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Saturday, April 30, 2016

May 2016 Green Tip: Refreshing Your Summer Wardrobe

The approach of summer means the arrival of warmer weather and the latest, hottest clothing trends to match. Fashion companies have begun producing new lines of clothing at higher frequencies, and modern mass-production has kept prices lower than ever. But what is the true cost of these practices?

This month, Zhai Yun Tan wrote a piece featured on that looked into the textile waste created by the $250 billion dollar industry of fashion. She posits that we are more likely to dispose of cheaper, mass-produced fashion garments than pricier ones. In her piece What Happens When Fashion Becomes Fast, Disposable And Cheap?, she identifies a few ways to combat these recent trends.

Ultimately, some of the best ways to dress sustainability is to reduce the amount of new material that you are purchasing. Buying second-hand clothes from the many thrift and consignment stores in Santa Cruz, clothes swapping, and crafting your own fashionable designs are all easy and cost-effective ways to reduce your impact on the disposable economy.

Are these practices already familiar to you? Share your sustainable fashion experiences and ideas in the comments below!

Clean Vehicle Program gives rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles

Good news for those interested in purchasing or leasing an electric vehicle. The Monterey Bay Air Resource District (MBARD, formerly MBUAPCD) will soon be offering individuals an additional $2,500 rebate for residents of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties for the purchase or lease of an all electric vehicle. Applications will be on their website soon at This is in addition to a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $2,500 state rebate.

Read the press release here.

Nissan also offers staff and faculty, and now graduate students, an additional discount as well.  Read more here.

Styrofoam Collection

Four years ago, the Sustainability Office, Grounds, and Environmental Health & Safety collaborated to set up a quarterly Styrofoam Collection Program for labs and all other departments who may have high influxes of Styrofoam. Collectively, we have diverted 75-100 yards of Styrofoam since this collection program began. That's almost one football field of Styrofoam! 

If you or your lab have a Styrofoam waste stream, store it until Thursday, May 19th, 2016 (no longer May 5th), when the next Styrofoam collection day will take place.

A roll-off bin will be located at the Physical Science Building loading dock from 11:00 AM to 2:30 PM on 5/19/16 with volunteers ready to assist with drop-offs.

The Sustainability Office hopes that all labs will participate in the collection and recycling of our large Styrofoam waste stream.

Accepted Recycling:
  • Styrofoam Peanuts and Styrofoam pieces smaller than one square foot must be bagged
  • Tape and labels must be removed from Styrofoam
  • Styrofoam used in shipping materials is accepted
 For any questions, please contact a Green Labs Associate at greenlabs-group[at]ucsc[dot]edu

New Director of Sustainability: Elida Erickson

Elida Erickson has been working in the Sustainability Office since 2011 as a Sustainability Programs Manager. She was recently hired as our new Sustainability Director, so we've interviewed her to learn more about what she envisions for the future of campus sustainability. Congratulations Elida!

1. How do you envision the future of sustainability on campus?
I envision sustainability on campus as the ability to develop a collaborative vision amongst students, faculty and staff that celebrates the innovative progress and research that is already happening, while pushing the envelope on the challenges ahead. There will always be new challenges presented as we work towards ambitious operational goals such as Zero Waste by 2020 and Carbon Neutrality by 2025. UCSC can successfully overcome challenges and become more sustainable by keeping our institution’s core mission of teaching and research at the center of what we do. By involving students in campus sustainability initiatives, we are training the leaders of tomorrow with the skills to make positive change in the world and help other global institutions and organizations become more sustainable. Sustainability is a global challenge and Banana Slugs are very lucky to have the opportunity, resources and brainpower to work together to create innovative, collaborative, and inclusive solutions for the campus, and for the world.

2. What got you interested in sustainability?
When I first arrived at UCSC in 2005, I worked at Stevenson College in residential life. Student engagement and empowerment has always been a passion of mine, and after several students came to me concerned about a lack of support for recycling by some of their peers, I helped the students start a peer-to-peer educational group called PTAGS (Path to a Greener Stevenson). One of the first things we did was organize a field trip to the Santa Cruz Resource Recovery Facility (sometimes called "the landfill"). It was after that trip that I was “hooked”! Watching plastic bags flying around in the wind with the beautiful ocean in the background, watching trucks dump an immense amount of one-time use items into the landfill that will almost never biodegrade, watching thousands of seagulls poking around on the trash mountain for wasted food scraps…I knew there was a lot of work to be done for our students and for the world to overcome the mentality that landed us here, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

3. What were some of the things you did before becoming the sustainability director?
I have had the privilege of working with many campus staff, faculty and students to improve our campus waste collection infrastructure to reach our Zero Waste by 2020 goal, as well as conserve water usage. I’m excited that most campus eateries on campus have both recycling and composting available. That was not the case a mere 5 years ago! I have also supervised the student Zero Waste Team through the Sustainability Office, as well as the student Drought Response Team. I’m proud to say that our campus’ response to the drought emergency with strict water conservation measures in 2014-5 earned the campus several local and national awards!

