Known for its robust sustainability initiatives, the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine)  is now offering students a new avenue to get involved and make a difference. The ANTrepreneur Center at UC Irvine has announced the creation of the university’s first student chapter of the United Nations Association of Orange County (UNA-OC). This exciting development, a collaboration between the ANTrepreneur Center and UNA-OC, reflects a strong commitment to nurturing a community of innovative students ready to address global sustainability challenges.

Understanding UNA-OC

The United Nations Association of Orange County (UNA-OC) is part of the UNA-USA, a national organization dedicated to building understanding of and support for the ideals and vital work of the United Nations among the American people. Its local chapters throughout the U.S. engage community members in promoting the importance of global cooperation and the role of the UN in international affairs. UNA-OC focuses on educating and mobilizing local communities in Orange County to support the principles and vital work of the UN, fostering a deeper understanding of issues such as peace, justice, human rights, and environmental sustainability.

The ANTrepreneur Center’s Pioneering Role

The ANTrepreneur Center has been instrumental in weaving sustainability into the fabric of student startup practices. The Center’s impactful work in promoting sustainable entrepreneurship recently earned it a Sustainability Award from UNA-OC. This recognition was thanks largely to the Sustainability Challenge, a contest where students developed and competed with sustainable business ideas.

Ryan Foland, Director of the ANTrepreneur Center, expressed his enthusiasm for the organic development of the chapter: “Good things take time, and we wanted there to be an organic process where students decided for themselves to start a chapter at UC Irvine. It’s a reflection of the growing concern that students have for the importance of sustainability.”

A key aspect of the UCI ANTrepreneur Center’s sustainability initiatives is its collaboration with the UCI Sustainability Resource Center, which has significantly enhanced the sustainability practices within the Center. Under the leadership of Sustainability Intern Maya Villalobos, the ANTrepreneur Center has implemented several groundbreaking eco-friendly practices that not only reduce waste but also integrate sustainability into the core functions of the Center.

Sustainability Efforts at the ANTrepreneur Center

Maya has spearheaded major sustainability initiatives, focusing on comprehensive waste management. “At the ANTrepreneur Center, we’re committed to reducing our environmental footprint. We’ve introduced composting systems to manage organic waste and partnered with TerraCycle to recycle non-traditional plastics that are typically not handled by conventional recycling programs,” Maya explains. This approach not only helps in reducing landfill waste but also educates the Center’s community about the importance of recycling materials that are often overlooked.

In an effort to cut down on single-use plastics, the ANTrepreneur Center has also introduced an innovative approach by offering upcycled water bottles instead of disposable cups. “By providing reusable options, we aim to change the daily habits of our staff and students, making sustainability a practical part of their everyday lives,” Maya says. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to encourage sustainable practices in all aspects of the Center’s operations.

Expanding Campuswide Sustainable Engagement 

In addition to embedding sustainability in entrepreneurial education, the ANTrepreneur Center’s collaboration with the new UNA-OC student chapter offers an expanded platform for broader student involvement. This partnership not only facilitates in-depth sustainability discussions among emerging entrepreneurs but also extends these vital conversations across the UC Irvine campus. “By integrating sustainability early in business development, we’re preparing our entrepreneurs to be mindful of their environmental impact,” Maya explains. Building on this foundation, the UNA-OC student chapter, led by Olivia King, enables even greater accessibility and engagement for all students interested in sustainability.

Olivia highlights the importance of this expanded platform: 

“We provide a platform for students to translate their passion for sustainability into practical actions that align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Our chapter acts as a vibrant hub for students to engage in both global and local sustainability efforts, further enriching the campus’s commitment to environmental stewardship and innovation.” 

This integrated approach ensures that UC Irvine students have abundant opportunities to engage with sustainability initiatives, driving forward a comprehensive campuswide movement towards environmental responsibility and action.

Dave Rice, president of the UNA-OC, highlighted the broader impact of these student-led initiatives: “The energy and creativity of UC Irvine students are vital in our pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our collaboration with the ANTrepreneur Center has been incredibly rewarding, and we are thrilled to see students leveraging this new chapter to make substantial contributions to sustainability.”

UC Irvine’s Sustainability Leadership

The formation of the UNA-OC along with the Center’s other sustainability initiatives are just the latest efforts in UC Irvine’s history of championing sustainability and eco-friendly practices.The recent introduction of The Hub at the ANTrepreneur Center further exemplifies this commitment. As a collaborative venture with the UCI Office of Data and Information Technology, The Hub provides students with access to cutting-edge tools from tech leaders committed to sustainability, enabling them to innovate in ways that respect and enhance the environment.

UC Irvine has long been at the forefront of environmental innovation. The university is home to several pioneering initiatives, including the UCI Sustainability Resource Center, RevHub OC, Climate Action Business Incubator (CABI), Sustain SoCal, and the UCI RadiCal program, which collectively push the boundaries of sustainable practices and technology.

The university’s dedication to sustainable innovation is also demonstrated through the work of the Climate Energy Water Solutions (CLEWS) group, which integrates machine learning and AI with environmental science to tackle climate change. This multidisciplinary approach underscores UC Irvine’s strategy of using advanced technology to create sustainable solutions.

Call to Action

The establishment of the UNA-OC chapter at UC Irvine is a significant step toward enhancing the university’s impact on sustainability. It provides a dynamic platform for students to engage with and contribute to solving global environmental challenges. The ANTrepreneur Center continues to lead in integrating sustainability with innovation, encouraging students to think creatively and develop sustainable solutions to today’s environmental problems.

Students interested in joining or learning more about the UCI UNA-OC chapter are encouraged to click here. As this new chapter begins its journey, it promises to be a transformative force, guiding UC Irvine students to become proactive global citizens, ready to address the pressing sustainability challenges of our time with inventive and impactful solutions.

For more information about the UCI ANTrepreneur Center and how it can support your entrepreneurial journey, including programming, speaker series, micro-internships, funding, and more, visit our website. You can also learn more about our valuable collaborations with Blackstone LaunchPadTech Coast AngelsTech Coast Venture NetworkOC Startup CouncilSoCal Celebrates Entrepreneurship, Irvine Tech Week, and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn.