Sustainability to remain under VP for Administrative Affairs

Published on March 9, 2015.
Published on March 9, 2015.

Correction issued on March 12 at 8:38 a.m.: The headline has been corrected. Sustainability will remain under the VP for Administrative Affairs, not the VP for Academic Affairs.

Although a bill that would fund and establish a sustainability office within the University of Hawai‘i system has died, UH is considering creating an office.

“The bill dying suggests, states, that our request for general funds will not be kind of met this year, which happens,” Vice President for Administration Jan Gouveia said. “That doesn’t mean that the university still can’t do a lot in terms of formalizing an office and bringing a lot more structure to the program, which we intend to do regardless.”

Senate Bill 707 would have appropriated about $500,000, or however much is necessary, from state general revenues in fiscal year 2015-16 and the same amount the following fiscal year, if needed. The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Mike Gabbard, failed to receive a hearing with the senate Ways and Means Committee before the March 6 decking deadline.

An office for sustainability

For Hawai‘i to be a global leader in sustainability, the university must lead the way, Gabbard said.

The bill, which also had a house companion, House Bill 1206, would have funded three positions for a chief sustainability officer, system sustainability officer and an energy manager. In addition, there would have also been two part-time student workers, Gabbard said.

Further details on the funding for these positions could not be received at the time of publication.

According to Gabbard, the money was requested to identify opportunities to implement energy efficiency measures, to develop and implement sustainable funding strategies as well as indicators to measure progress, cultivate students’ pathways to develop leadership in sustainability and to track and report progress on sustainability projects across the university system.

He added that getting students involved is important because they would be involved with real-life situations, which tend to mean more.

“Sustainability is important for UH,” he said in a phone interview. “And when you’re on an island in the middle of the Pacific, it means we’re highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels, rising energy costs, biodiversity loss, watershed degradation and other challenges that our communities face. And so in my view, Hawai‘i has the potential to be a global leader in sustainability by connecting our deep indigenous knowledge of living in harmony with our lands to modern technologies, and I see UH as being a key part of these efforts.”

He added that the main thing is that a serious conversation is taking place about sustainability in UH.

Sustainability positions at other institutions

According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) 2012 Salaries and Status of Sustainability Staff in Higher Education report, the average salary for a sustainability director or chief sustainability officer at higher education institutions is $82,791.

The average salary for a sustainability coordinator is $45,000.

The AASHE report is based on the results of a 2012 study the organization conducted, which received 462 respondents. It found that 67 percent of 2012 respondents indicated that their positions were housed in a sustainability office, compared to 23 percent in 2010.

Sustainability currently at UH

There’s a lot of potential for change in regards to the university’s current sustainability movement, Laurel Pikunas, a masters student in urban and regional planning, said.

“There’s a lot of energy for change around, there’s a lot of students who are really interested in it,” she said in a phone interview. “But right now their energies aren’t really coordinated, and it’s having some sort of systemic position where it can be that interface point between the students grassroots effort and the administrative line of power. That is a really, really valuable point across any institution.”

According to Gouveia, sustainability will remain housed under her office since the bill died. Currently, the only position that supports sustainability is the interim system sustainability coordinator.

“We no longer want to kind of do this on a volunteer basis,” she said. “And we want to be serious about the business of sustainability on our campus. So to do that we need to bring structure and formality to it, which we intend to do.”


Strategy key to budgeting for food

Published Feb. 23, 2015.
Published Feb. 23, 2015.

College students need to eat, but the food that you purchase can quickly add up in cost. What may help is to budget; plan out how much money you want to spend on food each week or month and stick to this amount.

With a $50 budget, I would stick to preparing your own meals rather than eating out.

With a $100 a week budget, you have more room to buy additional items you see at the store and can even go out to dinner or lunch. Use this money to look for higher-quality foods – especially the meats. You may even be able to make the items you buy last longer, but still, the trick is to strategize.

First, see how much you can afford to set aside for food each time you go to the grocery store. I would recommend going to the store each week, as most produce only lasts that long anyway.

Try starting with a $50 budget for the week. I like to make sure the groceries I buy correlate with eating healthy: proteins, dairy, produce, etc. Go to the store with a plan of what meals you will be making and eating so you don’t buy unnecessary items.

With $50, you have to be cautious — not to mention conservative — about what you buy, because it doesn’t give you much room to add extra items you see at the store. You also want the items you buy to be applicable to different meals and recipes so you get more out of your purchases. For example, if you want to buy chicken, find multiple recipes where you can use the chicken to make sure you use it all up within that week.

Chicken usually costs about $8 for a pack of filets. Typically, one pack should last you a week. Generally, about $10 for meats is a good amount.

Next, I would find some fruits and vegetables that can accompany the chicken in the different recipes. Set a limit for yourself on how much you can spend on these – perhaps $10. You’ll need some food for lunch, so head over to the deli section and get some bread, cheese and deli meat. Set aside about $10 for this, as some deli meats can be a bit pricey. You may also want to eat some easily prepared food such as spaghetti or pasta, and the items needed for these can last a while. Set aside $8 for these.

As for snacks, I would only set aside $8. This means if you want one of the simplest meals to prepare — ramen — you can buy about nine of them.

The rest of your budget can be used for drinks, such as water, juice or milk.

Quick Tips

When looking at packaged foods, compare the cost per volume. For example, for a jar of tomato sauce, one brand could give you a high volume of sauce for an affordable price, rather than a jar that is smaller and cheaper.

Brands don’t matter as much as you think, especially if they’ll be taking more money out of your pocket. The generic brands are often the same quality as the original ones, just a lot cheaper.

