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The Gift of Growth – Episode 1: What That Means To Me and What It Can Mean For You

By Sustainability Interns | April 17, 2015

This quarter I am graduating, so naturally I’ve been reflecting on my time here at UCR and that in the community garden. It is Spring of 2015 and I have been working in the garden almost on a daily basis for a year now. Last year was the first time I started volunteering in the garden and it was a completely different space than what you can see today.

Before I graduate, I would like to leave a little piece of history, what I have experienced at UCR, to share my story of growth in the garden personally and literally. I want to leave behind the lessons that I have learned, the lessons that have made me who I am today.

At the beginning, I was drawn to it for myself, I needed a positive place to escape and heal; I also needed it for food. But as I realized that my work was also helping other people, it became so much more than just this 3 acre piece of land that I was volunteering on. It became a piece of home and belonging for me that I cultivated and still cultivate through every action and interaction with the earth, plants, and people around me.

Everything I have put into the garden, time, sweat, energy, the garden has given me purpose, compassion, and sustaining happiness; which has translated into different successes and accomplishments that I had on campus and in other areas of my life. My journey in the garden has taken me on a lifelong path that I thought I would never have considered. I hope that whoever reads my blogs will also consider embarking on the mission to heal themselves through healing the soil, because just as the garden has given so much to me it can also give to you.

I would also like to reflect on Cesar Chavez’s legacy. As I have gotten to experience firsthand what it takes to grow and harvest food. Because of my experiences, I have gained a deeper insight to the injustices of the food system on my community on several levels. We have a complex problem, but it doesn’t have to have a complex solution. We need to grow our own foods, and we need to avoid supporting industries that contribute to human rights abuses and injustices. Only then we can have compassion and respect for the people that grow and pick our food, who make our clothes, and all of the other conveniences in our lives that we take for granted.

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own. – Cesar Chavez

It can be simple to just live simply. And live simply, so that others can simply live.

by Tracey Walters

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The Drought

By Sustainability Interns | April 16, 2015

What is it?

Droughts occur in virtually all climates. Of all weather-related phenomena that have potential to cause severe economic impacts in the US, droughts come in second only to hurricanes. A drought is defined as a period of drier-than-normal conditions that results in water-related problems. At times in which rainfall is below average for extended periods of time, the flow of streams decline. In addition, the water levels of lakes and reservoirs fall while the depth to water in wells increases. Drought is caused not only by lack of precipitation and high temperatures, but by overuse and overpopulation.

What are the effects?

During the time of a drought, declines in surface water flows can be destructive to hydropower production, navigation, recreation, as well as habitat for aquatic species. Groundwater levels are also impacted by drought. However, unlike the effect of drought on surface water, ground water levels may not reflect shortages in rainfall for up to a year after a drought begins. Some effects of a drought are more long-term, land subsidence being one of them. Land subsidence is a gradual settling of the surface due to the subsurface movement. Excessive groundwater pumping can result in the land sinking. What this does is cause permanent loss of groundwater storage in the aquifer system and damages infrastructure. Water allocations for wetland, wildlife, and fish restoration projects can be stopped altogether in the midst of a severe drought. Drier-than-normal conditions also increase the intensity and severity of wildfires.

What are we doing?

In January of 2014 California’s state governor, Jerry Brown, declared a drought state of emergency. As of April 2015, for the first time in California’s history, the governor ordered mandatory water use reductions after a winter of record-low snowfalls. This imposed a 25% reduction over the coming year on the state’s 400 local water supply agencies which serve 90% of California’s residents. According to state officials, the order would impose varying degrees of cutbacks affecting farms, homeowners, businesses, as well as the maintenance of cemeteries and golf courses. As a way to save more water now, the order will also; replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnerships with local governments, create temporary consumer rebate programs to replace appliances with more efficient models, prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip systems are used, in addition to banning watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.

How can you help?

The first step to solving the problem is understanding that there is one. By being well informed of the situation, you can help contribute to the solution. There are many ways to conserve water on a daily basis. Common practices include: taking shorter showers (five minutes or less is best); turning off water while washing hands, brushing teeth, or washing dishes; using a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and walkways; watering your yard and outdoor plants either early in the day or late to reduce evaporation, and much more. We are all part of the problem, and thus are responsible for being part of the solution. Water is life; We can’t afford to waste it.

