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  April 19, 2004

University Announces New
Policy On Environment

The Storrs campus bled blue during the second week of April, when both men's and women's basketball teams won national championships. Starting Thursday - Earth Day - it will begin to turn green.

University officials this week will launch a wide-ranging environmental policy that sets siting and building guidelines for new construction and campus renovations, conserves energy and water resources, further encourages recycling, and increases efforts to improve environmental literacy among students, faculty and staff.

The policy, which took a year in the making, was endorsed by University President Philip E. Austin and other top UConn officials last week. It will be announced during Earth Day activities April 22. Officials say it will be an ongoing process.

"Every year, we will develop new ideas, action plans, to make this a greener campus," says Richard Miller, UConn's director of environmental policy. "We want everybody to rethink how we live our lives when we're here, how we conduct business on campus, to become more aware of environmental issues, and be more responsible in our personal environmental behavior."

The policy and other information can be viewed on a new website,, and it will soon be accessible from the University's e-policy website. It was spearheaded by the Environmental Policy Advisory Council, a 25-member group composed of faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and alumni. The group began meeting in May 2003 and, several months later, added three subcommittees - comprised almost entirely of different people - to refine the draft policy and begin devising implementation and action strategies.

The final blueprint lists seven environmental sustainability and outreach initiatives for the coming year. In each area, the committee identified a set of action items.

"The University is committed to environmental quality, both on our own campus and in the wider community," said University President Philip Austin. "Thanks to UConn 2000 and 21st Century UConn, and to some exceptionally dedicated faculty, students, and staff, we are well positioned to take several major steps forward. The committee presents some excellent recommendations, and I value their guidance."

The EPAC and its three subcommittees - compliance and best practices, land use and sustainable development, and environmental outreach - will continue to meet in order to plan and implement the initiatives, Miller says. New members from the UConn community are welcome on the subcommittees.

"The subcommittees and work groups they've created will identify opportunities where the University can improve its environmental performance and reach out to the community," Miller says. "We've already accomplished quite a bit, and we're expecting to see continuing improvements. Now we have to start looking for more complex solutions."

The short list, Miller says, includes implementing UConn's Climate Change Action Plan to quantify and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at UConn. One measure involves installing campus-wide software, which was provided and will be maintained free of charge through a grant from the state Department of Public Works. The 'sleeper' software will find and shut down any of the about 15,000 computers on campus that have been left on overnight. University Information Technology Services is currently conducting a pilot program with the software, which, if it shut down 10,000 computers, would save the University up to $500,000 a year, and reduce the emissions that result from energy generation.

"When running, a computer uses between 120 and 180 watts," says Miller. "If the monitor is asleep, that falls to 65 to 95 watts, and if the entire PC is turned off, it uses only 2 to 5 watts. From an environmental standpoint, using the software company's figure of 10,000 computers - although this is probably more than are left running at UConn - the emissions reductions are the equivalent of taking 500 cars off the road."

Meanwhile, within the next few days, an EcoHusky student awareness campaign will begin, urging students leaving for the summer to separate and deposit in bins their broken computers, printers, televisions, radios, and other electronic devices, rather than discard them in trash cans. Campaign volunteers will also collect working electronic devices and clothing left behind by students and donate them to the Windham Area Interfaith Ministries or Covenant Soup Kitchen.

In addition, an environmentally friendly, non-spill coffee mug will be sold across campus as an alternative to the laminated cups now used in dining halls and campus cafés. On-campus eateries will discount coffee and other hot drinks sold to students, faculty, and staff using the cup.

Miller says the community drinks from and discards 10,000 non-recyclabl e laminated coffee cups each month. And although the UConn community recycles 825 tons of material each year, that represents only a portion of what can be done, he says.

"We set a goal of increasing the amount of sorted recycled material by 5 percent during the next year," Miller said. "If we attain that it would increase our recycling collections by 40 tons. That not only helps the environment, it should also lower our costs, as UConn will not have to pay for the vendor to sort the waste."