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Sustainability Efforts Land UC Davis on ‘Cool Schools’ List

By Cody Kitaura/Dateline on September 28, 2020 in University

UC Davis is among the greenest universities in the nation, earning a top-20 ranking on Sierra magazine’s “Cool Schools” list, released today (Sept. 28).

Ranked 18th, UC Davis earned high marks for sustainability research, landscape management, water conservation, use of renewable energy and more. ​

Cool Schools logo

“Everything we do at UC Davis is done with an eye on how our actions will affect the planet,” said Camille Kirk, director of sustainability and campus sustainability planner. “It’s vital that we continue that innovative and challenging work, even during times when we may not all be on campus.”

The Sierra magazine rankings are largely based on the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. UC Davis last spring became the first UC campus to receive a gold certification under the system’s recently revised criteria. UCLA is the only other UC campus that has been certified under the revised STARS program.

The STARS certification examined UC Davis’ sustainability efforts on all parts of campus, including 37 buildings with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification; nearly 6,000 sustainability-related courses; and 70-year plan to transition all landscaping on campus to plants better suited to withstand the effects of climate change.

Other programs that influenced the STARS certification and Cool Schools ranking include the use of recycled water on campus, which saved more than 17 million gallons of potable water from being used in the 2018-19 fiscal year, and a 47 percent overall reduction per weighted campus user in water use since 2008.

A holistic effort

“Seeing all the efforts taking place across departments and looking at them holistically reveals just how important interdisciplinary work is in creating a more sustainable campus,” said Kelli O’Day, the assessment program manager with the Office of Sustainability who led the STARS certification project.

On renewable energy, Unitrans is working to electrify its fleet of buses, with a plan to have 14 electric buses by the fiscal year 2022-23.

Social sustainability is also of concern to the rankings, and in that area UC Davis excels by diverting thousands of pounds of excess Dining Services food to Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center, the ASUCD Pantry and local charities.

UC Davis earned bonus credit for having a green laboratory program, which is part of Green Workplace, under which individuals, labs and offices seek certification for their sustainable practices. Certified labs are eligible for discounted materials from New England Biolabs and Takara Bio. More information is available via email.

Eight UC campuses appear on this year’s Cool Schools list, with UC Irvine nabbing the top spot, and they were all helped in the rankings by the UC system’s divestment from fossil fuels, completed this year.

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