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What’s New at the R’Garden

By Sustainability Interns | April 7, 2015

Hello Readers,

Our community plots have finally opened up! It’s so exciting to see this project reach it completion after months of work and preparation. I remember when I first started interning at the community garden; the entire south half was just flat, solid dirt. We’ve come so far!

During the first week of the quarter, we held orientations for the recently selected plot holders. A good amount of them came out to the garden to see their newly acquired plots right after the first orientation, watching them think about and plan what they were going to do with their space was enthralling, I could see a subtle smile on a few of their faces. Being able to answer their questions was also a blast if I may add. Hopefully these aren’t going to be the only people able to acquire a piece of the garden, we are planning on adding more so that the western portion of the R’Garden will be filled with plots also!

After talking about the compost in my last blog post, I feel that it is necessary to update you all on its current status. It’s so close to being ready! We recently acquired a fun little compost aid called a tumbler, which is basically a large cylindrical drum flipped on its side and raised about 3 feet off of the ground with the support of its metal legs. So basically, you open it up and put an appropriate ratio of brown, dry organic waste and green organic waste, then you simply close it up and spin it around to mix all the organic matter up! It’s a little bit more fun that the traditional flipping of the compost with pitchforks and shovels so the tumbler is definitely a great new addition to our equipment.

On a different note, one great thing about this fabulous time of year is that all of the flowers are blooming! We have an entire row dedicated to these large leaved flowering plants. The flowers are this beautiful light purple and its really adding some color to the garden! Most of them should flower soon, so be sure to come by and check those out.

Our spring crops are also coming in very nicely, we have tons of snow peas and strawberries, we haven’t had much luck from our potatoes yet but hopefully we will start to see them sprout in the next ten weeks. The garden has a lot coming up in this new quarter! We are hoping to host some workshops and get some more people involved. We still have tons of work to do, our greenhouse/warehouse area is in the process of being cleaned up, and there is still a lot of weeding to do.

That’s pretty much everything going on in the garden at the moment, if you ever feel like helping out don’t hesitate to stop by. There’s always something to do!

-Nick

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Recycled Pen Box Contest!

By Sustainability Interns | April 2, 2015

The Office of Sustainability will be holding a contest for homemade, artistic, and creative boxes for our campus community to recycle used pens in. Each box must be around the size of a shoe-box and have an opening large enough for a pen to fit through. The artistic recycled pen boxes will be placed throughout campus for students to conveniently dispose of their used-up pens in.

Everyone who enters will receive a small prize from Blick Art Supplies (www.DickBlick.com). Students will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite artistic Recycled Pen Box on Earth Day, April 22nd by the Bell Tower from 11:00 AM -1:30 PM. A winner will be announced through our social media platforms later that day.

Submissions due by April 21st. For drop-off information, contact hbens001@ucr.edu.

Good Luck!
Hannah

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Implementing Innovation in Design Meaures at Glen Mor 2

By Sustainability Interns | March 16, 2015

Since my time as a LEED intern at the UCR Office of Sustainability, I have been exposed to the various ways UCR and other schools have designed their green buildings. Many universities have joined the movement to build LEED certified buildings, and many of them are seeking more than just certification – but a higher level of certification.

As a result, many students are now valuing their campus’s sustainability more so than before. Almost two thirds (63%) of the 10,300 respondents to The Princeton Review’s 2008 College Hopes & Worries Survey indicated that they would value having information about a college’s commitment to the environment and that it might impact their decision to apply to or attend the school. Sustainability is becoming a movement – no doubt about it.

I was especially impressed with how LEED embraced the competitiveness and offers the ability to shoot for higher certification levels by attempting to earn additional points in the Innovation in Design/Operations category (ID). This category rewards owners with bonus points for going above and beyond in other credits, and by “going above and beyond” I mean doubling the progress that is required by the credit. This, by no means, is an easy task since meeting any credit already means that a building is much more sustainable than their common counterparts. For example, to earn all five points in the On-site and Off-site Renewable Credit, 75% of its energy used must be off-site renewable energy or 9% must be on-site renewable energy. In order for this to obtain an “exemplary performance” point in ID category, 100% of the energy used must be off-site renewable or 12% must be on-site renewable. This is a whopping 25% difference! UCR Glen Mor 2 is attempting this credit by making sure at least 13% of the energy used is renewable energy from our Solar Farm.