If you want to go out for a meal, try to set aside less than $20 so you still have enough to get the groceries you need. If you eat on campus, this money can be used to buy three meals.

When budgeting, it’s important to keep track of your purchases even after you make them. Using a spreadsheet in Google Drive or on Excel will greatly help you see how much you are spending and if you need to cut back in any areas.

Sample $50 grocery list

1. Chicken breast tenders $7.50

2. Broccoli crowns $2.00

3. Asian salad mix $4.00

4. Organic mini carrots $3.00

5. Deli turkey $5.00

6. Bread $4.00

7. Angel hair noodles

(2 boxes at $3.00 each)

8. Tomato sauce $3.50

9. Ramen (9 at about $0.70 each)

10. Soymilk $4

Another step towards being sustainable

Published March 2, 2015.
Published March 2, 2015.

The university has once again moved forward on its path to sustainability with the signing of its executive sustainability policy on Feb. 26.

University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner electronically signed the policy at the third annual Hawai‘i Sustainability in Higher Education summit on campus. According to interim System Sustainability Coordinator Matthew Lynch, this policy represents a clear stake in the sand.

“The university has now formalized its commitment in its policy so that we are integrating sustainability into this institution through its very DNA,” he said.

An executive policy

The purpose of this policy is to further establish goals and metrics in areas ranging from operations to curriculum to campus engagement.

“Every campus has the opportunity and obligation to embrace sustainability principles for all campus activities and to set data-based performance measures to improve resource use efficiencies, increase the generation and use of renewable energy, and conserve state social, cultural, economic and environmental resources,” the policy states.

In addition, the university is also in a position to increase and transmit knowledge in sustainability, and the policy encourages research on issues that affect campus and community sustainability.

Becoming more sustainable

The policy dictates that the university becomes carbon neutral by 2050.

According to Lynch, this can be defined as reducing first and then offsetting the university’s carbon emissions.

“A university like ours with such a high energy use, has a significant impact on our environment,” he said. “And human-caused climate change is advancing at an ever-increasing pace. So if we are truly to be stewards of our place, then it is upon us to take measures to protect the climate.”

He added that UH is one of the largest users of electricity in the state, but whatever progress the university makes in reducing its energy usage helps the state to meet its own energy efficiency goals.

The policy also asks that UH be 40 percent more energy efficient than its 2008 baseline.

“Furthermore there are carbon emissions that are attached as a result of energy use. So by reducing our energy use, we can reduce our carbon emissions and get closer to carbon neutrality,” he said.

Lassner believes becoming carbon neutral is an ambitious goal.

“I believe it’s entirely possible the reason why we set it out as 100 percent carbon neutral is to put a stake in the ground,” he said.

The policy also asks the university to establish metrics and reporting mechanisms to track water stewardship, fuel efficiency, waste management and sustainable food practices.

What’s important about metrics, Lynch said, is that what gets measured gets done.

“Much of the operations section of the policy articulates these different focus areas that are important to us, and really tasks us with figuring out what it is that we should be measuring and tracking,” he said. “And once we can start to think about those metrics, again what gets measured gets done, and we can then start to think about the action steps that are needed to accomplish those goals.”

The campuses have also been formally tasked with creating their own sustainability implementation plans. According to Lynch, given the pace the system-wide sustainability strategy has unfolded — in regards to the Board of Regents approving its policy in 2014 and last week’s signing of the executive policy — the campuses are on track to have at least a first draft of their plans by 2016.

All the policies and plans would be living documents that evolve and adapt as conditions change, he said.

Junior Nick Abarcar, a psychology major, thinks any time an organization has it within its power to set sustainability as a goal, it should do so.

“In the grand scheme of things, [sustainability] is basically saving the world because if we don’t make this a goal the world is going to die a lot sooner than it should,” he said.

Formalizing groups for sustainability

Currently, sustainability is housed under the system vice president for administration’s office, which deals with university operations.

Vice President for Administration Jan Gouveia is the first executive administrator to be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring UH is meeting its sustainability goals, Lynch said.

The policy formally establishes an office of sustainability under her direction.

In addition, the policy establishes two councils: one sustainability council and one sustainability curriculum council.

“The sustainability council is the formally recognized and sort of created group,” Lynch said. “All of this work prior to this point has been done by voluntary, adhoc, informal, passionate people who care about this stuff, who have not been mandated to do this, who have decided that this is so important that we’re going to take the time out of our schedules to make sure that it does.”

This group would focus on operations issues and would advise and report to the operations office.

The sustainability curriculum council would advise and report to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Lynch said.

“If we are to rethink our campuses, if we were to reimagine our campuses as living laboratories, then curriculum and operations should absolutely be in communication working together,” he said. “Because what an amazing opportunity we have to connect students with real projects on the ground in their own campus to be more sustainable, to help them reduce energy use, to reduce waste, to be better stewards of their water.”

Moving ahead

According to Lynch, UH is looking into ways to fully resource its sustainability goals.

“The fiscal climate is currently very tight,” he said. “However, sustainability is something that can largely fund itself with some seed funding.”

Other campuses that have similarly embraced sustainability at their cores have utilized and harnessed savings from energy efficiency measures to fund their other sustainability initiatives.

“So energy efficiency is really the cornerstone of a good sustainability plan because it has a potential to become the economic engine that can drive all of the sustainability measures,” he said.

He added that the university has potential to positively impact the communities it serves.

“In my mind, the university has so much potential to not just reduce its energy use but to really be a catalyst for communities to go forth and pass sustainability as a milestone along the way to thriving, flourishing communities that live in harmony with each other and that steward their natural resources and restore health to both land and people,” he said.

Web Editor Alden Alayvilla contributed to this article.