This student run blog reflects writing by students from their own perspectives on topics related to sustainability. It does not reflect the position of the University.

Payton Alaama (he/him/his) is a 5th year Political Science Major Campus as a Living Lab intern based at the UCI Sustainability Resource Center managing the sustainability blog.Payton enjoys exploring new places, hanging out with friends, and reading for leisure.

2021 Earth Week Recap

By Payton Alaama

Published May 25, 2021

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During Earth Week which lasted from 04/20/21-04/24/21, students at UC Irvine had the opportunity to attend a wide ranging array of events hosted by campus departments and on-campus organizations. During this time, over 2,000 guests visited the campus Earth Week virtual hub to get involved. Among these events were The CalPlug Earth Day Workshop hosted by UCIALIT2 CalPlug which discussed innovative energy solutions and a restoration of environmental justice. Professor Kathleen Treseder participated in a live Q&A session which allowed students to ask questions about the urgency of climate change, careers in the climate crisis, environmentalism, and more hosted by UCI’s bee friendly committee and CALPIRG. UC Irvine’s Bee Friendly Committee and CALPIRG jointly hosted a Pollination Day of Action and a pot painting party at the Ants in Your Plants Garden, which grows sustainable harvests and donates their fresh produce to Fresh Basic Needs Hub. Mariam Al Moubasher reflected on the Pot Painting Party; “I loved going to the ants in your plants garden and giving back to the environment to celebrate UCI’s bee campus certification!” UC Irvine’s Bee friendly committee and CALPIRG worked collaboratively by collecting pledges, petitions, and hosting panels to achieve UC Irvine’s bee friendly certification. This certification certifies a campus as bee friendly in acknowledgement of the damage pesticide use has on bee populations. Bee populations that are critical for our food systems are dying at an alarming rate from use of pesticides thus sparking dangers of a global food shortage. There were a myriad of other events in which attendees learned how to become more sustainable and become involved.

The statewide activist organization CALPIRG also hosted a Climate Action Summit which was a summit with community leaders, scientific experts, elected officials, and more to discuss bold climate action including reaching 100% clean energy by 2030. Combined, these two goals aim to reduce pollution which kills 7 million people per year worldwide and prevent the worst possible effects of climate change. CALPIRG has gotten the University of California to commit to 100% clean electricity by 2025 and it seeks to accelerate the state’s goal of committing to 100% renewable energy by 2030. Over 25,000 students have signed CALPIRG’s 100% renewable energy petition and the organization has met with dozens of state and local leaders. The Paris Climate Goal of committing to 100% by 2050 won’t be enough according to scientists to prevent world catastrophic results of climate change. Issues of mitigation and adaptation were discussed to help farmers, coastal regions, and other impacted communities develop their infrastructure and create technologies to prepare for the negative impacts of climate change. Coasts including that of California’s could see up to a seven percent sea level rise. Attendees argued now is the time to quickly mobilize and deploy resources to combat climate change by investing in greener technologies in electricity, agriculture, and the biggest United States GHG sector which is transportation. The Senior Advisor for Climate Policy and Innovation Sonia Aggarwal said in her recorded message “There is a nice Chinese proverb I really like which is “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, but the second best time is now.” Now is the time for individual action. Now is the time for our leaders to invest in job creating innovations to decarbonize our economies while lowering economic burdens and ensuring reliable services. The summit explored the pathway which involves organizing and communicating within our communities and educating our peers on the effects of climate and pushing through on innovation and research which the universities of the University of California are playing a central role in accelerating. The strategies for organizing mentioned include digital organizing, sharing stories, and spreading awareness online on social media and through our communities to drive the attention of more people including community leaders to reach out to elected officials. Given the difficulty of passing ambitious climate action necessary to stave off catastrophic impacts of climate change, this must involve reaching out to both sides of the political aisle through creative means.

