Sustainability is part of our institutional DNA. A founding director of UC San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Dr. Roger Revelle first made his mark in oceanography as a scientist, explorer, and administrator. He went on to become a senior senator of science, giving counsel and guidance in areas ranging from the environment and education to agriculture and world population. He was one of the first scientists to recognize the dangerous global warming effects of rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Also a Scripps scientist, Dr. Charles Keeling was a world leader in research on the carbon cycle and the increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, known as the greenhouse effect, which may lead to changes in the global climate. He was the first to confirm the accumulation of atmospheric CO2 by very precise measurements that produced a data set now known widely as the Keeling Curve. Prior to these investigations, it was commonly held that the oceans would readily absorb any excess CO2 from the atmosphere produced by the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial activities. He also constructed a model of the carbon cycle into which future man-made CO2 can be introduced to predict concentration levels in the air and water well into the next century. Today, UC San Diego is a living laboratory of sustainable solutions that benefits students as well as our city, region, state and global community. We have been recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partnership Program, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, California Higher Education and Sustainability Consortium, Princeton Review, Sierra Club, International Sustainable Purchasing Council, and others for our sustainability leadership.

UC San Diego’s sustainability goals include but are not limited to:

  • Zero waste by 2020

  • Carbon neutrality (emitting net zero greenhouse gases) from our buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025 and from all sources by 2050.

  • 36% potable water use reduction by 2030, meeting stricter regulations that those mandated by CA Governor Jerry Brown

  • 20% sustainable food purchasing in dining halls (i.e. Fair Trade, USDA Organic, locally and regionally grown, Marine Stewardship Council Certified, etc.) by 2020

  • Food security for the campus community, especially students, by 2025

  • LEED Silver or better certification for all new buildings and major renovations

Students learn about sustainability through hundreds of courses across campus and majors and minors including Environmental Systems, Urban Studies & Planning, Environmental Engineering and Marine Science. Co-curricular learning includes sustainability internships and fellowships, student organizations and outreach campaigns, and sustainability study abroad experiences. Faculty are engaged through climate curriculum development workshops, research grants and collaboration opportunities with staff and corporate partners to pilot and test renewable and green technologies in campus operations, and engaged scholarship in climate science and solutions across the globe. For example, in October 2015 UC San Diego hosted the the UC Carbon and Climate Neutrality Summit with California Governor Gerry Brown in attendance. Our Vice Chancellor for Research and a distinguished Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate scientist lead over 50 faculty and staff from the across the UC system in authoring “Bending the Curve,” a report detailing 10 scalable solutions for moving the world towards carbon neutrality and a practical framework that outlines both immediate and longer-term actions for staving off catastrophic climate change. Finally, our sustainable operation successes include:

  • 21 LEED certified buildings and 20 more in progress (LEED Silver or better)

  • $100M in energy retrofits by 2015, offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions associated with all new construction since 2000 and saving over $8M/year

  • 2.36 MW of photovoltaics across campus

  • One of the world’s largest microgrids that includes a 2.8 MW Fuel Cell powered with directed biogas from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and a 2.5MW Advanced Energy Storage System

  • More than 50% of campus fleet vehicles are hybrid or alternative-fuel

  • 20% of food purchases made by UCSD Dining are sustainable: i.e. Fair Trade, USDA Organic, local/regional, MSC Certified, etc.

  • By 2016 we will have exceeded the CA Governor’s water conservation mandate by reducing our potable water consumption on the La Jolla campus by 2016 

Learn more about UCSD sustainability

UC sustainability