Woman in a garden

Credit: Stan Lim

UC Riverside Garden staff Crystal Brachetti harvests kale.

Despite massive disruptions caused by the global pandemic over the past year, the University of California pushed ahead on its sustainability goals, making significant progress in its efforts to combat climate change and build resilience across its campuses.

A new interactive website allows users to track UC’s progress and explore detailed data about how UC is doing at the systemwide and campus level in areas such as climate protection, zero waste, food and transportation.

Among some of the highlights from 2020:

  • UC Merced became the first public research university in the nation to achieve carbon neutrality, a milestone it achieved two years ahead of schedule.
  • UC now uses more green power than any other college or university in the country, according to the EPA. And it ranks sixth in on-site green power generation compared to all corporations and governments.
  • The University’s investment portfolio is now fossil-free, and UC has surpassed its five-year goal of investing $1 billion in clean energy projects. 
  • UC announced it is phasing out single-use plastics across its 10 campuses.
  • There are over 1,300 electric vehicle charging stations throughout the UC system. 

Visitors to the website will also find an array of stories that show just how resourceful UC people have been in the face of the pandemic, as sustainability practices were quickly adapted to help communities meet the unprecedented challenges they faced.

At UC Berkeley, for example, bioengineering professor Amy Herr launched a collaborative research project to figure out how to decontaminate and safely reuse N95 masks — reducing waste, while helping to address a shortage of protective equipment.

UCLA Health met the challenge of supply chain disruptions by turning to upcycling, working with union employees to transform recycled surgical wrap into face masks, helping meet an urgent need during the early days of the pandemic.

And at UC Riverside, the eight-acre campus garden became a vital source of free fruits and vegetables for students who remained on campus during the transition to remote instruction.

“With operations transformed across our campuses, medical centers, and labs in 2020, we seized a unique opportunity to think even more deeply about how we can prioritize sustainability in everything we do,” UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D., said as he presented UC’s annual sustainability report to the Board of Regents. ”This report is a remarkable testament to the University’s dedication to these principles.”