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Green from the Ground Up


The Big Belly waste-disposal system is in use across campus, and the three different containers, all grouped together as shown here, allow users to choose the correct place for their refuse.

UC Merced embodies sustainability, from its initial designs and plans to its buildings, operations and day-to-day life. Bobcats pride themselves on knowing how to save water, save energy and when and what to recycle and compost.

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 2017, we have:

  • One silver LEED certification for the Garden View Dining area
  • Eight gold LEED certifications, for the Central Plant, Leo and Dottie Kolligian Library, Classroom and Office Building, Science and Engineering 1, Housing 2 (Sierra Terraces), Joseph E. Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center, the Facilities complex and the Early Childhood Education Center
  • Eight platinum LEED certifications, for the dining expansion, Social Science and Management Building, Housing 3, Housing 4, Student Activities and Athletic Center, Student Services Building, Science and Engineering 2, Classroom and Office Building 2
  • One gold certification pending, for the new downtown center
  • Two LEED gold certification for Existing Building and Operation Maintenance for the library building and the Classroom and Office Building.

Conservation and sustainability are part of the fabric of the campus and evidence can be seen everywhere. 

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:

  • A recyclable take-out dining system at the Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Center that is saving the campus thousands of pounds of packaging each year;
  • Campus purchasing practices that promote the acquisition of items made from recycled materials and use minimal packaging;
  • A 1 megawatt solar-panel array that helps power the campus. Future rooftop installations will add another 5 megawatts of power, allowing the campus to get 50 percent of all its power from renewable sources; and
  • More than a dozen campus hydration stations that allow people to refill water bottles, rather than buying new ones

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 Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve, open space adjacent to campus that will be used for research and community outreach, but never developed.