By Taylor Mayes, CRCJ Communications Coordinator
When you think about successful movements that served as catalysts for social change, how can you not think about the IMPACT of students. Student energy is resilient, it’s passionate and in the past decade, with adding social media into the mix, it has become easily amplified. The push for the University of Connecticut to utilize its $1.4 million grant to purchase two new electric school busses by students at UConn serves as a perfect example of the impact that students have had within the environmental movement using social media.
Some background on the buses: In 2016, Volkswagen settled a claim that their 2.0 liter diesel engine vehicles released thousands of tons of NOX emissions in excess of regulated limits. The company agreed to a $14.7 billion dollar settlement in order to buy back or modify these diesel vehicles from consumers. In November 2018, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) announced 10 winners (from among 56 submitted proposals) in the first round of grants funded by the Volkswagen Settlement funds. UConn received one of the largest grants: $1.4 million to replace two diesel buses with two all-electric buses and install related charging equipment.
The University has already missed an interim deadline for executing this grant agreement with CT DEEP, which has provided an extension to the deadline. The upfront investment for electric buses is higher than for diesel buses, but due to lower maintenance and fuel costs, the lifetime cost of electric buses is lower. So electric buses make sense economically, as well as environmentally. Once the charging infrastructure is installed with this grant, it will be easier to add more electric buses to the fleet in the future.
Transportation is responsible for 38% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing diesel emissions from transit buses is a critical way to address climate change. UConn has touted its environmental consciousness, sustainability efforts, and last year’s #3 status in Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” ranking. Now it’s considering giving up a $1.4 million grant to reduce its transportation emissions and save on transportation costs over the life of the buses?
As you can see by the tweets above, UConn students used their power on social media to speak up and bring attention to an issue that otherwise, might have been swept under the rug. Students have powerful platforms, and I think that college fosters the perfect environment to encourage people to find their voice and learn how to collaborate. I love this quote from my supervisor John Humphries at a recent Climate Change Forum event held in Fairfield County.
“I don’t think any of us are going to say that folks, our age or above, are going to solve this,” Humphries said. “And we want to figure out ways we can support younger voices to make sure we do.”
In an era of limited time and resources, social media serves to make news stories accessible and digestible quickly – and then those who want the full scoop can obviously follow up and get the full story later.
Thanks to the students who used their platform to elevate this story! We hope to receive a statement from the UConn administration on the matter soon.