Gathering Series: Climate Crisis- featuring Fossil Free UC 
Are you interested in discussing the Climate Crisis with your community members? The Student Environmental Center presents the General Gathering Series with Fossil Free UC on Wednesday, November 19th from 5:30-7:30PM at the College 8 Red Room . Enjoy a free, delicious vegetarian meal while getting involved with Clilmate Change Movement! 

Energy and Climate Justice Semester 
If you're a student climate champion, divestment activist, or campus sustainability advocate this could be the program for you. The Spring 2015 Semester (late Jan to early May) the Expedition Education Institute will investigate Energy Issues and Climate Justice in the Southwest, traveling from Texas to Arizona. Don’t miss your chance to take a deep dive into learning about and connecting with the crucial energy and climate justice issues of our time, your own relationship to these, and an engaged learning community to support you in your understanding and explorations. The application deadline is November 15th. Please contact EEI at or 207-322-2973

Provost Sustainability Internship
The Provost's Sustainability Internship (PSI) program is in full swing! Students and staff mentors are hard at work doing outreach and planning events. PSI is currently partnered with the Climate Action Team, Take Back the Tap, Common Ground Center, PICA, TAPS, UCSC Purchasing, & the Site Stewardship Program. Please contact if you have suggestions for additional departments to partner with PSI next year!

Free Climate Change and Sustainable Development Classes 
Not busy enough? 22 units and three organizations aren't enough for you?  Consider taking FREE classes on Climate Change and Sustainable Development online. Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), is a free online education platform created to advance the field of sustainable development in all regions of the world. Questions? Email or visit their website.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sustainability Office Fall Retreat

On October 4, UC Santa Cruz Sustainability Office students and staff, as well as interns in the Provost's Sustainability Internship Program, gathered for a day packed with knowledge, bonding and planning for the coming year! The morning started with a delicious breakfast and mingling, followed by some get-to-know-you games, and an introduction to sustainability at UCSC. Other topics covered throughout the morning included climate action and the Carbon Fund and how to manage work, plan projects, and have effective meetings. These trainings were led by some of our fantastic staff: Lacey Raak, Elida Erickson, Chrissy Thomure, and Melissa Ott. In addition to sustainability and professional development trainings, this year's retreat included diversity, inclusion, and communication as one of its major topics.

One activity in particular was called "We See From Behind Our Eyes," where one partner described a picture to the other (who could not see the picture), and the parter who could not see the projected picture, had to draw the picture as it was described from their teammate. Laughter, confusion, and silly-looking drawings ensued, but a poignant lesson was learned about the importance of and challenges with clear communication while working with others. In our own heads, we "see" things in a particular way, but when trying to explain concepts or ideas to others, we have to make sure we are considering how they might be "seeing" our explanation. Even when we're all speaking the same language, there is a certain level of translation that occurs--being clear and understanding can minimize how much is lost in this translation. 

Other activities in this session included writing "I Am From" poems, exploring how to build lasting relationships with other organizations and individuals, and brainstorming our Office Principles of Community based on the UCSC Principles of Community (read them here).

One of the last activities we did at the retreat was a fun waste relay led by the Zero Waste Team, where students put their recycling/waste/compost sorting knowledge to the test in the form of a fast-paced relay race. Everyone won in the form of enhanced knowledge about our different waste streams on campus. We wrapped up the day-long retreat with a small trek to a gorgeous wooded area on campus, where everyone shared one word summing up their experience that day (inspiring, motivated, learning, new friends, just to name a few!). After a team cheer and photos, we said our goodbyes, rejuvenated and excited for the coming year. What a great way to kick start the new school year! Thank you to all who made the retreat possible!