At the Zero to Hero: Zoot your Zot at a Sustainable Lifestyle, students learned by interacting with panelists how to become more sustainable by being more conscious of the products we use and using alternatives to everyday items. Speakers discussed different products we could use to be more sustainable, including bamboo toothbrushes, natural sponges, cleaning brushes, and bar soap, as alternatives to products including items such as single use plastics. “I know that single-use plastics are terrible for the environment, since they take a long time to break down, and they are very damaging to the ocean,” Vicki Cheng reflected. “I loved hearing different people talk about how sustainability doesn’t look perfect and how it is unrealistic to be completely waste free. I learned that we need to shift our expectations from expecting to produce zero waste and look perfect to expecting us to try our best and continue to learn and educate others about what sustainability means,” said, Mariam Al Moubasher, a student who attended the Zero to Hero Event. This means doing our best to be sustainable with the products we use and place an increased premium on outreach and education. Using bamboo toothbrushes for example are more sustainable than using conventional toothbrushes since the latter generates a lot of waste through their recommended replacement timeline of three months. Using a bamboo toothbrush will reduce the amount of plastic you use. Before switching to sustainable items, it’s important to use what we already have with repurposing and reuse which saves both money and a lot of footprint. Another event which was the B-Corp panel hosted by In the Green also conversed about being more sustainable as consumers as well as supporting and starting B- Corporations. Certified B-Corporations have non-exploitative supply chains and have a regenerative and inclusive business model which includes fair working conditions, compensation, social justice, elimination of waste, renewable energy, and promotion of volunteerism and community outreach. To be a certified B-Corporation, a business must also be transparent about its practices including its supply chain, social, and environmental impacts, which may be too exploitative or degrading to be a B-Corp. Having consciousness on who we are buying for and purchasing from B-Certified corporations is an impactful step towards advancing environmental justice. “I feel that many stores, especially big or well-known companies, want to paint a picture and convince their customers that they are trying to be more sustainable, However, I strongly recommend that everyone try to see if the stores they shop at are actually taking action to be more sustainable and consider supporting stores that are advocating for sustainability and positively impacting our world,” said Erica Shenol. Thus it’s important if we do our individual research on who we’re buying from. There are also initiatives at the university level to advance environmental justice.

Initiatives at the university level to advance sustainability include the launching of the UC Center for Climate Justice. This new initiative works to address climate change as a social justice and equity issue. As a social justice issue, climate change disproportionately impacts marginalized communities through pollution and other negative externalities. Other events include an event hosted by the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation titled Confronting Eco-Grief and Climate Anxiety in the Undergraduate Classroom. Here Dr. Jessica Pratt discussed recommendations from the American Psychological Association and the recently published A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety (Ray, 2020) to construct personal attributes and social support among students to assist them and recover from mental health trauma related to climate change. The School of Physical Sciences held two events: one event titled The Future of Energy and the Environment where Don Blake, Distinguished Professor Department of Chemistry, Paulo Brando, Assistant Professor Department of Earth System Science, and Eric Saltzman, Distinguished Professor Department of Earth System Science discussed how we can restore our earth through global environmental change. And the other was a broadcast titled Live From Greenland which involved Glaciologist Eric Rignot broadcasting live from Greenland answering questions about everything related to climate change. UCI Student Housing SRC (Sustainability Resource Center) hosted two events including a Little Ants Nature school which involved a scavenger hunt and a read along with nature school teachers and friends for 1 hour live online-hang out. They also hosted an event called Delivering Engaging Talks: Tips for Science Communication to break down science to our peers who are not scientists.. UCI Nature partnered with Campus Physical and Environmental Planning, UCI Student Housing Sustainability and the SRC for its Naturescape & Wellbeing at UCI: An Exploration of Open Spaces and their Influence on Health & Wellbeing event which was an informative session about current and upcoming campus initiatives to create a more holistic and health-promoting built environment. Other events included virtual education week hosted by ASUCI to learn more about the impacts and the effects of climate change through informative sessions and audience participation through means including quizzes. Lastly, UCI Outdoor Adventures hosted a session titled Leave No Trace at UCI to discuss the seven principles of Leave No Trace to leave the outdoors better than when you found it which are plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose properly, leave what you find, be careful with fire, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.