Making it easier to be green
UCLA Action Research Projects tackle many different areas of campus life in order to improve sustainability.
We created a green guide to life that provides information about how to live a sustainable life at UCLA,
By Jillian Ames
Originally published in The Daily Bruin
Students helped make UCLA a more environmentally sustainable campus with the 2010 Action Research Projects.
Over the course of two quarters, 70 UCLA students worked with professors and faculty to improve campus sustainability. Students were divided into 11 groups; each took on a separate topic to help make UCLA a more environmentally friendly campus. Each project found individual sources of funding, including contributions from the Office of Residential Life and the Office of Instructional Development.
The sustainable transportation project launched a campaign to increase awareness of the environmental benefits of bicycling.
“UCLA is not as bike friendly as some of the other UC campuses, such as Davis or Santa Barbara,” said Elizabeth Hirsch, a second-year political science student.
Nina Gupta, a second-year political science student, added that it is important to educate people on transportation issues, especially in a place like Los Angeles where traffic congestion is high.
Students in the Drought Tolerant Landscaping project hand-planted 350 plants on the corner of Hilgard by the UCLA sign to promote the use of drought-resistant plants on campus.
“We wanted to save water without sacrificing the aesthetic appeal of the campus,” said Sunny Tsou, a fourth-year philosophy student.
Tsou said the location of the plants was chosen so that as many people as possible would see the plants and acknowledge UCLA as being a drought-conscious school.
Sustainable Food Systems
Students wanted to increase the number of sustainable food options and go completely trayless in the dining halls, said Rebecca Miller, a fourth-year anthropology student.
However, students met opposition to these requests.
“Administration was hesitant to requests, expressing concern at the cost of more sustainable or organic products, and the possibility of more students breaking dishes without trays,” Miller said.
To illustrate to the administration the importance of more organic foods, students conducted an experiment and found that given the option, students chose organic rather than non-organic foods, Miller said.
The administration has promised to try to buy more locally, and is still considering going trayless, Miller said.
The UCLA Recreation Center has now been greened thanks to the Wooden Sustainability group, which installed low-flow showerheads, saving the school up to 1,401,600 gallons of water per year, said Jennifer Webb, a fifth-year environmental science student.
The new showerheads, with a flow of one half to two gallons per minute instead of two and a half gallons per minute, will have a payback period of less than a week, saving UCLA $15,313.17 per year, Webb said.
The Green Orientation group designed a project aimed at educating incoming students on the importance of leading sustainable lives.
“We created a green guide to life that provides information about how to live a sustainable life at UCLA, and what UCLA is doing to help people live sustainably,” said Rachel Kellman, a fourth-year economics and international development studies student.
The green guide includes information on transportation, eating in the dining halls, saving energy and water and getting more involved on campus. It will be distributed to everyone living in the dorms starting in the 2010-2011 academic year, Kellman said.
Students set out to effectively incorporate sustainability into classroom curriculums.
The group received a grant from the Office of Instructional Development to hold workshops for faculty and professors about sustainability, said Varun Mehra, a third-year math and economics student.
Professors would not have to completely change their curriculums to incorporate sustainability, said Janou Gordon, a third-year political science and world arts and culture student. In an economics class, for example, professors could teach students about carbon credit trading. In a political science class, information about environmental policy could be included, she said.
Residential Suite Composting
Beginning last year in Hitch Suites, students added composting bins to encourage students to compost their food waste. The 2010 Residential Suite Composting project sought to continue that program.
Through numerous surveys, the 2010 team concluded that a majority of students found the old system unclear, meaning it was time to revise the set-up.
The team replaced the old composting bins with new ones with signs and pictures of the different types of foods that go in each bin, said Shannon Vaughn, a third-year environmental science student.
“Hopefully this project will help UCLA to reach its goal of zero waste by 2020,” Vaughn said.
The Drinking Fountain Project
To reduce the use of plastic water bottles, project members sought to improve the image of campus water fountains as being dirty and unsanitary.
The team evaluated 30 broken fountains on campus, said Allison Loevner, a fourth-year sociology student.
Many of these fountains were in poor condition because maintenance did not have access to a map that showed the locations of all the campus fountains, she said. Project members proceeded to map them out so that maintenance staff could more easily attend to them.
Project members concluded that UCLA could save time, money and paper by transferring quarterly evaluations to an online system.
But the administration expressed concern that if evaluations were online, students would not complete them, said Amanda Silver-Westrick, a second-year geography/environmental studies student.
Thirty professors and department heads and 850 students were interviewed to gauge support; the majority surveyed said they would like to see evaluations online, Silver-Westrick said.
Overall the project was successful, as the 2010-2011 academic year will feature online evaluations.
Single Stream Recycling
Launched on Earth Day, project members added new recycling bins around campus, making recycling easier and more accessible for students.
Previously, recycling had to be divided into many different bins depending on which product was being recycled. Now, everything except food products can be deposited in the same bin, said Chris Meehan, a fourth-year sociology student.
Kaya Foster, a fourth-year women’s studies student, said that recycling is unique in that it gives all students an equal chance to be sustainable, without money acting as a barrier.
“Everyone can throw something away and have the same chance to make a difference,” Foster said.
Green Graduate Housing
Incorporating sustainability into the personal living habits of Weyburn Terrace residents was a main goal of the Green Graduate Housing Project, said Sarah Mier, a fourth-year international development studies student and Daily Bruin Viewpoint columnist.
Mier said students found the Weyburn complex itself to be relatively sustainable already, so the group focused on smaller projects, such as adding personal recycling and battery bins to each unit.
“(The project) was a way to target people who maybe don’t receive as much information about sustainability. Many of the graduate students come from areas where sustainability is not a priority,” Mier said.
Published: Tuesday, June 01, 2010