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Big green growth at UC Davis

By Clifton B. Parker on May 9, 2008 in University

UC Davis is launching a major effort to strengthen its commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability.

The Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Initiative includes a new office to coordinate universitywide efforts on sustainability, seed money to support new projects, and the creation of a chancellor-level advisory committee.

The new office, housed within the Office of Resource Management and Planning, will work with other units to develop strategies and plans to implement the UC regents' sustainability policies and "inspire the university community to embark on additional actions to be leaders for sustainability in higher education," according to a written proposal for the initiative.

"UC Davis is committed to caring for our environment and our resources," Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said in announcing the new initiative. "Our sustainability efforts now have dedicated leadership, a higher profile and a broader platform."

'Everybody has a role'

Sid England, director of environmental planning in ORMP for 18 years, leads the new office, and two professional positions — a principal planner for sustainability and an analyst — will be added.

England emphasizes that the office will coordinate universitywide activities, not replace them. "If our sustainability efforts are going to be successful, there isn't anyone who doesn't need to be involved," he said. "Everybody has a role in helping to make us successful at sustainability."

The Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability office includes ORMP's existing environmental planning function, sustainability and management of the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve. The initiative includes a $100,000 "Green Fund" to provide seed money for important initiatives and $20,000 to hire student interns.

The UC Davis Arboretum will also be moved to ORMP and located within the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability program, but Arboretum Director Kathleen Socolofsky will report directly to John Meyer, vice chancellor for ORMP.

In an e-mail, Meyer said England's background and experience with environmental issues make him especially suited to coordinate the effort. "He has built one of the highest quality environmental planning and management units in the UC system," he said. "He is sought out for his opinions on a range of issues. Is there a greater compliment at a university campus?"

England, who has a doctorate in ecology from UC Davis, is a member of the board of directors for both the Yolo Audubon Society and Audubon California.

The new approach to environmental stewardship and sustainability capitalizes on the ongoing transition of Facilities Management and Architects & Engineers from the Office of Administration to ORMP. Many of the functions relating to environmental and campus planning — architecture, engineering, and facilities operation and maintenance — will be within ORMP and closely aligned with the budget and academic planning process.

The initiative will build on the work of the UC Davis sustainability advisory committee that has reported to Stan Nosek, vice chancellor of the Office of Administration, since 2005.

"It's the evolution of the committee and the next step we anticipated when we started this," Nosek said. In response to student interest, the committee was established at the operational level to quickly make progress on some concrete issues, he said.

Jill Blackwelder Parker, associate vice chancellor for Safety Services and chair of the sustainability advisory committee, said the committee's major accomplishments include creating a campus grant program, implementing a new waste reduction and recycling policy, and completing an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, she said, the strong working relationship with students has been particularly rewarding.

The committee has also overseen the launch of a campus sustainability Web site ( and the production of a video, "Sustaining UC Davis."

Looking forward, England said his first steps would include establishing a committee to advise the chancellor on how to make sustainability a core value of all that UC Davis does. The new committee will replace the existing sustainability advisory committee and will include students, faculty and staff to provide advice regarding the Davis and Sacramento campuses as well as outlying facilities.

The new committee will report routinely to the chancellor and provost through an existing committee — facilities and enterprise-policy — and, as needed, directly to the chancellor. England's hope is that the committee will be appointed before the end of the academic year. Those interested in participating are invited to contact England at

Initial goals for the new committee, England said, include developing university principles of sustainability and environmental stewardship, fostering collaboration among the administrative and academic units, and developing fundraising opportunities.

UC Davis defines sustainability as practices that support ecological, human, social and economic vitality for the university and the global community. Sustainable actions meet present needs while enhancing the environment and allowing future generations to thrive.

England said he would establish an ad hoc committee to prepare an action plan to make UC Davis climate neutral — by minimizing emissions of greenhouse gases and using carbon offset or other measures to mitigate the remaining emissions — as soon as possible.

England said he wants to actively engage academic units and researchers in sustainability efforts, and plans call for creating an inventory of sustainability research projects to foster links among administrative and academic programs.

"There may be potential research applications that would benefit campus efforts," he said. "We can tap our own expertise," he said, giving as examples the work of the Institute of Transportation Studies and the California Lighting Technology Center.

The new initiative calls for exploring the creation of a sustainability roundtable that would include university, community, business and research leaders. It would disseminate information about sustainability research initiatives, link the university to planning and research efforts in the region, and work with others on regional solutions to environmental issues.

Media contact(s)

Clifton B. Parker, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,