UC Continues Progress in Sustainability Practices

The University of California has been a leader in its sustainability practices, gaining momentum and national recognition in 2007 by expanding its sustainability policy. By completing energy efficiency projects across the system, UC has saved more than $5 million annually, according to the fourth annual report on sustainability. The entire report presented to the UC Regents on Jan. 15 is posted on the UC Office of the President website [PDF]. UC's Policy on Sustainable Practices establishes a set of ambitious goals to advance environmental practices at UC campuses, ranging from efficient energy use to innovative, sustainable purchasing practices. The report highlights a number of UC accomplishments in 2007, including:
  • Expanding the policy, now named the Policy on Sustainable Practices, in the areas of renovation projects, climate protection, sustainable operations, waste reduction and purchasing.
  • UC President Robert C. Dynes signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment on behalf of all 10 campus chancellors. In signing the commitment, UC has joined a collaborative effort by the nation's higher education institutions to address the challenges of global warming.
  • Receiving multiple awards at the local, state and national level for efforts, including the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 9 Achievement Award, toward progress in incorporating sustainable provisions and practices into all strategically sourced (bulk purchases that use the University's buying power) bids and contracts.
UC was recognized projects in local and regional newspapers for its sustainability, as well as in national publications such as Science and BusinessWeek. UC also received recognition through campus sustainability rankings, several of which appeared for the first time in 2007. For example, the Sierra Club's Sierra magazine named the UC system the fourth greenest university in the country, the highest ranking for any public university. "We are honored by all the awards and top rankings the University received in 2007 for our sustainability initiatives," said Katie Lapp, executive vice president for business operations. "We also know that this is only the beginning, and that to maintain our leadership in this fast-moving field -- as well as to address the seriousness of global warming and other sustainability challenges -- we will need to continue pushing forward in our efforts to reduce the University's impact on the environment and provide a model of sustainable practices for the students that will be our future leaders."

Campus Contributions

Continuing the trend of nationally recognized collaboration among all university stakeholders, the chancellors' advisory committees on sustainability began meeting at the UC Riverside and UC Merced campuses in 2007. Similar committees are now actively meeting on each campus and provide for organized involvement of students, faculty and staff from a wide variety of departments in implementing the policy as well as pursuing other campus sustainability initiatives.

Steve Wiesenthal

For its part, the staff-initiated UCSF Sustainability Committee has been championing the cause since 2004. Led by Steve Wiesenthal, associate vice chancellor of Capital Programs & Facilities Management (CPFM), the committee has been working in a number of areas to reduce the campus' carbon footprint. John Pihl, who was named UCSF's first sustainability manager in 2007, is among members of the sustainability committee who are organizing campuswide participation in "Focus the Nation" event, an unprecedented educational initiative on global warming solutions for America occurring at more than 1,000 universities and colleges and in all 50 states. UCSF Medical Center, as well as various other campus partners, is hosting a two-day event focusing on climate change on Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 30 and Jan. 31. See details on the agenda here. In addition, both the campus and UCSF Medical Center are looking at ways to incorporate green practices in new construction projects. In 2007, UCSF selected Anshen + Allen in association with William McDonough + Partners for the design of the Mission Bay medical center. William McDonough + Partners is a leader in sustainable and eco-effective design. The medical center at Mission Bay is expected to be built by 2014. And solar panels installed on Genentech Hall in late November and the UCSF parking garage in mid-December are generating power at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. Combined, the two solar projects generate 249 KW of electricity. What does it mean? Duane Warren, project manager for Chevron Energy Solutions, which installed the solar panels, says that at peak load, 249 KW is "the same amount of energy it would take to drive about 150 average-sized cars for about an hour on the freeway, or about the same as being hit by 11 average-sized football players all at once. If UCSF runs the system all year, "this system will produce about enough energy to drive 150 average-sized cars around the world four times," Warren adds. In addition to continuing the extensive efforts to meet the requirements in each of the seven sections of the UC Policy on Sustainability Practices, the University is actively working toward future goals, including the potential for adding a section on sustainable food systems to the policy.

Systemwide Signs of Success

Among other accomplishments of other UC campuses:
  • In April, UC Berkeley became the first UC campus to complete a climate action plan, far in advance of the policy's December 2008 deadline. UC Berkeley is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2014, six years earlier than required by the policy or by California law. The UC Berkeley plan has become a model for other universities across the country to follow.
  • UC Santa Barbara earned second place in the National Wildlife Federation's national "Chill Out" competition for exemplifying the significant impact that colleges and universities are making in providing leadership in the area of global warming.
  • UC Davis received a LEED Platinum rating for the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, a joint project with Sierra Nevada College and the University of Nevada Reno.
  • UC Merced received LEED Gold and LEED Silver certifications for its central plant and housing and dining building.
  • UC San Diego won its third consecutive San Diego Excellence in Energy award.
  • At the 2007 California University Sustainability Conference, UC Irvine won sustainable transportation best practices awards for its conversion of 10 shuttle buses to 100 percent biodiesel and for significantly increasing its average vehicle ridership between 2005 and 2006.
  • A new car share program for campus and city users was launched by UC Santa Cruz in 2007. The program hopes to reduce the need for students to drive cars to campus.
  • UCLA initiated a bus shuttle between the campus and the Los Angeles International Airport. The campus is also pioneering a "rightsizing" program for its fleet to limit the number of vehicles, the emissions from vehicles and the number of total vehicle trips taken. UCLA's extensive alternative transportation program was the subject of a television feature produced by the Huell Howser Productions California's Gold program.
UCSF Today Editor Lisa Cisneros and the UC Office of the President contributed to this report. Photo by Lisa Cisneros

Related Links:

UCSF Sustainability Committee UC Sustainability UC Environmental Research and Programs UC Greening Fact Sheet [PDF]