Apart from being exceptional in another credit, a building can also obtain an Innovation point from picking a pilot-credit from a list provided or by building a new path in sustainability. The pilot credits are all ways to be more sustainable in ways that are not already mentioned in the other credits. For example, Clean Construction, a pilot credit in the Sustainable Sites category, requires that all vehicles and equipment used for construction meet the USEPA Tier 4 standards and release less particulate particle emissions.

A new innovative path to sustainability can also take form of an education program. Something that was implemented in Glen Mor 1 and 2 was sustainability education in form of a door hanger. Every residential door has information about how Glen Mor 1 & 2 is sustainable and more importantly, what actions residents can take to live more sustainable on-campus and when they go home for the holidays/breaks. This is really helpful, it educates students and helps the plant by everyone taking a small part of the responsibility.

Innovation in Design is where original ideas blossom within LEED certification, and it is what sparks innovation within the green building industry. I look forward to seeing how else other campuses use this category, and how UCR will continue stepping up to the plate.

by Xavier Hernandez

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Kiana Said – Environmental Science

By Sustainability Interns | March 7, 2015

Kiana Said

I graduated last year from the University of California, Riverside with a Bachelors of Science degree in Environmental Science, with an emphasis on Natural Sciences. With this major, I was exposed to many different environmental quality courses focused on air, water, soil, economics and policy. During my undergraduate education, and beginning in my junior year of college, I was able to intern at UC Riverside’s Office of Sustainability through the internships offered through the Green Campus Action Plan (GCAP). I owe my employment success post graduation to the Office of Sustainability for providing me with valuable knowledge, experiences, and resources to succeed in a field I am passionate about.

The goal of GCAP was to fund sustainable and environmentally friendly projects and initiatives on campus, for example the installation of the solar benches, and to fund three internships at the Office of Sustainability. Little did I know being selected as one of the interns for Fall 2012 would shape my hands-on experiences during college.

What did I learn as an Office of Sustainability intern?

I began interning at the Office of Sustainability as the Green Office Intern fall of my junior year. From the start, it was an incredible learning experience both professionally and being able to apply my studies to real world projects. I immediately got to work on the Green Office Certification Program. The Green Office Certification Program is the leading campus plan for creating sustainable practices in food, energy, purchasing, water, and waste in each office, classroom, and workplace. I would campaign this certification program to different offices and departments on campus through online and in person communication. Once I received responses, I would present the purpose and the goal of implementing a green office program to achieve a green office certification to the interested offices. We had several different responses; Some departments were very interested, but didn’t have the time, some asked if there was an incentive, and others where very interested and with these ones we were able to track their progress towards becoming green office certified. In particular, the Housing and Dining office was very involved in completing an initial audit. After their initial audit I created a checklist of best practices that would increase their green office certification rating. I replicated these tasks for various other participating offices.

After the fall quarter, I was promoted to Senior Sustainability Intern at the office. I was very thankful for this, because I knew I would be able to continue to work at a very motivating and positive environment at the Office of Sustainability, while also being able to expand my knowledge further than the environmental and social sustainability issues presented in the classroom. In addition to promoting and implementing the Green Office Program, one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of the internship was being the project lead for the Office of Sustainability’s Tobacco Free Campaign.

As project manager, I conducted qualitative and quantitative observations, implemented plans adhering to the protocol, collected data, and performed analyses on the reduction of tobacco waste on campus. The UC Tobacco Free Policy aims to improve the health and safety of all students and faculty by prohibiting the use of tobacco products. Initially, I recruited and managed volunteers on the process for collecting cigarette waste at the five major tobacco usage centers on campus, and also trained volunteers on what behavioral observations to make on tobacco users, pre and post protocol implementation. The quantitative data assessment required recording the amount of tobacco waste collected on each clean-up day, analyzing the differences in numbers among the three separate clean ups, and developing comparison reports of the findings to see the changes in results post protocol implementation. I realized many students did not fully recognize the implications of toxic tobacco waste, and the benefits of addressing this public health issue.

How did the Internship help me reach my goals?

Since graduating and completing my internship at the Office of Sustainability, I have been working full time at a company that supports regulatory compliance, corporate sustainability, and social responsibility initiatives. The knowledge I have gained from interning at the Office of Sustainability, and having John Cook (Director of Sustainability) as my mentor, with public speaking, project management, knowledge of the importance of sustainable behaviors and decisions, and balancing the internship with school work, has been invaluable to my employment opportunity and experiences post-college. I have been able to use a lot of what I learned at the Office of Sustainability. In particular, the ability to understand sustainability as an umbrella, and how it can be applied to many initiatives, whether it is with environmental health and safety compliance, or supply chain transparency. Also, I have been able to use my project management skills in my current job. I can’t imagine being able to take on these new roles without the helpful guidance I had during my internship.

