U named finalist for Racial Equity and Sustainability Collaboration award

By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Sustainability Office

The University of Utah is one of five finalists for the Racial Equity and Sustainability Collaboration award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The U’s project, “Integrating racial equity, social justice, and sustainability through general education learning outcome assessment,” uses learning outcomes for all undergraduates to understand the inseparability of racial equity, social justice and sustainability, said Adrienne Cachelin, professor (lecturer) in the Department of Environmental & Sustainability Studies and the project lead.

“Too often, sustainability education focuses on ecological science, ignoring the systemic link between the devaluation of black and brown bodies and the degradation of the environment,” Cachelin said. “It’s the same system at play—two sides of the same coin.”

The project was developed in response to a letter from students to the university administration that suggested granting a degree to any student that did not understand sustainability was “profoundly irresponsible.” Cachelin notes that many universities include a sustainability general education course requirement. However, the project’s interdisciplinary faculty team chose to focus on learning outcomes to ensure that undergraduates are likely to engage in conversations about the relationship between racism and environmental problems in more than one required course. The U’s General Education Learning Outcomes call for students to build skills in “judging the value of a system according to how it accounts for equity and inequity created by human actions,” and “analyzing a system focusing on the interdependence of people and planet.”

The award winners will be announced in an online ceremony on Dec. 9. AASHE empowers higher education administrators, faculty, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. The University of Utah is an AASHE member institution providing all students, staff and faculty with access to AASHE’s resources by creating a free account using an @utah.edu email address.


The University of Utah Climate Commitment Task Force  is seeking a small team of graduate students with experience in environmental and climate justice to serve through the coming year as UC3 Fellows.

UC3, the University Climate Change Coalition, is a core program of Second Nature that connects 23 of the world’s leading research universities committed to accelerating climate action on campus, in communities, and at a global scale. The University of Utah UC3 fellows will be linked with a cohort of graduate student fellows from participating institutions across North America that are working on the climate justice pilot project.

Applications (below) are due September 1, 2021. Learn more and apply at environment.utah.edu/students/uc3-fellowship


GCSC Seminar: Reframing the Story of Environmentalism to Highlight Inequality, Justice

By Maria Archibald, Sustainability Office

What is the role of the university in addressing the climate crisis? How can academics engage proactively in environmental and social justice work? How can we transform our institutions to meet this political moment with the urgency it demands?

In her upcoming Global Change & Sustainability Center talk, “Interdisciplinarity, Intersectionality and Environmental Justice: The Time is Now,” Dr. Julie Sze, author and professor of American Studies at the University of California at Davis, will tackle these challenging questions. Sze, whose background is in English, Ethnic Studies, and Peace and Conflict, was drawn to environmental justice work because of the movement’s intersectional approach to environmentalism.

“Mainstream environmentalism is constructed as mostly white, and wilderness, and conservationist,” Sze says. “That erases the stories of people of color and cities and workers,” whereas “environmental justice as a movement was always about reframing the story of environmentalism.”

Sze’s research, which emphasizes environmental justice, inequality, and the intersection between social movements and policy, has led her to believe that we must construct a different kind of university in order to respond effectively to the climate crisis.

What does a different kind of university look like? Sze explains that there is no hard and fast answer to this question, but that we must think critically in ways that draw upon social movements and systemic alternatives to discover the university’s role in addressing the climate crisis.

“There isn’t one easy model,” Sze says, and the process involves examining what students are taught in classes, who they learn from, and what is left out of the curriculum. She says it also means imagining universities that are not based in neo-liberalism, debt, and extraction, and planning campuses that provide more services and less policing.

“Can we have campuses without cops?” Sze asks. “That’s a different kind of university.”

As a scholar and educator, Sze also values academic spaces as entry points to environmental justice work. She was motivated to become politically engaged as an undergraduate student, but says of her upbringing, “I didn’t come from a very political background. It’s not part of my genealogy, my family history, my community, to be interested in these kinds of things.”

She believes that universities are integral to solving the climate crisis because of the opportunities they create for students like her to learn things outside of their own lived experiences and to develop passion for environmental justice regardless of their upbringing. When universities make space for students to ask questions, feel outraged, and be curious, “more and more of them want to do this work…and make meaning in their lives,” she says.