4. Are there any sustainability practices you have picked up while being involved with sustainability on campus?
One of my favorite practices has become somewhat of a daily “ritual” for me, and I recommend it to anyone who is open to taking just a few seconds of their day to make a BIG difference: every day, whether working on campus, or walking my dog in my neighborhood in Live Oak, I make it a point to pick up one piece of recycling or trash and toss it into the proper receptacle (…and I definitely wash my hands afterwards!). Located right on the coast, Santa Cruz residents are in a unique position to directly impact the amount of trash that pollutes the ocean by preventing litter from going into storm drains in the streets. I firmly believe that if every person on campus picked up one piece of litter every day, we could virtually eliminate the litter problem in our community.

Congratulations again to Elida Erickson!

Friday, April 29, 2016

UCSC Annual Sustainability Report 2015

We are excited to announce the release of UC Santa Cruz's 2015 Annual Sustainability Report (view here). This report demonstrates our progress toward the 2013-16 Campus Sustainability Plan and UC Office of the President systemwide goals.

We have made progress across all topic areas and have achieved many of the goals established in the 2013-16 Sustainability Plan.

We are diversifying traditional notions of sustainability by engaging more community members than we ever have before. Our campus has launched a new Sustainability minor program, and we are utilizing more renewable energy sources to support campus operations.

We continue to build on the achievements made. Committed to progress and bound by the responsibility we have to our campus environment, the people who live and work here and the world we all share.

Our Campus Sustainability Plan will be updated in 2016 with goals that push us to steadily and energetically create a more sustainable campus.

We have accomplished so much as a campus in our last 50 years, pioneering the way for sustainability through our organic farming, water conservation, transportation, and many other innovative approaches. We honor and carry with us the achievements of those who came before us as we look forward to the next 50 years of sustainability at UC Santa Cruz.

Read the complete annual report here.

Help Team Bike Santa Cruz County reach fundraising goal

Help Team Bike Santa Cruz County reach their fundraising goal!

Please consider joining the team by registering for this year's Climate Ride. By clicking here you'll be able to register online and customize your own personal webpage.

Bike Santa Cruz County works for better bicycling in Santa Cruz County through advocacy, education and community building. They envision a world where everyone feels comfortable using their bikes for daily trips, where the Coastal Rail Trail provides a bike superhighway through Santa Cruz County, and where people have all the information they need to bike safely.

Climate Ride California is a gorgeous cycling adventure that begins in California's historic Redwood Empire near Eureka, travels along the scenic coast, and ventures into the famed Russian River Valley before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. Climate Ride California is more than a bike trip – it’s an inspiring journey with like-minded people who are united by their passion for sustainability, renewable energy, and bicycles - the ultimate carbon-free form of transportation.

Help them get there by making a donation to support their team!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Research Opportunity at Northern Illinois University

The following information was submitted to the Sustainability Office on behalf of Dr. Holly Jones of Northern Illinois University:

We seek a motivated Ph.D. student to develop a dissertation research project utilizing data from the Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) Long-Term Wildlife Monitoring Program to assess outcomes and identify successful strategies for meeting restoration and management targets. The LCFPD has substantial data on wildlife populations (especially small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians), land cover, and management history, which will allow the student to pursue unique and important questions about restoration ecology and habitat management.

The student will work under the guidance of ecologists and restoration biologists at Northern Illinois University, Dr. Nick Barber (, Dr. Holly Jones (, and Dr. Rich King (, and with managers at LCFPD.

Prospective students should be comfortable working during inclement weather, possess a valid driver’s license, and be willing to oversee a small team of field technicians. Competitive candidates will have a Master’s degree and strong GRE scores. Experience with mark-recapture methods, occupancy modeling, and wildlife management is desirable. The position will include stipend and tuition remission, with a starting date of August 2016 or January 2017.

