Kira Stoll, UC Berkeley's director of sustainability stands with solar panels on the top of the Recreational Sports Facility.

Credit: Jennifer McDougall

Kira Stoll, UC Berkeley's director of sustainability, stands with solar panels atop the Recreational Sports Facility.

The Carbon Neutrality Initiative

The Cool Campus Challenge was sponsored by the UC's Carbon Neutrality Initiative, a systemwide effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, in partnership with the Center for Sustainable Energy.

After an intense flurry of carbon-reducing actions that had UC campuses tied neck-and-neck down to the last hours of the month-long competition, the results of the 2019 Cool Campus Challenge have been tallied and the Coolest UC Campuses have emerged.

The winners are:

  • Highest total points — UC Berkeley
  • Greatest percent participation — UC Merced
  • Health location with highest points — UCSF
  • Team with highest points — Sustainable Squad (UC Berkeley)

Competitors had four weeks to complete actions to reduce their carbon footprint ending April 26th.

A surge on the final day of competition helped push the total participants to over 22,000 students, staff and faculty from across all 10 University of California campus locations and the University of California Office of the President.

Sheer numbers weren’t the only great story to emerge from the competition. “The high participation rate from the smallest campus in the university system showed the commitment our campus has to climate neutrality and to our Triple Zero Goals,” said Mark Maxwell, UC Merced’s interim director of sustainability.

From taking small steps like washing laundry in cold water to larger ones like reducing single-use lab items, Cool Campus Challenge participants took more than 190,000 actions resulting in over 21,650,000 pounds of carbon dioxide saved, demonstrating that even small actions can add up to a significant positive impact. Individual activities earned points that contributed to participants’ personal, team and campus scores, which were displayed in real time on an online scoreboard. Sign-up events spurred participation and friendly cross-campus competition — at times UC Berkeley and UCLA were within 20 participants of each other.

While the winners secure bragging rights and a cash prize to help support a celebration, the real achievement reaches beyond the completion itself, as pointed out by Kira Stoll, UC Berkeley’s director of sustainability.

“Berkeley is proud to take the crown of Coolest UC this year,” Stoll said, “but it is open game next time around — and UCLA has got some chops. Ultimately this is a win for the planet and for all of us to have deeper engagement with our community.”

Stoll’s response highlights the primary purpose of the competition, which is to build a culture of sustainability across the UC system, according to David Phillips, UC’s associate vice president for energy and sustainability.

“Small changes in our regular energy consumption can be easy to implement but we all need a little push now and then to modify our habits," Phillips said. “Cool Campus Challenge provided that friendly nudge, and I’m hopeful these new energy-conscious actions will stay with us well beyond the competition and into our daily lives."

Building awareness about the impact that everyday decisions can have on our environment is essential if UC is to reach its target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. The Cool Campus Challenge is one of many initiatives to help people understand and take personal action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.

UC and the Center for Sustainable Energy are proud sponsors of the Cool Campus Challenge and remind all Californians that small individual steps to save energy and reduce carbon emissions quickly add up to help combat climate change in California.

You can keep taking actions to fight climate change all year long. For a quick tip on how to make your lighting environmentally friendly, check out our video below:

Credit: University of California