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Thursday, August 31, 2017

September 2017: Sustainability Profile: Vanessa Ackerman

Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved at the farm and what inspired you to? 

I have been a staff member on campus for 8 years and recently made the transition from Science Hill to the UCSC Farm & Garden (CASFS). I eagerly joined the CASFS team to be a part of their amazing mission of implementing research and methods of sustainability and providing ethical food for all.

Why is the farm an important program here at UCSC and for Santa Cruz? How can students, staff, faculty, and the general public get involved?

Through our research, education, and outreach programs, the Center works to create agriculture and food systems that sustain both human communities and the environments in which they live. The growing public and academic interest in sustainable agriculture, organic food, resource-conserving farming techniques, and issues of social justice underscores the need for the type of work conducted by Center staff, faculty, and students. And CASFS members are always looking at ways to address current issues, such as climate change, water shortages, and concerns over food equity and access.

What’s great about the Farm is that they constantly encourage people to visit, tour, harvest, and be a part of our community. Both the 30-acre Farm and 3-acre Alan Chadwick Garden are open to the public daily from 8 am to 6 pm! From April through November we also offer a free guided tour of the Farm on the first Sunday of the month, starting at 2 pm.

There are a lot of other ways that the campus and community can get involved. UCSC students can take Environmental Studies classes based at the Farm & Garden, do internships, or become part of the Food Systems Working Group. A number of grad students have based their research at the Farm & Garden facilities. We also put on campus and community tours, events and workshop every year, including the upcoming Fall Harvest Festival, taking place on Sunday, October 1. And of course the Farm & Garden Market Cart sells fresh food and flowers on Tuesdays and Fridays from 12-6 pm at the base of campus, from early June through early November. The CASFS website,, is a great place to stay up to date about what is coming up and how to get involved, or folks can pick up a copy of the new Campus Food & Garden Guide, which will be available at various places around campus in a couple of weeks.

Tell us about the 50th celebrations and how did it go?

Our 50th multi-day event was an awesome way to start my first year at the UCSC Farm & Garden! We had hundreds of supporters, apprentice alumni, instructors, and guests from farms around the world. Each day was filled with workshops, symposiums, and organic meals showcasing local items from the Santa Cruz area. We had a family-style dinner at the Cowell Ranch Hay Barn for 500 hosted by chef and activist Alice Waters who has a long history with the organic food movement. The 50th was a special and memorable event that I am proud to have been involved with.

What sustainable practices do you live by in your daily life and did working on the farm inspire you in anyway? 

Absolutely, working on the Farm coincides with how I like to lead my life; working as a team, helping folks, and making a better future for the next generations. I carpool, compost, eat a mostly plant-based diet, and try to purchase second hand as much as possible.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC) Narrative

Written by Malina Long (Zero Waste Team Associate)

In general, it was enlightening to see how much effort other college campuses were putting into developing more sustainable systems, programs, and infrastructure. After talking to several vendors, it seemed like many schools, especially UCSB, UCSD, Sacramento State, and several other schools were partnered with multiple companies that had a booth on the Campus Green. Talking to the vendors gave me more insight about how those products differed from commercial products and how they were being used on campuses. I enjoyed the passport challenge they gave us as it gave us a great incentive to talk to and interact with vendors that we may not have spoken with. I think this could be implemented in some way to UCSC, not just focused on sustainability groups or companies, but perhaps utilized during inter-org or during campus orientations! In addition to talking to the vendors,

I attended 7 sessions which were all very insightful.
I learned several captivating things from the UCSB Waste Tour: Getting to Zero Waste such as why their compost bins are yellow, the psychology behind their signage, and their infrastructure as well as how they transported and hauled their waste. Unlike the compost bins at UCSC, the compost bins at UCSB are yellow because UCSB wanted to differentiate between compost and green waste so that when residents return home or go into the city, they don’t make the mistake of putting compost into the green waste bins and contaminating the city’s streams. Furthermore, UCSB sorts their green waste into subgrade dumpsters which are placed below ground rather than green bins. One significant difference between UCSC and UCSB is that UCSB’s dumpsters and are locked to prevent illegal dumping and only designated custodian and staff have the ability to unlock them. Also, a portion of their recycling and compost is hauled via students on bikes and electric vehicles! They have upgraded most of their bins to BigBelly bins which light up to indicate when full and feature a front facing door that allows the students who are hauling the trash to swing it open and not have to dive into it. The sides of their bins also feature space for signage which UCSB utilized in order to showcase their #MyLastTrash graphics and statistics.

