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Tess Fleser's avatar

Tess Fleser

Bruins For a Just Transition

"Hey! I'm Tess and I'm a first year pre-physiology major. My goal is to develop healthier, eco-friendly habits and grow my understanding of climate change and my role in it."

Points Total

  • 0 Today
  • 45 This Week
  • 515 Total

Participant Impact

  • up to
    pounds of CO2
    have been saved
  • up to
    more servings
    of fruits and vegetables

Tess's Actions


Choose LED Bulbs

LED Lighting

I will replace 1 incandescent lightbulb(s) with Energy Star-certified LED bulbs, saving up to $14 per fixture per year.

One-Time Action

Coastal, Ocean, and Engineered Sinks

Learn about Biochar

Biochar Production

I will spend 90 minute(s) learning about biochar and how it can help sequester carbon.

One-Time Action


Tour a Green Roof

Green and Cool Roofs

I will set up a visit or a virtual tour of a green roof in my city, and ask about the codes and process for installing a green roof.

One-Time Action

Land Sinks

Support a Community Garden

Multiple Solutions

I will support a community garden by volunteering, donating, or advocating for a new or existing one.

One-Time Action


Stay on the Ground

Telepresence, High-Speed Rail

Instead of traveling by plane, I will find an alternative way to accomplish the goals of an upcoming trip (i.e. telepresence, vacation locally).

One-Time Action

Action Track: Building Resilience

Forest-Friendly Foods 2

Tropical Forest Restoration

I will replace or remove the palm oil, coffee, and cocoa products in my current diet that are known to contribute to deforestation.



Calculate the carbon footprint of my household

I will calculate the carbon emissions associated with my household and consider how different lifestyle choices could reduce our carbon footprint and our impact on the environment.

One-Time Action


Practice the 5 R's


I will Practice the "5 Rs" — refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle — to reduce my waste more than I can with just recycling alone.


Food, Agriculture, and Land Use

Keep Track of Wasted Food

Reduced Food Waste

I will keep a daily log of food I throw away during Drawdown Ecochallenge, either because it went bad before I ate it, I put too much on my plate, or it was scraps from food preparation.


Action Track: Healing & Renewal

More Fruits And Veggies

I will eat a heart healthy diet by adding 2 cups of fruits and vegetables each day to achieve at least 4 cups per day.



  • Reflection Question
    Action Track: Building Resilience Forest-Friendly Foods 2
    How difficult or easy was it to change your diet?

    Tess Fleser's avatar
    Tess Fleser 5/13/2022 5:08 PM
    I was first drawn to this eco challenge because I saw that one of the options was cutting coffee out of my diet and I thought "wow, that will be easy" because I hate coffee. I do drink it on occasion, but I never enjoy it. But then I remember Tamar telling me that these eco challenges are supposed to be challenges, and that choosing the easiest option, the one that required the least change, is not the right move. So I cut out chocolate. I may not be a coffee person, but I am a chocolate person, so this was hard. I also stupidly started this challenge right before Easter. Many of the other challenges I have done have been one time actions or on the easier side, but this one was not, and while it was definitely an amazing learning experience, it is not a sustainable for me in the long run. I love chocolate and I have a major sweet tooth, so cutting it out of diet was really challenging and made me majorly grumpy. I originally set my goal for 10 days but extended it to a whole month, with only a couple slip ups (I had a cookie with white chocolate in it because I had a momentary judgement lapse and forgot that it was still chocolate). This was an incredibly difficult challenge for me, but I am honestly not too sure it had the largest impact. From the readings I learned how damaging cocoa production is to ecosystems and their biodiversity and how it is contributing to deforestation, and I normally try to choose fair trade chocolate because I am aware of inhumane and unethical cocoa harvesting practice that are greatly contributing to inequality, but I am not sure how much of a difference this chocolate-free month made in reducing my cocoa-related impacts. I may have held myself back from eating my Easter chocolate, letting it sit in my dorm rooms for weeks, taunting me and making the challenge even more difficult, but it was still bought and gifted to me, and now that my month is up, and I am very happy to be going through my chocolate stash and being able to get brownies and chocolate ice cream in the dinning halls.

