Catching up with the Carbon Neutrality Initiative

posted in: Sustainability | 0

Written by Colleen McCamy

Time flies when you’re reducing emissions! A whole three years have passed since UC President Janet Napolitano announced the system-wide initiative of committing all 10 UC campuses and UC facilities to emitting net-zero greenhouse gasses from its buildings and vehicle fleet. And a whole year has passed since Chancellor Henry Yang signed the American Campus Act of Climate Pledge which localized the UC-wide goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025 to UCSB’s campus. Over the last couple of years, our campus has been successful in advancing the goals of the initiative, especially through student engagement.

The UC President’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) Student Fellowship Program funds student-generated projects that support the UC system’s carbon neutrality goal. Student projects include: carbon footprint tracking network at UC Riverside, hosting a Cool Energy Expo outreach event at UC Berkeley, and creating a best practices for financial strategies in reducing carbon emissions at UC Santa Cruz. UCSB’s fellows have been doing some exciting work as well!

Having the opportunity to be a CNI fellow myself for the last two years, I have learned so much.

In spring of 2016, former CNI fellow, Rob Holland, and I designed and led a course under the advisement of Dr. Foran to further UCSB’s Climate Action Plan through student research. This course used the model of the Education for Sustainable Living Program. Ten students enrolled in the class and researched specific topic areas and developed creative strategies for reducing the university’s emissions. Projects included:

  • micro wind turbines feasibility
  • carbon offset recommendations
  • behavioral change analysis
  • alternative fueled vehicles
  • intelligent heating analysis
  • bike share analysis
  • videoconferencing technology and behavioral analysis

The course allowed students with busy schedules to participate in real-time research on issues such as reducing the university’s carbon impact.

One of our current fellows, Antony Del Castillo is working on a Climate Implementation Plan specifically for Housing and Residential Services. Along with mitigating electricy and natural gas usage, part of the plan will focus on behavioral change. According to Del Castillo, “We are seeing how large of a part students represent in campus emissions. Without student contribution to the initiative, it will be harder to achieve carbon neutrality in the residence halls. By focusing on changing students’ habits to be more sustainable will be able to reduce campus emissions. Also, as this is the first time many students are living on their own, this is such an informative time for students to develop these habits that will carry on through their life.”

Another carbon neutrality fellow, Ankur Dass is researching the feasibility of using thermal exchange with the ocean for heating and cooling buildings on the UCSB campus. The Ocean Science Education Building implements similar technologies with chilled sea water used for cooling. Dass would be able to look into expanding UCSB efforts of efficient cooling and heating with sea water by assessing the feasibility for this technology at more buildings.

I am also working this year on engaging students in the feedback process for UCSB’s 2016 Climate Action Plan. I have reached out to environmental groups and student advocates on campus, discussed their feedback for the plan, and helped in hosting a public forum to further the feedback discussion in order to make sure student voices are represented. Engaging students in the planning process not only helps to create a plan that is more representative of the campus community, it promotes civic engagement which helps build stronger communities.

Students at UCSB have also been very focused on increasing renewable energy and climate awareness for the campus. Two new student organizations, Climate Reality and the Climate Justice Hub, have even sprouted up this year! Climate Reality works to empower students to act on climate issues by organizing events to raise climate awareness and help pursue 100% renewable energy at UCSB. The Climate Justice Hub was created to bring together social, cultural and environmental justice groups to collaborate in advocating for climate justice.

Advocacy has been followed by action, as UCSB is currently installing over 5-megawatt worth of solar on rooftops and parking lots throughout campus. Once installed, the new system will produce about 11 percent of the campus’s total electricity usage. Marc Fisher, UCSB’s Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services described the project as “a key step in our efforts to meet goals set by the University of California and UC President Napolitano to become carbon neutral by 2025.”[1]

Overall, efforts here at UCSB are driving the university in the right direction towards carbon neutrality. We will need the whole campus community working together to achieve this initiative, and I feel confident that here at UCSB we have the needed enthusiasm and dedication to accomplish our goals.

Now that you are caught up with the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, please feel free to contact me if you are interested in getting involved! Involvement can range anywhere from participating in future events, advocating for specific aspects with the Climate Action Plan and much more!

Colleen McCamy

Email: colleen.rebecca.mc@gmail.com

[1] To read the full article, “UC Santa Barbara Partners with SunPower to Bring 5.2-Megawatts of Solar Power to Campus” visit http://newsroom.sunpower.com/2015-12-17-UC-Santa-Barbara-Partners-with-SunPower-to-Bring-5-2-Megawatts-of-Solar-Power-to-Campus.