UCSB dedicates millions of dollars each year to its quest to “go green.”

The campus is home to a wide range of environmentally minded organizations and programs all working to ensure that the carbon footprint of the university diminishes with each year. As a leading proponent of sustainable design, the campus has an annual budget in the tens of millions for environmentally sound “green” practices.

Most significantly, the efforts of the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee, The Green Initiative Fund and the Strategic Energy Plan are some of the strongest proponents of sustainable practices on campus. Additionally, a recent partnership forged between the University of California and four investor-owned utility companies in California – which offer monetary incentives for implementing energy-efficient programs – has already produced vast savings for the UC.

According to Katie Maynard, a campus sustainability coordinator, UCSB has been a pioneer in spearheading sustainable programs since the late 1970s.

“UCSB was one of the first campuses in California to hire a full-time campus energy manager and campus recycling coordinator,” Maynard said in an e-mail. “We were also one of the first to have an energy and environmental manager in Housing and Residential Services.”

New Allies

A new Energy Efficiency Partnership between state utilities and the UC was implemented in October 2008, and according to Maynard, quickly resulted in more than $20.5 million in grants for energy efficiency projects. The savings from this program, Maynard said, are already apparent.

“To date, 180 UC projects totaling 14.7 million gross square feet have been registered with the program,” Maynard said. “By the time these projects are completed, the utility companies will pay the UC more than $5.5 million in incentive payments for these projects, helping the University to avoid an additional $5.4 million per year in energy costs.”

The Green Initiative Fund

The Green Initiative Fund was created by students in Spring 2006 to alleviate the university’s impact on the environment. The initiative was voted in as a student lock-in fee of $2.60 per quarter, and subsequently receives around $182,000 each year. Any UCSB student, staff or faculty member can propose a sustainability project to TGIF in order to receive funding, pending approval of their proposal.

During the 2008-09 academic year, TGIF awarded $141,000 in funding to 12 different campus sustainability projects. According to TGIF Sustainability Coordinator and Grants Manager Jill Richardson, the initiatives included projects such as the “Save a Tree” venture, which has a $5,000 budget to reduce the amount of junk mail received by mail services, as well as $15,300 allotted to the “Real Food Challenge,” which ensures local, ethically produced, ecologically sound and humane food is used by campus dining services.

Additionally, $8,000 was awarded to the Associated Students Dept. of Public Worms, an organization that works to divert campus waste from landfills through a worm compositing program.
The most expensive project – which reduces organic solvents from the Organic Chemistry Labs – received $45,000 from TGIF this academic year.

Funding and the Future

While UCSB is a leader in sustainability among colleges across the state, according to Associate Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Ron Cortez there is no easy way to pinpoint exactly how much the university spends on “going green.” To put the size of this figure in perspective, Richardson said the campus received around $16 or $17 million from the UC Office of the President and match funds this year alone.

That this much money has been diverted to the Strategic Energy Plan, Cortez said, demonstrates UCSB’s commitment to sustainability.

“I think it’s a reflection of the ongoing efforts the campus is going to take to… reduce the level of [energy] they use on campus,” Cortez said.

While securing funding for any project is proving difficult during the current budget drought, Maynard said employing green alternatives can actually serve to cut operating costs as well as minimize the university’s carbon footprint.

“The current administration is prioritizing green projects as a way to boost the economy and green collar jobs are certainly more prevalent than other jobs,” she said. “This is a tough time, though, and we are all looking for ways to be as efficient as possible and do our part to keep costs down. This moment is a great opportunity for sustainability. We can help keep the university’s budget down by keeping utility bills lower and encouraging everyone on campus to use wisely.”