After 10 weeks of competition — including a wild flurry of activity at the end — UC Merced placed second in the University of California’s first-ever Cool Campus Challenge.
With the University of California’s ambitious goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2025 just 10 years away, the Cool Campus Challenge was designed to get campus communities informed and engaged in the process early on, and to kick-start a cultural change around sustainability. UC Irvine won the competition, with UC Merced and UCLA rounding out the top three finishers.
UC Irvine was the early leader and remained there through most of the challenge, but an 11th-hour surge of pledges pushed UC Merced from near the bottom of the standings to the top. The campus even took an unofficial lead on the final night, before the dust settled and all pledges were verified.
In addition to the bragging rights that come with finishing ahead of much larger universities, UC Merced can also boast about having the highest percentage of participation among all the UC campuses.
“Going from ninth place to second place in the final four days is impressive, especially considering that we have the lowest enrollment of all UCs,” Sustainability Director Colleen McCormick said. “The fact that 33 percent of our campus community participated in the challenge is a testament to UC Merced’s passion for sustainability and drive to be a trendsetter in carbon neutrality.”
The challenge included 37 different pledges targeting actions anyone can take on an everyday basis to reduce their energy and carbon footprint, such as lighting, computer use, purchasing, heating and cooling, and transportation. Pledges ranged from carpooling to getting rid of mini-fridges to unplugging chargers and other “energy vampires” that draw power even when not being used.
Participants received points for making pledges, and additional points for verifying the actions they took on those pledges.
Though the UC system will be carbon neutral by 2025, UC Merced already has the Triple Zero Commitment to consume zero net energy and produce zero waste and zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Carbon Neutrality Initiative Fellow Gabriel Morabe was the campus’s top individual finisher. An intern for the Alliance to Save Energy’s PowerSave Campus program, Morabe works on outreach and engagement efforts related to carbon neutrality.
"It was great to see everyone on campus collectively engaged in the efforts of the Cool Campus Challenge, because it shows how our tight-knit community can come together to achieve our goals,” Morabe said Tuesday after final results were announced. “I am determined to keep cultivating the culture of sustainability both on campus and in the Merced community."