Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications Solar panels line the rooftops of several UC Irvine buildings. Download image

UC Irvine listed among America’s top 10 ‘Coolest Schools’ for fourth year

Campus places third in Sierra Club ranking of colleges committed to sustainability

Irvine, Calif., Aug. 14, 2013 — UC Irvine has placed third in Sierra magazine’s seventh annual ranking of the country’s “Coolest Schools,” making this the fourth consecutive year the university has been included among the top 10 “greenest” campuses nationwide. The publication’s September/October cover story spotlights what colleges are doing to address climate issues and operate sustainably, from UC Irvine’s highly efficient cogeneration power plant and more than 4,800 solar panels to American University’s new campuswide composting program. The complete list is available at www.sierraclub.org/coolschools.

“We are extremely pleased to be recognized by the Sierra Club for having a positive impact on our planet’s future,” said Chancellor Michael Drake. “I’m excited that at a time when sustainability is becoming ever more important, we earned our highest ranking ever. This ranking reflects the enormous dedication of our students, faculty and staff who show their concern for the global environment – and future generations ˗ in countless ways every day.”

The university has embraced sustainability in its teaching, research, student, operations and management activities. Nearly 200 faculty members conduct research and provide instruction on such topics as conservation biology, ocean health and water resource management; atmospheric chemistry and global systems modeling; energy conservation, power generation and transportation; climate change-related famine, disease and poverty; and land-use planning, environmental law, public health and social justice. The campus offers a minor in global sustainability, and its Department of Earth System Science is said to be the first of its kind in the nation to study human impact on the environment in an interdisciplinary way.

UC Irvine is also home to a dozen student organizations focused on sustainability issues, including The Green Initiative Fund, which supports a variety of sustainability efforts on campus; PowerSave Green Campus, a student-driven energy efficiency education program; and the Real Food Challenge, which advocates for a more sustainable food system.

The campus’s award-winning energy management program, which helps lower its carbon footprint, has been in place for 25 years. More recently, UC Irvine has adopted the Smart Labs Initiative, which safely reduces energy use in new and retrofitted research laboratories by an average of 60 percent. The initiative is showcased through the university’s participation in President Barack Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge. Nine structures on campus have received the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Platinum certification, and eight more have LEED Gold status.

Other examples of sustainable operations include UC Irvine’s waste management, transportation and dining programs. The university has significantly expanded its commingled recycling effort, vaulting its waste diversion rate from 58 percent to 82 percent over the past four years. This is material that’s being reused or recycled instead of being sent to local landfills. In addition, “hydration stations” help reduce bottled water waste. The sustainable transportation program encourages students, faculty and staff to use alternative means of transportation to decrease the number of cars on campus. And UC Irvine’s Hospitality & Dining Services has initiated “Meatless Mondays,” “Weigh the Waste” events, and the labeling of entrees’ carbon “foodprints.” Three of the university’s dining commons function with zero waste.

“We value the Sierra Club’s acknowledgment of UCI’s leadership in this arena, and we’re honored to be recognized among institutions with such distinguished reputations for environmental stewardship,” said Wendell Brase, vice chancellor for administrative & business services and chair of UC Irvine’s Sustainability Committee.

“For the past seven years, Sierra magazine has ranked colleges and universities on their commitment to fighting climate disruption and making sure the future their students will inhabit has safe water, clean air and beautiful landscapes,” said Bob Sipchen, Sierra magazine’s editor-in-chief. “By showing such strong leadership on so many fronts – from energy use and transportation to the courses they offer – the best of these schools are pointing the way for other institutions.”

About the University of California, Irvine: Located in coastal Orange County, near a thriving high-tech hub in one of the nation’s safest cities, UC Irvine was founded in 1965. One of only 62 members of the Association of American Universities, it’s ranked first among U.S. universities under 50 years old by the London-based Times Higher Education. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine has more than 28,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.3 billion annually to the local economy.

About Sierra magazine: Sierra is the official publication of the Sierra Club, America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide. The Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation. For more information, visit www.sierramagazine.com.

Media access: UC Irvine maintains an online directory of faculty available as experts to the media at today.uci.edu/experts. Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UC Irvine faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UC Irvine news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.

Also: