UC San Diego’s LEED v4 EBOM Master Site, a 4 year endeavor

By Leanne Kao

After multiple years of correspondence between different departments on campus and of multiple students’ efforts, and under the invaluable guidance of Sharmila Krishnamurty, a LEED consultant with Ackerstein Sustainability, UC San Diego’s LEED v4 EBOM Master Site was submitted on Jan 28, 2019.

You may be wondering, “what does ‘LEED v4 EBOM Master Site’ even mean”?

Taking the phrase piece by piece, “LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” is “the most widely used green building rating system in the world”, as proclaimed by its parent organization, USGBC (US Green Building Council). It’s an assessment used to determine and certify how sustainable a building is, from “Certified” to “Platinum”, based on the building phase, whether still in design or already in operation. The assessment assigns buildings points through different credits under 8 different categories, such as “Water Efficiency”, “Energy and Atmosphere”, and “Materials and Resources”. “v4” is the latest version of the LEED assessment system, most up to date with current regulations established under Title 24, ASHRAE, and other entities integrated into California’s own statewide building standards. “EBOM (Existing Building Operations + Maintenance)” refers to the specific LEED rating assessment type that was used for the campus. And finally, the “Master Site” is a collection of LEED v4 EBOM assessment credits which were deemed as relevant to all of UC San Diego’s main campus and SIO based on current policies and operations. As such, any building project done in that scope of territory automatically has those credit points towards LEED v4 O+M certification. The credits enveloped in the Master Site include:

  • Site Management: we have site management practices that preserve ecological integrity and encourage environmentally conscious practices.
  • Site Management Policy: we ensure our site management practices in our surrounding ecological integrity via official, documented rules
  • Integrated Pest Management Policy: we minimize pest problems and exposure to pesticide whenever possible
  • Green Cleaning Policy: we use cleaning products with lower levels of contaminants that compromise air quality and human health than found in conventional products
  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke: we’re a smoke free campus

Your follow-up question might be, “why does this matter?”

The UC Office of the President requires all new buildings and major renovations built on UC campus property to attain a LEED rating of at least “Silver”: that’s how seriously LEED is taken as an indicator for efficiency in building design and performance. In fact, some LEED credits which the team found UC San Diego didn’t meet became topics of conversation on whether the related parts of those policies and operations should be changed, in the effort to be more sustainable. Soon enough, with strengthening efforts to meet zero-waste conditions and carbon neutrality, the LEED rating requirement might bump up to “Gold”. This makes sense since, according to the IEA (International Energy Agency), CO2 emissions from building construction and operations account for almost 40% of all CO2 emissions in the world; it’s undeniable that the building industry plays a significant hand in how global warming develops through the future.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this Master Site project’s conclusion is that review from USGBC’s side came back without questions! I guess you could say the 4 years of work were worth it.

Many thanks to Sharmila for her important guidance in combing through the necessary details for this Master Site, and to the original student team which spearheaded this effort, USGBC Students at UC San Diego.

If you’re a student who’s interested in learning more about green buildings and joining related on-campus projects, email ucsd.gbc@gmail.com.

Profile in Sustainability – Graduate Student Association, Climate Action and Policy Committee

UC San Diego graduate students across disciplines are coming together to strategically pressure the administration to achieve ambitious goals like the full decarbonization of campus operations as quickly as possible. Pioneering this initiative are the members of the Graduate Student Association who recently established the Climate Action and Policy Committee (CAP). One of the founding members, Erica Ferrer, answered some questions I had about this committee on behalf of CAP and its additional eleven members!

From left to right: Pascal Polonik (SIO – Climate Sciences), Peter Sloan (Music), Tricia Light (SIO – Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry), Erica Ferrer (SIO – Marine Biology), Luke Stroth (Anthropology), Kelly Hunter (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Jason O’Neill (Mathematics), Akanksha Harish (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering), Nathan Mariano (Political Science), Krish Bhutwala (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering). Members not pictured here: Veronica Uribe-del-Aguila (Communication, Science Studies), Viona Deconinck (Visual Arts)

Why is sustainability important to your committee?

