Environment America, a partner organization to CALPIRG here at UC San Diego, recently released a report detailing how college campuses rank in clean energy. UC San Diego ranked among America’s Top Colleges for Renewable Energy!
While some campuses are well on the way to 100 percent renewable energy, others are leading the renewable energy transition by purchasing their electricity from off-campus renewable energy projects — an important option for campuses without the space or resources to make on-campus renewable energy viable. Below are the rankings released by Environment America, listing UC San Diego at #4.
Top Five Schools for Renewable Electricity Purchased from Off-Campus Sources per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Student
Electricity per FTE Student (MMBtu)
George Washington University
University of California, San Diego
The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., leads surveyed campuses nationwide for purchasing renewable electricity from off-campus projects. In conjunction with American University and the George Washington University Hospital, the university purchases electricity from large, off-campus solar arrays to cover 53 percent of its electricity consumption.
For UC San Diego, these are some exciting statistics as the UCs continue to strive to be more sustainable campuses.
On Wednesday, March 27th 2019, UC San Diego Housing • Dining • Hospitality in partnership with UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, Human Resources, Recreation, Global Health, School of Medicine, and UC San Diego Health held their 4th annual Wellness Fair in Revelle Plaza. The event was free for all UC San Diego staff, faculty, and students to attend and focused on exploring the healing power of food and other dimensions of wellness. This zero-waste event included a variety of workshops, fitness classes, health screenings, and education sessions from campus and community organizations as well as lots of vendor giveaways! Attendees were also invited to enjoy a complimentary meal from UC San Diego Catering, who were introducing items from their new anti-inflammatory menu.
Many sustainability organizations across campus took part in the zero waste planning team for this event. Participants, Catering, Vendor Fair, and Giveaways achieved a 99%+ waste diversion rate. However, the vendor from which the farmers market produce was ordered had wax-lined cardboard for the Swiss chard (see picture below). Each one of the wax-lined boxes weighed 4-5 lbs, totaling 41.45 lbs. All the 9 other produce items were boxed in recyclable cardboard boxes. HDH plans to work with procurement and dining to help educate the produce vendor to ensure that sustainable cartons are used in the future for this item.
Overall, 219.25 lbs of waste was diverted from the landfill, totaling to 81.1% of all waste produced by this event.
Waste Diversion Stats
Recycling: 74.15 lbs
Compost: 92.65 lbs
Terracycle: 11 lbs
Participant Trash: 2 oz (2 coffee cups, and 5 small cups)
Vendor Trash: 41.45lbs (9 wax lined cardboard boxes from the Farmers Market Swiss Chard)
Total Waste: 219.25
Waste Diversion Percentage: 81.1%
However, the University of California Office of the President standards of a zero waste includes 90% waste diversion, which was missed by just under 10%.
WellFest had a total of 440 lbs. of waste, with about the same number of participants, a 50% waste reduction overall! This was done through concentrated efforts to reduce food waste by lessening the Catering order and making signage such as A-Frames signs reusable as oppose to recyclable or compostable. These are valuable lessons to be learned as UC San Diego continues to iterate large scale zero waste events.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
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 email@example.com for more information.
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?
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
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.
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!