Clubs & Organizations

Food Waste – Moving Toward Greater Sustainability by Recovering Perfectly Good Food

One of the greatest challenges facing the world will be how to feed the 9 billion people anticipated to be on Earth by 2050.  There are essentially 3 major approaches that can be used to improve the likelihood that we will be able to meet the most basic of human rights, the right to food:

  1. Increase the productivity per unit of land on a global scale (science has helped accomplish this over the past century but by 2050, this challenge will be too great for this approach).
  2. Increase the quantity of land/space on which agriculture practices can take place (this essentially means deforestation, which has significant negative environmental ramifications).
  3. Reduce the level of food that is currently and unnecessarily wasted (recent awareness of just how much food is wasted nationally and worldwide makes this an option through which significant progress can be made).

Food Recovery HierarchyWithin the United States, 40% of the food produced becomes waste.  This amounts to more than 133 billion pounds of food annually and 97% of this amount ends up in landfills.  This can occur because of over-production, cancelled contracts, poor cold chain management, non-ideal sizes and shapes of fruits/vegetables, failed quality control goals, over-shopping by consumers, confusion resulting from inconsistent date label messages, lack of portion control, and/or lack of creativity in the kitchen. The environmental impact of wasted food is significant as well.  Every item of food that is discarded requires farmland, water, and fertilizer for its production; these resources are lost each time food is wasted.

What Can Be Done?

A significant amount of food that is currently wasted can be recovered to feed hungry people, supplement livestock diets, produce bioenergy, or compost as a soil amendment.  The US Environmental Protection Agency has Continue reading

UConn, Sustainability and the Environment

Environmental GroupsAs a senior, I am constantly looking back at my undergraduate career here at the University of Connecticut. One of the most influential factors was my love for the environment. I had the privilege of being able to serve as the Academic Senator for the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources in the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) here at UConn for the past three years. Along with being a CAHNR College Ambassador, I have always enjoyed interacting with members of my academic college, having the ability to represent my college in a variety of settings and advocating on behalf of my constituency in USG.

Being a representative of CAHNR in a senate body that had little idea or knowledge about the students that were in the college was one of the most interesting experiences I have had. CAHNR is stocked full of students that are environmentally friendly and go through their lives in a way to promote those ideas. CAHNR has majors such as Allied Health, Natural Resources, Resource Economics and Environmental Sciences. With those majors come coursework that emphasize the environment and the movement towards sustainability. Having majors in Resource Economics and Environmental Studies and representing an environmentally minded college lead to my involvement in USG being centered on environmental initiatives and sustainability.

We, as students here at UConn, are extremely fortunate to attend a large university that is devoted to being more environmentally friendly. Our administration has an Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) which is tasked with Continue reading

Peer Motivation – Driving Yourself to Achieve More

Pre-Dental Society
Tulsi and other members of the UConn Pre-Dental Society at the Yankee Dental Conference in Boston (January 2016).

Growing up I’ve always known that my purpose in life is to help others; that is how I decided on my career goal of becoming a dentist. Throughout my academic career I have been involved in volunteer work in a range of areas from soup kitchens to medical clinics. Seeing the impact my actions have on improving the life of others is the driving force which keeps me dedicated to being my best. If I can bring a smile to even one person’s face, then all the work I did was worth it. Despite the gratification I received through service, there was still something that made me feel like I wasn’t reaching my full potential. It wasn’t until college though that I found that extra something, a new source of motivation.

In high school you interact with people who have a range of interests and may never meet anyone with the same goals as yours; most people haven’t even decided what their interests are yet. It was difficult to find people with a similar passion for service at an age when many people are still unsure of themselves and their goals . I had accepted it as a fact that I would be working in the medical field for the rest of my life. It wasn’t until college that I found that group of people who wanted the same things I did. UConn has united me with a whole other set of friends who want to achieve what I do, which reignited my passion. My first year at UConn I was able to find everything I could ever dream of, people who were interested in the same things I was and friends unlike any other I had met! I was suddenly able to talk about my favorite things with people who were just as excited and proactive!
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‘In the Spotlight:’ Horticulture Club Takes on the Connecticut Flower Show

Horticulture ClubIf you ask the average student at UConn what they know about horticulture most likely you will get an unclear response. Today, a large part of society has developed a true disconnect from agriculturally related fields. Trees and plants, including ones we eat, are often taken for granted and are often under appreciated. The field of horticulture deals with the art, science, and business of growing plants. It is an industry that encompasses the cultivation of plants for both food and ornamental purposes. In Connecticut, agriculture has very mature roots. Much of the land was farmed for vegetable production in the days following settlement. At one point in time the State was a large producer of cut flowers before the market was driven south. Currently, Connecticut still boasts a large green industry, with over half of the State’s traded agricultural commodities a result of the nursery and ornamental plant industry. In today’s time the major itself at the University is very trade-oriented with a direct connection to the community.

