Friday, January 22, 2016

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!

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