Even before there was an actual campus here, UC Merced was green. Its designs and plans — down to the smallest detail — embody the word “sustainability,” and each year, the campus is proving that it maintains itself in a sustainable way.
All of UC Merced’s buildings have or will achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, meaning they meet or exceed standards for sustainability in design and operations. UC Merced is the only American university with the construction of every building on campus environmentally certified. Campus staff members and students are working to document all of the ways buildings are maintained and operated in a sustainable way, too.
As of summer 2016, we have:
Conservation and sustainability are part of the fabric of the campus and evidence can be seen everywhere. From the 2007-2008 school year to the 2014-2015 school year, we reduced our per capita water use by 52 percent, going from 22,564 gallons per person per year to 12,158 per person per year. We can monitor our monthly water usage to make sure we meet or exceed state and UC challenges on our Water Watch dashboard.
The campus is a living lab — a place to grow student engagement, from teaching Bobcats about stewardship through the Yosemite Leadership Program to involving them in systemwide initiatives such as the Global Food Initiative and the Carbon Neutrality Initiative.
Students are encouraged to show and share their commitments to sustainability with others on and off campus by becoming “eco-reps” as part of a peer-to-peer sustainability education program; joining UC Sprouts to help engage younger children from around the area understand how science and sustainability can help the Valley thrive for many generations to come; or get involved in the new Energize Colleges workforce development and training program, which offers internships and education, including applied learning opportunities through meaningful roles on campus and in community projects.
It's not just students, though. Faculty and staff members are asked to do their part, too, in maintaining a green campus community. For example, purchasing procedures reward vendors who can enhance the campus’s commitment to sustainability, the landscaping is designed for maximum efficiency, smart energy-monitoring systems in buildings help keep usage and the environmental footprint to a minimum, and some of UC Merced’s most important research focuses on sustainability, from solar energy and ecology to climate change.
UC Merced observes many practices across campus to enhance its sustainability, and moved up from silver to gold in this year's Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, a rigorous review process that takes the better part of a year to complete.
Other initiatives include:
Also a part of our green-campus goal: land conservation. Through a special collaboration with the Packard Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Nature Conservancy and the state of California, the campus set aside 25,000 acres of grassland habitat for permanent conservation, 6,500 acres of which comprises the new Vernal Pools-Grasslands Nature Reserve, open space adjacent to campus that will be used for research and community outreach, but never developed.