University of New Haven Fosters a Culture of and Commitment to Sustainability
From its new electric vehicle charging stations and fuel cell to efforts to reduce food waste, the University is a leader in fostering sustainability through important initiatives, education, and outreach across the University.
February 7, 2023
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
For Laura Miller, M.S., LEED GA, promoting sustainability isn't just something that interests her. It's her passion. She is dedicated to helping lower the University's carbon footprint while helping to make sustainability exciting and accessible to students – and all members of the University community.
As director of the University's Office of Energy and Sustainability, Miller wants all Chargers to know that the University is committed to sustainability. The University has many new projects in the works to reduce its carbon emissions, as well as new and ongoing initiatives that foster sustainability.
One of the University's most recent projects is the addition of new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations on campus. The University recently installed new charging stations – in the lots near the Beckerman Recreation Center and Celentano Hall – bumping its total number of charging stations to nine.
"It's a sign showing that we're committed to sustainability," said Miller. "This was the right time. We were getting more feedback from faculty, staff, and students who wanted charging stations. We also got a good incentive from the utility company to help us with the project, making it financially feasible to do it now."
'I encourage student engagement'
The University is piloting the new EV charging stations with the expectation that more will be added. Facilities says members of the University community who drive EVs have been charged up to have them on campus, and that the initial responses to the program have been "overwhelmingly positive."
Committed to recycling, the University provides recycling receptacles across campus. Miller also frequently works with students to educate them about what can be recycled. She enlists their support in recycling through programs such as RecycleMania, which encourages students in residence halls to increase their recycling efforts.
"I work closely with students, and I encourage student engagement," said Miller. "I work particularly closely with the University's Marine Conservation Society. They're a strong club with a great membership, and they're passionate about sustainability. I love to help students learn about sustainability initiatives and to make them accessible."
'Encouraging, redesigning, and reimagining'
Finding ways to further the University's sustainability efforts and lower its carbon footprint is indeed a team effort. Miller recently collaborated with the Massachusetts-based Center for EcoTechnology and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. They highlighted the success of the University's sustainability efforts – in particular, its commitment to recycling and composting – and offered support.
Miller has been collaborating with both agencies to enhance the University's signage to make it even easier for Chargers to get on board with these important green initiatives.
In addition to her work with students, Miller also collaborates with outside organizations, agencies, and companies, as well as with faculty and staff, chief among them being Louis Annino '99 EMBA.
Associate vice president and chief facilities officer, Annino is equally excited about the major sustainability initiatives taking place at the University – including the soon-to-be-operational fuel cell that will provide the base power for the Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation and to Buckman Hall. It is expected to save the University approximately $100,000 per year in energy costs. He's also passionate about the "softer" things the University is doing, such as fostering a culture of sustainability.
"We're encouraging, redesigning, and reimagining our campus and how we redistribute parking and surface infrastructure," he said. "A lot of it is about encouraging public transportation, carpooling, and walking, when possible. Walking to and from a vehicle is also an important element of sustainability."
'I can make significant contributions'
Annino points out that it's the changes that might seem small that add up to a big reduction in the University's carbon footprint. The University has now replaced nearly all the high-pressure sodium and incandescent lighting around campus to more sustainable LED lighting – something they're now focusing more on at the Orange Campus. As water fountains are replaced during renovations, they're being replaced by new ones with water bottle fillers to encourage Chargers to use reusable water bottles rather than disposable plastic bottles.
"We need to revitalize our environment and make sure we focus on things that are genuinely renewable."Louis Annino '99 EMBA
The University is also endeavoring to provide students the tools they will need to incorporate greener, more sustainable practices in their day-to-day routines. At an annual Earth Day farmers market, students are given items such as energy efficient light bulbs and reusable tote bags to help them reduce plastic-bag waste. By collaborating with organizations such as CT Rides, the University has offered students information about public-transportation programs, as well as free passes and "try it" days to encourage them to check out local public-transportation systems.
For Annino, an avid outdoorsperson who enjoys skiing and fishing, this work is personal. He has seen "amazing" changes in the environment as a result of climate change – and not for the better. While this concerns him, it also inspires him to play a meaningful role in the push for change.
"I feel like I'm at the point where I can make significant contributions to changing the perspective of how we use our natural resources," he said. "I know without a doubt that if we don't address this, the trajectory we're on is not sustainable. We don't have endless resources. It's important for us to recalibrate around how we use things so that they are sustainable. We need to revitalize our environment and make sure we focus on things that are genuinely renewable."
'Take advantage of the things that encourage sustainability'
Annino says the University is always assessing its annual carbon footprint and exploring way to lower it. This provides important clues as to how the University can continue to improve its sustainability initiatives and lower its impact on the environment. A recent assessment, he says, was particularly eye-opening: They learned the University's transportation component made up nearly half of its overall emissions.
Annino believes this information is valuable, and it is now helping to guide the University's focus as it continues to work to lower its carbon footprint. They are exploring a variety of ways to address travel-related emissions, both at the local and global levels. While he is a strong supporter of international travel and study abroad opportunities for students, he also encourages Chargers to attend meetings virtually, when possible, instead of traveling. He also stresses the importance of carpooling or taking public transportation to campus, if those options are available. He also believes working from home, when possible, can make a meaningful impact.
"We can all think about whether we really need to drive our vehicle to work every day," he said. "Is there a possibility to work from home, carpool, or use public transportation? We learned how to be good at these things during the pandemic, and we should take advantage of these options. Yes, there was a cost to business when we were all connecting remotely, but maybe we should learn from this and take advantage of the things that encourage sustainability."
'I want to make people feel comfortable'
This is something Miller is focused on as well. In collaborating with the University's Center for Student Engagement, Leadership, and Orientation (CSELO), they recently completed a survey to better understand how members of the University community are using transportation and to determine how to encourage greener alternatives, such as public transportation.
Miller is also exploring some "creative" options to sustainability, including the possibility of purchasing carbon offsets for when travel is a must. She is letting Chargers know that, if they are able and willing to do so, they can make a financial contribution through a website such as Terrapass to offset the carbon generated by their travel. She says it's important to approach sustainability from all angles – from composting to reimagining travel to energy efficiency.
"This is something I'm personally very passionate about," said Miller. "I love to help students learn about sustainability initiatives and make them accessible. Sometimes these topics sound scary or futuristic, and I want to make people feel comfortable, to let them know that a fuel cell doesn't have to be intimidating. EVs are not simply in our future – they're here now. I hope to continue to expand our educational and sustainability initiatives at the University."