The University of California today (Sept. 4) announced a bold expansion of its systemwide sustainability goals as part of its Carbon Neutrality Initiative and leadership on climate change efforts.

UC will aim for 100 percent reliance on clean electricity supplies across its campuses and medical centers by 2025, which dovetails with the university’s prior pledge to become operationally carbon neutral by that same year. UC has already saved $220 million with its energy efficiency programs, and continues to leverage the benefits of its solar farm in Fresno, the largest solar purchase of any university in the U.S.

“From LED lighting to all-electric fleets, we are proud of the countless energy efficiency and clean energy actions we have taken to tackle climate change,” said David Phillips, UC’s associate vice president of Energy and Sustainability. “These ambitious new targets, which align with those of our student environmental leaders, will ensure that our electricity comes from clean sources, extending UC leadership in modeling sustainability solutions.”

Among UC’s new goals:

  • Clean energy: In addition to its 100 percent clean energy commitment, UC will endeavor to reduce its energy-use intensity (energy per square foot per year) by 2 percent year over year through more efficient measures. By 2018, the university’s own power company will provide 100 percent clean electricity to participating UC campuses.
  • UC Health: Mirroring standards long in place for campus buildings, new acute care facilities must now meet energy-efficiency requirements based on industry-leading benchmarks. UC Health’s cutting-edge efforts also involve each center setting its own goals for waste and water efficiency, coupled with enhanced reporting requirements based on targets established by Practice Greenhealth, a nonprofit membership organization.
  • Green buildings: No new UC buildings or major renovations after June 2019, except in special circumstances, will use on-site fossil fuel combustion, such as natural gas, for space and water heating.
  • Sustainable procurement: UC will use its market power to drive the availability of more sustainable products and services. Examples of new goals include 25 percent green spend and 25 percent economically and socially responsible spend. Enhanced requirements for its procurement departments and new standards for their suppliers will further support sustainable sourcing.
  • Zero waste: Complementing the existing 2020 zero waste goal to divert waste from landfills, a new policy sets waste reduction goals for each campus. Each campus will reduce municipal solid waste by 25 percent before 2025, and by 50 percent before 2030. UC has banned expanded polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam) in takeout containers and, by 2020, will prohibit its use outside of specialized laboratory or medical settings.

“Today’s announcement formalizes our long-held belief that healthy communities cannot be sustained in the midst of an increasingly unhealthy environment,” said Dr. John Stobo, executive vice president of UC Health.

Said Gary Cohen, president and co-founder of Practice Greenhealth and Health Care Without Harm, “UC Health’s new carbon neutrality and 100 percent clean energy goals demonstrate a strong commitment to protect their patients and all Californians from toxic air pollution and the negative health impacts of a warming climate. Practice Greenhealth applauds UC Health’s vision and commitment and urges other hospitals to follow its lead.”

“Today I’m so proud to be a UC student — proud of UC for taking this visionary action and proud of my fellow students for working together to push for a future powered by clean energy,” said Sophie Haddad, chair of the student organization CALPIRG. “Our generation will be the ones experiencing the severe impacts of climate change; that’s why thousands of students signed on to our campaign and are supporting this the university’s landmark commitment.”

UC campuses are living laboratories for climate change and sustainability solutions in support of the university’s core missions of teaching, research and public service. This year UC unveiled the University Climate Change Coalition, known as UC3, a network of North American research institutions committed to mobilizing their resources and expertise to accelerate local and regional climate action.

More information on UC’s sustainability policies can be found here and on UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative here.