I am forever thankful of the opportunity I was given to be an intern at the Office of Sustainability. Dr. Cook was always so helpful, positive, and motivating during my internship experience, and towards other interns as well. I always felt like I was truly contributing to Office of Sustainability’s goals and plans with both Dr. Cook’s and Ruby Gonzalez’s guidance and wisdom.

The internship has truly allowed me to reach my goals and give me that boost of knowledge and experience that has been so helpful to me post-graduation. I really enjoyed being part of the Office of Sustainability, alongside other interns, volunteers, and professionals that also shared the same passion of creating a sustainable campus through various projects. It made my college experience extremely fulfilling, and I highly recommend students to explore the opportunities that the Office of Sustainability offers. I am happy to say that working at the Office of Sustainability has inspired me to continue to take on professional roles in the future that support environmental conservancy.

Kiana Said

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International World Water Day – March 22, 2015

By Sustainability Interns | March 6, 2015

International World Water Day is an annual event held on March 22nd that serves to focus attention on the importance of drinkable water, as well as the advocating of sustainable management of freshwater resources. The first World Water Day took place on March 22,1993. Previously, the theme of water and energy as a pair was widely advocated. These two subjects are closely interlinked and interdependent. Water is required to produce nearly all forms of energy, while energy is needed in every stage of water extraction, treatment, and distribution. The reason this is such an important issue is that the supplies are limited while demand is constantly increasing. The demand for both water and energy is expected to increase over the upcoming decades. This fact will strain resources in nearly every region, especially in developing nations.

Water is essential for both human and environmental health. Each day, every person needs access to water for the purpose of drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene. On average, each person in America uses 7,500 liters of water per day, mostly for food. One liter of water is needed to irrigate on calorie of food. When this process is inefficient, this number can shoot up to around 100 liters to produce one calorie. As a way to put this in perspective…

Agriculture is the largest user of water on a global scale. Despite progress made over the last decade, there is an estimated 750 million people who do not have access to improved sources of drinking water. When viewing water on an environmental level one begins to understand the true importance of realizing the issues associated with water. All freshwater is dependent on the continued healthy functioning of ecosystems. In addition, water is a driving force in manufacturing. Every manufactured product requires water. The global water demand for manufacturing is expected to increase drastically within the upcoming decades.

World Water Day is a day dedicated to celebrating water. It serves as a day to make a difference for those in the global population that currently suffer from water related issue. The theme for 2015 is “Water and Sustainable Development”. It is about how water is a vital aspect in all areas we need when considering how to create the future we want. Humanity needs water. Water is at the core of sustainable development. The range of services water resources provide underpin poverty reduction, economic growth, and environmental sustainability. The importance of water ranges from food and energy to human and environmental health. Water aids in the improvements of social well-being, affecting the lives of all that inhabit the globe.

Clean, safe drinking water is scarce. However, we take it for granted, waste it, and pay much more than needed to drink it from plastic bottles. Water is the foundation of life. As more people put ever increasing demands on limited supplies, the cost and effort to maintain water will increase. Understanding the problem is the initial steps in solving it. Seeing that this is a global issue, it is every individual’s responsibility to find ways to get involved and become proactive in searching for solutions.
To learn more about how to make a difference this month, please visit www.unwater.org.

- Memphis

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Sustainability Games

By Sustainability Interns | March 5, 2015

Hey everyone!

The Office of Sustainability has a new program in place for UCR students to increase awareness about the impact they have on the environment – the Sustainability Games!

Every Thursday, my fellow coworkers and I are on Campus, we gather students to participate in the Sustainability Games – such as trivia about the environment. Questions for instance revolve around daily energy consumption and how that translates into the amount of carbon footprint that impacts the environment. Think of this as a more interactive form of tabling.

Want to test your knowledge on Sustainability? Come join us today!

Priya

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A New Kind of Food Economy

By Sustainability Interns | March 2, 2015

What: Student Convergence at Cal Poly Pomona
Why Students Should Care? A regenerative food system will not emerge without the effort of young students

 

In February, the gang took a trip up to Cal Poly Pomona for a convergence. We have decided to build a better network with universities and colleges in the Inland Empire.