Northern Illinois University is a 20,000-student research university in DeKalb, Illinois, a diverse community of 50,000 with a low cost of living. The Department of Biological Sciences includes faculty with a wide range of research interests, including an active Ecology, Evolution, Behavior, and Conservation research concentration.

Details of the graduate program are available at Interested students should email Nick Barber (nbarber[at]niu[dot]edu) by May 15, 2015, with a cover letter that explains your research background and interests and why you want to pursue a Ph.D. Please also include a CV with GPA and GRE scores.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

May 2016: Contests and Funding

Campus Sustainability Council Request for Proposals Available: Deadline May 6
The Campus Sustainability Council (CSC) would like to fund student organizations' sustainability projects or events in the upcoming year. The Spring 2016 funding round funding is available for Fall 2016 through Spring 2017. Proposals adhering to the criteria for student organizations and relevance to the Blueprint for a Sustainable Campus are eligible for funding. There are mandatory trainings before the deadline. Find out more on their website.

AASHE Sustainability Awards: Deadline June 3
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Awards is inviting faculty, students, staff, and administrators to submit applications by Friday, June 3 at 5 p.m. ET for a chance to be recognized for outstanding projects or research that advance sustainability in higher education.

Call for Submissions - Student Video Competition: Deadline June 15 
The US Department of Transportation's National Institute for Transportation and Communities is seeking videos to highlight the role transportation plays in creating livable communities. Videos must incorporate the National Institute for Transportation & Communities' theme of safe, healthy, and sustainable transportation choices to foster livable communities. Follow this link to see instructions.

Monday, April 25, 2016

May 2016: Internships, Employment & Volunteering


Provost Sustainability Internship - $1500 + 12 units! Deadline Extended to May 4
Are you interested in working to make our campus more environmentally and socially sustainable? The PSI program is a great way to get involved! The program pairs students with staff and faculty mentors to plan and implement a year-long campus sustainability project. Students receive internship credit and a $1500 scholarship upon completion of the program. Environmental Studies Senior Exit credit can be fulfilled with this program. There are 12 internships available for next year, which are described on the website. Applications are due May 4 and there is a mandatory info session on May 4th from 4-6pm. Details and applications are on the website here.

The American Indian Resource Center and People of Color Sustainability Collective are hiring two interns each. Intern positions focus respectively on digital communication (PoCSC), event planning and outreach (PoCSC and AIRC), and coordinating a letter writing project between inmates and the AIRC (AIRC). For more information, see the the flyer here.

Climate Corps Bay Area’s Fellowship Program is now accepting applications for 40 opportunities in California with local governments and organizations including Capital Corridor, Kaiser Permanente, UCSF, and SunPower. As the host site with the largest cohort of fellows, Alameda County is recruiting 6 Climate Corps Bay Area Fellows to work in Oakland on exciting topics such as electric vehicle charging, engaging new audiences in composting, and greening preschools! Find more information about various openings in Alameda County here and apply online here.

Interns will teach 4th through 6th-grade students science concepts and lead team building activities in an outdoor setting in the Sierra Nevada foothills. This position involves leading small and large groups in day classes, field trips, and night program activities. For more information, click here

PolicyLink interns are highly qualified emerging professionals and leaders who are committed to racial equity and social justice and interested in our "lifting up what works" approach to policy change. Each intern plays an integral role in helping our organization further policy impact through a commitment to research, communications, capacity building, and advocacy. We rely on their research, writing, communications, and analytical skills to advance our policy work, and benefit tremendously from their contributions. More information is available here


The Sustainability Office will be hiring for a number of paid student positions on teams such as the Zero Waste Team, the Carbon Fund, the Education & Outreach Team, and the Green Office Certification Team. You can learn more about these opportunities on the website.

Kresge Garden Student Coordinator 
The Kresge Garden Co-op is looking for a new member interested in helping maintain the garden and undertake projects in service of the campus community. Gardening experience necessary, previous involvement with the Kresge Garden or other gardening groups on campus strongly encouraged. This position is open for both work-study and non-work study employment. Apply at the UCSC Career Center to ER#6756.

Take Back the Tap, a campaign working to end the sale of single use plastic water bottles on campus, is currently looking for new organizers and outreaching for candidates for a paid coordinator position for the 2016-2017 school year. Organizers and the coordinator will have the chance to work with outreach, event planning, fiscal, and community organizing projects. If you are interested in organizing with Take Back the Tap, contact us at tbttucsc-group[at]ucsc[dot]edu for more information about meeting time and place. 