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UCSB also has an aesthetically pleasing but concise and simple signage system. This is something that I wanted to work on during my time on the Zero Waste Team, but was unable to get around to doing because of my schedule. UCSB students took the time to study their signage and actually had someone sit and watch people throw away their items. They conducted a survey before and after they changed their signs and found that the rate of contamination decreased when they upgraded their signs. UCSB’s signs include a combination of pictures and words which is what the students wanted. They figured out the fine balance of not having too much or too little of either words or images. In addition, when they included pictures, they didn’t just throw a bunch on there, but organized the images and used circles to draw the viewer's attention to the items. Furthermore, the items were relevant to each area. For example, bins near food and dining commons had pictures that were related to the compost, recycling, and trash items that would be sold and disposed of there, not staplers, balloons, or uncommon items. They would typically feature one of that item rather than a picture that shows multiple or several of that item (1 can of soda versus 3 soda cans in the picture). The most important thing was limiting the number of words and choosing high quality, relevant photos, and putting them into circles. In another bin system, they had a clear glass case which had the physical item itself stuffed in there which was very unique.

From the Strategic and Sustainable: Food Sourcing and Burger Production session, I learned that the burgers they served at CHESC on Monday were Blended burgers which are burgers that have 70% beef and 30% mushroom. They contain much more nutrition and fiber than traditional burgers but still have the taste of the traditional burger. This Blended burger saves 2.5 million gallons of water at one campus alone and is a more sustainable option for those who still want to eat meat. The presenters briefly mentioned the Beyond Meat patty but emphasized the fact that most people are not going to go vegan and quit meat entirely, so in the meantime, it is better to have less meat, but high quality meat and to be more creative and conscious when it comes to purchasing meat. The presenters also focused on purchasing meat that is not green washed but looking for the certification sticker to indicate that they were certified humane. They also mentioned that in order to offset the costs of how expensive free-range meats can be, people can be creative and switch the portion and cut of the meat one would typically buy in order to offset the costs. So, rather than buying chicken breasts for $3.99 (hypothetical number), opt for chicken thighs at $2.99 (cheaper but equally tasty cut). One of the presenters also brought forth the idea of the flipped plate which is something I have not seen at UCSC or anywhere in Santa Cruz. The flipped plate was inspired by the protein flip challenge designed to find a way to feed 9-10 billion people sustainably. How it works is that instead of having meat be the center of a meal, meat becomes a side and greens, grains, and everything else becomes the focus. The flipped plate is something that restaurants, dining halls, and eateries in Santa Cruz could definitely implement! All in all, this was one of the most spectacular and empowering experiences that I am extremely honored to have been able to be a part of. This conference provided me with new connections and novel ways of envisioning the community’s role in achieving sustainability. It emphasized the importance of strengthening and educating peers, especially those who have less power or knowledge, in order to achieve sustainability that is fair not only to the planet, animals and critters, but also to humans. CHESC brings together people with similar goals but provided a place to engage with and exchange different approaches to achieve these goals.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

September 2017: Zero Waste Green Tip

  • Circulate the air. Wherever possible, crack windows open every now and then. If you install new carpeting or cabinets at home or in the office, open windows and turn on fans until the smells dissipate. Make sure that copying machines and other equipment are located in rooms that are properly ventilated.
  • What about other products? Organic meat, eggs, and dairy don’t have toxins or agents believed to cause mad cow disease that non-organics might have. Organic seafood can still contain mercury and other contaminants. Avoid fish high in mercury (like tuna and swordfish). Visit for guidance. Also, consider organic baby food -- children are far more sensitive to low concentrations of toxic chemicals because of their developing organs and high metabolism. And did you know that cosmetics, lotions and other personal care products labeled organic may only have a small fraction of organic ingredients? Learn more about what's in your cosmetics here.
  • Most Important Produce to Buy Organic: If you are picking and choosing the organic foods you buy to keep in mind that not all organics are equal. Many fruits and veggies have been shown to have high levels of chemicals. Apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, grapes (imported), nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, spinach, and strawberries can have high levels of pesticide residue. There are fewer health reasons for buying organic asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, and sweet peas. They all have consistently low levels of pesticide residue. Check out the Organic Center's handy Organic Essentials Pocket Guide that you can take with you when you shop.