    My favorite Easter chocolate, sitting unopened for weeks: 

    Through this challenge I learned a climate change solution that does not work for me, but I realized that my original idea of "choosing the easy way out" might actually be a sustainable change for me to make. I may not like coffee, but if I still end up drinking a serving or two per week, cutting it out could have a long-term impact, as it is something I could do indefinitely. Coffee also contributes to deforestation substantially, so to continue this challenge going forward, in a more sustainable manor, I am going to say no to coffee, and do my best to reduce my chocolate consumption by being more selective about the chocolate products I consume. 
  • Reflection Question
    Transportation Stay on the Ground
    What was your process like for restructuring your trip? How can you avoid more air travel in the future?

    Tess Fleser's avatar
    Tess Fleser 4/20/2022 7:12 PM
    I was originally planning to drive home for Passover and Easter, but as my workload was building up for that weekend (i.e., the creative sketch), I began to be disinclined to sacrifice 14-ish hours of productivity. But last-minute flights were expensive and after reading a fellow classmates Eco challenge post about driving instead of flying, I was inspired to feed two birds with one scone and turn this into an Eco challenge. 
    Since I was still originally planning on driving, I began to figure out what I could do to further this challenge and make this trip have as little carbon footprint as possible. The articles supplied by the challenge itself suggested telepresence (which we do every other weekend) and veggie oil (which my car cannot run on). I also know that an electric car or hybrid would be better for the environment, but a new car was not in the budget for this challenge (or this college student). So, I set about to make this trip as eco-friendly as possible, through two major channels. 
    1.     Minimizing gas use. First, I made the trip as short as possible. I used google maps to determine when the best time to avoid traffic was and combined and minimized stops/detours. Overall, this trip was 827 miles, according to my mile-meter. Next, I tried to maximize my gas usage. My car gets good gas milage, especially if I drive to maximize it. So that is what I did. It also has a handy feature that allows me to see my current mpg, so I used that, as well as cruise control as suggested by outside research (, to maximize my mpg. Minimizing stops also decreased my mpg, and I tried to maintain the same speed as much as possible. I reset my average mpg at the start of the trip to be able to calculate it, and it turns out my whole trip I averaged 32 mpg (see the attached picture), which is pretty good. This means that I used less than 26 total gallons of gas, with an estimated 460 pounds of CO2 emission. This saved me a bit of money and is a lot less CO2 than the over 1000 pounds that flying would have produced. 
    2.     Food. I had done a lot of my reading and prior Eco challenges on food, so I decided to utilize some of these strategies to take this environmentally friendly trip to the next level. To start my early Friday morning drive (can’t be late to Seder with my boyfriend’s family) I stopped at Starbucks. In an ideal world I would cut this out completely and stick with water, or make my own at home, but I needed the incentive to start the long drive. To minimize the impact of it, I found a Starbucks near a gas station so I could fill my car up and combine stops, and I brought my own reusable cups, so I didn’t create more plastic waste. 
    For lunch, instead of my usual In N Out stop, I brough a sandwich from the Study (a restaurant on the Hill). I got it with chicken and lots of veggies, so it had a lot less CO2 emissions in production than a hamburger and greasy fries. I also swapped the large fountain drink for my good-ol reusable hydro flask filled with water and reminded myself that it was the healthier choice (that was hard one). To minimize my waste further, I kept the wrapper from my sandwich and composted it when I got to my house. By doing this I was also voting with my dollar, as I was not supporting the fast-food industry that is contributing greatly to climate change, as I learned in “Big Food” in Regeneration. I also ate the whole sandwich in contrast to the wasted fries I normally can’t finish. This also saved me a bit of money. By avoiding the drive through I also saved gas my decreasing my idling time. 
    On the way back, I brought only my water bottle and made no food stops. I ate at home right beforehand and on the Hill right after. This way I only had to stop once for gas and decreased my emissions further by skipping what is normally my second In N Out run. 
    When all is said and done, going forward I probably will not continue making all these changes. But the switch from flying to driving is defiantly something I will stick with. It’s a lot cheaper, and it is flexible and works better around my schedule. I would like to make a few more stops for bathroom breaks, and in the future, maybe I will stick to one In N Out stop. A book on tape made the long drive more manageable, and it was kind of fun to try to maximize my mpg. In the future I would like to further this by carpooling. I have other UCLA friends from the Bay Area who I would love to bring along with me when I drive home for holidays. This would scale up the environmental reductions significantly and make the drive a lot more fun.