The Sustainability Office in the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) is currently hiring for the positions of Associate Director of Sustainability (with more information about the position available here) and Sustainability Communications and Outreach Coordinator; application for this position will be conducted through the Climate Corps Bay Area Fellowship Program, found here

Avid4 Adventure is seeking applicants for the 2016 summer session who have a passion for working with kids and experience in some or all of the following activities: hiking, biking, rock climbing, paddling, and outdoor education. The ideal candidates are ready to inspire youth to live an active, outdoor lifestyle and have a summer full of fun! Find out more about the various positions available here

The Center for Biological Diversity is a 501(c)3 nonprofit conservation organization with 991,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. They have more than 100 staff in offices in Arizona; California; Colorado; Florida;, New Mexico; Oregon; and Washington, D.C. The Center is hiring for 10 different positions throughout their offices. For more information, visit their website

High Country News is a nonprofit 501(c)3 independent media organization that covers the important issues and stories that define the American West. Its mission is to inform and inspire people – through in-depth journalism – to act on behalf of the West's diverse natural and human communities. Their website features an employment and education listing related to conservation, outdoor recreation, and more; visit the website here

SACNAS is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Santa Cruz and the largest multicultural and multidisciplinary diversity in STEM organization in the country. SACNAS has a database of professional job opportunities here

The Energy Manager provides leadership to the College’s energy program and utility systems and to advance Pomona’s Sustainability Action Plan. This position requires a Bachelors degree in a related technical or engineering discipline or equivalent career experience, Energy Manager Certification strongly preferred and LEED AP or ability to obtain within 18 months. For more information, see here

Positions include: Nursery Manager, Propagation and Production Specialist, Delivery and Installation Specialist. Find more information here; email resumes to gary[at]goldengatepalms[dot]com.

Research Opportunity at Northern Illinois University
A motivated Ph.D. student is wanted to develop a dissertation research project utilizing data from the Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) Long-Term Wildlife Monitoring Program to assess outcomes and identify successful strategies for meeting restoration and management targets. Click here for more information.


Support Zero Waste Commencement 2016
The Sustainability Office Zero Waste Team is coordinating a team of "trash talkers" for Commencement weekend. These "trash talkers" will interact with families and friends of graduates to educate them about how to properly dispose of waste in correct bins--compost, recycling, and landfill. Volunteers will sign up for 4-hour shifts and training will be provided in advance. All volunteers will receive a free sustainability t-shirt. To sign up, please email Alexis at anroney[at]ucsc[dot]edu.

Opportunities with the Homeless Garden Project 
The Homeless Garden Project is seeking volunteers for the roles of Social Work Volunteer and Chef and Food Coordinator. To find out more about becoming a Social Work Volunteer, click here; click here to learn more about the position of Chef and Food Coordinator.

The SEC is a great way for students to grow as individuals, learn leadership skills, and gain invaluable work experience. Volunteers learn about current campus projects and policies and have the opportunity to participate or take on leadership roles in many topic areas. To get involved, please email seclead-group[at]ucsc[dot]edu, visit the website at, or attend General Gatherings to meet members and learn about specific volunteer opportunities.

Sea Slugs is an ocean-minded campus organization dedicated to environmental stewardship. It is an excellent opportunity for students (both undergrad and grad) to engage in the greater community through public service while making a positive impact on the local environment. For information about meeting times and opportunities, contact Sea Slugs at seaslug.ucsc[at]gmail[dot]com or visit their website

Banana Slugs for Animals welcomes all to their weekly meetings. During the meetings they discuss animal rights and plan events! If you would like to know more please email slugsforanimals[at]gmail[dot]com or visit their Facebook page

Sprout Up is environmental education for the next generation. Sprout Up is an organization that teaches environmental science and sustainability to 1st and 2nd grade students in elementary schools all around Santa Cruz. To learn about joining Sprout Up, email communitysc[at]sproutup[dot]org. 

The Arboretum has volunteer gardening hours throughout the week. Visit their website for details. 

Have a knack for cycling, biking and learning to maintain bikes? Interested in learning to divert bike parts from the waste stream? Then this is the opportunity for you! Click here for more information.