We are a group of graduate students from across disciplines, with a variety of interests surrounding sustainability and the natural world. While we each have our own specific reasons for participating in CAP, we are united by our shared concern for living creatures and human well-being now and in the future.

Where did the idea for a committee like this originate? Can you speak to the formation of this committee?

We noticed a need for a space and institutional umbrella under which graduate students could plug into sustainability efforts here at UC San Diego. Like many other campus organizations and student groups working to promote social justice and positive change, this committee was born from the “fierce urgency of now.” We must act to reduce the impacts of climate change and stave off environmental degradation in every way we know how!

As graduate students, we are in a unique position to contribute climate solutions and adaptations in our daily lives, both on campus and beyond. As founding member of CAP, Peter Sloan, explains in his Triton op-ed, we are turning our climate grief into hope and action.

What are the primary goals of the Climate Action and Policy committee and what is the role of this committee within the Graduate Student Association?

The role of CAP within the GSA is two-fold: CAP seeks to communicate the sentiments of UCSD graduate students on climate action and sustainability, especially those that reflect an urgent need for cultural and policy changes at all institutional levels of UCSD, while foregrounding voices of frontline and marginalized communities.

We exist under the auspices of GSA to foster oversight of our work and provide a clear channel for recruiting graduate student members and staying connected to the larger student body. Additionally, if anyone has disagreements about the actions or opinions espoused by our committee, they are free to express them during the public comment periods held at the beginning of all GSA Council meetings.

How do you hope to impact the GSA and UCSD as a whole, particularly in regards to graduate students like yourselves?

We hope to foster a sense of empowerment and hope amongst graduate students who care about the environment and want to contribute to a more sustainable future. We also want to act as a liaison between graduate students and sustainability services available to them here at UCSD. We understand that graduate students generally do not have a lot of spare time and benefit from groups like ours that can distill information and act as an“information desk” for sustainability news and services that pertain to them.

Graduate students interested in joining the GSA Climate Action and Policy (CAP) committee can email vpcampus@gsa.ucsd.edu for more information.

The End of Recycling as We Know It

Where does recycling go once it leaves your hand?  Since 2001, China has been one of the largest purchasers of American recyclables.  Last year, China stopped buying through Operation National Sword.  How did this impact recycling as we know it?

Learn more about what this means for you and global recycling in National Sword, a new episode from 99% Invisible, a podcast about how design shapes our world.  https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/national-sword/

Free Food Notifications Now Available on the UCSD App!

Recently, it has become an option to get a notification on your phone every time there is an excess of food from an event on campus! From a sustainability standpoint, this promotes reducing food waste and on top of that, this helps food insecure students across campus! John Weng, the Assistant Director of Associated Students here at UC San Diego and a major part of getting this program up and running was happy to answer some questions we had about the program.

How did you first identify food insecurity as a problem on campus and how did this idea come about as a solution?

I’ve had the privilege of serving on the Basic Needs Committee as a part of my work with the Associated Students advising the managers of the Triton Food Pantry. Through this work, I learned of a text messaging service at UCSF, where students could subscribe to and receive free food notifications; it was wildly popular. Not only did the service help divert food waste from landfill, it also helped provide meals to students who may need it. 

The timing of campus projects was impeccable. At the time, ITS was also engaging AS on what features students were hoping to see. When I shared the ideas with the AS leadership in 2017 and the Pantry Managers, everyone was excited about the opportunity to integrate food notifications into the UC San Diego app.

What is the current availability of this program? Is it offered across all colleges?

The UC San Diego app is available as a download to everyone on the App Store and the Google Play store. Students can get the direct link at: https://mobile.ucsd.edu. Any registered undergraduate, graduate, or professional studies student can receive notifications.

How long has this feature been available? Can you speak to its successes so far?

The notification feature rolled out in Fall of 2018 with campus departments slowly gaining access to the application. So far a handful of notifications have been sent out, each time with a few dozen students showing up.

