By Hallie Brown
CNI Fellow 2017-2018 

An essential part of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) is to make sure that students are a part of the process to meet the 2025 net zero emissions goal. To ensure student participation in the Initiative, the Bonnie Reiss Carbon Neutrality Initiative Fellows Program was started in 2015, which funds a student engagement fellow as well as two project based fellows. The Fellowship is open to both undergraduates and graduates at all 10 campuses, the UC Office of the President, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Achieving net-zero emissions for a large institution such as UC Santa Barbara can be complex and complicated. As such, it has been important for UCSB to approach the issue from a number of different angles. Whether it is carbon offsets, alternative transportation, or outreach and engagement, the Bonnie Reiss Fellows projects at UCSB reflect a range of potential solutions.

Elizabeth Szulc is a third-year Environmental Studies and Geography double major. She is currently developing a guidebook for the UCs on procuring carbon offsets. In addition, she hopes to recommend policy on carbon offsets for the Climate Action Plan. “At UCSB, carbon offsets could be a very valuable tool and a key part of reaching the goals of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative and if the University were to spearhead certain carbon offset projects there could be a significant amount of co-benefits associated with various types of potential local offset projects,” Szulc said. Examples of potential carbon offsets in the area include the capture of various biogases from wetlands and restoration of native plants including the Coastal Live Oak. Elizabeth believes that “the Carbon Neutrality Initiative is important, whether or not the 2025 goal is met. Higher education is a place for experiments and innovation, and this initiative brings an important issue to the forefront of people’s minds.”. If you are interested in learning more about Elizabeth’s research on Carbon Offsets, you can email her at

A fourth-year Environmental Studies major with an emphasis in policy, Christian Gallegos-Alarcon is UCSB’s CNI Engagement Fellow. He has been working to increase student awareness and engagement in CNI, and to bring stakeholders together to help facilitate communication within CNI. “As an Environmental Studies major, it is a privilege to be able to work on such a groundbreaking initiative,” Gallegos-Alarcon said. “CNI is so important…UCSB has the resources, the intellectual capacity, and the craziness to think that it is possible. Our university is an institution where a goal like this is possible.” In Gallegos-Alarcon’s eyes, it is “our responsibility to set the standard for other large institutions to follow suit and to work together to create a better world for future generations.”

Denley Rodriguez, who recently graduated this past winter with a double major in  Geography and Environmental Studies, worked on a project aimed to reduce carbon emissions from faculty and staff commuting to campus. For this project, Rodriguez created heat maps of commuter density based on residency data collected through the annual campus Commuter Mode split survey. This Map helped him identify areas that needed to be targeted for outreach. With this information, he then increased advertising of UCSBs  vanpool program to those areas. More recently, Denley helped to develop events for CycleMAYnia–Santa Barbara’s “Bike Month”–and to increase participation by UCSB in CycleMAYnia. He proposed and planned the end of the month ceremony for CycleMAYnia, which took place at Goleta Beach on May 31st, and included free McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams for anyone who biked to the event.

Hallie Brown is a second year Environmental Studies major. She is currently working on outreach related to increasing energy conservation on campus. She focused on sparking behavior changes by creating an outreach program for energy conservation. Part of the outreach program included creating a bi-quarterly Climate Scoop Newsletter to spread awareness of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative and emissions reduction projects on campus, and to provide energy-saving tips and resources to the community. She also secured funding from TGIF for a strategic text messaging program for the 2018-2019 academic year. The text messaging program will send out reminders to practice energy-saving behaviors at specific times during the day.

UCSB is currently selecting CNI Fellows for the 2018-2019 academic year. Click here to view the application.