Fellows Devise Creative Solutions to Achieve Carbon Neutrality

Drew Story, Nami Davoodzadeh, Elizabeth Deyett, Maiko Le Lay and Fabian Villalobos are UC Riverside’s 2017-2018 Carbon Neutrality Initiative fellows.

Tree Planting at UCR

The projects proposed by UCR’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative fellows include planting rooftop gardens.

Mobile apps pinpointing sustainability facilities and temperature-controlling rooftop gardens are just two of the strategies proposed by UC Riverside students in the University of California’s quest to reach carbon neutrality by 2025.

As part of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative Student Fellowship Program, five participating fellows will spend the next year implementing their sustainable solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by UCR buildings and vehicles to net zero. Established in 2015 by UC President Janet Napolitano, UCR’s program will be administered by the School of Public Policy for the first time this year.

“Our school is committed to addressing policy issues facing our region and the world, including those the Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) aims to tackle: climate change, transportation, waste reduction and sustainability, among others,” said Anil Deolalikar, dean of the School of Public Policy. “We are excited to work with our student fellows this coming year to help advance the UC system’s goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2025.”

Each fellow will receive a stipend of $3,000 to fund a sustainability-themed project of his or her design. An additional Student Engagement Fellow will serve as the initiative’s ambassador, receiving a $4,000 stipend plus $1,000 to fund campus event programming geared toward educating and inspiring other students.

The five fellows for the 2017-2018 term are:

Drew Story, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical and environmental engineering: Story will join the CNI program for the third time this year and serve as its Student Engagement Fellow for the second consecutive year. “Given I’ve put so much effort and hours into this program already, I wanted to come back and keep the momentum going,” he said, adding the opportunity to attend meetings of UC’s Global Climate Leadership Council was another motivating factor for his return.

Instead of zeroing in on a single project, Story will focus on increasing student awareness of university-wide sustainability activities. “As this is the first year the CNI program will be administered by the School of Public Policy, I plan to host multiple campus events throughout the year where I will lean on SPP and its institutional agencies,” Story said. “I would also like to see the university’s Climate Action Plan and Water Action Plan be updated, and for both undergraduate and graduate students to become more involved in the fight for sustainability.”

Nami Davoodzadeh, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering: Davoodzadeh seeks to make sustainability-related facilities on campus more accessible to students. “I decided to make a smartphone app, Green M@pp, which shows the closest recycling, trash and composting cans on campus,” he said.

To combat food insecurity, the app also will include the locations of snacks and other food items left over from university events. “There are many events happening on our campus every day, and most of the hosts would like to put notices up for other students to pick up leftover food afterward,” Davoodzadeh said, noting he will incorporate some of his research in computational programming into the software’s development. “Hopefully after creating the app, I can ask the university to combine it with the current UCR campus phone application.”

UCR Smart Car

UCR aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings and vehicles to net zero by 2025.

Elizabeth Deyett, a Ph.D. candidate in genetics, genomics and bioinformatics: Deyett’s experience as part of the graduate student task force that planned the campus-wide Earth Week celebration in April 2017 informed the development of her fellowship project. “Through planning the event, I became aware of a major reason why UCR cannot move toward carbon neutrality: communication,” she said. “Throughout Earth Week, I had various groups come to me explaining their current sustainability initiatives or expressing their interest in joining the fight. It became strongly evident every interested party believed they were the only group fighting for sustainability.”

Deyett will stage monthly forums on environmental issues to encourage communication. Ultimately, she hopes to build a unified network of sustainability-minded groups that will be able to lobby the university’s administration and promote carbon neutrality projects across campus.

Maiko Le Lay, a Ph.D. student in dance: The only fellow to represent the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Le Lay hopes to foster connections between humanities, arts, and STEM departments. She aims to develop a zero-waste workshop series, form a membership group called the Greenest Grads of UCR, and implement a certificate program called the Humanities & Arts Go Green, which she describes as equivalent to the STEM departments’ Green Lab certificate program that helps science labs diminish their environmental impacts.

“Changing small behaviors is important within all departments,” Le Lay said, citing examples such as increasing the number of recycling bins on campus, encouraging students to switch to reusable bottles and lunch boxes, cutting down on paper use, carpooling, and turning off lights in unoccupied rooms.

Fabian Villalobos, a Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering: The project proposed by Villalobos is dual sided. First, he will work toward installing rooftop gardens on some of the campus’s older buildings. Older structures typically cost more to heat and cool; the gardens will provide natural insulation, thus allowing the university to taper its energy usage.

In addition, Villalobos will partner with local vegetarian and vegan groups at campus events to increase awareness of the pollution—namely carbon dioxide emissions—caused by meat production. He also will design a poster campaign to educate students about the environmental effects of the commercial preparation of meat using fryers and other cooking appliances. “Hopefully by raising awareness, I will help others make a conscious decision to consume less meat,” he said.

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