University of Vermont

Snowy Day

March 2011 Issue (2nd Edition)

Note: We apologize to our readers. We have resent this month's newsletter through our new website and made some corrections to the formatting in response to feedback we received from readers. 

Steve Posner: Interim Eco-Reps Coordinator

Steve Posner This semester, Steve Posner steps in as the interim Eco-Reps coordinator, to take the place of the previous coordinator Kyle Brown. Posner first came to UVM in 2007 as a research assistant with the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, and has recently received a M.S. from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. Last year Posner served with the Office of Sustainability as Energy Fellow, with funding through the Rocky Mountain Institute, developing energy projects for the UVM campus. This year Posner also assists in teaching ENVS 187 Campus Sustainability. 


UVM Launches Eco-Ware Program 

Packing Digest Magazine, a publication with information on products, packaging and the impacts of consumerism, recently featured an article online about UVM’s Eco-Ware reusable take-out container program. Starting this semester, students, faculty and staff can purchase a reusable polypropylene container to be used at any take-out dining facility on campus, with the purpose of reducing packaging waste. The program was first piloted at the University Marche in 2009 by Tom Oliver, retail operations director for University Dining Services.  Eco-ware was later taken on as a service-learning project for Sophomores in the Honors College.

(Photo Credit: Packing Digest)

The containers can be purchased at the University Marche and Brennans, for the initial price of $7.50, which covers the cost of washing and labor, and will save the consumer $.05 for every meal. The containers can then be returned to Marche or Brennans to be washed and the customer receives a custom cow tag that is exchanged for a clean container with their next meal.

The goal of the program is to encourage reuse and composting as a means to reduce waste and save money for both the university and the students in the program. Though the program is still in its infancy, the response from students, staff and faculty is positive and ideas for additions to the program, such as soup containers, are being considered. 

To follow UVM Eco-Ware on Facebook click here


VSTEP Takes Active Role in Beverage Contract Discussions 

This semester VSTEP (Vermont Students Toward Environmental Protection) is focusing their efforts on the Students for a Sustainable Beverage System (SSBS) Initiative, to educate students about the ecological, social, and economic impacts of the current beverage system on campus. As UVM's contract with Coke is approaching expiration in 2012,  SSBS is working to increase student awareness and organize a plea to the Administration before negotiations begin this summer.  

VSTEP first became involved in the issue in 2007 for the first "Bring Your Own Bottle" Day, which was supported by the Davis Center.  Students were warned that the day would reduce beverage sales and if sales dropped more than 10% in 30 days, the University would be fined for breeching contract in Coke.  VSTEP supported positive campaigns, such as "Cookies for Conservation" where students got a cookie for having a reusable mug. In 2009, the SGA passed the resolution to support Bottled Water Consumption Deterrence Act , which discouraged the sales of bottled water and encourages the use of reusable water bottles and installation of water fountain retrofits. SSBS was recently formed this semester as a sub-group of VSTEP. 

The group reflects on the University's core values of Respect, Integrity, Innovation, Openness, Justice and Responsibility, as listed in the Our Common Ground document.  They want to see these standards upheld in all aspects of University operations. VSTEP's demands include

  • safe, local drinking water free and accessible to all on campus
  • reduce waste with reusable beverage containers wherever possible
  • continue to educate the community to become responsible global citizens
  • business partners for UVM who are socially and ecologically responsible
  • a more equitable share of marketing and shelf space for local companies
  • products which have minimal environmental impacts
  • shorter-term beverage contracts. 

The group also states that in order for the Administration to respect the demands they must incorporate student values in the next contract and make the contract and related documents publicly available. 

Food System Grants Awarded by UVM Center for Rural Studies 

Photo Credit: VT FEED

The UVM Center for Rural Studies (CRS) has awarded grants to the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, VT FEED (Food Education Every Day) and the Center for Sustainable Agriculture for various projects projects. The $11,332 grant awarded to the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund will be used to measure the economic impact of local food consumption and ability of lands to support local needs.

The $12,000 awarded to the VT FEED project will be used in collaboration with Shelburne Farms, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont,  and Food Works at Two Rivers Center, to create a "Farm to School Evaluation Toolkit" to collect and share data on the impact of the programs to increase the understanding of the program and help develop curriculum. The $12,000 award to the Center for Sustainable Agriculture will help to create a food safety certification program for small, diversified farms as an alternative to the USDA GAP's certification. The study will look at whether this certification process would be feasible for Vermont farms. 

Environmental Forum Update: University Beverage Systems 

The first Environmental Forum of the spring semester took place on Wednesday, February 16th, and focused on the University’s Beverage Contract with Coca-Cola and student opinions for RFPs.

FM Munoz, Event Coordinator for the Davis Center and Administrator to Earth Week, offered the opportunity for students to be involved in Earth Week planning by creating events and activities to fill the calendar for the week. Last year’s events included a Locavore dinner and Contradance. This year Earth Week will begin Monday April 18th and coincide with Earth Day on Friday April 22nd. Contact FM Munoz with any ideas for events, speakers, tabling and activities by March 31st.

