UCSD takes ‘green’ seriously


Sustainability efforts coming from different angles

UCSD’s colors are blue and gold but they ought to be green.

UCSD officials say the campus is striving to become a national model of energy sustainability, not only physically altering its campus to become increasingly more energy-efficient, but by incorporating green technology and theory into nearly 200 courses offered throughout the year, with new green classes being added each quarter.

Solar “trees” in parking lots and more than 80 seminars, workshops and courses being taught this fall attempt to answer the question: What does green mean?

A case in point is the course “Corporate Social Responsibility” taught by Vicki Krantz, UC San Diego Extension’s director of Business and Professional programs.

She said she saw a lack of knowledge about the growing economic potential in becoming energy sustainable.

“The consensus was most companies in San Diego are still trying to figure out what this means to them, “she said, “so we gathered together advisers from different industry sectors and occupations to come up with classes to help inform people in our business community about what they can do.”

Krantz added one of the big draws about turning green, for businesses, is the knowledge that doing so is becoming a huge enticement for new workers to join their firms.

More visual evidence of the emphasis on a sustainable campus was the summer installation of metal photovoltaic solar “trees” generating 230 kilowatts of electricity atop the six-level Gilman parking structure.

It’s a sign of things to come, as solar panels are to be installed on buildings and parking garages across the 1,200-acre campus.

No quick fixes

However, like the world at-large, the university is finding that becoming more energy sustainable is not uncomplicated, quick or inexpensive.

“There really is no silver bullet, no one thing you can do to fix this problem (climate change),” noted Steve Relyea, UCSD’s vice chancellor for business affairs.

“The only way to be effective in dealing with it is to really have a strategy that hits the problem from a lot of different angles: not just conserving energy, not just solar panels, not just biofuels.”

Some examples include installing an array of solar panels to add more than 1 megawatt (power for 1,000 homes) of electricity campuswide and a project to capture methane gas from Point Loma’s Wastewater Treatment plant and area landfills to power a fuel cell to produce 2.4 megawatts of energy serving East Campus.

Getting in the act

Students are getting involved, too.

Erika Kociolek with the Green Campus Program, a student-led outreach program championing energy-efficiency, is wholeheartedly participating in the university’s green transformation.

“A lot of students are involved in these issues working closely with staff and the administration at all 12 campuses in the UC system to develop new ideas and new programs,” she said.

Kociolek is personally involved in getting UCSD campus facilities to become Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (Leed)-certified.

“It’s a rating system that tells you how ‘green’ your building is,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have the first one on campus finished by January of next year.”

Vice Chancellor Relvea said a lot of people on campus care about sustainability.

“We (university) felt it was really our obligation not just to do theoretical cutting-edge research in climate change, but also to have the campus be a living laboratory for solutions, actually do things that could be portable to other university communities.”