UCSB’s sustainable approach to campus development and low environmental impact rarely goes unnoticed, with countless forums, conferences and speakers coming almost every week to celebrate innovations – or as was the case yesterday, to award the university’s head man.

Students from CalPIRG and the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board honored Chancellor Henry T. Yang with a plaque and a model windmill at a ceremony in front of Cheadle Hall yesterday, thanking him for his efforts in reducing UCSB’s environmental impact. CalPIRG plans to present such plaques to the chancellors of all 10 University of California campuses, said Garo Manjikian, campus organizer for CalPIRG at UCSB.

“We are very proud to be an environmental leader,” Yang said. “Our goal is to reduce impact of campus environmental activity.”

CalPIRG is a statewide student-funded and directed group that promotes environmental and consumer interest legislation at the local, state and nationwide level. At UCSB, CalPIRG focuses on hunger and homelessness, global warming and affordable textbooks.

Manjikian said Yang was instrumental in UC President Robert C. Dynes’ signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which took place in March.

The commitment is a pledge on college campuses to go climate neutral – or reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and increase education about the Earth’s rapidly changing climate. All 10 UC campuses will release a long-term plan of action in 2008.

In the short term, campuses can offset emission levels by planting trees or buying carbon credits, said CalPIRG intern Candace DesBaillets. In addition, participants are encouraged to set a two-year reduction goal and work sustainability into course curriculum.

“It is an understatement to say that our school is a leader in combating climate change and a shining example of what a campus can be,” DesBaillets said. “We are so lucky to have a wonderful chancellor and talented staff that are so committed to this issue.”

As for UCSB, campus administrators plan to get 25 of existing campus buildings Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified over the next five years and implement a policy that stipulates that all new buildings meet green standards. LEED certification is a rating system used by the U.S. Green Building Council to assess the construction, design and operation of environmentally friendly buildings.

Regarding transportation, UCSB’s car fleet consists of electric cars, hybrid vehicles and even a solar-powered vehicle.

“Global warming has finally become a topic that has entered the minds of most people,” DesBaillets said. “As in the past, the world will turn to higher education to solve global problems.”

Meanwhile, CalPIRG is not resting its laurels at UCSB. Late last month, CalPIRG launched an environmentally friendly campaign called “What’s Your Plan?” in Las Vegas.

Tessa Atkinson-Adams, affordable textbooks campaign coordinator of UCSB CalPIRG, said the goal of the new campaign is to attend all 2008 presidential candidates’ events in order to ask the candidates about their plan to address global warming and question them about other issues relevant to student concern.

“I think this is a great example of how students do have an impact on politics and can get the ear of politicians if we get involved,” Atkinson-Adams said.