On creating a “new kind of university,” Sze argues that we must always remember how our work in academia is connected to the outside world. She points out that while scientists have been warning about climate change for years, our response has not met the magnitude of the crisis. “How much empirical evidence do we have to show before something’s done?” she asks.

The crises we face today must be met with creativity and urgency. “On the one hand, we have to do what we’ve always done, because it really matters,” Sze says. On the other hand, we have to do something else.” Join Sze at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22 at tinyurl.com/gcsc-sze to learn more about what that “something else” looks like, and how you can contribute to the movement.


By Maria Archibald, Sustainability Office

As climate-induced wildfires rage across the West and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten our communities, many of us have disaster on the mind. How will we respond when disaster strikes close to home? How will we recover? How can we build our communities to be resilient in the face of crisis?

In her upcoming Global Change & Sustainability Center seminar, “A Grassroots View of Disaster Recovery,” Dr. Divya Chandrasekhar will explore these questions, as well as examine what it means to be disaster resilient in a complex, uncertain and unjust world. Chandrasekhar, associate professor in City & Metropolitan Planning and an urban and regional planner who has studied disasters across the globe, is particularly interested in the importance of community autonomy to the recovery process.

Because disasters impact every dimension of our lives, from our collective economy to our individual psychology, disaster recovery must happen at the grassroots level—from the bottom up.

“When you say a community has recovered, it means every individual in that community should have recovered in some meaningful way,” Chandrasekhar says. This can only happen when individuals have agency and power in their own recovery process, so she cautions fellow urban planners and other eager outsiders to take care in their recovery work. Without a deep understanding of the community’s needs and capacities, their efforts will be irrelevant or even harmful, she says. Her call to action? Engage communities in deciding their own futures.

While one might think that a person who spends her life studying disasters would feel rather pessimistic, Chandrasekhar says she finds great hope in her work. While disasters inflict trauma and tragedy, they also present an important opportunity.

“Disasters shake up existing structures,” Chandrasekhar says. “They don’t just destroy your building, they smash government structures. They smash patriarchy.” If a community is ready to address these underlying issues, the recovery process presents a good opportunity to demand justice and build resilience, she says. Climate change and COVID-19, which have hit communities of color and under-resourced communities the hardest, demonstrate that oppressive structures like racism and colonialism cause the effects of disaster to be felt disproportionately.

“The process of going from recovery to resilience requires addressing those larger structural issues,” Chandrasekhar says. “There can be no resilience unless there is social justice.”

So, amidst the grief, the anger, and the loss that disaster brings, Chandrasekhar finds hope—hope for healing, for a more just future and for resilient communities that can withstand disaster.

Whether you’re an organizer doing mutual aid in your neighborhood, an urban planner hoping to better engage communities in your work, or an individual searching for hope in this trying time, Chandrasekhar’s talk will have something for you. Join us from 4-5 p.m. Tuesday, September 1 at https://tinyurl.com/gcsc-disaster as she explores the complexity of disaster recovery and calls for social justice as the only path to true resilience.

Sustainability Leaders Recommit to Centering Equity and Justice

Along with many of you, we spent this past week filled with grief. These feelings are tragically familiar, as is their cause. The legacy of racial oppression played out on city streets around the country and right here in Salt Lake City. We all must play a role in demanding justice in our communities and our nation. Recognizing that our silence would itself be a form of violence, we recommit to working actively against the systems that devalue and disregard black lives and disproportionately impact communities of color. In the Sustainability Office and Global Change & Sustainability Center, we will center justice and equity, reaffirming antiracist practice as a fundamental part of our shared work. We stand in solidarity with oppressed communities, pledge to listen and act, and acknowledge that this is a collective fight.

Brenda Bowen, Global Change & Sustainability Center Director
Adrienne Cachelin, Sustainability Education Director and professor/lecturer in Environmental & Sustainability Studies
Kerry Case, Chief Sustainability Officer


2017 International Stream Daylighting Lecture Series, $1,000

Project manager: Aaron Phillips

A team of university faculty, community members, and the nonprofit Seven Canyons Trust organized two speaker events at the University of Utah. These events facilitated dialogue about the practice of Stream Daylighting, a multi-disciplinary approach to uncovering urban waters, bringing them back to the surface, and restoring their stream channel. Dubbed the “International Stream Daylighting Series,” these events were a great success. The collaborative spirit fostered by these events will drive innovations in water management and ecosystem restoration that will enhance the livability of cities and the health of our communities in general.

