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Carbon emissions down, growth up across the University of California

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The University of California has grown significantly over the last seven years, adding new buildings and 46,000 more students across the 10campus system. What hasn’t increased? UC’s carbon footprint.

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Greenhouse gas emissions are down by 15% since UC first declared, in 2013, that it would achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. The university is making steady progress towards its goal, while showing that environmental stewardship is a smart fiscal move.

UC has saved $285 million in utility costs as a result of energy efficiency projects since 2005. It completed another 53 efficiency projects in 2019 which are expected to produce $1.2 million per year in savings. 

“There is often a very strong connection between doing what’s right and saving money in the long run,” said David Phillips, Associate Vice President for Energy and Sustainability, in a Jan. 23 presentation to the UC Board of Regents.

The quest to decarbonize prompted UC to launch its own power company in 2015. The electricity that it now provides participating campuses comes entirely from clean, renewable supplies.

“Not only are we carbon neutral — but it’s also much less expensive than what we would be paying to the utilities,” Phillips said. 

UC’s just released Annual Report on Sustainable Practices includes those highlights and more — including campus-by-campus snapshots of how each location is doing on its goals for climate protection, green building, clean energy, transportation, waste reduction and recycling, operations, purchasing, food, and water systems.

The university’s example shows that even seemingly small things, like reducing portions at UC’s dining halls, can have a big impact over time, Phillips said. Not only does UC save on food purchases, but it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and limits food waste. 

 “The idea is to create scalable solutions that others can follow,” Phillips said.

Highlights from the 2019 Sustainable Practices report

  • 100% of electricity from UC’s power company is now carbon neutral.
  • 320 of UC’s buildings are “green” certified.
  • UC is moving rapidly towards zero-emission vehicles. Half of new vehicles in 2018-19 were electric or hybrids.
  • All 10 campuses have met or exceeded UC’s 2020 food service goal that 20% of food purchases be sustainable.
  • UC leads the national higher education sector in clean energy and green building.

 Read the 2019 Annual Report on Sustainable Practices.


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