Horticulture ClubThe ornamental horticulture industry is really focused on aesthetic, visually attractive, practical, and functional characteristics. Plants truly do serve as visually appealing pieces whether they are in a landscape, on your window sill, or even in a parking lot. Because of this reason, the best reason to showcase a product is not ‘let me tell you about..,’ but instead it is ‘let me show you.’ And in an effort to reach a broader customer base visually, the plant show was born. Flower and plant shows have really grown to become a horticultural tradition. The Philadelphia Flower Show was first held in 1829 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and to this day remains the nation’s largest and longest running horticultural event.

This February, the Connecticut Flower Show was held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford for the 35th time under the theme “In the Spotlight.” The four day show has grown to encompass over 300 booths filled with horticultural vendors, countless hours of educational seminars, non-profit and learning exhibits, floral displays, and over an acre of traditional landscape competition exhibits. This year, the Horticulture Club at UConn was invited to construct a 700 square foot display garden. The Club had historically participated in the flower show for many years but had taken a break for a few years until 2016. With none of the current members having previous experience with working a flower show, it truly proved itself Continue reading

Refocusing Your Passions

Yarden competing in GymnasticsPrior to college, I followed practically the same routine each day. I would go to school, go to practice for four hours, come home, do my homework, stretch, and sleep. I did this happily for the sport I love, gymnastics.

Gymnastics was my whole world growing up. That is, until the day I found out I had stress fractured two of my spinal vertebrae. I only found this out after competing for an entire season on the injury I didn’t know I had. This left me with irreparable damage to my back and quite lost in this world. All I had ever known was taken away from me in a moment. So what happens when the only thing you know is gone in an instant?

There I was, confused, flustered and quite heartbroken. I didn’t know a world without gymnastics in it. Every doctor I saw told me the same disheartening news; I wasn’t going to get back into gymnastics. That was when I began aggressive physical therapy, in hopes of a full recovery. I went several times a week, followed the exercises religiously. My physical therapist became more to me than someone who helped me physically feel better. I felt stronger mentally, like I could conquer anything. Eventually, I started getting better. I was remarkably able to make a comeback. My life felt like it came back together with the help of my physical therapist. This was when I decided I wanted to help others the way she helped me. That was when I found my career path.

This is the answer to my question, “So what happens when the only thing you know is gone in an instant?” It’s simple; you Continue reading

Heels Down. Chin Up. – How Horseback Riding Impacted My Life (For the Better)

Hanging out before our practice with Dennis at the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.
Hanging out before our practice with Dennis at the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.

As a 10 year old girl in middle school I decided to finally “grab the reins” in fueling my horse obsession and begin taking horseback riding lessons. Ten and a half years later, I would have never thought that I’d be riding and competing at a collegiate level. Throughout those years spent at the barn I’ve learned many things that have shaped me into the person I am today. It all began in 6th grade, when I would clean horse stalls three days a week as a trade for riding lessons. While my friends were socializing, I stayed at the barn so I could work for as many lessons as possible. If I wanted something, I would have to work for it. I’ve learned to apply this lesson to many aspects of my life, for example, getting good grades, being accepted to college, and getting a job. I feel that life is very easy (and boring) when things get handed to you all the time; but working hard and earning something makes the results that much better.

Riding also instilled in me the 2 P’s: patience and practice. There’s a saying “if you’re not a humble person, your horse will make you one;” truer words have never been said. Horses help prove to every rider that when something goes wrong, 99% of the time it’s the riders fault. At first I would think, “I fell off because my horse twisted the wrong way” rather than “I fell off because my leg was WAY out of position.” Nobody made me fall off but myself. I try my best to apply this same concept to my life in general. Got a bad grade? It’s not the teacher’s fault. I just need to study harder. Didn’t get the job I wanted? I need to think about what I can do to improve myself in order to be a better candidate. Learning to stay humble and exercising my Continue reading

Tips for Managing Your Time in College

ClockIt’s no secret that being in college is a huge time commitment. Students typically prioritize academics, but in addition to their course load, there’s extracurricular activities, jobs, a social life, and mental and physical health that all need to be considered as well. Being a sophomore this semester, I’m starting to realize more than ever that managing my time and stress levels is a daunting task. Despite the fact that balancing it all can be quite intimidating, I’ve found that it is definitely doable if you put some thought and effort into it. Planning is the key to all of it, but there are some specific goals I like to keep in mind when I’m allocating my time to certain tasks.

