UC Davis received two best practice awards July 21 at the 2015 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference — one in the category of sustainable food service and the other in waste reduction.
UC and California State University campuses took home a total of 27 awards for projects that further campus energy efficiency and sustainable operations. David Auston, executive director of UC Santa Barbara’s Institute for Energy Efficiency, came away as the year’s Sustainability Champion, acknowledging his tireless efforts on behalf of the UC system’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative.
UC President Janet Napolitano, who launched the Carbon Neutrality Initiative in 2013, took the opportunity at this week's sustaimability conference to re-emphasize higher education’s responsibility to preserve the environment. “It’s a moral imperative," she told the assembly at San Francisco State University, which played host to sustainability officers, researchers and others from public and private colleges and universities. See separate story.
UC Davis earned top honors in the category of sustainable food service, for the Aggie Grown program under which the university fills its food order in part with supplies from campus producers and others nearby. Students initiated Aggie Grown and run it.
The best-practice nomination, subtitled “Harnessing the Hyper-Local,” focuses on the supply chain between the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Research Facility and Dining Services, and how students and staff — on the ranch and in Dining Services — developed the supply chain over the last four years:
“From production planning and price setting, to navigating campus regulations, recipe development and student engagement, the Russell Ranch case study provides an example of campus collaboration that sets the paradigm for connecting students to their food system and community resources,” Ben Thomas, Dining Services’ sustainability manager, wrote in the nomination.
Russell Ranch provides two commodities:
- Thousands of pounds of roma tomatoes used by Dining Services to make organic roasted tomato sauce (also featuring basil from the Student Farm).
- Wheat that is milled into flour — 10,000 pounds’ worth in the academic year 2014-15 — that ends up in pizza dough, breads and cookies. (The wheat, by the way, grows with rain as the only irrigation source.)
Aggie Grown also works with the Student Farm (produce), the UC Davis Olive Center (olive oil), Meat Lab, and Grounds and Landscape Services (for flowers).
Thomas noted: “With both Russell Ranch and the Student Farm, students plan, plant, maintain, harvest and distribute the produce.”
Gravel washing and recycling
In the waste reduction category, UC Davis earned honorable mention for a gravel wash and recycling project. The soiled pea gravel, some 1,800 tons annually from the California National Primate Research Center’s outdoor corrals, formerly accounted for more than 25 percent of the campus’s landfill-bound solid waste.
Employees and managers came up with a method to wash the gravel in treated water from the campus’s sewage treatment plant. The pea gravel goes through a screen (it filters out large pieces of animal waste), then goes into a cement mixer for washing. From there the gravel goes through a trommel (a rotary screen like those used in gold mining).
The washing takes place on the grounds of the wastewater treatment plant, and the gravel is then being stockpiled pending determination of whether it can be put back in the monkey corrals. If not, the campus will recycle the gravel elsewhere.
Several units are collaborating on this project: Utilities (which includes the wastewater treatment plant), waste reduction and recycling in the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability, and the California National Primate Research Center.