The Coastal Watershed Council invites you to join its efforts to protect and preserve local watersheds! If you are interested in volunteering on the San Lorenzo River, doing water quality monitoring through programs like Snapshot Day, First Flush, Urban Watch or any of CWC’s other events and programs, please visit their website

Sierra Youth Coalition is currently recruiting dedicated, empowered and proactive youth leaders for a seat on its Executive Committee. The official decision-making body, the committee is comprised of nine youth from across the U.S and is responsible for shaping the Sierra Youth Coalition's direction, organizational governance and supporting the staff team.

May 2016: Classes, Training, Community

Sierra Club's SPROG Participant Application Deadline: May 16th
Sprog is a grassroots leadership training program that teaches tools for environmental and social justice activism to young folks across the country. Generally, participants at Sprog’s intensive week-long training program range from 14 to 28 years of age and have an interest in youth movement activism. You don’t need to have any background in environmental organizing to attend, you just need to have an interest in making the world a better and more inclusive place. While each training team forms its program around the interests of the participants, most Sprogs cover training topics such as: Campaign planning, leadership development, anti-oppression, and media. To apply, click here.

Climate Ride Summer Session: June 17 - July 10, 2016
The Climate Ride has a new program designed to engage young adults (ages 18-24) in the bike advocacy, conservation and sustainability movement. The 2016 inaugural ride is a 24-day, 1200-mile van-supported bike trip from Portland, OR to Santa Barbara, CA through some of the Pacific Coast’s most beautiful locales. In order to participate, riders must fundraise a minimum of $3,500 for the Climate Ride beneficiary organizations of their choice. There are more than 100 beneficiaries to choose fromSpace is limited to 20 participants. For more information and to register click here.

The Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy Program: Deadline July 1
The Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy (SISE) is a two-week intensive workshop and lecture series for students and professionals at the University of Illinois at Chicago. From August 4-16, a diverse body of participants will engage a broad spectrum of energy and sustainability-related topics through daily presentations, collaborative projects, mentoring activities, site visits, and networking opportunities with leading research institutions and companies in the digital technology and energy sectors. They will accept applications through July 1st. Application information, program information, and more can be found at their website. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Thomas Aláan uic.sise.admissions[at]gmail[dot]com, SISE Program Coordinator.

Produce Pop-Up Stand in the Quarry Plaza
Come and enjoy the UCSC Farm Produce Pop-up on Thursdays from 10am to 3pm at the Quarry Plaza! FSWG will have a variety of vegetables and flowers from the UCSC CASFS Farm and select fruit from the Downtown Farmer's Market. They are now accepting EBT/CalFresh so please come by and use your benefits! They are also looking for an intern to help support and run the Pop-Up in Fall Quarter 2016. The purpose of  the pop-up is to bring the Farmer's market to UCSC for students and to increase access to healthy and affordable food for all. If you have any questions, please contact Alyssa Billys at abillys[at]ucsc[dot]edu.

Demeter Seed Library
The Demeter Seed Library will be hosting office hours this quarter in Oakes 307. Come by to borrow or donate seeds and learn more about seed saving and campus gardening efforts! Office hours are Tuesdays 2-3pm or by appointment.

Sustainability Studies Minor
The minor incorporates courses offered by College Eight and departments across campus, student-initiated classes through the Education for Sustainable Living Program, and an interdisciplinary capstone. The minor is open to all UCSC students. For more information, click here.

Divestment Student Network People Of Color Caucus
The People of Color Caucus is a place for organizers of color in the divestment movement to meet, collaborate on shared projects, and support each other to build the Climate Justice movement the world needs. Check out their Purpose, Principles and how to get involved here. Divestors of color who are interested in learning more can fill out this quick membership form to be shared on their listserve, membership contact page, and Facebook group.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bridging Social Justice and Sustainability with Student Projects

By Christine Ongjoco, Everett Program student and Graphic Artist for the Sustainability Office

Sustainability means leaving the world, planet and people, in the same or better way than when we found it. To me, this means recognizing that sustainability also means social justice.  Without a more inclusive world for all people, we cannot progress together to create a healthier planet for us all.

The Everett Program is an intensive sociology program on campus that creates a new generation of “info-savvy” advocates using information technology to overcome informational exclusion–based barriers to civic participation and social justice. The learning goes both ways: While advancing the larger public good, Everett students accumulate valuable technical knowledge, while sharpening their leadership and project management skills.