The first is to keep up with my studies. With so much going on, it’s hard to remember sometimes that your education really should come first. Although sometimes it’s necessary, it’s not ideal to always be cramming for that exam or quiz. I find that it just causes more stress and I don’t usually perform as well. Instead, I try to figure out which classes I need to devote more time to and those that I don’t in order to balance my studying better and not get behind. Through some trial and error, find study habits that work for you personally and Continue reading

It’s Never too Late to Try Something New

Working for UConn Transportation
Working for UConn Transportation

It’s mind blowing to realize that I am already in my fourth year of college. I can still remember, like it was yesterday, when I first arrived to campus. Some people I had first met at UConn gave me advice to get involved in many organizations on the campus for the purposes of staying busy, and to have the opportunity to meet new people.

Well I believe it’s safe to say that I took that advice seriously. Visiting my first involvement fair, I had signed up for 20 different clubs that were interesting to me. Obviously I didn’t join all of them but there were a few that I did. These clubs introduced me to many people and created great experiences. One of the first clubs I joined was the Outing Club. There were many other students I met at the time whom shared my same interest in hiking, and it was an awesome time going on weekend trips. Experiences like that are the reward for taking the initiative in getting involved.

After that first semester, I wanted to keep getting involved and meeting more students. I decided to join different organizations the next semester and kept this trend for every semester I have been here. This semester, as a senior I decided to join the ski club, and UConn endurance. One of the most rewarding experiences is being able to see campus life from all aspects. For example, I became involved with the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, and UConn transportation allowing me to be part of the campus community through multiple perspectives. The most important reason for my involvement is making memories that I will keep forever. One set of moments will stick with me after college is going on our annual winter trip with the UConn Turf Club. Every year we have a blast on the trip learning more about the turf industry and enjoy the southern city we visit. So far we have been to San Diego, Orlando, and San Antonio. Each trip builds Continue reading

Discovering the American South

Land Between The LakesUsually, my spring breaks are uneventful, involving a lot of sitting around at my house and relaxing by the television. This year, however, I participated in an Alternative Spring Break, in which I went to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Land Between the Lakes is a park managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and it straddles the line between Kentucky and Tennessee. I had chosen this particular trip among the many that UConn offers because it was environmental themed, an interest of mine.

When I left on the trip, I was hoping to make new friends, spend some time in the sun after a long winter, and see the beautiful Appalachian region of our country. I got all of this and more. There were only twelve students on the trip, plus one student trip leader and a staff member from Community Outreach. This meant that we became very close over the course of spending the week together. As we drove down to Kentucky, I got to know each person, their different personalities, interests, and quirks. We had a wide variety of majors on the trip- from chemical engineering, allied health sciences, and environmental sciences to anthropology and human development and family studies. This variety of people meant that everyone I met was new to me- there was no one I already knew Continue reading

How UConn Fit into a Lifetime of Dance

When I was three years old, my grandparents bought a VHS of “Feet of Flames,” an Irish dance show. The first time I watched it I was mesmerized. By the 23rd time I asked for lessons, and my lifelong passion for Irish dance began. My competitive years have been comprised of highs and lows, but where it is somewhat atypical is that college has been its highest point. While many dancers find it difficult to continue dancing after high school, I have been able to continue to improve due to the support of my dance teachers, my UConn community, my family, and the opportunities that exist at UConn. I have been able achieve goals I had at one time given up on, and set new ones that I never before dreamed would be possible.

My senior year of high school I emailed the Gray School of Irish Dance to ask if I could train with them. I had not attended a dance class in four years, but they were happy to take me on as a student. One of their dancers who also attended UConn agreed to bring me with her to the studio and invited me to join UConn Irish, an on campus organization.

UConn Irish
UConn Irish

Upon joining, I was welcomed and essentially handed 35 new friends. UConn Irish members range from complete beginners to a mini-community of competitive dancers who are still actively training and support each other in the quest for practice space on campus. It is one of the most accepting clubs on campus and has been an integral part of my college experience. This year, I have the opportunity to help the club grow and develop as a Co-President and Co-Choreographer, and I could not be more excited.

The most surprising opportunity that I received while at UConn was the ability to focus my Honors Thesis around dance. Starting at Orientation, everyone Honors student hears about the giant paper they will have to write before the end of their senior year. Some upperclassmen truly enjoy the experience and are excited to tell you about their project, while others share horror stories. Regardless, the process of finding a mentor, completing a project, and writing upwards of 50 pages about it is quite intimidating. Last semester, I had the idea to tie my major in Nutritional Sciences and my passion together and teach Sports Nutrition classes at my dance studio. With the help of my advisors, Dr. Hedley Freake and Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, I applied for a grant from the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) and received funding Continue reading