September 2017: Internships, Employment and Volunteering

Farm Fuel Internship: No Deadline
Farm Fuel Inc is a small company based in Watsonville working towards solving global problems with sustainable solutions on farms and gardens.  We research alternatives to chemical fumigation, pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide use.  Interns will assist with collecting field data, entering the data and keeping it organized, weighing fruit loads from test strawberry plots, writing literature reviews, tabling with our company at local educational events, learning how a small office runs and learning all about how an organic agricultural company works.  For more information visit their website. Contact Person: Anna Brown  415-342-7822

California Native Garden Foundation Intern: No Deadline
Interns will assist in various tasks on the site, which includes: 1. Nursery and garden tasks: Building native plant inventory through plant propagation, planting, and seed collecting. We may ask for some interns to help out with maintenance at gardens that we have designed or at projects that we are working on (which will include planting and seed collecting). 2. Aquaponics: Maintaining the aquaponics system, planting crop plugs into the rafts, helping with growing produce for aquaponics, fish care. 3. Grant writing: We are constantly writing grants to fund our non-profit and are always looking for students who are interested in the budgeting and funding aspects of environmental agencies. Find more information here.

California Native Plant Society - Native Botany Internship: Deadline ASAP Spot for Fall
Under the direction of Jim Velzy, the intern will grow out seeds of uncommon Santa Cruz County native vascular plant species. The aims of this project are threefold: 1) to increase seed to be housed at conservation seed banks including the UCSC Arboretum, and 2) to document propagation methods used on seeds for future reference, and 3) to create vouchered specimens for the herbarium housed at the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History. Find more information here.

9-month Facilities/ Energy Efficiency Fellowship 

The UCSC Energy Department has partnered with SEI and Climate Corps to offer a full-time, 9-month Facilities/ Energy Efficiency Fellowship. We are looking to hire immediately, please start the application process here. The UCSC position is not yet listed, but an early application will help us get past the initial screening process quickly. This is a project based position, centered around the audit and verification of relationships between buildings and utility meters on campus. This will involve reviewing and auditing construction (civil, mechanical, plumbing, electrical) drawings, field visits to verify mechanical and electrical equipment in buildings, having conversations with skilled craft technicians to uncover institutional knowledge about buildings and energy using systems on campus, detailing clear documentation of all findings, and eventually creating virtual meters that calculate utility consumption for every single building on campus. Engineering and/or Environmental Studies backgrounds are desired, but not required. The necessary tasks for this project can be taught, but we would love to find a UCSC grad, preferably someone mechanically inclined, with a passion for sustainability, who is reliable and shows initiative. If that sounds like you, please start the application process now! For more information please email UCSC Energy Analyst, Erik Eriksen at

September 2017: Classes, Training, and Community

Santa Cruz Farmer's Markets
Downtown Santa Cruz Farmer's Market on Wednesdays, 1:30 to 6:30 pm in Spring & Summer (1:30 to 5:30 pm in Fall & Winter) at Cedar St. and Lincoln St.
Westside Farmer's Market on Saturdays, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm year-round at Mission St. Ext. and Western Dr.
Or drive to one of the other Farmer's Markets in the area including: FeltonLive OakScotts Valley.

Santa Cruz Hub for Sustainable Living
Check out the cool various programs within the Santa Cruz Hub for Sustainable Living. There's lots of ways to get involved with them.

Sustainability Classes for Fall 2017
ANTH 110: Cultures of Sustainability and Social Justice (5 units)
With Professor David Shaw, ANTH 110 brings together diverse forms of cultural knowledge and complexities of everyday life to illuminate longstanding concerns of sustainability and justice. Investigates multiple theories of sustainable development as well as tools, techniques, and contexts for ecological integrity, economic security, empowerment, responsibility and social well-being characteristic of sustainable communities. Case studies are drawn from around the world highlighting the work of Right Livelihood Award Laureates in tandem with UC faculty.

EE 80S: Sustainability Engineering and Practice (5 units)
EE 80S offers a topical introduction to principles and practices of sustainability engineering and ecological design with emphasis on implementation in society. It also provides an understanding of basic scientific, engineering, and social principles in the design, deployment, and operation of resource-based human systems, and how they can be maintained for this and future generations. No specialized background in engineering, science, or social sciences is assumed.

CRSN 56-1: Media Internships for Sustainability (5 units)
In the CRSN 56 internship with Professor Ronny Lipschutz, students develop and work on media projects related to the college theme of "Environment and Society" in film, on television, in print, and on the Internet. Students work in groups with specific instructors and project leaders. Enrollment by application and instructor consent. May be repeated for credit.

ENVS 80B-01: The Ecological Forecast of Global Warming (5 units)
If you aren't an Environmental Studies Major but are interested in our changing climate, you might be interested in ENVS 80B taught by Professor Loik Boycoff. It covers a broad overview of the impacts of human activities on the global climate system. Topics include how climate affects the distribution of ecosystems, the influence of global climate change on biodiversity, ecosystem function, and consequences for the human enterprise.