The heart and soul of the Everett Program are student projects. College students have a fire inside and want to change the world, but too often are not given a chance to tackle the issues about which they so deeply care. We take student passion and help temper it with social enterprise and startup practices so that they can design a polished, doable project that will tackle their issue from their own unique angle. Everett projects take students across the globe, around the country, and out in the streets of our own county.

Here are some projects that have successfully bridged social justice and sustainability:

Building Technological Capacity of Youth Leaders in a Rural Sustainable Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Initiative 

The Community-Based Monitoring and Evaluation project seeks to combat rural youth out-migration through the empowerment of eight youth leaders in eight different communities of San Ramón. Each year, project leaders are responsible for conducting field interviews to monitor the progress of their efforts. The results which are synthesized by CAN are then shared with the community members where project strategies and next steps are discussed by all project leaders and beneficiary families. With this project, youth leaders will be able to continue these efforts even when funding has ended.

Advancing Sustainable Communities

Advancing Sustainable Communities via Ancient Japanese Farming Practices began as a project to assess the success of Japanese sustainable farming in the context of rapid industrialization. The aim was to understand what factors, especially the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), had allowed these small farms to prosper, despite the encroachment of cities and spread of industrial agriculture, with the aim of being able to apply these techniques to other locations, especially rapidly developing nations ... Neil found that farms effectively employing ICT serve as a lesson to their peers in Japan and throughout the world, and all of the locations visited would benefit from expanded use of these technologies, such as an inventory management system and greater web presence.

Thirsty Trees Video Project

Thirsty Trees: And the Search for Better Alternatives” is an investigation into the different problems certain trees–especially eucalyptus- are creating in the arid regions of Kenya and Africa due to the fact that they consume huge amounts of water. Local alternatives to eucalyptus are discussed, including indigenous trees which have local spiritual and medicinal properties. The video incorporates both scientific and colloquial observations of the effects of eucalyptus and economic reasons behind its proliferation in Africa.

To find out more about the Everett Program, come to our event, May 18 at Social Science 2 047, to chat with students and fellows who are in the program!

You can also visit for more information.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Home Recycling: Personal Ways to Make Your Home Zero Waste

This post was written by Angela Duong, a member of the Zero Waste team within the Sustainability Office.

When it comes to recycling, most people commonly believe they know all the wonders of recycling correctly. Since I started working on the Zero Waste Team this year, I have gained a substantial amount of knowledge influencing my own waste decisions at home and on the go. A great way to begin this process of diverting your waste is to start at home!

 In one of my apartment’s pantry closets, I implemented a “home recycling center” with clear signage and extra bins to sort out clean containers, clean paper, trash, compost and cardboard recycling.

With this system, my housemates and whoever comes into my apartment discover the various items they believed were either recycling or trash to be opposite. When on the go, I always have my reusable water bottle and hand towels on hand. Incorporating a busy college Zero Waste lifestyle is not as hard as everyone makes it. Reusable water bottles, coffee cups, hand towels, utensils, straws are a few examples of items of items that go to waste easily. Living a Zero Waste lifestyle by decreasing the amount of waste we produce individually, we can significantly work towards zero waste.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Reflections from IDEASS Alumni

Many students over the years have participated in sustainability internships and programs at UCSC, such as the Impact Designs: Engineering & Sustainability through Student Service (IDEASS) program. They work on important, hands-on sustainability projects during their time here, and then they graduate and take those skills and experiences into the "real world." Kelsee Hurschman, Provost's Sustainability Intern for the Sustainability Minor & IDEASS, connected with two such alumni, Samuel Kahn and Brenden Fant, to find out what they're doing in their lives after college and how their experiences in the IDEASS program have helped them in their current endeavors.

Samuel Kahn
Attended UCSC 2010-2013

Q: What was your IDEASS project?
A: Our team as a whole worked on implementing different sensors at NASA Ames and on campus to do real-time monitoring of energy load and demand.

Q: What did you do?
A: I specifically worked at NASA Ames using machine learning algorithms (Artificial Neural Networks) to predict the load and demand of microgrids. The motivation for this is the intelligent, predictive, and real-time storage and distribution of energy; our inability to do this is one of the abating factors in the adoption of renewables.

Q:And what did you take away from being an IDEASS intern?
A: So so much. It really jump-started my career and got me into graduate school at UC Berkeley. It was an amazing experience working on a team with people with diverse backgrounds. These backgrounds varied from physics, environmental studies, chemistry, and earth sciences. This is how things are in the real world!