  • Reflection Question
    Industry Calculate the carbon footprint of my household
    After you determined your carbon footprint, did you see what different choices you can make in order to reduce it?

    Tess Fleser's avatar
    Tess Fleser 4/11/2022 6:52 PM
    The first carbon footprint survey I did, the one Drawdown provides, was monthly and household based, plus the results were hard to interpret as they were trying to get me to donate money. I found another one and I got a vastly different answer. I ended up taking a total of 5 surveys (a decent sample size), and each one had its own benefits and drawbacks. With some quick conversations, across the 5 surveys I averaged about 10.8 tons a year. The global average is 4 and the US average is 4. But there were also many sections to which my answers were incomplete or inaccurate because I don't know some of the statistics for my housing footprint living in the dorms. But what struck me most was how much this has changed from my old estimated carbon footprint before I moved to college.

    My carbon footprint was so much lower before I moved, and I can easily see where some of those increases are coming from in the chart (the image, from one of the 5 surveys, in kgs but very comprehensive).
    First with home, my old home had solar panels that most days provided enough electricity for our entire house, with extra to sell to the electricity company. But I now live in a 100 sq foot room that requires a lot less energy to heat and cool. Now I obviously can't install solar panels on my dorm, but I can lower my footprint in the future by installing solar panels and other environmental friendly home tools.
    Food is the category that has always been the most "above average" for me. I have some health problems that have decreased my apatite dramatically, so I tend to eat a fair amount of meat because I like it and it is protein dense. Also since my parents made the food when I lived at home and they were not meat fans, having control over my diet has increased my meat intake. While I can and have tried to reduce my meat intake, it has created other issues, so instead good goals to have are to reduce meat waste (smaller portions) and to eat less impactful meats (more chicken, turkey, etc. and less beef).
    Purchases have probably gone down from before because I had a job in high school and now don't, and therefore don't have money to spend. I could try to purchase recycled paper for my school supplies and try to get more clothes used.
    Transportation is the category that has really skyrocketed. Since graduating I have been taking a fair amount of roadtrips because I want to see the world. I also live hundreds of miles from my friends and family back home, and visiting them is a lot. I also spend many more miles driving myself as my excursions are far less convenient in LA and much further of a drive. There is not much that is realistic for me to do about this right now. In the future I hope to live in a more convenient area to reduce my total travel time and I plan to get an electric car once I have a steady job (but this is probably 10ish years away).

    Overall, in doing the surveys I found a few small changes I could make that were realistic and energizing. First of all I can try to use LED lamps and desk lights instead of the overhead light in my dorm which I am 99% sure is not LED. I can also do my laundry with cold water instead of warm. There are lots of things that our out of my control in terms of my carbon footprint, especially living in university managed housing, but I am very excited to lower my footprint when I am able to have my own house. 

    • Monica Gonzalez's avatar
      Monica Gonzalez 4/11/2022 7:36 PM
      It is very interesting how measuring your carbon footprint made you reflect on the changes you have made and how you will consider making these changes in the future. I really enjoyed reading your post. I was able to reflect on my experiences like trying to eat more vegetables and fruits to reduce the amount of food I tend to consume. I know you are trying to consume meats that are less impactful to the environment and I think that is a great step. I can definitely take that suggestion too, because I am trying to consume less meats and trying to incorporate more healthier options. 
      I also liked that you mentioned doing laundry with cold water rather than warm or hot! I never thought that would make a difference I will be making changes to the options when doing laundry! 
  • Reflection Question
    Industry Practice the 5 R's
    What are some more "R's" you could add to your daily practice to reduce your waste?

