By Angeline Foshay

Looking back on 2015, it was promising year for sustainability at UC Santa Barbara. Catalyzed by the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative, the UC Global Food Initiative, and the continued work of faculty, staff, and students to improve the campus and the surrounding environment, our campus made great strides in sustainability.

Last November, Chancellor Henry T. Yang signed a climate commitment to achieve carbon neutrality on campus and increase renewable energy use. When UCSB’s Greenhouse gas emissions for 2014 were third party verified and had come in well under our 2020 goal 6 years early of reducing our emissions below 1990 levels, it solidified the fact that Carbon Neutrality by 2025 is within our reach. In 2015 alone, UCSB’s total natural gas use decreased by 16% as compared with the prior year resulting in a 54% per square foot reduced over the past 10-year timeframe through energy and domestic hot water efficiency projects and initiatives. While reducing its carbon based energy sources, UCSB is also set to triple its renewable energy generation on campus. UC Santa Barbara has signed a contract with SunPower to install 5.2 megawatts of solar power on campus by the end of 2016. According to PR Newswire, this will reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions by 6% and generate roughly 12% of the UCSB’s total electricity use.

In 2015, the advancement of the UC Global Food Initiative funded the development of programs at UCSB such as the Food, Nutrition, and Basic Skills Program (Linked here) and the Edible Campus program – both of which are designed to improve students’ knowledge of and relationship with food and food security. In addition to these programs, it was estimated that 35% of the campus’s food procurement for the dining commons was sustainable and 26% of UCen Dining’s purchases were sustainable.
On campus, UCSB made strides in sustainable, green building design in 2015. Thanks to the tremendous work of UCSB Housing & Residential Services, the newest campus housing project to date, Sierra Madre Villages, just earned LEED Platinum and is the first residential complex in the UC system to attain the highest possible rating for its efficient and sustainable design under the category “LEED for Homes.” UCSB is the only campus in the system with any “LEED for Homes” certifications. The Sierra Madre Village utilizes green designs such as low-flow plumbing, solar thermal heating, photovoltaic electrical generation, and 100-percent LED lighting. The new campus library addition, unveiled in January 2016, features energy efficient lighting, drought-tolerant landscaping, and building materials made of recycled content. While it is still under review, the new library is expected to receive LEED Gold certification.

In efforts to adapt to California’s drought and reduce water waste, UCSB committed to reducing its potable water use by 12% by Spring 2016 to match the Goleta Water District’s goal – this is after already meeting and exceeding the UC mandate to cut consumption by 20% by 2020. This new ambitious water goal set by UCSB is close to being achieved, and is estimated to save about 19 million gallons of potable water from June 2014 to March 2016. In addition to a reduction in potable water use, UCSB has utilized the use of reclaimed water, which irrigates 90% of the campus’s landscaping, a figure that continues to grow.

Campus engagement with sustainability saw a great increase in diversification. The UC System hosted an intercampus competition called the Cool Campus Challenge, which sought to mobilize faculty, staff and students towards carbon neutrality. This UC wide competition engaged 19,000 participants, whose pledges for sustainability equal a carbon savings of 15.5 million pounds of CO2. Within UCSB Sustainability’s intern program, we saw a marked increase of racial and socio-economic diversity. As a result of increasing wages, aligning our timing with the work study program, and broader promotion, 45% of UCSB Sustainability Interns are People of Color and 28% are Women of Color. This is a promising start to inspiring and providing students of diverse backgrounds experience in the field of sustainability.

On campus, The Green Initiative Fund celebrated its 10 year anniversary, its most recent project being a solar charging table at the Student Resources Building for students to charge their electronic devices. UCSB gained some recognition for their sustainability work, such as being ranked as the #1 Green Public University by the Princeton Review and being recognized by UC Office of the President at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference for Sustainability Innovations, Waste Reduction, and Monitoring-Based Commissioning.

Let’s hope the campus can sustain this momentum well into 2016. Here are some great things to look forward to:

Moving forward into 2016, UC Santa Barbara will continue to work towards reducing water and energy use as well as implementing several new sustainable programs. Under the Edible Campus project, a new student-run farm will be launching by Fall 2016 to provide sustainable food distributed to students through the AS Food Bank.  In regards to transportation, UCSB and Santa Barbara MTD have partnered to extend the most popular existing lines — 12x and 24x — that run between UCSB and downtown, as well as create a new line free to faculty, staff, and students. The new line is slated to come online in August of 2016 and will take riders between campus, Isla Vista and the Camino Real Marketplace at Storke and Hollister Roads. For the upcoming year in addressing the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee has launched the Carbon Neutrality Charrettes series to bolster student and staff engagement with sustainability initiatives and the UC goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2025. In addition to the Carbon Neutrality Charrettes, UCSB Sustainability has released its updated Campus Sustainability Plan, which can be found here.

As UCSB Sustainability moves forward into the coming year, we hope to continue and build upon these green achievements for the betterment of the campus community and environment. Go Gauchos!