UC Office of the President
UC Office of the President LEED-EB Silver (2007)

The UC recognizes that sustainability touches every aspect of a campus.  As such, 9 of the 10 UC campuses have formed a Chancellor’s Committee on Sustainability, charged with fostering inter-departmental and interdisciplinary collaboration.  This is essential to develop and execute sustainability plans, and to incorporate sustainability into the institutional mission of the university.

In addition to spreading knowledge within each campus, the University of California is providing important information to universities nationwide on developing green strategies and how to achieve goals.

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ECUP Solar
UC San Diego East Campus utilities plant solar array
Clean Energy
The “UC Go Solar” campaign originated as a campaign by a coalition of students aiming to reduce the impact of the university. By increasing energy efficiency and decreasing the use of non-renewable energy sources, environmental consequences of UC’s activities could be reduced.

Programs such as the award winning Energy Efficiency Partnership, with the California State University and the state’s investor owned utilities, continues to provide opportunities for energy savings and exploration into renewable energy. The Green Campus Program, managed by the Alliance to Save Energy, provides students energy efficiency and conservation internships.

Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is a fundamental element of the University’s sustainability program. UC has committed to reducing its growth-adjusted energy consumption by 10% or more by 2014 from the year 2000 base consumption level.

Consequently, projected cost savings from energy efficiency projects are nearly $12 million annually. With more than $20 million in grant funding up to date and more energy efficiency projects identified, savings will continue to increase.

Renewable Energy
The University of California has committed to reducing dependence on non-renewable energy, and in doing so, has established the goal to buy 20 percent of its grid-purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and to generate 10 megawatts of onsite renewable electricity by 2014.

From Solar Photovoltaic Installations to Landfill Gas and Grid Purchase of Renewable Power, different campuses are pursuing opportunities to reach UC’s target for renewable energy.


To download a copy of the UC’s Clean Energy Policy, click here.


To learn more about the Energy Efficiency Partnership, click here.


To learn more about the Green Campus Program, click here.


UCLA captures from a neighboring landfill to partly fuel the campus co-generation power plant and generate 3.48 MW of power. UC Davis has 1 of 51 landfills across the state with a gas-to-energy program. The methane captured at the landfill offsets the purchase of approximately $80,000 a year in natural gas.


As of 2008, UC Santa Cruz purchases 100% renewable energy. The EPA lists Santa Cruz as the 6th largest green power purchaser in the United States. The funding for this purchase originates from a student fee of three dollars per student per quarter, instituted by a student referendum in 2006.


UC's Policy on Sustainable Practices sets a visionary goal of achieving zero waste by 2020, with interim targets of 50% diversion from landfill by 2008 and 75% diversion by 2012. 

As a first step to achieving waste diversion goals, each campus completed a preliminary Integrated Waste Management Plan in June 2007 and began implementing the plans in late 2007. All main campuses now report annually on their waste reduction programs, diversion rates, and plans to reach each of their waste diversion targets.  The next step in UC’s plan is to develop a sustainable foodservice policy to institutionalize current best practices and coordinate efforts throughout the 10 campus system. 

In addition, UC requires ENERGY STAR™ designation in system-wide contracts for all office equipment, including personal computers, copiers, and printers. Every computer and monitor that UC purchases must achieve a minimum Bronze rating under the Electronics Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT™)

All campuses significantly improved their waste diversion rates, with 7 out of 10 campuses surpassing the goal of diverting at least 50% of municipal waste from being sent to landfills.  UCLA showed the most marked improvement – going from a 19% diversion rate to a 52% diversion rate by launching an aggressive recycling program.

UC Davis has created and developed a waste diversion program, R4, which has effectively reduced waste on the Davis campus.  Aggie Stadium has gone zero waste; everything sold at the 10,700 seat multi-use stadium can be recycled or composted.  In June 2006, Davis won the award for Best Practices:  Innovative Waste Reduction.

In efforts to reach a 50% waste diversion goal, UC San Francisco won an award for best practices in innovative waste reduction by composting animal bedding in their research laboratories.  They have also increased composting and recycling efforts in all areas of campus.


Goals are set by the Policy on Sustainable Practices to minimize the amount of waste sent to landfills. Waste diversion goals include 50% by 2008, 75% by 2012, and “Zero waste” by 2020.


The University is leveraging its purchasing power to drive down the cost of environmentally preferable products. For example, under the UC's latest contract for office paper, the cost of paper with 30% post-consumer waste content is the same as the price of virgin paper.


UC Davis has gained much recognition for its strong actions towards waste diversion, achieving 69% waste diversion rate in 2008.

One particular action that's receiving much attention is the R4 program. The R4 recycling program (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rebuy) at UC Davis began in 1990 and is a highlight of the campus waste management program.

The R4 program’s Zero Waste events, in which 94.3% of waste production at nine events has been diverted, have been given an award by the U.S. EPA.

Alternative means of transportation for UC students

Ensuring a comprehensive transportation plan, including alternative means of transportation, is critical to the goal of greenhouse gas emissions reduction.  The Sustainable Transportation Policy was added to the original 2003 sustainability policy in January 2006.  The Policy calls for UC to incorporate alternative means of transportation to, from, and within the campus and surrounding communities and to build more housing on campus to reduce the need for commuting.

Seven out of ten UC campuses have been designated as “Best workplaces for Commuters,” which indicates the number of commuter alternatives available to reduce the reliance on single-occupancy vehicles. 

The UC Irvine campus earned the state’s top environmental honor, the Governor’s Environment and Economy Leadership Award, for its sustainable transportation program.  In 2007, UC Irvine converted 10 shuttle buses to 100% biodiesel. Each year, the program eliminates more than 39 million vehicle miles and 18,600 tons of greenhouse gas emissions while saving the university more than $21 million.

From bicycle master plans to alternative fueled vehicles, see what each campus is doing:
UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz.


UC Irvine ZEV•NET, or Zero Emission Vehicle Network Enabled Transport, is a unique transportation system that couples the benefits of mass transit with the convenience and flexibility of a personal car. Designed to provide environmentally sensitive transportation alternatives to commuters traveling during the day, the program’s use of electric vehicles equipped with Global Positioning System technology in conjunction with scheduling software allows vehicles to be efficiently shared among commuters.

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley provides incentives that allow students to use public transit for free all semester long.


UC Davis is the only UC campus to have a traffic signal with a bike phase, to accommodate thousands of bikers commuting to campus daily.


UC Merced has a contract that allows all students to ride free bus and shuttle services that run from campus to various locations, including light rail.


As of 2006, UC Riverside had the largest percentage of alternative fuel fleet vehicles in the UC system.


A variety of transportation programs have resulted in savings of an estimated 1.7 million automobile trips per year at UCLA.


UC San Diego was the Sustainable Transportation Award winner in 2006 for the use of 225 electric or “zero emission” vehicles and 32 hybrid vehicles for its fleet.


To help reduce congestion, UC San Francisco shuttles students, staff, visitors and faculty between campus sites and secondary campus locations.


UC Santa Barbara provides a number of transportation benefits for bus riding, carpooling, and biking including discounted bus passes, 6 days of free parking per quarter, and on campus showers and lockers for bikers.


More than 10,000 trips via public transit are made on campus per day at UC Santa Cruz. Even though enrollment has increased 37% since 1990-2000, the campus has reduced vehicle trips by more than 10% of 1990 levels.

UC Merced Central Plant LEED Gold
Green Building

Responding to student requests, in January 2002 The Regents asked the President to undertake a feasibility study for the adoption of a Green Building Policy for all proposed and to-be-renovated buildings.  These policies mandate that all new buildings on all ten campuses will construct all new buildings to the equivalent of LEED-NC (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction) Certified level and to outperform California's Title 24 energy code by at least 20 percent.

To move towards more sustainable operations and maintenance of existing buildings, each campus must submit one pilot building for LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) certification.

UC renovation projects with a budget over $5 million must meet the equivalent of a LEED for Commercial Interiors Certified level.

Leading by example, the University of California Headquarters in Oakland, California is LEED Silver certified.

Raising the Bar—LEED Certifications
While UC is analyzing the possibility of raising the minimum green building requirements in the policy guidelines from certified to silver, some campuses have already chosen to go beyond the minimum requirements. 

Fifteen UC buildings on eight UC campuses have received some level of LEED certification.  In addition, there are over 100 new construction projects underway, and 15 renovation projects.  Nearly half of these will be at a Silver rating or higher.

