Challenge Accepted! UC Students, Faculty, and Administration Pledge Their Way to Carbon Neutrality


Madeleine Lee

Environmental awareness finds a space in the virtual world through the University of California’s newly released Cool Campus Challenge, an online cross campus platform available from Oct. 6 through Dec. 10 this year.

In a collaborative effort between the UC and UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab, the Cool Campus Challenge is one of the primary ways in which the Global Climate Leadership Council, founded by President Napolitano in 2014, hopes to push all UC campuses toward complete carbon neutrality by 2025.

UCSB Sustainability Coordinator Jewel Snavely has high hopes for the project that she’s been with since the very beginning.

“Our goal with the Cool Campus Challenge is to establish the UC system as a true leader of sustainability, not only in terms of how much energy we can save, but also in terms of how this university system, with the some of the best researchers in the world, can find the inspiration to develop new technology that will change the way we live,” said Snavely.

Riding the newest wave of tech theory, Snavely, among dozens of other researchers, techies, and environmental gurus, worked for over a year to develop a platform that rewards students, faculty, and administrators across UC campuses for learning and performing easy energy saving tips.

After quickly setting up an online profile, users can check out the cross campus scoreboard of which currently, in only the first week of the Cool Campus Challenge’s public release, UC Davis is perched precariously at first place.

The top individual participants from each campus are then listed, as well as the rankings of campus teams, groups of individuals that together complete their energy saving pledges.

“Forming teams in this challenge is a great way to promote a sense of friendly competition,” said Snavely. “Within the next several weeks, we hope to see various campus organizations, faculty and staff, and even greek life pining for a spot at the top.”

With the UCen team currently in the lead with over 100,000 points within three days, teams like “Coolest Admins in Dining” and even “Transportation-Parking Services” are joining in on the fun and stepping up their environmentally friendly game.

Points are earned through the most important step, one that will sound eerily familiar to the proud bearers of greek lettering on campus: the pledging process. With over fifty different mini challenges to conquer, individuals and teams are given weekly environmental themes — such as lighting, plug loads and transportation — to learn and incorporate into their daily routines.

“Reducing Vampire Loads,” or unplugging electronic equipment when it’s not in use, is one way for users to earn an easy fifty cool points, awarded based on the amount of CO2 emissions saved. Users are also encouraged to upload and share pictures via the Cool Campus Challenge website or other forms of social media with the hashtag “UCool” or “UCSBcoolest” to spread the word.

Outside of its virtual space, campus organizations are teaming up in the real world to promote the Cool Campus Challenge cause. The Residence Hall Association, or RHA, is at the forefront of the movement, using plans to mobilize its 5000+ residents to join.

Antony Del Castillo, a second-year political science major and environmental awareness chair coordinator of RHA, outlined his plans to establish RA-led teams in every residence hall, as well as provide a collective residence hall incentive through the upcoming House Cup Competition. Environmental awareness chairs of San Rafael, Manzanita and the Chi-Five are encouraged to plan events that revolve around carbon neutrality as well.

“The 2025 goal is ambitious,” said Del Castillo, “but it’s a necessary move in the right direction.”

With UCSB leading in rankings of the greenest public campuses but falling short by only two spots for the overall list, the work of Snavely, Castillo and thousands more will hopefully propel UCSB to the top — and make the world a little greener in the process.