ARTivism, $1,000

Project manager: Brooke Larson  |  Project advisor: Jeffrey McCarthy

The Environmental Humanities Program and local climate justice groups organized the art activism symposium “ARTivism: Mobilizing the Climate Movement.” Over 150 people, including national arts organizers, attended. Powerful images were created by artists from across the region that were then screen printed onto hundreds of banners and patches for the community to paint and use. They created 125 cross-bar banners, 350 patches, one 30-foot banner. Activists learned new art-making skills, artists learned how to merge their creativity with their concerns for climate issues, and people from all backgrounds walked away with a feeling of empowerment.

Cultural Aspects of Food, $1,000

Project manager: Shannon Jones

The Cultural Aspects of Food course often prepares excess food, which is given to the students in plastic disposable containers to take home. With SCIF funding, this course purchased sustainable, compostable containers for their students to take home extra food. In conjunction with this, reusable grocery bags were purchased to be used by lab instructors when purchasing food for the course. This project will save a minimum of 700 to-go containers per year for each course when estimating that each student uses only one to-go container out of the three labs they attend.

Compressed Earth Block Workshop, $161.45

Project managers: Eric Blyth, Shay Myers  |  Project advisor: José Galarza

The College of Architecture + Planning hosted a workshop on Compressed Earth Block (CEB) building, led by Marcin Jakubowski, the founder of Open Source Ecology. With SCIF funding, the college was able to purchase supplies, including buckets, lime and cement, and to cover Jakubowski’s travel expenses. By educating and promoting the use of Compressed Earth Blocks through education and demonstration, they furthered the environmental awareness within the design and building fields here on campus and in the professional community at large.

Pioneer Garden Design, $1,000

Project manager: Brianna Milot  |  Project advisor: Jennifer Watt

With help from SCIF, the Edible Campus Gardens Steering Committee was able to hire a graduate student in Architecture to help create a long-term master plan for the Pioneer and Sill gardens at the University of Utah. These gardens comprise the Edible Campus Gardens. With this student’s help, the committee has created a design board with a site section and site plan. This high quality and professional plan will provide both guidance and structure to the funding and implementation of a wide variety of projects. It will now be easier to ask for future funding and to know where such funding should be allotted.

The Box Heat Transfer Explanation, $1,149.13

Project manager: Jörg Rügemer

In this project, Jörg Rügemer, assistant professor in Architecture, challenged students to learn how different glass qualities and shading devices impact energy performance of buildings. SCIF funded the purchase of an experimental setup for the ARCH 6352 class to better learn the aforementioned phenomena and to experiment best strategies for buildings. Both experiments presented impressive results, which demonstrated to the students the impact of passive measures of design on building performance. There were 15 students in this year’s class, and there will be about 15 -20 students each future year who will be exposed to the experiment.

Westside Leadership Institute Computer Access, $894.80

Project manager: Nicole Pavez  |  Project advisor: Ivis García Zambrana

The project manager used money from SCIF to purchase two retired laptop computers from University Surplus & Salvage, upgrade the computers, and buy equipment needed for future maintenance. The repurposed laptops were donated to The Westside Leadership Institute (WLI), a semester-long continuing education course taught by professors from the University of Utah through the University Neighborhood Partners and NeighborWorks Salt Lake. Classes are taught in both Spanish and English. The course was previously lacking access to computers, and as a result it was hard to conduct in-class activities. With these new “retired” computers, students improved computer access at WLI.

Bike Rack Parking at Warnock Engineering Building, $11,390

Project manager: Ian Pradhan  |  Project advisor: Ginger Cannon

With SCIF funding, Ian Pradhan was able to upgrade the existing bike parking near the Warnock Engineering Building (WEB) to new high capacity bike racks that would better serve the bike parking needs in the area. Ian was inspired to do this project when he saw how underserved the bike parking in the engineering district of campus was. After the initial funding, the project advisor and Active Transportation Manager, Ginger Cannon, continued to work on the plans for this area on campus. After two years, Ginger completed the original project and expanded the available bike parking in the engineering district.