Both UC Merced and UC Santa Barbara have adopted an unprecedented goal to reach at least LEED silver level for all new buildings and major renovation projects. 

UC Irvine and Merced developed the first campus wide green building protocol, under the LEED for New Building Construction rating systems, working with the US Green Building Council to streamline the LEED process for all university, nationwide.

UC Santa Barbara has established a campus-wide approach to LEED, including a policy to renovate 25 existing buildings over 5 years and improve operational practices to certify them through the LEED for Existing Buildings program.


To download a copy of the Green Building Policy, click here.


To view a list of certified UC building, click here.


UC Merced is the only campus in the country that has earned at least a LEED certification on every campus building. Three of the first four buildings have achieved LEED Gold certification, and a fourth building achieved LEED silver. They have received LEED Gold certification for the Classroom and Office Building, the Central Plant, and the Kolligian Library.


UC Santa Barbara has received LEED platinum certification for Bren Hall. The building has been recognized as the greenest laboratory in the United States and established high standards for future facilities. When built, it was one of only two LEED platinum buildings in the country.

Bren Hall
Environmentally sensitive landscape management at UC Santa Barbara's Bren Hall

UC Campuses are employing a variety of strategies to conserve and safeguard California’s limited resources.  Technologies like waterless urinals and low-flow fixtures aid in reducing water consumption, as well as obtaining LEED certification.

Landscape management best practices, like irrigation with reclaimed water, use of pervious paving materials, and drought-tolerant native plants also help the University save water and protect local watersheds.  Through environmentally sensitive landscape management, UC is improving water and soil quality, conserving water, and promoting biological diversity.

Water conservation is extremely important and UC campuses are beginning to rethink the way they use water through increased water efficiency, continued and expanded use of reclaimed water, use of xerophytic and native landscaping, and implementing onsite re-use and recycling practices.


UC Merced has designed its entire site landscaping within the current 100 acre Phase Development to use 50% less water than projected baseline calculations, which was done through a combination of:

  • the utilization of California native and other drought tolerant plant materials and limited use of turf;
  • the use of a sophisticated automated irrigation system that includes centralized control and PC monitoring, field moisture sensors, drip irrigation, and deep root watering tubes for trees; and
  • constructing the entire irrigation system to utilize reclaimed water sources in the near future.


At UC Santa Barbara, water conservation best practices were incorporated into Bren Hall.

Approximately 45,000 gallons of water per year are saved from toilets using reclaimed water, waterless urinals and low flow fixtures.

The landscaping shades and shelters the building, uses drought-tolerant native plants, and uses reclaimed water for irrigation.

The fire road around the structure is made of permeable turf-block with a grass overlay, and the bike parking area is made from permeable interlocking pavers.

Climate Action
UC Santa Cruz joins Climate Action Commitment
Greenhouse Gases

The University of California is giving serious attention to its contribution to global warming. 

All 10 UC campuses are members of the California Climate Action Registry and publicly report third-party verified greenhouse gas emissions. Calculating an emissions inventory and developing a strategy to reduce those emissions are the first steps toward solving the challenges of global warming.

The goals for the UC System include:

  • By December 2008, develop an action plan for becoming climate neutral as soon as possible.
  • To reduce GHG emissions to the year 2000 levels by 2014.
  • To reduce GHG emissions to the year 1990 levels by 2020.

UC Berkeley’s climate action plan has become a model for universities nationwide.

UC Santa Barbara has also gained recognition for their leadership in climate change.

American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment
In 2007 the University of California became a founding signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment: a broad effort by the nation’s higher education institution to address global warming.  The commitment calls for UC campuses to take the following steps to achieve climate-neutrality as soon as possible: create institutional structures, select and implement tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, complete a comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory, develop a climate-neutral action plan, and make information publicly available.


UC Berkeley became the 1st campus to complete a climate action plan (far in advance of the policy's December 2008 deadline). UC Berkeley is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emission to 1990 levels by 2014, six years earlier than required by the policy or state law.


The UC Santa Barbara campus earned second place in the National Wildlife Federation’s national “Chill Out” competition for exemplifying the significant impact that colleges and universities are making in providing “leadership to confront global warming head on.”