This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

UCLA places among top 10 greenest campuses

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UCLA has scored ninth in a top-20 ranking of the "coolest" schools in the nation environmentally, according to an article in Sierra Magazine, a publication of the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental group. And that matters to 67% of students applying to college, according to the magazine staff, which published the rankings today (August 20).

"This is a new measure of prestige for colleges," said Avital Binshtock, lifestyle editor for Sierra. "In researching the article, we talked to college admissions strategists and people who specialize in getting students into top schools. They all found that students are very interested in going to schools that have green practices."

Long a leader in the area of sustainability, UCLA has stepped up its efforts in the past few years with the creation of the sustainability committee and other programs, said Cully Nordby, academic director at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and chair of the sustainability committee.

"Everyone here on campus is doing such a tremendous job. UCLA is finally getting the recognition it deserves as a leader in sustainability," Nordby said.

The rankings were based on total scores assigned to universities after adding up points for sustainability efforts in eight categories — academics, administration, efficiency, energy, food, purchasing, transportation and waste management.
WasteWatchersFood
The student-run Waste Watchers program that measured how much food students threw away helped contribute to UCLA's high score for sustainability.


UCLA received a perfect 10 for its waste management efforts, which include implementing a campuswide recycling program, introducing biodegradable utensils in campus food courts, recycling materials from construction projects, recovering water from labs and air-conditioning systems, and composting food waste in the dining halls.

UCLA currently diverts 60% of its waste and has targets to reach 75% by 2012 and 100% by 2020.

"Part of why we received such a high score for waste management is the progress we've made towards the UC Policy on Sustainable Practices targets," said Nurit Katz, sustainability coordinator at UCLA. "We're very excited about the score, but it's a long road to 75% diversion. We're going to need everyone’s participation."

UCLA received a 9 for transportation due to its extensive programs that include vanpools, carpools and transit pass subsidies that together have reduced the campus employee drive-alone rate to 53% (26% for students), thanks to wide participation by faculty, staff and students. In greater Los Angeles area, 74% of drivers drive alone.

The campus also received high marks in administration, a testament to its many ongoing initiatives, including its commitment to reach targets set in the climate action plan. UCLA's goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012 will come eight years earlier than the state and UC mandates of 2020. The hiring of a sustainability coordinator as well as the sustainability committee's efforts to coordinate activities across campus also contributed to the high scores.

UCLA also is a clear leader in academics, offering numerous opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to take classes on environmental topics and earn credit and certification for sustainability efforts. The magazine specifically highlighted the student project Waste Watchers, one of the many undergraduate Action Research Teams on campus. The group measures waste on campus and devises ways to involve the entire campus community in sustainability efforts.

Although UCLA received its lowest score, a 3, in the energy category, Katz points out that while the campus faces financial barriers to mounting large-scale projects to generate on-site renewable energy, its higher efficiency score of 8 attests to its success in reducing energy use per square foot by 16% over the last 10 years and increasing emissions by less than 1percent since 1990 (despite a 30% increase in square footage). UCLA's success in reducing emissions in the past has been due primarily to the highly efficient natural gas-fired cogeneration plant the campus built in the 90s. That facility is more than twice as efficient at providing energy as conventional power plants. It provides 70% of UCLA’s electricity and nearly 100% of its heating and cooling. Seven percent of the gas used in the plant comes from the Mountain Gate landfill and is considered a renewable energy source.
 
Of note, University of Colorado at Boulder ranked first on Sierra's list, and UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley ranked slightly higher than UCLA, at seventh and eighth, respectively.
 
To watch a video that summarizes UCLA's climate action plan, or to read the plan itself, visit www.sustain.ucla.edu.

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