(Photo by Minh Hua / The Bottom Line)

Mia Pollini
Staff Writer

The 14th Annual UC Sustainability Report, a collection of facts and statistics detailing the UC’s current efforts, was released last month as well as data from past years. The report also keeps the ten UC campuses aware about the impact they have (and plan to have) on their students’ surroundings.

Sustainability Coordinator Katie Maynard at UCSB explained in a written statement that “the Annual Report includes quantifiable metrics that show where [an] University is in relationship with [their] goals. These metrics highlight both the progress we have made and where we still need to make improvements.”

The report provides a timeline overview of the UC’s concerted efforts from 1970 up until projected policy goals in 2050 to try and make a measurable impact in the way it handles environmental issues, from transportation to renewable energy.

“It is exciting to hear about all of the great work that our peer campuses are working on and to reflect on all that has been accomplished in the past year,” according to Katie Maynard’s written statement. “In order to tackle challenges such as climate change, we need the creative and diverse ideas of our students, staff, and faculty from every discipline on campus.”

The UC Newsroom highlighted several of the goals that campuses met over the last year in a press release on Jan. 26.

UCSB joined UC Berkeley and UCLA to pass the goal of reaching 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels. UC Riverside is within two percent of the target and is trying to pass the goal by 2020.

At UCLA and UC Irvine, students and administration have taken steps to reduce fossil fuel use. UCLA replaced its last diesel buses with two new zero-emission electric buses. At UCI, students replaced the university’s entire diesel shuttle bus fleet with 20 hydrogen electric buses by voting for a $40 fee increase.

Overall, UC greenhouse gas emissions have dropped over the last couple of years, despite over-enrollment and construction on UC campuses.

The UC added over 1.5 million square feet of new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings in 2017, bringing total LEED-certified building space up to 20 percent.

Meanwhile, the UC has also championed local and sustainable food sources as causes. Over $34 million in food spending, or 20 percent of UC food purchases, came from local and sustainable food sources. At least one food service facility on eight campuses is certified as a green business.

CALPIRG is one student group that approves of and is active in these kinds of improvements across the UC campus environment. CALPIRG is a student-run and student-funded nonprofit (at every UC except for UC Merced) that aims to make college more affordable, promote democracy, and protect the environment.

“I think that I can speak for our entire chapter when I say that we’re really proud to be a part of a university that places such an emphasis on sustainability,” said Noah Coleman, a student campaign coordinator for CALPIRG. “Through the facts and statistics I saw when looking through [the report] it’s clear that students, faculty, staff — they place a lot of value in this, and CALPIRG is trying to keep in line with that tradition.”

In other places across the country, sustainability initiatives are facing problems. In fact, according to the Sierra Club’s 2016 “Cool Schools” report (which looks at sustainable events, courses, and numerous other factors) some of the least environmentally-savvy schools out of 201 include Syracuse University, Bryant University, and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Sierra Club, however, ranked UCSB 30 out of all the universities which is an achievement that the 2017 UC Sustainability Report bolsters.

In fact, UCSB won a 2017 Best Practice Award in the annual Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Awards contest, installing over 4 MW of on-site solar, which will generate enough clean electricity to supply roughly eight percent of the campus’ annual use. And the two new six-story Tenaya Towers at San Joaquin Apartments, dual-plumbed with a recycled water system, are estimated to save over 600,000 gallons of potable water per year.

“That’s what so crazy about going [to UCSB],” Coleman said. “Being part of such a big university system and doing these kinds of sustainability things…we’re sort of spotlighted as leading the nation.”