Buildings, bikes and even our purple gloves are green

Women hold box of used lab gloves.
The chemistry department's Lisa Anderson, left, and Jillian Emerson: Turning used gloves into new products. (Joe Proudman/UC Davis)

UC Davis’ official colors are blue and gold, but the campus is receiving more and more recognition these days for green — as in sustainability, for everything from bicycling to building design, and in operation and maintenance of existing buildings.

And let’s not forget our Greenovation Award for efforts to keep an estimated 12 tons of lab glove waste out of the landfill.

Not only that, but the campus has once again made The Princeton Review’s guide to green colleges.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Best Practice Awards — These are given annually in connection with the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference, a joint project of UC, the California State University system, California Community Colleges and private colleges.

This year’s conference (with awards presentation) is scheduled June 16-20  at San Diego State University. UC Davis is due to receive three awards:

Overall sustainable design — for the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building, which opened in 2013 at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. The Jackson building, for research on sustainable winery practices, encompasses 8,500 square foot in a pre-engineered metal structure with a significantly upgraded thermal envelope (super insulated and ultra low air filtration), enabling compressor-free cooling. In addition, the building's slab contains tubing for cooling in summer and heating in winter. Energy efficient lighting, ample daylight, low electrical loads and a rooftop photovoltaic array also contribute to exceptional energy performance. UC Davis is seeking net zero energy certification for the building.

HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) design/retrofit — in the Plant and Environmental Sciences Building, where a lighting retrofit project with occupancy sensors (under the campus’s Smart Lighting Initiative) has been expanded to tie HVAC to the same occupancy sensors — creating a synergy between energy efficiency measures. The project, including a variable air volume system, is expected to reduce the building’s consumption of electricity by 34 percent and of natural gas by 38 percent. Work is due for completion in July. Similar projects are underway or planned in conjunction with lighting retrofits in other buildings, but PES is the first lab building to get the lighting and HVAC occupancy sensors.

• Transportation — Recognizing the UC Davis Bicycle Program for shepherding a bicycling environment that earned not one but two top awards from the League of American Bicyclists in 2013: platinum Bike Friendly University and platinum Bike Friendly Business.

Read about all of the Energy Efficiency and Best Practice Awards for 2014, and the UC news release about all of UC’s awards.


LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) — For the first time in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, UC Davis has received certifications in the category for existing buildings (operations and maintenance), earning silver status for Student Housing’s upgrades to Emerson and Webster halls in the Cuarto residence area.

Project highights:

Water efficiency — Upgraded toilets (1.6 gallons per flush), shower heads (1.5 gallons per minute) and faucets (1 gpm). In each hall, water use is down almost 38 percent compared with the LEED baseline.

Energy and atmosphere — Student Housing retrofitted both buildings with smart thermostats (cutting energy consumption by an average of 17 percent), occupancy sensors to cut lighting load, and energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps in all task lighting; and replaced the heating-cooling plant on the Emerson roof. The retrofits led to Energy Star labels for both buildings; Emerson earned an Energy Star score of 77, which means the building performs better than at least 77 percent of similar buildings nationwide, and  Webster earned an Energy Star score of 75.

Indoor environmental quality — Each hall received points for implementing a high-performance green cleaning program that has become the standard in Student Housing properties. This includes purchasing green cleaning products, implementing green cleaning practices and using green cleaning equipment.

On UC Davis’ 2nd Sustainable Century website: Read an overview of campus progress on green buildings, and learn about all of our green building ratings.


Greenovation Award — From single-use glove manufacturer Kimberly-Clark Corp., recognizing UC Davis “for your outstanding commitment to reducing your environmental impact through your participation in the RightCycle program.”

Kimberly-Clark makes the collection boxes available; the gloves (made of nitrile, a synthetic rubber) go from here to a “second life” in plastic products, such as outdoor chairs or park benches.

Patrick VanDyke, director of Veterinary Medicine Central Services, has played a key role in this project — signing up for RightCycle in mid-2013 and making collection boxes available to all VCMS customers (Vet Med Central Services is the campus’s primary provider of life sciences lab supplies).

VCMS bought a pallet of collection boxes from Kimberly-Clark, and resells them to departments for about $40 each — which includes delivery and pickup, and return shipping to Kimberly-Clark.

VanDyke credited his staff — from customer service and order reps to delivery drivers — for promoting the glove collection program and making it so successful.

He noted Kimberly-Clark’s two-pronged approach to waste reduction:

• The company has reduced the thickness of its gloves by half — without sacrificing the protective element. Now the company puts 200 gloves in boxes that used to hold 100, thus saving on cardboard and shipping costs.

• RightCycle, collecting used gloves, which the company turns over to a variety of manufacturers for such “second life” products as bed pans and bumpers for car parking.

Who knew that skimpy little gloves could add up to so much mass? 

UC Davis and Kimberly-Clark calculated the university’s waste diversion by looking at Vet Med Central Services’ glove purchases: 582 cases in 2013, or nearly 1.2 million gloves, total weight 6.4 tons.

So, by collecting the gloves and returning them to Kimberly-Clark, UC Davis could potentially keep all of that tonnage out of the landfill, after already avoiding an equal amount of tonnage based on thickness alone. Total diversion potential: 12.8 tons.

Many of those gloves come from the Department of Chemistry, where students may go through multiple pairs each day.

Lisa Anderson, a Ph.D. student, introduced the collection program in Annaliese Franz’s organic chemistry lab and a neighboring lab (Jared Shaw’s) last summer. “We completely filled one box (3,000 gloves) in five months, by about 20 graduate researchers and postdocs, and five to eight undergraduate researchers,” she said. “Our second collection box is almost full.

“It didn't take very long for us to adopt and change our habits slightly, by putting used gloves in a separate bin rather than the trash can,” she said.

About once a month, Anderson and another safety officer empty the bins into the shared collection box.

“I’m always looking for ways to make the lab greener, and this collection program is contagious,” Anderson said.

Jillian Emerson, teaching lab specialist, caught the bug last fall, collecting gloves in organic chemistry labs that serve some 800 students a quarter. “It’s been easy, and now the students expect it," she said of the glove collection effort.

Eventually she hopes to see the program expand to all chemistry teaching labs — with total enrollment of some 10,000 students a year. A next step might include biology teaching labs.


The Princeton Review UC Davis is among 332 U.S. and Canadian colleges — unranked — in this year’s green guide, showcasing schools “that demonstrate  a strong commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation.”

The Princeton Review partnered on the guide with the U.S. Green Building Council, the nonprofit organization best known for developing the LEED certification program.

“UC Davis programs in sustainable practices have led to four consecutive years of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, over 20 percent of the food served in dining commons considered sustainable, and over 75 percent of waste diverted from landfills,” the guide states.

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