    Tess Fleser's avatar
    Tess Fleser 4/10/2022 5:10 PM
    Refuse: I could refuse to get plastic silverware from to-go restaurants and instead bring my reusable metal silverware to use instead. The challenge to this is I would have to remember to bring it with me every time and to wash it afterwards. 
    Reduce: I could go to to-go restaurants more and dinning halls less to reduce the amount of packaging and plastic waste that I bring into the world with each meal. This also helps reduce my food waste, but the challenge to this is that sometimes it much more efficient to go to the to-go places. 
    Reuse: When I get plastic silverware or paper cups from to-go dining, I can wash and reuse them to lessen the amount I need. I can also make a better effort to utilize my reusable water bottle and cups. 
    Repurpose: I can spend more time thinking about things before I throw them away to see if they have another purpose. 
    Recycle: I can get a recycling specific bin for my dorm so I don't have to sort it post-facto. I can also lean towards glass and aluminum products because they are easily recyclable and have "closed-loop" recycling processes - they can be recycled indefinitely! Recycling is one of the first things people think of when trying to be "eco-friendly" but "it is also important to consider that the recycling process itself is highly energy intensive (The 5 "R's" of Zero Waste: A Practical Guide)." Recycling also degrades many materials, especially plastics, and they eventually become trash. This is why aluminum and glass are so cool.

    As for what I have been doing so far, I have started actually putting effort into sorting out compost and recycling. It's hard to admit, but in the past, I would just throw it all into one bin, the trash. I would justify it to myself because in my dorm's trash room all three bins would normally end up being trash, so I would tell myself it didn't make a difference. First I had to change my mindset on that to be more responsible for my actions and more growth oriented.

    The trash room in my dorm is not very environmentally friendly. It has "high hopes," so to speak, but it is not well utilized. It has three big bins (see picture): one black for garbage and two blue for recycling. Normally trash (miscellaneous) gets thrown in all three bins. You can see in the picture that black garbage bags have been put in two of the bins "converting" one of the recycling ones into trash. So much of the "trash" is badly sorted and mixed, recycling, compost, and real garbage. I make sure to throw my recycling in the blue bin with the blue bag, but I really wish my fellow students would make a better effort. Another big issue is the compost: instead of a compost bin, there is a compost chute. Now this seems great because it can never overflow or get too full and the compost goes down the chute immediately so it never smells. The one issue is that it has to be in a bag. This means that more waste has to be created (the bags) and it is not as easy as just putting your empty compostable cup into a bin. I also don't have any compostable bags myself so I have been at a loss as to what to do, and have been throwing my compost in the trash. It was actually my friend who suggested a solution to this: throw my compost into the compost bin in my lounge instead of the trash room (this bins have bags and are emptied by the lovely janitorial staff). While this bins are small and can frequently be full, this still helps.

    • avni patel's avatar
      avni patel 4/11/2022 11:01 AM
      Hey Tess,
      I totally agree, when I lived in the dorms it was extremely hard to to live with any sense of the 5 R's. I myself was a culprit of throwing my trash into the recycling bins if there was no space left in the trash bin. I really appreciate that you've made a large effort to reuse the plastic silverware that is provided by the to-go restaurants and to sort your trash appropriately/make use of the compost bin in your dorm rather than the chute that requires plastic bags for your compost to be thrown in. I'm not sure if you're moving into an apartment next year, but whenever you do there's a company called Compostable LA that provides you with a compost bin and then picks it up and gives you a new bin every week. Its hassle free and a good way to be able to compost because most buildings that I have seen don't offer compost bins. Another thing you could look into as far as the plastic silverware/to go boxes in the to-go dining, is talking to USAC or any other initiative on campus that is working towards making UCLA more sustainable and see if they would be willing to push for silverware and to go boxes that are compostable.  

