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UC’s Sustainability Policy Helps Cut Carbon Footprint, Energy Bills

March 22, 2010

March 22, 2010

At A Glance

UC has been recognized as a leader in sustainability and higher
education. Among the honors received in 2009:

“The governor’s award recognizes UC Merced’s vision to build a
world-class research university and community based on the
principles of environmental, social and economic sustainability,”
said Jim Genes, co-chair of the UC Merced Chancellor’s Advisory
Committee on Environmental Sustainability. “The award also honors
UC’s goal of piloting sustainable strategies that can be adopted in
our region and around the world.”

Megan Carney was immersed in a culture that embraced farmers
markets, locally grown produce and organic foods while growing up
in Santa Cruz. After she went off to college at UCLA, when it came
to food, she noticed a difference between her hometown and Southern
California’s urban environment.

“There’s much more of a disconnect between people and nature,”
Carney said of Los Angeles. “There’s not a lot of open space or
knowledge of where your food is coming from. Seeing the contrast, I
wanted to bring the values I was raised with to UCLA.”

Carney’s efforts moved beyond UCLA, and she joined the
California Student Sustainability Coalition, a group that helped
inspire the University of California to adopt a sustainability
policy in 2003 and launch the greening of UC’s campuses.

“Students brought this issue to the regents in 2002 asking UC to
practice what it teaches,” said Matthew St. Clair, the systemwide
sustainability manager for UC. “The students did not just make
demands; they have worked collaboratively to develop consensus on
the policy goals and have worked alongside staff to achieve them.”

UC’s policy includes mandates on energy efficiency, use of
renewable resources, recycling, waste reduction, environmentally
friendly construction methods and, near to Carney’s heart, campus
foodservice guidelines issued last year. All are components of the
generally accepted description of sustainability, derived from a
1987 U.N. report, that defines it as “development that meets the
needs of the present without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs.”

Money savings

Since going green, UC has been saving some green, along with
reducing its carbon footprint.

UC would pay approximately $15 million more per year for energy
if it had not implemented efficiency projects resulting from the
systemwide sustainability policy, according to the annual report on
the policy that will be given to the Board of Regents on March 23.

The energy savings come from projects enacted since 2004 as part
of an Energy Efficiency Partnership that UC has with the state’s
investor-owned utilities. Even more energy savings are projected to
result from projects implemented during future years.

In March 2009, the regents authorized financing to continue the
partnership through 2011 to deliver projected net savings of $17
million per year during the 15-year loan repayment period and $35
million annually thereafter, when compared with 2008 energy prices.

Even more energy costs are avoided thanks to the efficient
design of UC’s 32 LEED green-certified buildings, which are the
most of any university. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design, buildings adhere to a set of guidelines
developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that are the industry
standard for sustainable practices such as using efficient lighting
and cooling systems, water conservation and reduction of carbon emissions.

“UC’s commitment to sustainability not only saves the university
money, it’s the right thing to do,” said Nathan Brostrom, UC’s
executive vice president for business operations. “Throughout our
history, the university has been a leader on issues of the
environment. Sustainability — which is part of our teaching,
our research and our public service — is driven by the energy
and innovation of our students, staff and faculty.”

Renewable energy goals

As part of its sustainability strategy, UC has also set goals
for increasing the use of renewable energy and for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions.

UC’s policy sets a goal to install 10 megawatts of on-campus
renewable energy generation by 2014. To date, 3.5 megawatts of
solar power-generation capacity has been installed, including a
1-megawatt facility in Mercedwhich provides
about 20 percent of the electricity on campus.

In addition, UC’s sustainability policy requires that 20 percent
of the electricity that the university purchases must come from
renewable sources.

Using more renewable energy helps UC meet its goal to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions to year 2000 levels by 2014, to 1990
levels by 2020 and to achieve carbon neutrality (zero net
greenhouse gases) as soon as possible.

The goals can’t be met by campus efforts alone, according to an
update that will be given to the Regents on March 23 by Wendell
Brase, chair of the UC Climate Solutions Steering Group. Conceptual
plans for large-scale, off-campus harnessing of wind, solar and
other renewable sources of energy for UC are being developed.

Sustainable food

In fall 2009, requirements for sustainable food services were
added to UC’s sustainability policy. Students, who sent 10,000
postcards to the regents asking for more sustainable food options,
again were an inspiration for the policy. Among the guidelines
enacted in September was a goal for all campus-dining services to
procure 20 percent of its food from sustainable sources (certified
by a third party as organic or grown locally, among other criteria)
by 2020. UC Berkeley and UC Davis already have exceeded this goal.

“This policy serves as an umbrella for all the work to be
meaningful together,” said Carney, now a doctoral student in
anthropology studying food security and policy at UC Santa Barbara
who also works as the campus sustainable food coordinator. “We have
specific benchmarks we’re all trying to achieve. I think it will
encourage dialog between campuses. Already we’re seeing campuses
connecting with one another and sharing resources.”

By May, campuses are being encouraged to complete feasibility
studies on how to apply sustainable food service guidelines to
medical centers, contract-operated and franchised operations.

UC’s Annual Report on Sustainability Practices highlights other
accomplishments, including:

As required by UC policy, all campuses completed climate action
plans and have submitted or will submit them as required to the
American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

The university negotiated a systemwide opt-in car-share contract
to increase car-share services and utilization across the system.
UC Santa Barbara, one of several campuses to opt into the contract,
is saving $23,000 per year on its car-share program and has tripled
the number of shared vehicles available.

Five campuses and the Office of the President have received
certification for at least one LEED for Existing Buildings project
from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Nine out of 10 campuses met the goal of diverting at least 50
percent of municipal waste from being sent to landfills. Riverside
just missed its goal, but is implementing plans to be in compliance
next year.

UC Santa Cruz eliminated trays in dining halls last year. The
change discourages diners from taking more than they can eat and
has reduced food waste by 30 percent, saved more than a million
gallons of water and $500,000 in costs. Programs have been
implemented at several other campuses with similar results and are
being considered at the remaining campuses.