Green Education at UC Davis - Geoffrey de Sibert
Nearly 1,000 people actively working to green the campuses of California’s public and private institutions of higher education will gather together with the University of California, Davis, this week for the 11th annual California Higher Education Sustainability Conference.
The conference, itself a zero-waste affair, will bring together representatives from more than 70 universities and colleges, primarily from California, from June 18 through 22.
A highlight of the conference will be the premiering of “Ignite! The Art of Sustainability,” which launches a statewide traveling tour which will start at the UC Davis Design Museum beginning June 18. The exhibit, which is free to the public, examines the human and natural forces that seem to shape California’s landscape and includes work by UC Davis design professor Ann Savageau and professor emeritus Gyöngy Laky.
Conference participants from all four systems of higher education in California — University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, and private institutions — will be sharing best practices in sustainability. Session topics, presented by a panel of member institutions, will include how campuses can build greener learning, living and athletics facilities; move toward zero net energy; create sustainable science laboratories; increase water efficiency in residence halls; and fill more campus dining plates with campus-grown food.
UC Davis has long served as a form of proving ground for innovations in environmental sustainability. This week, UC Davis has become the first campus in the country to introduce adaptive, networked exterior lighting, a project that is going to save $100,000 annually in electricity costs.
Other green achievements include:
- The university’s overall $39 million Smart Lighting Initiative is on track to cut back campus electrical use by 60 percent by 2015, saving $3 million on the annual electricity bill.
- Through its Climate Action Plan, the campus has reduced greenhouse gas emissions below year 2000 levels and expects to arrive at year 1990 levels by 2020.
- Weekdays, more than 75 percent of students, faculty, staff and visitors use sustainable transportation (walking, bicycling, carpooling, riding a bus or taking a train) as his or her primary means of to and around campus.
- The campus has 42 miles of bike paths and almost 20,000 bike racks, earning it a gold award by way of the League of American Bicyclists.
- The student-run Unitrans bus system, a fleet of 49 buses fueled by compressed natural gas, carries 20,000 riders a day, serving downtown Davis.
- UC Davis is taking the principles of its arboretum — ranked the tenth most beautiful gardens in the U.S. by Stylist Home — to transition the 900-acre central campus perfectly into a public garden that also includes sustainable maintenance practices and native plants.
- Three UC Davis building complexes are certified LEED Platinum, a very high ranking awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council; more than any other University of California campus. It is also home the first LEED Platinum winery and brewery, when a new generation of students is learning to produce fine wine and beer using less water and electricity.
- Aggressive recycling, composting and reuse efforts prevent up to 60 percent of campus waste from entering landfills annually. Aggie Stadium has won the EPA’s Wastewise Game Day Challenge diversion rate championship the past two years. In 2011, the stadium diverted more than 93 percent of its waste on challenge day. All year long, the stadium prevents about 80 percent of its waste from entering landfills.
- The campus spends in excess of 20 percent of its $5.6 million food budget on local products, buys organic items along the lines of poultry and grains, and sources essential olive oil and tomatoes from campus farms.
Perhaps most notably, the university, last fall officially opened UC Davis West Village, the United States’ largest planned zero net energy community. Zero net energy makes certain that on the inside course of a year, the 130-acre development will generate the maximum amount of energy precisely as it consumes. At build-out, the visionary public-private project will house 3,000 students, faculty and staff.
Sierra Magazine in 2011 ranked the university as the nation’s top 10 “Cool Schools.” Greenopia in 2010 also identified UC Davis among the country’s top 10 green campuses. Nicely as the Fiske Best Colleges in 2011 ranked the university one of the top 10 environmental studies undergraduate degree programs.
Doing this made UC Davis an obvious choice as a form of host for all the conference, said conference event manager Katie Maynard from UC Santa Barbara. The 2012 conference marks at the first time in seven years that the event has held in Northern California.
- Geoffrey De Sibert