Committing to its reputation as one of the most environmentally conscious campuses in the nation, UCSB hosted the sixth annual UC, CSU and CCC Sustainability Conference this week with over 850 people in attendance.

The conference, which began on Sunday and ends today, brought together administrators, faculty, staff and students from various University of California, California State University and California Community College campuses to discuss each institution’s impact on the environment as well as ways to lessen each school’s detrimental impact on its surroundings. The event also featured several keynote speakers and honored current leaders in environmental sustainability.

UCSB Campus Sustainability Coordinator and lead event organizer Katie Maynard said the conference continues to grow every year.

“This is the sixth annual conference, and every year it nearly doubles in size,” Maynard said. “We’ve been able to see [environmental policies] spread like wildfire coming out of these conferences.”

Participants in the conference heard presentations from such environmental luminaries as Greenpeace International Co-Founder Michael McGonigle, the co-author of Planet U: Sustaining the World, Reinventing the University.

Chancellor Henry T. Yang also spoke, along with UC Santa Cruz acting chancellor George Blumenthal and Mark Drummond, chancellor of California Community Colleges.

In a written statement, Chancellor Yang said he was delighted to have UCSB host the conference for the fourth time.

“UC Santa Barbara is proud to be a leader in sustainability,” Yang said. “UC, CSU and CCC are committed to working together to help our world meet the climate challenge through pursuing frontier research and fostering research collaborations, educating and inspiring future leaders and setting an example for others to follow.”

During the event, participants honored 22 recipients of the 2007 Higher Education Energy Efficiency Partnership Best Practice Award, which recognizes success in areas such as building retrofits and operations, green buildings, sustainable transportation and student sustainability programs. UCSB earned an award in water efficiency for its San Clemente graduate student housing project.

Maynard said that the UC, CSU and CCC Sustainability Conference is known for its effectiveness and draws speakers eager for action.

“The people participating in this conference are so geared toward making change,” Maynard said. “The speakers are excited about the power of our California campuses and what can be done. They know that whatever they talk about at the conference will be received by people who will implement what they are talking about.”

In years past, the UC system has developed several environmental policies systemwide. As early as 2003, the UC Board of Regents implemented a green building and clean energy policy with the goal of minimizing the environmental impact of UC campuses. The next year, UC President Robert Dynes approved the Policy on Green Building Design and Clean Energy Standards, a set of rules that ensured the sustainability of UC campuses.

In 2006, the UC expanded its focus to energy-efficient transportation and to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In March, all 10 UC campuses, backed by Dynes and the Regents, signed on to the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, joining 116 schools across the country in a pledge to make campuses less environmentally hazardous.

Locally, UCSB has mandated that all new buildings meet the requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Certification, working to renovate existing buildings. In 2002, the Bren School earned the LEED Platinum designation, making it California’s greenest building.

The campus has also upgraded its lighting and appliances as well as emphasized recycling programs both on and off campus. To continue its efforts at lowering energy consumption, the school has installed solar panels on the roofs of several buildings, including the Rec Cen, to collect energy.

UCSB is also partnered with the City of Goleta, Santa Barbara County and private landowners in the Ellwood-Devereux Open Space Plan, which preserves and provides public access to more than 650 acres on a 2.25-mile stretch of local coastline.

According to Yang, the goal of this conference is a long-term commitment to sustainability, which will eventually reach beyond higher education to a broader audience.

“Our goal for this conference is to share ideas, learn from each other’s expertise and best practices, build collaborations and begin a dialogue that will definitely continue long after the conference is over,'” Yang said. “Together we will put ideas into action to help create a sustainable future for our world.”