How to get notifications:

The steps to turn on this notification are pictured below, simply log in, go to your settings, tap notifications, and turn the free food notification on! By logging in to the app, you can also get helpful notifications relating to parking and easy access to class schedules.


You may have seen these black and white #UNLITTER stickers popping up across campus and on social media recently – they just arrived from the East Coast! What began with 100 of these stickers being distributed across the University of Florida campus with the intention of promoting environmental consciousness and advocating for action, has become a social movement inspiring people to “unlitter” the planet and their lives. Be sure to check out the @unlitter instagram account, share how you #unlitter, and visit www.unlitter.org to get a sticker!

The objectives of this movement are pretty simple –

  • inspire people to be aware of their actions
  • influence businesses and events to reduce the amount of waste they produce
  • drive social media engagement with @unlitter

Join the movement today!




Profile In Sustainability – Karalani Cross

Karalani Cross | UCSD Staff Member | Founder of Sea & Mist

How did you become interested in sustainability?    

My interest in sustainability is rooted in my early life experiences growing up in San Diego and spending much of my free time outdoors hiking and enjoying the ocean. I grew up going to the La Jolla Cove tide pools with my dad many summers. Spending time in nature instilled a deep appreciation and curiosity about nature. After learning about human environmental impacts in later years, I felt inspired to make some significant life changes as a young adult, such as eating plant-based for the past 9 years. Even seemingly simpler changes, such as using cloth towels instead of paper towels at home and buying used clothes and other items are significant ways I try to reduce my environmental footprint. Although I am certainly not zero waste, I admire people who make these efforts and strive to cause the least amount of waste that I can. I strongly feel that every drop in the bucket to reduce waste counts. In addition, I am fascinated with learning about the natural world from a scientific perspective, and this has instilled more amazement and gratitude for our earth’s natural resources.

Why was it important to you for your business to be as sustainable as possible?    

I feel compelled to reflect on how my day to day actions and resource use impact the environment, so it naturally followed to have my startup business reflect this type of ethic as well. Personally, I wouldn’t be in good conscience having a lucrative business that took no care in its environmental impact. I actually held off on pursuing this business for over a year after I realized how much packaging materials I would need to ship my products. For instance, I wasn’t comfortable buying new plastics, such as bubble wrap, to ensure the products didn’t break. However, over the past few months I began to brainstorm ways to get around contributing to more waste. I started reaching out to various businesses in the community asking them if they could help me with my goal of making less packaging waste by giving me their used packaging materials. I contacted less than 10 businesses/organizations, and the UCSD Sustainability Resource Center and Textbooks department were the two organizations that said they would be able to donate their used packaging items to me. I was absolutely thrilled, and still feel very grateful that UCSD has centers and people with this type of ethic.    

Additionally, I wanted to create an artistic product that people would feel good supporting. When I buy a product, being aware of where it comes from and how it’s made is really important to me. I’m interested if it was produced using sustainable or recycled materials, and I am always thrilled to find reused products because this means less environmental resources are being used and less waste created. At Mist & Sea, many of my air plant designs use at least one upcycled design material. These are design items I’ve found at used art supply stores or thrift stores that are in beautiful condition. Any packaging materials are made of at least 95% recycled materials or were previously used. One of my future goals is to use all upcycled design materials!

Overall, the theme behind Mist & Sea is appreciating the beauty of our natural world through designs that incorporate nature, such as live air plants, rocks, wood, sand, and stone. Creating artistic designs that incorporate live plants and natural elements while having a minimal footprint is fundamental to how I am operating my business. I hope very soon to find an organization working towards conservation of the environment to donate a percentage of profit to.

Where did the idea for your business originate?    

My passion to create art, love for nature, and desire to bring peace to my life and others is what lead me to create Mist & Sea. Many of us live and work in places that are far away from nature, including myself. Although beaches or mountains may be close distance-wise, many of us don’t physically go there often because we are busy with work other other life responsibilities. If you are someone who is able to enjoy nature frequently, then that is wonderful, but I think many people aren’t able to do this. For the most part, my designs place items in their natural form together in a way that you may bring into your home or office. I have had an artistic passion since I was a child, so it’s very enjoyable for me to create these designs that revolve around outdoor materials. Nature is the real artist, I’m just an intermediary.    