Wildlife in the Wildland-Urban Interface, $5,483.20

Project manager: Ethan Frehner  |  Project advisor: Çağan Şekercioğlu

The University of Utah’s campus housing and Research Park extend directly into undeveloped foothills of the Wasatch Front. While this poses a challenge from a management perspective, there is also potential for studying the effects of human development on our native wildlife community. With SCIF funding, Ethan Frehner used high-definition wildlife photographs as a means of educating students and faculty about the animal residents of our university’s wildland-urban interface. This project observed and promoted appreciation for the animals that neighbor our campus, reduced human-wildlife conflict, and informed sustainable university policy and decision making that influence wildlife.

Furthering Open Source Sustainable Technologies on Campus, $7,050

Project managers: Eric Blyth and Shay Myers  |  Project advisor: José Galarza

In Spring 2017, students used SCIF funds to obtain a Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Press, which makes high quality, sustainable building materials. In this grant, students were able to acquire a trailer to mount the CEB Press to enhance its mobility. This trailer increases the educational opportunities of the press, allowing students to host workshops at the Salt Lake City campus, and with academic partners in the surrounding Four Corners areas. Additionally, this grant allowed students to host a panel with professionals in the fields of open source technologies, natural building, and regional affordable housing to inspire further innovation.

Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) Device Study, $8,750

Project manager: Spencer Donovan  |  Project advisor: Mathieu Francoeur

The goal of this project was to design, fabricate, and characterize a solar thermophotovoltaic device to convert solar radiation to electrical power by the use of a thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cell. While TPV has the potential to far surpass the efficiency of conventional silicon photovoltaics (PV) in terms of efficiency, it is difficult to maintain the temperature difference between the emitter and the TPV cell. Students built a self-contained thermophotovoltaic device to specification. In doing so, they maintained a large temperature difference between the silicon carbide emitter and the thermophotovoltaic cell.

A student fixes their bike as the Fix-It Station installed in University Student Apartments using SCIF funds.

USA Fix-It Stations, $4,004

Project manager: Ali Hedayat  |  Project advisor: Valerie Green

The lack of bike repair stations at the University Student Apartments (USA) motivated students to gain SCIF funding to install bicycle repair stations at two new locations. The first location was the in the West Village, in front of the building 722 behind the University Student Apartments main office. The second location was chosen on the north west corner of the eastern parking lot in the East Village. About 150 of the university village residents directly benefit from the stations. Besides these residents, other citizens who bike around Sunnyside Ave might use the stations as well.

University of Utah Vertical Axis Wind Turbine – Phase 1, $10,429.99

Project manager: Lindsay Walter  |  Project advisor: Meredith Metzger

SCIF funded Phase I of a project to build a Utah Wind Turbine (UUWT) to be installed on the rooftop of a building on campus. Students purchased sensors to measure the power performance of the turbine, support framing, mechanical components, and electronics for the data acquisition system. A tent-like enclosure was made from upcycled military spec vinyl to weatherize the structure. A wifi system was installed on the roof so that VAWT can be used as a research tool through data collection. This project was displayed at the Mechanical Engineering Design Day, which over 1,000 students attended.

Hybrid Heat Engine, $1,000

Project manager: Job Freedman  |  Project advisor: Kent Udell

Waste and low-level renewable heat sources are a plentiful but underutilized energy source. This project sought to take advantage of this resource to provide inexpensive renewable electrical power to the University of Utah. Students created a Hybrid Heat Engine to convert waste heat to electrical power at the High Temperature Water Plant (HTW). While the project was not complete when the final report was submitted, it showed promise to meet or exceed goals for power and efficiency. At Engineering Day, many people expressed excitement at the idea of creating a brand-new form of alternative energy at the University.

Red Butte Monitoring, $1,000

Project manager: Jeff Rose

More than 30 miles of new and/or improved trails are slated to be developed within the Foothill Trail system over next 10 years. One of the proposed sites for development is East of Bonneville Shore Line Trail on the Red Butte and Mt. Wire trail systems. The purpose of this project, led by Jeff Rose, faculty in Parks, Recreation, & Tourism, was to assess current visitor use and visitor experience motivations and preferences at popular, local outdoor recreation trail destinations immediately proximal to the University of Utah campus. This research was necessary to mitigate potential user conflict and negative environmental impacts from increased use related to proposed Foothill trail development.

Sustainability Development, $510.73

Project manager: McKayla Pham  |  Project advisor: Holly Sebahar

SCIF funding was used to purchase materials necessary for particle sensor kits which students will be able to build and experiment with to determine sources of airborne particulate matter. The ultimate goal of this project is to create a lesson plan and a hands-on activity to be used in teaching students grades 6-12 about air quality. Furthermore, as a part of this project, students from Granite Park Middle School will be touring the Utah-Atmospheric Trace gas & Air Quality lab (U-ATAQ) to experience science demonstrations focused on sustainability.

