About Sarah J Thomas

Urban Studies student at UIC. Graduating Fall 2018.

University of California Sustainable Practices Policy

The Sustainable Practices Policy for the University of California campuses establishes goals in nine areas of sustainable practices: green building, clean energy, transportation, climate protection, sustainable operations, waste reduction and recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing, sustainable foodservice, and sustainable water systems.[1] As noted in the policy document, the University’s locations should be “living laboratories for sustainability, contributing to the research and educational mission of the University, consistent with available funding and safe operational practices” (University of California). In light of climate change and water security crises extremely relevant to the west coast of the United States, this set of policy regulations for the Universities of California is their action towards the commitment of sustainable business practices and the responsible stewardship of resources.

As a relatively new set of sustainable regulations, deemed effective in September 2016, it is difficult to analyze the policies’ action and effectiveness. Although many of the practices mandated within the Sustainable Practices Policy include tried and true methods of enhancing and ensuring more sustainable practices; for example, requiring building and maintenance to comply with popular LEED standards, using automobiles at LEV program standards, and enhancing the use of renewable, energy sources such as wind, solar, and biomass.

California, as an important leader in environmental policy and regulation in the United States, has the capacity to hold the University of California accountable for its proposed standards of sustainable practices. With the federal EPA possibly succumbing to reductions in power and authority, California may have less national supervision and enforcement of said regulations and policies. Even though, the state of California has historically been an autonomous figure in regards to social and environmental progress over the years.

[1] University of California – Policy Sustainable Practices


High STI infection rates- an urban issue

As of 2014, chlamydia trachomatis is the most common reportable communicable disease in both men and women in Chicago. However, reported cases of the most common sexually transmitted infections have generally decreased in the past five years; total number of reported chlamydia infections decreased by 7% between 2009-2013 and total number of reported gonorrhea cases decreased by 13% from 2012 to 2013. Nonetheless another STI has remained a prevalent public health threat. Primary and secondary syphilis infections diagnosed in Chicago remain constant, and it persists to disproportionately affect non-Hispanic blacks, men, and men seeking men (MSM). Diagnosed syphilis infections have also proven to significantly affect those between the ages of 20 and 29 years, experiencing an estimated annual increase in infections of 4% since 2009. Geographic distribution of new infections has also provided interesting trends in STI diagnoses; the two community areas with the highest average gonorrhea and chlamydia rates were West Garfield Park and Washington, while the highest average syphilis infection diagnosis rates were located in Edgewater and Avalon Park.

Relatively high rates of STI infection diagnoses have remained a prevalent public health issue in Chicago for a significant number of years and continue to affect thousands of city residents each year. Upon viewing infection diagnosis rates and their relationship to different demographics and community areas within Chicago, it is clear to see that different infections tend to affect similar concentrations of age groups and neighborhoods; those 13 to 24 years old accounted for 65% of gonorrhea cases and 70% of chlamydia cases, while 44% of primary and secondary syphilis cases were among those under age 30. These high infection rates among young people are alarming, especially considering their correlation to certain neighborhoods within the city. As long as infection diagnosis rates persist without signs of decreasing, annual STI infection diagnoses will remain an important public health sustainability issue for these community areas and the greater city of Chicago.

Given the vast majority of annual infections occur for those between the ages of 13 and 24, the negative effects of continuously disinvested public education systems have been made evident by way of consistently high rates of STI infection rates among young people in Chicago. A crucial course of action towards decreasing rates of STI infection, especially for young people within south and west side neighborhoods, would be to increase and enhance sexual and reproductive health education within schools. Cities can prioritize sexual education through a variety of means, regardless if within the classroom or walking down a street. Cities and schools specifically can partner to reduce STI infection rates by enhancing sexual education at all levels of academics. In order to reach out to other demographics, cities also have the power to spread awareness, knowledge, and normalcy through ad campaigns, education services, testing clinics, and other public services.


Stein, Efrat. “Chicago Department of Public Health Launches “Get Tested Chicago” a Syphilis Public      Awareness Campaign.” City of Chicago :: Chicago Department of Public Health Launches    “Get Tested Chicago” a Syphilis Public Awareness Campaign. N.p., 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.

Chicago Department of Public Health. HIV/STI Surveillance Report, 2014. Chicago, IL: City of Chicago; December 2014.

Reusable Bottles for Undergrads

Sustainability Fee Project Letter of Inquiry

Project Title:

Reusable Bottles for Undergraduate Students

Project Timeline:

This project could become reality in a matter of months, depending on how many students it would serve and at what points throughout the school year. Ideally this project would be implemented each semester, granting each new and incoming student with a stainless steel water bottle.

Project Description:

In an effort to eliminate plastic waste on campus, I propose using a part of the Sustainability Fee to provide reusable, stainless steel water bottles to UIC undergraduate students. Rather than buying disposable water bottles in stores or depending on potentially harmful plastic bottles, students would already have a more durable and more sustainable alternative to drink out of.

Preliminary Project Budget:

This project’s budget would depend completely upon how often it would be implemented; the project’s optimal efficiency is reliant on how many people it affects. Hence the more people receiving stainless steel water bottles, the more money it will cost. A project of this dimension may be more feasible with greater funding through the university, however its environmental benefits may completely outweigh the costs. Expected total cost of this project would be approximately $100,000.