  • Tess Fleser's avatar
    Tess Fleser 4/10/2022 4:30 PM
    One of my long term action item has been to "Keep Track of Wasted Food." This challenged has kind of evolved for me, because as I am being more aware of my food waste production, I really want to reduce it. Every day this past week I have been writing down how much I waste in food per meal, and it was really disheartening to realize that in total the food I waste is probably about equivalent to a whole meal a day (not the most well balanced meal, but a whole one nonetheless). What scares me even more about this statistic is that this is me being more responsible with my food waste: getting a plate or two at a time at the dining halls, avoiding pre-set to-go portions, not over-serving myself, etc. When I am being less mindful of my food waste I'm sure it was probably more, and this isn't even taking into account the food scrapes wasted in the chefs preparation of my meals.

    I think one of my greatest struggles with reducing my food waste has been overestimating how much I can eat. Recently a goal of mine has been to gain a few pounds, and this can cause me to aspiringly put more food on my plate that I am actually capable of eating. Last night, at the UCLA dinning hall "Epicuria" I was very excited to see that the fro-yo machines were working again, and I served myself way too much (as seen in the picture). I could have gotten a smaller portion, and gone back for more if I wanted, but I got overzealous. Especially after a big dinner, I could barely eat half of what was in bowl.

    The greatest help in this challenge for me has been my friends. Even before this challenge or this class my friends were inspiring me to reduce my food waste. If I get something I do not really like, frequently a friend who is more fond of the food will eat it for me to prevent waste and visa versa. We frequently view it as a team effort to clear our (frequently 10+ person) table with zero food waste on our plates. This week we were successful 4 out of the 9 meals we dined together.

    • Deema  Daher's avatar
      Deema Daher 4/10/2022 8:03 PM
      I have also considered the amount of wasted food that comes from the dining halls at UCLA because whenever I return my dirty plates, I see a mountain-high pile of plates that have food that seems to be untouched. If we are more mindful of what we eat and how much we eat, we can help reduce the amount of food that is wasted. I, too, can do a better job of wasting less food because I tend to get more food than I can eat and throw away the food I never touched. 

    • Tess Fleser's avatar
      Tess Fleser 4/10/2022 5:14 PM
      According to Drawdown, "a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork ("Reduce Food Waste")." This really aligned with my personal experience as I averaged wasted 1/3-1/4 of the food that I put on plate per day. I would really love to see UCLA housing's statistics on food waste, if they are available. 

  • Tess Fleser's avatar
    Tess Fleser 4/03/2022 3:47 PM
    I frequently feel quite helpless in the big picture of climate change. I don't have a government position or platform from which I could inspire change, or a business or organization with which I could make a large difference. My life is also not set up in a way that it is feasible for me to make the big lifestyle changes which I hear others accomplishing: I couldn't go vegan or vegetarian due to health issues and lack of mental fortitude, and I have responsibilities and commitments that I cannot access without a car. This is why I joined the challenge. Because it is easy for me to make more "minor" lifestyle changes, some of which also sound fun, and even those seemingly smaller actions can have giant impacts on a large scale. I may not be able to fix climate change myself, but I can actively join the movement that could. 

    As for the actions I chose, I want to make a better effort to sort my waste. The bins in my dorm can fill up quite rapidly and the compost needs to be bagged, so I don't always make the effort I should to sort my waste and I want to do better. I also want work on eating more fruits and vegetables, both for my health and to lessen the environmental impact of the food I eat. Lastly, while I already make an effort to reduce my food waste, I would like to spend some time dedicating myself to logging the food waste I do create to increase my awareness of the waste as I am producing it, and to allow me to quantify the amount of waste I produce in a given time period.

    • Tess Fleser's avatar
      Tess Fleser 4/10/2022 4:09 PM
      The summer before college I explored my first national parks. It was an experience that also helps motivate me in this challenge cause I want to protect our planet

    • noel tran's avatar
      noel tran 4/04/2022 10:07 AM
      Hi Tess! I definitely relate to your outlook on the challenge. Rather than feeling apathy for events that I cannot change, the EcoChallenge has made me more mindful and accountable for my actions by providing what you called "minor lifestyle changes" that can easily be adapted into my daily lifestyle to save the environment. It's a refreshing outlook on what I used to consider a bleak inevitability. Good luck on your tasks!