After 20 years as the founding Director of Sustainability at UCSB, Mo Lovegreen will be retiring at the end of the year. During her time at UCSB, Mo Lovegreen paved the foundation for sustainability not only on our campus but for campuses across the nation. Her impressive impact reaches far beyond our community, having sowed the seeds for a greener future throughout the UC System.
In 2002, Mo Lovegreen founded the sustainability program at UCSB and became the first Sustainability Director within the UC System. Mo Lovegreen started her Sustainability career as the assistant dean at the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, where she spearheaded the construction of Bren Hall and acquired the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum rating for a laboratory building in the United States. Throughout this time, she worked to incorporate elements of environmental lifestyles into the Bren School and all of its operations. Because of her groundbreaking accomplishments and ability to actively make strides in sustainability, the Chancellor asked her to guide sustainability efforts for the campus as a whole—kickstarting her journey as the founder of UCSB Sustainability.
In this position, Mo had the opportunity to take her passion for Sustainability and apply it to work that hit the broader campus. The beginning stages of building the sustainability program were open-ended, with no models to follow. This was one of the greatest challenges in starting the first sustainability program across the country. She had to figure out what it meant to have a sustainable campus because no one had created formal structures for it yet. What were the measurement and verification protocols? What metrics were important to track? Which were the most critical elements to focus on that would have the greatest impact? Answering these questions made up a bulk of the early work. After settling on baseline measurements for the campus across various areas of sustainability, Mo and the rest of the sustainability pioneers began to tackle making improvements and reductions.
One of the most difficult challenges was creating a cultural shift. In the early years of the program, people’s mindsets were drastically different from what they are today. Nowadays, no one bats an eye at installing solar panels for greener energy sources. However, when Mo was working on Bren Hall, convincing the campus to let her put solar on the roof, it was a difficult conversation. Informing people and educating them through deep discussions proved monumental in enacting the cultural shift needed to bring campus sustainability to where it is today.
During the last decade, sustainability practices have become far more formalized across the UC system as a whole. UCSB Sustainability, as a pioneer, played a crucial role in this process: helping craft system-wide policies based on experience and data coming out of the Sustainability program at UCSB. Some of Mo’s proudest accomplishments during her time here have been her work on creating the Bren School, designing and building Bren Hall, and the Water Action Plan—the latter were both catalysts for system-wide changes in thinking. Overall, she is honored to have been able to not only get the sustainability program up and running but also to keep it moving forward.
Looking back, Mo shares that finding the right people to move things forward was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, aspects of her work. She emphasizes that collaborating across all boundaries of the institution with phenomenal people who work in each sector of the university was what really pushed the program along. Engaging with these passionate individuals was one of the most valuable aspects of her work; she would not have met these champions across the campus had she been in a single department. “Humans are always the challenge—trying to make friends with people to make stuff happen—but this is always the best part, too. Finding those great individuals where you’re so amazed by what they can accomplish has been great,” she said.
Mo’s colleagues share this sentiment. A few of the people who worked with her extended the following remarks:
“Mo has grown UCSB's Sustainability program to the successful office it is today. Her leadership, vision and relationships have allowed this office, which functions by cooperating with many units across campus, to thrive. The Sustainability program and UCSB will not be the same without Mo and are better off because of Mo.” - Renee Bahl, Co-Chair of the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee & Associate Vice Chancellor - Design, Facilities and Safety Services, UCSB
“Mo was one of the visionaries behind sustainability early on, supporting UCSB's leadership in hiring one of the first ever Sustainability Staff to the Procurement department. This integration of sustainability into procurement has been followed by numerous other UC campuses and higher ed institutions, and is now catching on in the private sector. We thank Mo for her unwavering passion, drive, and leadership to institutionalize sustainability across campus” - Heather Perry, Former Sustainability Procurement Manager, UCSB
“Working with Mo has been an absolute pleasure. Despite all of Mo’s responsibilities on campus, she is always open to new ideas. Mo’s positive attitude and ability to bring people together has made her an effective leader in Sustainability, and has made working on projects with her fun.” - Nestor Covarrubias, Director, Transportation & Parking Services, UCSB
“Mo is the common thread that connects so many of the elements of our campus' sustainability work: she's approachable and accessible to students, deeply knowledgeable of campus practices, and a great advocate. She's helped so many of us deepen our own expertise and build relationships so we can carry the work forward, and I'm grateful for all that she's done.” - Sarah Siedschlag, Associated Students Environmental Programs Advisor, UCSB
"Mo really has been the heart and soul of sustainability here at UCSB for so many years. She almost single-handedly pulled the program together and has remained its guiding force ever since." - David Lea, Co-Chair of the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee & Professor in the Department of Earth Science
Though she is leaving the program, Mo has high hopes for the future of sustainability at UCSB. With a foundation in place, this next phase will be critical in seeing if the campus can achieve climate neutrality and set an example for the nation. She envisions sustainability impacting more areas of the campus, extending its reach to all parts of our operations. Mo also hopes that UCSB Sustainability further focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion as it moves forward, thinking about how we can best serve and include all people.
As much as Mo feels lucky to have had this job, we are lucky to have had her—a passionate visionary and empathetic leader who allowed sustainability to take root.
Written By Connie Yoon