August 20, 2012

UC Davis lauded for sustainability efforts

The University of California, Davis, was named the nation’s “Coolest School,” by Sierra Magazine for its efforts to address climate change and operate sustainably.

The 5,300-acre campus, internationally acclaimed for its research in environmental sciences, ranked No. 1 among the 96 top colleges and universities surveyed.

“At UC Davis, sustainability is one of our core values,” said UC Davis chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “I am very proud of the students, faculty and staff who have worked so hard to make this achievement possible and to invest in a more sustainable future for our campus.”

In bestowing the “Coolest School” ranking, the Sierra Club’s official publication praised UC Davis for establishing rigorous green purchasing standards; diverting nearly 70% of campus trash from landfills; and offering an extensive transportation system that includes the student-run Unitrans bus service, which serves the campus and adjoining city with 49 natural-gas-powered buses that carry 21,000 riders a day, 42 miles of bike paths and more than 20,000 bicycle parking spaces.  

Photos courtesy UC Davis.

Photos courtesy UC Davis.
UC Davis drew international attention for its commitment to sustainability last fall, when it officially opened the doors to UC Davis West Village, the nation’s largest planned zero net energy community. The 130-acre development, which will house about 3,000 students, faculty and staff, is designed to generate as much electricity as it uses over the course of a year.

UC Davis has also established itself as a leader in environmental sustainability through:

  • A Climate Action Plan that has reduced campus greenhouse gas emissions below year 2000 levels and expects to reach year 1990 levels by 2020.
  • A $39 million Smart Lighting Initiative that is on track to reduce campus electrical use by 60% by 2015, saving $3 million on the annual electricity bill. In June, UC Davis became the first campus in the nation to introduce adaptive, networked exterior lighting, a project that alone will save $100,000 annually in electricity costs.
  • Planning that helps 85% of students and 46% of employees to use sustainable transportation (walking, bicycling, carpooling, riding a bus or taking a train) as their primary means of commuting to and getting around on campus.
  • Aggressive recycling, composting and reuse efforts that in 2011 prevented 64% of campus waste from entering landfills annually. Aggie Stadium has won the EPA’s Wastewise Game Day Challenge diversion rate championship for the past two years. In 2011, the stadium diverted more than 93% of its waste on challenge day. Throughout the year, the stadium prevents about 80% of its waste from entering landfills.
  • The campus spends more than 20% of its $5.6 million food budget for residential dining services on local products, buys organic items such as poultry and grains, and sources olive oil and tomatoes from campus farms.


Visitors to campus can take a self-guided tour of these and other sustainability highlights by downloading a map or obtaining a print version on campus. A website, Sustainable 2nd Century, launched in 2009 to celebrate UC Davis’ first 100 years, also catalogues sustainable achievements.

Four UC Davis building complexes are certified LEED Platinum, the highest ranking awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council and more than any other UC campus. Among them is the world’s first LEED Platinum winery, brewery and food processing facility, in which a new generation of students is learning to produce fine wine, beer and food using less water and electricity.

In addition:

  • UC Davis research informs state water, transportation, lighting, construction, and air quality policies, which often influence national policy.
  • UC Davis is the home base of Andrew Frank, hailed as the “father of the plug-in hybrid.” The longtime professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering built the first commercially viable plug-in hybrid.

Sierra Magazine’s top 10 schools of 2012 are:

1. University of California, Davis (Davis, Calif.)

2. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta)

3. Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)

4. University of Washington (Seattle)

5. University of Connecticut (Hartford, Conn.)

6. University of New Hampshire (Durham, N.H.)

7. Duke University (Durham, N.C.)

8. Yale University (New Haven, Conn.)

9. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, Calif.)

10. Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.)

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