Skip to content

Campus Sustainability


UCSB continues to excel as a leader in sustainability among higher education institutions. Home to one of the nation’s first Environmental Studies programs and the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, UCSB has a long history of promoting sustainability, conducting environmental research, and encouraging resource conservation. Today, UCSB’s sustainability programs have expanded to reduce environmental impacts and improve the campus’ operations in 12 areas: academics & research; built environment; communications; energy; alternative energy; food; labs, shops & studios; landscape & the biotic environment; procurement; transportation; waste; and water.

By turning off lights, printing double-sided, or taking the extra moment to recycle, individuals make everyday choices that drive the success of UCSB’s sustainability programs and drastically reduce the campus’ impact on the environment. Students address environmental issues through 39 environmentally- or sustainability-related campus organizations, including the Environmental Affairs Board, which is the largest student group at UCSB. From organizing beach clean-ups to partaking in international energy policy discussions, these organizations offer a full spectrum of opportunities to students who want to get involved with sustainability. For example, The Green Initiative Fund is student-directed and awards over $150,000 each year to students, staff, and faculty to finance projects that aim to reduce UCSB’s environmental impacts. Similarly, the student-led Renewable Energy Initiative Governance Board facilitates the implementation of projects to supply the campus with renewable energy. 

Additionally, students from the PowerSave Green Campus, PACES (Program for the Assessment and Certification for the Environment and Sustainability), and LabRATS (Laboratory Resources, Advocates, and Teamwork for Sustainability) programs audit campus facilities to assess their performance and provide suggestions for improvement. While these are just a few examples of the campus’ numerous sustainability programs, UCSB also encourages students to promote sustainability at the regional, national, and international levels as well.

To accomplish UCSB’s aggressive sustainability goals, Chancellor Yang assembled deans, Nobel Laureates, senior faculty, staff, administrators, and students from across the campus to form the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee (CSC) in 2008. The CSC members provide guidance to enhance campus sustainability and make recommendations for reducing environmental impacts. In order to officially incorporate sustainability into UCSB’s mission and goals, the CSC created campus specific sustainability practices, including guidelines for green building design, bicycle path circulation, and paper, equipment and alternative fuel procurement. While the CSC provides leadership for UCSB’s sustainability efforts, the entire campus community contributes to UCSB’s sustainability achievements.

The nationally-recognized Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) maintains over 250 acres of open space on campus (including areas of intact native vegetation and wetlands), and 90% of the remaining landscape is irrigated with reclaimed water. In addition, the campus has extensive traditional and non-traditional waste management programs, including: recycling electronic-waste; collecting used kitchen oil to produce biofuel; and composting at all the Dining Commons to produce fertilizer from food waste. First implemented in 2009, the Trayless Dining Program reduced food waste at the Dining Commons by 54%; the associated savings were utilized to increase the amount of local, organic, and sustainable foods offered to student diners. Currently, 50% of all food purchases for the dining commons are locally grown or distributed. In this manner, sustainability initiatives at UCSB not only improve the campus but also produce long-term savings that are reinvested to further enhance the campus’ operational performance.

In partnership with the US Green Building Council (USGBC), UCSB has achieved 43 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications for buildings on campus. Currently, the campus is home to more LEED for Existing Building (LEED-EB) certifications, than any other college or university in the nation. UCSB’s Bren Hall is the nation’s first LEED ’Double Platinum’ building (achieving LEED for New Construction Platinum Certification and LEED for Existing Buildings Platinum Certification). In December 2012, UCSB received an award from the California Central Coast chapter of USGBC in the category of Resource Efficiency for construction waste minimization and a 90% waste diversion rate in the creation of the North Campus Faculty Housing Phase I. Since 1998, the campus has decreased its electricity consumption per square foot by 30 percent and natural gas consumption per square foot by 17 percent through efficiency projects to help reduce fossil fuel dependence and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the UCSB Recreation Center utilizes electricity produced by a 133 kW solar energy system and was recently designated by Southern California Edison as a “Zero Net Energy Demonstration Showcase” because of the facility’s aggressive efficiency improvements and sustainability projects.

In 2011 and 2012, UCSB was recognized as “Climate Efficient” as part of the Southern California Edison Cool Planet Program. In addition, UCSB received a Gold rating for its STARS 1.2 (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) submission in May 2012. During the same month, UCSB was cited as one of the 10 Most Bike-Friendly Campuses across America by Best Colleges Online. Santa Barbara County has recognized all four dining commons with Green Business Certifications. Eight University Center (UCEN) food retail units are also Santa Barbara County Green Business Certified, as well as the UCSB Auto Shop, which just recently received its certification. The campus also received multiple best-practice awards at last year’s California Higher Education Sustainability Conference for a student sustainability program, sustainable food initiative, and sustainable innovations through the Central Coast Sustainability Summit.

As the goals of sustainability continue to evolve at UCSB, new challenges provide the everyday stimulus for developing fresh solutions. Some of these solutions will be discovered through the research of our campus’ scientists and engineers, while others will result from the insight of our behaviorists, humanists, staff, faculty and students. We all share a future—let’s share the solutions that make it better!

Campus Sustainability Facts

  • 10 on-site solar arrays produce 212 kW of renewable solar energy for the campus 
  • 13 Santa Barbara Green Business certifications 
  • 43 LEED certified buildings 
  • $22 million invested of energy conservation projects implemented since 2004 
  • 94% of students use alternative transportation 41% of campus food budget is spent on local or organic food purchases 
  • Reclaimed water accounts for 23% of total water use Achieved a 25% reduction in potable water use 
  • 321 courses offered that are focused on or related to sustainability 
  • 47% of our academic departments offer at least one course focused on sustainability 
  • 217 faculty members engaged in sustainability research

For more information about UCSB’s sustainability programs, achievements and how you can get involved please visit