Bags to Beds, $4,700

Project manager: Kaitlin McLean  |  Project advisor: Bobbijo Kanter

The Bags to Beds project takes plastic grocery bags, cuts them up, and uses them as string to crochet sleeping mats for individuals experiencing homelessness in the valley. Students replaced shabby collection cardboard boxes that were scattered over the University of Utah campus and community with responsibly made, durable receptacles. They also purchased crochet hooks and heavy-duty scissors, which are now used at all of the service projects this group hosts. Lastly, some marketing materials were purchased to get the word out about this project. This project takes thousands of bags that cannot be recycled out of the waste stream.


Huntsman Arena Waste and Recycling Stations, $2,500

Project manager: Matt Abbott

With SCIF Funding, a team of staff from Stadium & Arena Event Services, Facilities Management, and the Sustainability Office took measures to reduce waste within our athletic arenas. They obtained color-coded and clearly-labeled bins with appropriate size openings to help fans in a hurry recycle correctly and reduce contamination, purchased bins that can be easily altered to include a compost stream when composting becomes available at the arena, used single-stream recycling to prevent confusion from too many streams, and established a standard for athletic venue recycling bins. Given the volume of waste from sporting events, this will have significant impacts.

Green Infrastructure Pollinator Garden, $11,825

Project manager: Mason Kreidler  |  Project advisor: Sarah Hinners

With SCIF money, students added green infrastructure and a pollinator garden in place of the existing lawn area between the Architecture Building, School of Business, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. This project mitigated a flooding problem to the Architecture building, reduced irrigation requirements, enhanced biodiversity on campus by supporting native pollinators, and created a pleasant green space. The project obtained an additional $1825 from SCIF to commission a professional landscape architect to assist in the planning phase of the bioswale and pollinator garden installation to ensure that the garden was professionally implemented.

Gardner Commons Solar Umbrella, $10,000

Project manager: Taylor Mineer  |  Project advisor: Jennifer Shah

Students purchased a ConnecTable HUB Solar Charging Station to be placed outside of Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons. The energy generated from solar panels installed on the roof of this table allows students to plug in their laptops and other electronic devices while working outside. This project created an accessible outdoor workspace for students to study and charge electronic devices while contributing to the University of Utah’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

U of U Outdoor Classroom Phase 2, $15,000

Project manager: Rachel Carrillo

In Phase 2 of creating an outdoor classroom for the Ukids Daycare, the AEB Community Garden was created. This garden utilizes a low drip watering and a composting system. An ADA accessible ramp replaced a previous ramp that was at a very steep grade and was unsafe for young children. This project also furthers collaboration across numerous departments such as Red Butte Gardens, Facilities Management, University Student Apartments, and the on-campus Feed U Pantry. The outdoor classroom also provides the ideal backdrop for research and practical application of best practices in early childhood education and improving sustainability on campus.

Gardner Commons Microscopes, $10,000

Project manager: Sam Carter  |  Project advisor: Andrea Brunelle

This project provided the departments of Geography, Anthropology, Geology, and Environmental & Sustainability Studies with the tools needed to enhance student involvement in scientific research and give valuable hands-on experience. SCIF funding allowed the purchase of 15 Zeiss Primo Star Student Microscopes to a teaching lab in the Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons. Numerous classes now use the new facility. Undergraduate researchers have access to the lab for studying biodiversity, stream ecology, paleoclimate, and microorganisms. Investing in tools that facilitate research and get students excited about science is the best way to ensure a clean, healthy, and sustainable future.

Phenology Working Group, $10,000

Project manager: Dale Forrister  |  Project advisor: Phyllis Coley

Phenology is the study of the timing of key biological events in plants and animals such as flowering, hibernation, and reproduction. Tracking phenology provides evidence that species and ecosystems are being influenced by global environmental change. In this project, the Phenology Working Group connected independent University of Utah research projects under the central theme of studying how climate change impacts phenological patterns. Second, the group laid the groundwork for long-term phenology monitoring in both the Red Butte Canyon Research Natural Area, and Yasuní, Ecuador. Third, the group disseminated their research findings within the University of Utah and Salt Lake communities.