My hope is that bringing these naturalistic elements into urban settings will be a joyful addition to others lives. There is certainly research that suggests that there are health benefits to having plants close by. Likely due to the influence of my background in psychology, I have been interested in ways to increase sense of well-being and pleasure in life, so I very much hope that these creations create a more peaceful and joyful atmosphere wherever they go.

Where can people support your eco-friendly business and buy your air plant designs? 

People can support my eco-friendly business by visiting my online shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/MistandSea.
I am currently working on creating more designs for my shop since it is very new!  Feel free to message me through my shop page if there are any custom designs you might be interested in that you don’t see (e.g., including moss, creating a color themed design, or a design that a loved one would like!). I greatly appreciate your support and interest in Mist & Sea.

UC San Diego wins Smart Energy Decision Innovation Award

In recognition of its outstanding achievement in supporting the energy transformation currently taking place throughout the country, it was recently announced that UC San Diego was a 2019 recipient of a prestigious “Smart Energy Decisions Customer Project Innovation Award.”  This is just one more in a long list of accolades the campus has received for having one of the largest, most innovative university charging infrastructures in the country.  Read more here!

Bin Buddies

New year, new look! Facilities Management and the Sustainability Programs Office are transitioning all campus office and cubicle trash and recycling containers to Bin Buddies starting this month.

Custodians will replace all Scripps Institution of Oceanography bins first and then move to the main campus, working west to east by college, finishing mid-2019. The new system will ensure that everyone has small trash bins and large recycling bins without liners in order to make recycling easier while saving resources. Many campuses, including UC Berkeley, are using this system already with great success. You can learn what goes into your blue recycling bin versus your black trash bin by visiting recycle.ucsd.edu.

In addition, Facilities Management and the Sustainability Programs Office will be rolling out new signage from Recycle Across America on recycling and trash bins in hallways and common areas or kitchenettes in all state-funded buildings. Already used by places like Disneyland, our national parks, and Whole Foods, the new Recycle Across America signs will remind all of us to recycle. Bin Buddies and the new signage are part of UC San Diego’s effort to become zero waste.

HDH Eco-Container Pilot Program

UC San Diego Housing•Dining•Hospitality (HDH) is currently piloting a reusable to-go container program available at two on-campus dining locations, Roots and Pines in Muir College. When visiting either of these locations, you can swipe your ID to check out a container and fill it up at a self-serve station or pass a closed container to an employee at any food station.  When finished with it, simply rinse the container out, and then return the container to any residential dining facility. The UCSD Sustainability Resource Center reached out to HDH to find out more about this initiative and how it’s going so far.  Dave DeCaro, the Director of Marketing & Communications at HDH, got back to us with some great answers, providing more insight about the future of this program:  

How was this project started? Where did the initial interest in starting a program like this come from?

“It has been the goal of Dining Services for some time to reduce single use packaging in our operations. With the UC Zero Waste initiative, now more than ever this is a focus for us. Our student advisory committee identified reusable to-go containers as a point of emphasis for us last academic year, and we set about building a program to bring this to campus. Our current program was inspired by the success of a similar program at UC Irvine, and through reaching out to our contacts in University and College Food Services around the country, we were able to come up with what we feel is the best plan for a program like this to be successful at UC San Diego. The use of reusable to-go containers is something that we have tried to integrate into our practices a few times in the past 5 years, but our previous pilots at Café Ventanas and Oceanview lacked interested from the community at that time. With the current climate surrounding sustainability, now more than ever we are seeing an interest from our community and core customers in reducing their use of single use plastic items, and we’re confident and excited that this program will make an impact.”

What are the current goals of HDH with this project? Do you hope to expand across all the dining halls on campus?

“Our initial goals with this project are to determine how to best implement this program in a manner that will make it as customer friendly as possible, and that will encourage our customers – student, staff and faculty – to become active partners in our efforts to reduce single use packaging in our environment. Over the course of Winter and Spring Quarter we will track our success based on customer participation, container re-use, and reduction of single use packaging used at Pines and Roots. Our long term goal is to make this a program that is successful with our guests and operationally sustainable so that it can be expanded to include Residential Dining Facilities in all six colleges.”