Jedd Wilcox, Education and Outreach fellow, gave an update from the Clean Energy Fund. Last year’s projects are progressing on schedule, including the solar trackers an the Forest Service Lab site on Spear St. that were installed on December 17, 2010. This year, there are 9 project proposals under review, helping to advance clean energy at UVM. Of the estimated $125,000 a year available for the fund, one third has been spent already and the SGA is talking about using the money for other non-alternative energy projects as well including lectures and workshops.

Erica Spiegel, UVM recycling/solid waste manager, spoke about the new Waste Veggie Oil policy and the Eco-Ware program.  From 2002-2005 UVM donated its waste vegetable oil to Baker Commodities Inc., a national company that transforms oil into commodities, and from 2005 up until this February, UVM gave its oil to Green Technologies LLC a small-scale producer, which closed suddenly earlier this year. Now beginning this February, UVM has made new arrangements with a small local hauler to dispose of its vegetable waste oil. The oil is hauled to Smartfuel America in Seabrook, NH where it is filtered into biofuel and then shipped back to Vermont to Fibermark, a local company that produces specialty paper products using 100% vegetable oil in their operations. But where will our oil go in the future? Ideas from the discussion included a “Vegawatt generator”, bio-fuel furnace, bio-fuel boiler, biodiesel production. use in the Slade greenhouse, and the Vermont Clean Cities Commission lab vans but more research is still needed to decide the most efficient use of the waste vegetable oil.

The Eco-Ware program is a program designed to reduce waste in the dining halls by providing reusable/washable take-out containers in the Marche and Brennans. Each week 13,000 pieces of disposable utensils are thrown away in the Marche and $10,000 worth of silverware, plates and glasses are missing from Brennan’s each semester. The program is not available in the Marketplace yet due to lack of space but the results of this semester may help to expand the program. (See above article for more).

Gioia Thompson, Director of the Office of Sustainability, provided a brief overview of the Current Beverage Contract at UVM to begin the discussion. The Coca Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England (CCNNE) is the exclusive beverage sponsor and provider on campus, beginning with a ten-year contract signed in July 2002 by the University Procurement Services Department. Current services include retail sales, fountain “post-mix”, and vending machine sales.  

Marlee Baron, Co-President of VSTEP, spoke on VSTEP’s vision for a sustainable beverage system, stating that they do not see a complete elimination of corporate presence but would rather work with companies to ensure social and environmental values as well as economic stability. Emilyn Fox, Co-President of VSTEP, also spoke on what VSTEP would like to see. They believe the contract should be for a shorter amount of time, preferably 4 years to fit with the inflow and outflow and students, be socially conscience and ecologically sound, while maintaining economic sustainability. Ilana Copel offered other student recommendations including as reducing packaging by installing fountain drink systems wherever possible and minimizing or entirely ending the sale of bottled water; offering products from more local companies, and providing healthy beverage options. 

Student attendees to the forum were very active in participating and offered their ideas and concerns for the contract. One of the main issues is that the SGA hasn't found a company to compare with Coke's role at the the UVM scale, and no contract would also mean no scholarship money and other revenue. 

The question ultimately arose, what is more important: no bottled water or no bottles at all?  The majority of forum participants agreed that there ought to be a ban of bottled water, but the room was split on whether or not to demand a ban on all plastic bottles. 

Students have also formed their own beverage awareness group, Students for a Sustainable Beverage System (SSBS) and are looking to have another larger forum focused solely around this issue in April. 

The Next Environmental Forum Meeting will be Wednesday March, 16 from 2-4 pm in the Chittenden Bank Room, Davis Center and will be discussing the Bikes at UVM and in Burlington. 

Announcements & Events 

  • UVM's First People's University, "Nuts & Bolts of Organizing" Workshop: Skill building workshop for students to learn details of effective community and campus organizing. Sunday, March 20th, 12-4:30 pm, Waterman Memorial Lounge, RSVP with Llu Mulvaney-Stanak for a spot BY Thursday, March 17th. Free lunch provided. 
  • Phil Rice of Climate Interactive to speak on C-ROADS, computer modeling system used to simulate long-term climate impacts of scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Monday, March 28th, 7-9 pm, Lafayette 403 . Contact Lance Polya for more information.
  • Beverage System Panel Discussion, Thursday April 7th, 5:30 - 7 pm, Lafayette L207 Hosted by VSTEP and SSBS, Speakers to be Announced.
  • 5th Annual Vermont Foodbank Hunger Conference. This year's conference will focus on Systems thinking and its application as we face a changing economy and changing charitable food industry. Tuesday, May 3rd, Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont. Registration is open on March 7th, through the Vermont Food Bank.
  • Nominate your candidate for the 2011 Student Life Environmental Citizen Award! Candidate nominations are due by Friday, March 25th by 5 pm through the Student Life Awards website and will presented at the Student Life Awards Ceremony on Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 11 a.m. in the Grand Maple Ballroom.