The University of California has expanded its sustainability policy, raising the bar on green building requirements and establishing one of the most comprehensive sustainable food service policies of any university in the country.
The Policy on Sustainable Practices applies to all 10 UC campuses, the five UC medical centers and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Read the full policy here (PDF).
The university's efforts to green itself are a natural outgrowth of its teaching and public service mission, said Nathan Brostrom, UC's interim executive vice president for business operations.
"For a long time UC students learned about issues like resource scarcity and global warming inside the laboratory and classroom, but the university was doing business as if these problems didn't exist. That sends a mixed signal," Brostrom said. "Now we're practicing what we teach. By embracing sustainability and transforming our business practices, UC can have a positive environmental impact today and save the university money through increased efficiencies. In leading by example, UC can also influence generations of students who will tackle environmental problems in the years to come."
The policy has been revised to require that:
- By 2020, at least 20 percent of all food purchased by UC be designated as "sustainable," as defined by the food service work group, based on third-party certifications for organic, locally-grown and other measures.
- At least one dining facility per UC location must be certified as a green business, through a city or county certification program or through the Green Seal or Green Restaurant Association program.
- Each campus must provide students with educational materials explaining the issues related to sustainable food products and food service business practices.
- Campus departments, organizations, groups and individuals must engage in activities with the surrounding community in support of common sustainability goals.
UC revised and strengthened its sustainability policy at the request of students, 10,000 of whom sent postcards to the Board of Regents asking for more sustainable food options. One of the student leaders in this campaign, Hai Vo from UC Irvine, was recognized for his efforts Oct. 20 when he received a Brower Youth Award from Earth Island Institute. The award is one of six given annually to young activists in the U.S. and Canada.
UC's new commitments will have effects that reach well beyond campus borders, said Kelsey Meagher, a senior at UC Irvine who worked on the development of the food service policy as a Sustainable Agrifood Systems Fellow.
"By adopting policies for sustainable food service, UC has taken a bold step toward protecting our environment and nourishing all of the people in our food system — not only the students and staff who eat in our dining halls, but also the many people who grow, process, and serve our food."
The new food service policy was developed over the course of the last year by a system-wide working group comprised of more than 40 people from food service operations on all ten campuses and at UCSF Medical Center.
Under the policy, each UC campus has flexibility to set its own specific goals in the four areas of purchasing, food service, facilities and operations, and outreach. They will report on their progress annually.
With the addition of the new rules related to sustainable food service, UC's Policy on Sustainable Practices now includes guidelines and commitments in eight areas of university operations — including operations and maintenance, purchasing, climate protection, energy procurement and generation and waste reduction — making it one of the most ambitious and comprehensive institutional sustainability commitments in the nation.
Recent revisions to the Policy on Sustainable Practices also have strengthened UC's green building goals by requiring that all new UC buildings be constructed to a minimum LEED Silver standard, while directing the university to strive for the more stringent LEED Gold standard.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Created and administered by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council, LEED has emerged as the national standard for high-performance green buildings.
Across its 10 campuses, the University of California now has 28 LEED certifications, more than any other university in the nation.
UC has received dozens of awards for its sustainability efforts, and UC campuses are ranked near or at the top of every campus sustainability ranking released to date.