This program has now been launched for a few days. Can you speak to its initial success? Are these reusable containers something that students seem interested in?  

“We’ve been pleased with the success of this program after its first week – we’ve seen increased participation each day of the program, and we’re now up to 36 active participants in the program. Compared to our previous pilots, this is already the most successful program we’ve instituted. We’re still working to get the message out to our residents through tabling, advertising in residential spaces and social media. UC San Diego is a diverse community with a number of different prospective – It’s clear to us that while l interest may be varied across the student body as a whole, there is a large community of students here at UC San Diego that are interested in the program and are passionate about making environmentally conscious decisions in how they dine with us. We’ve been pleased with the initial interest in the program and are looking forward to helping it to grow.”

Sign up for the HDH Community Plan to receive a 20% discount at all HDH restaurants and markets.

Did you know Roots is the University’s first exclusively vegan eatery and lounge? Click here to learn more about sustainable dining in HDH.

Profile in Sustainability – Ian Clampett

Ian Clampett Headshot.jpg

Ian Clampett | B.A. Political Science – International Relations | Class of 2010

Why is sustainability meaningful to you?

From a young age, I was ingrained with a deep sense of appreciation for our local environment. As a native San Diegan, I was fortunate enough to have a father who taught me how to love and respect the ocean through the sport of surfing. The countless hours spent in the water over the last 20 years have instilled in me a strong passion to protect this natural resource so that my son and daughter can enjoy it the same way I did.  

Could you talk about your work pertaining to environmental protection, land use, transportation, water, etc.?

As the Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Director for Councilman Chris Cate, it is my responsibility to manage the legislative affairs of the office by providing sound analysis, research, and advice to guide the Councilman’s policy decisions. In the four years I have worked for Councilman Cate, I have had the opportunity to advise him in his role as the previous Vice Chair of the Environment Committee and former member of the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee. In addition to serving on these committees, our office has published policy recommendations for municipal stormwater regulations, citywide sustainability goals, illegal dumping enforcement, reforms to water department operations, and drought policy standards.

You’ve worked at the City of San Diego for several years now. What are some changes you’ve seen/helped implement to improve sustainability efforts for the city?

The City of San Diego was ranked the “greenest city” in the United States by a recent WalletHub report. A significant contributor to this achievement was the City’s adoption of a Climate Action Plan, an ambitious strategy approved in 2015 by the City Council that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and provide all of the City’s energy needs through renewable sources by 2035. As Councilman Cate’s advisor for the Environment Committee, I am proud to have recommended the adoption of this plan and worked on its approval.

Furthermore, during Councilman Cate’s time on the Environment Committee, the City made significant strides in developing a new, locally-controlled source of water through the Pure Water project, the largest infrastructure endeavor in the City’s history. By 2035, this project will provide one-third of the City’s potable water needs. Pure Water will also help meet the City’s renewable energy goals by utilizing captured methane gas from the Miramar Landfill to power operations at the new North City Pure Water Facility. The first phase of this project will break ground in 2019.  

Finally, our office has been working directly with UC San Diego’s Sustainability team to create a partnership between the university and local breweries to convert spent grain, a byproduct of the brewing process, into renewable energy via anaerobic digestion. This partnership will not only help keep this substance away from local landfills, but it will assist the City and UC San Diego in meeting their respective Zero Waste goals, while creating a new, clean, and local source of energy.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while pursuing your degree at UC San Diego?

As a Political Science – International Relations major, learning how to formulate and defend an argument through rigorous research was vital to my growth and development as a student. This skill was taught consistently amongst my professors and at the highest level. I am proud to have been a part of UC San Diego’s acclaimed international relations program. Now working in the political world, the skills I learned at UC San Diego have proven to be critical to my responsibility to develop and defend policy solutions for San Diego’s most pressing issues.

(Posted 11/15/2018)