It was a small convergence, with just the R’Garden Team and the Green Team at Cal Poly Pomona, but we got the unique opportunity to spend some quality time together as “food people,” sharing ideas and learning together. We started off the morning with coffee, oatmeal, and regenerative systems.

Dan Yuhasz, the Green Team’s Facilitator and Professor of Regenerative Studies shared a bit about a concept called “Systems Thinking.” It claims that everything works together as an organic whole—each event influencing the next. Systems can either be degenerative, meaning that they reinforce a cycle that continually depletes and degrades, or regenerative in that it continually revitalizes. We talked about how our current food economy is degenerative. We talked about how we cannot continue trying to fix this system, but must create a new, regenerative system that takes nutrients from the earth in the form of food and puts them back in the form of “waste.”

In order to create this sort of regenerative food economy, we realized that we too would have to start working together as an organic whole instead of a bunch of really cool, but scattered individual efforts. So we took the afternoon to share our current efforts and begin to ask how we can implement them on our own campuses.

After collaborating, we rummaged through the communal kitchen in the Lyle Center for some lunch and came up with some yummy ingredients for a bright and colorful salad, sandwiches, and a hearty veggie soup with forbidden rice! Cooking together was such a beautiful experience! There is something uniquely intimate about the process of growing food together, preparing food together, and sharing food together. We’re planning some collaborative work days where we’ll visit each other and volunteer some labor as well as co-hosting a couple events together. We’re also talking about expanding this network to all the schools in California. We’re building a state-wide community!

After our lunch, we toured some of the student-led initiatives on campus. We visited the student-run organic farm which only made me pine for more space for us. That’s our dream. We want to be a student-run sustainable farm. We dream of honey bees and chickens and fruit orchards. And we’re confident this dream will be realized because we know that the university recognizes the importance of a greener campus…hint, hint.

Warmly,

Alannah Ivy

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Gross but It’s Growth: Cleaning the Cold Storage in the Garden

By Sustainability Interns | February 27, 2015

Main idea: Cleaning up the cold storage building on the outskirts of the garden is hard and really dirty work, but the benefits of having an indoor space at the garden motivates us to continue working.

Why should students care? With the addition of this space, we can: increase open garden hours, create a multi-use indoor space for student’s use (workshops, events, meetings, etc), start a seed bank, hold a small entomology exhibit hosting specific invasive/helpful bug species to the garden, and whatever the imagination can create into reality! Also with this building bringing more people more frequently to the back, this will help to boost progress on our greenhouse cleanup as well.

Along with our greenhouse that I previously blogged about, we have a Cold Storage Building in the corner of the R’garden, it has been untouched for many years and housed years’ worth of agricultural research that was left behind and forgotten.

 

 

When you open the big garage door, this is the view one gets.  The garage door is the only source of sunlight into the space, electricity is not available at the moment. This view is far better than what we saw when my team first opened the garage door, its actually a photo of when I did most of the clearing of the space and I was working on sanding the 2 ten foot wood tables left behind. I want to give folks an idea of what the entirety of the space looks like.

The ladder on the far distance goes up to a decent sized loft area, where a lot of research was left behind.

At least 25 Xerox boxes containing degraded soil samples were left behind for us to clean, there was also 8 years worth of rat poop left behind as well. Obviously we were all geared with safety glasses and gloves to clean everything out.

 

It was so much work to get all the dirty boxes down from the loft space and piled up by the door. Fortino and Nick had to scrunched down in the loft space to move things around.

 

Once we got all the boxes down, the space started to come together . Check out the view from the loft.

Once we cleared and clean the loft, it was another long process of loading the truck and throwing everything away, we literally filled all the dumpsters!

Cleaning out the Cold Storage Space has been a disgusting and long process, but every time we think about the possibilities, we manage to motivate ourselves to keep going and keep cleaning. Even though it has been a lot of work, the transformation has already been outstanding and rewarding. Thinking about the applications of the space is also really motivating. Once the space becomes cleaner and more functional in terms of lighting and security, we can do so much with the space! Fortino can bring his office out to the garden and be present to have the garden open for longer hours. It can be an added space for students to use for meetings and events. It can be an instructional space for garden workshops. It has a fridge in the back for cold storage of seeds and produce! We will have way more storage for tools, garden literature, and plants!

Oh and we can use the huge tables to have dinner garden potluck parties! The possibilities are endless. Thankfully because thinking about them makes it easier to scrub the gross floors and shelves.

Tracey Walters

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University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
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