Q: How did participating in IDEASS prepare you for life after college?
A: It made me take the initiative to start a project without guidance and push through the difficult times. I have now helped found a start-up and I would say that IDEASS prepared me more for the fast-paced and challenging environment of startup life than any other class or research I did while at UCSC.

Q: What do you currently do and how did you get there? What qualities helped you earn that position?
A: I am currently a Data Scientist at a start-up in Santa Cruz in which I am a founding member. We are approaching a million dollars in funding and the skills I learned in IDEASS have definitely helped paved the way for us. From pitching ideas to solving technical problems with no clear solutions, I cannot be happier that I participated in IDEASS!

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to current students to prepare for the real world?
A: A couple pieces of advice: 1. A degree doesn't mean you'll get a good job, but showing you can succeed (and fail) at real-world type projects will. The same goes for graduate schools; the grad school market is saturated with applications of students who have a high GPAs, so you need to think about how you will differentiate yourself. 2. You will often have no help on projects or problems so you need to learn to be comfortable with no help. IDEASS is the best place to start. 3. The more technical prowess you have the better (statistics, programming, excel, etc...). These may sound scary, but just think of them as tools to propel your career. This is especially the case for people in the hard-sciences; Physics (myself), Chemistry, Biology, etc...

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: IDEASS will make you busier and challenge you, but it will pay in ten-fold if you put in the work. 

Brenden Fant
Attended UCSC 2011-2013

Q: What did you do? And what did you take away from being an IDEASS intern?
A: During my time with IDEASS I was a member of the Bicycle Transit Planning Team. We conducted a study to identify specific improvements and corridors of concern for cycling safety on the Westside of Santa Cruz. We assessed the most utilized bicycle routes to and from UCSC and correlated the quality of the bicycle infrastructure and historical collision data.

Q: How did participating in IDEASS prepare you for life after college?
A: The IDEASS program gave me the opportunity to practice skills such as elevator pitches, public speaking, project management, team building as well as data analysis. My team and I presented our project to the City Council of Santa Cruz as well as the Regional Transportation Commission for the County of Santa Cruz and our report is still referenced today by Santa Cruz city planners.

Q: What do you currently do and how did you get there? What qualities helped you earn that position?
A: After graduating I applied for an entry level position as Tesla Motors as a Product Specialist. During my five interviews I was able to distinguish myself from the other candidates by expressing my passion to transform the transportation sector towards more sustainable modes. The goal of this position was to educate the public about the benefits of operating an electric vehicle when compared to an internal combustion engine. Since then I have transitioned to my current role of Technical Support Specialist.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to current students to prepare for the real world?
A: One lesson that I have learned during my time with Tesla Motors is that you never know who you are talking to and that you need to treat every person with a high level of respect. There has been numerous times that without realizing it I was assisting a customer that was a significant stakeholder. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: The IDEASS program is different from the ordinary classroom setting because each project engages a diverse set of stakeholders to work towards a common goal and improve the community as a whole.

Thank you, Samuel and Brenden, for taking the time to share about your experiences! If you're a student interested in getting involved in a program like IDEASS, please visit the IDEASS website or check out our list of other opportunities on our blog here.

UCSC Bioneers Conference, April 23-24

You are invited to attend the 2nd Annual UC Santa Cruz Bioneers Conference, a Bioneers Resilient Communities Network Event, on April 23-24 at Kresge College in Santa Cruz, California.

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 will take place in Kresge College at UCSC, and we expect 200 visitors each day to the event. In addition to tabling, inspiring workshops, delicious food, and dancing, the conference will feature 20-minute plenary presentations from visionary scholars, students, and regional community members.

UPDATE: The workshops and speakers have just been announced online here, and more details will be added in the coming weeks.

What is a Bioneer?
You are a change-maker, an innovator, a leader who is invested in creating a more just and sustainable world for the generations to come. You are inspired by the wisdom of nature’s design, you are motivated to make a difference in your community. You want to connect to others who are part of making the change. You are a Bioneer. Learn more about the National Bioneers organization at

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

Want to perform, sing, dance, or create an interactive art piece? 
Please fill out this form by April 8th.

Want to apply to table?
Please fill out this form by April 8th.

An agenda outlining the weekend is below. Please visit the UCSC Bioneers website and 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
1:45-3:15: Workshop
3:30-4:20: Plenary
4:20-5: Ice Cream Social

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