UCSD, a public research university overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, California, is being called The Living Lab, a model of sustainability in education, research, and university operations. Home to 29,000 students, it is one of the most environmentally progressive campuses in North America, reflected in its landscape and buildings, services and management, curricula, and user engagement.
Visible sustainability is abundant:
- Xeriscaped landscapes (water conserving) of native coastal chaparral;
- State-of-the-art buildings with green roofs and complex water retention systems;
- Labs, offices, and lecture halls that harvest daylight and use fan-assisted natural ventilation;
- PV arrays on rooftops and over parked cars;
- Continuous, real-time energy monitoring displays;
- Community gardens among the six residential colleges;
- Compost bins behind cafes, restaurants, and dining halls.
Every new building exceeds current energy efficiency codes, as architects and engineers compete to develop clever energy management innovations. A just-finished building uses multiple electrical systems to control plug loads, with color-coded outlets indicating those that will be shut off after work hours.
Less visible sustainability at UCSD includes green purchasing policies, campus-wide recycling, low-flow water faucets, recycled water, and weather-informed landscape irrigation, a central cogeneration plant, a fuel cell that operates on natural gas reclaimed from a landfill site, and the microgrid, a network that locally controls and integrates electricity supply and demand on campus, yet is interconnected with the larger grid.
The university dining service also manages a farm-to-table program, with local growers supplying fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. This supports the
University of California goal that 20% of food served on campuses will be from sustainable sources by 2020.
In all, UCSD is a showcase of sustainable policies and programs, a campus of healthy and productive spaces to live, work, conduct research, teach, learn, play, and eat.
What are other colleges and universities doing to engage students in sustainability on campus?
Credits: Photos by Michael Lytton and data linked to sources.