Written by Angeline Foshay

In an effort to increase campus sustainability and decrease environmental health impacts, UCSB has switched from using petro-chemical oils in small equipment to the use of environmentally friendly and safety enhanced bio-oil. The choice to make the switch is part of a larger movement on campus to promote environmental stewardship, and reduce safety risks for UCSB facilities staff.

Steve Miller, Lead Grounds Equipment Mechanic, was approached by NV Earth, a local company (Oxnard), with a bio-based lubricant product. After performing well in a small pilot, Facilities Management decided to exclusively use bio-based lubricants. “Too often in our line of work, environmentally-friendly products can be sub-par to their traditional counterparts, or not be able to withstand the demands of commercial use,” said Miller. Over time, the department has been able to find new alternatives that both fit the needs of the department and better UCSB’s overall goal of sustainable environmental stewardship. The use of bio-based oils for landscaping equipment is an essential step in aiding campus in reaching both the short-term and visionary goals laid out in the Campus Sustainability Plan – including those that outline plans to convert to alternatively fueled landscaping equipment, in an effort to reduce campus greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and exposure to harmful pollutants. The department has consciously made changes in their day-to-day activities in order to improve sustainability. “Although this may seem like a small effort, in the grand scheme of things it is a pretty big effort within our department, the landscaping industry, and other trades as well,” explained Miller. Moving forward, Facilities Management hopes to work more with NV Earth and utilize its oil for four-cycle engines.

The switch to a biodegradable, plant-based oil, is just one part of a larger campus effort to strive for more environmentally friendly practices. Campus grounds has also begun to make the switch to electric leaf blowers and lawn mowers in order to reduce GHG emissions and increase environmental safety.  As more innovative technologies and ideas come to UCSB, departments such as Facilities Management are able to achieve their sustainability goals more easily and promote good environmental stewardship in every corner of campus.