UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, January 2017

Happy New Year:  Ten Good Things to be Grateful for in 2017

Happy New Year! In the midst of so much uncertainty, we have identified 10 delightful and inspiring things to raise your spirits and get 2017 off to a grounded, joyful start.

1. More Scientists Moving Toward Social Activism


According to a December, 2016 story in Nature, the recent election has galvanized the scientific community to get more engaged in political activism that stresses the value of science to the public. Geoffrey Supran, a climate scientist at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology commented, “It is an encouraging sign that there is a ‘Trump effect’ on scientists’ willingness to stand up for science.” Professors at UCSF are also getting more engaged in climate advocacy. In mid-December scientists took to the streets in San Francisco to protect science.  About 500 people participated in the ‘rally to stand up for science’, including UCSF’s Dr. Tom Newman, Professor, UCSF School of Medicine and Dr. Robert Gould, President of the San Francisco-Bay Area Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and Associate Adjunct Professor with the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE).  You can see the rally in action here.

2. UCSF is Beginning to Integrate Sustainability and Climate Change into the Curriculum

At a recent Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) workshop, UCSF professors from the schools of nursing, medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry highlighted their efforts to integrate climate change and sustainability into the UCSF curriculum. Keep your eye out in 2017 for some new courses, including a new global health sciences course that encourages students to develop a proposal for a defined policy maker on mitigation or adaptation of a health-related climate change issue, an elective titled “Women’s Health, the Environment, and Professional Activism Elective”, and a Climate Change Inquiry Course, which will engage in such questions as, “What should physicians know and do about climate change, sustainability, and health?” You can learn more about the CNI workshop here.

3. Clean Tech Continues to Thrive

Andrew Winston, sustainability consultant and author, shares some good news in a recent piece he wrote for the Harvard Business Review. He points out that, “In short, Trump cannot stop all momentum on the clean economy. The economics are too good. The cost to build and produce solar and wind power, for example, has dropped 60%–80% since 2010, making it cheaper than grid electricity in most states.” UC is the only academic institution that is part of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a more than $1 billion fund focused on fighting climate change by investing in clean energy innovation. The UCSF community is harnessing clean power by participating in Bay Area SunShares; together with 37 partners, 1,817 people registered to learn more about the program, 144 households decided to switch to solar at home (732 kWhs of solar installed), and 29 bought zero-emission vehicles (ZEV). Previous SunShares programs have led to almost 5 MWs of new solar installed across Northern California, enough to power over 820 homes.

4. UCSF Scientists Have Many Successes

UCSF researchers continue to tackle a range of issues, from the impact of caffeine on health to tackling the Zika virus. UCSF News Center lists the most popular science stories of 2016.

5. Nature Makes You More Creative

According to the Greater Good Science Center, nature can make you kinder, happier, and more creative.  Being in nature has an impact on our brains and our behavior, helping us to reduce anxiety, brooding, and stress, and increase our attention capacity, creativity, and our ability to connect with other people. Another good reason to spend more time in nature.

6. Sutro Stewards Celebrate 10 Years of Caring for Mount Sutro Reserve

Speaking of nature, the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, owned and managed by UCSF, is an ecological oasis in the heart of San Francisco with over 5.5 miles of multi-use trails, cared for and built predominantly by volunteers. Sutro Stewards, which works in collaboration with UCSF to maintain and manage the trails, habitat restoration, and on-site native plant nursery, recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary of caring for the reserve. Learn more about volunteering and upcoming events here.

7. NOMADgardens Continues to Blossom

NOMADgardens has blossomed into a thriving community garden that could not have begun without the help of its amazing staff and generous donors, including UCSF. NOMADgardens was born to create a ‘roaming’ community garden and event space that transforms vacant lots into vibrant hubs for the local residents. Their current location provides small plots for both the UCSF community and the broader Mission Bay neighborhood to grow their own food, connect with neighbors and learn about sustainable food issues. In 2016, the garden grew over 1,000 crops.

8. UCSF Medical Center/UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Named One of the Greenest Hospitals in America by Becker’s Hospital Review

Becker’s Hospital Review honored UCSF for the third year in a row as one of the greenest hospitals in America. UCSF Health received accolades for its innovative efforts to reduce waste, increase energy efficiency, and promote sustainable food. UCSF was also recognized by Practice Green Health, including the Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award for the second year in a row, honoring UCSF’s demonstrated performance in sustainability leadership, energy savings, water conservation, waste reduction, employee engagement, and green chemicals. See the FY16 Annual Report summary for an overview of recent accomplishments.

9. New Energy Efficient Standards Passed for Desktop Computers and Monitors

As recently reported in the New York Times, “Computers, long a symbol of the digital age, are now moving into a more earth-friendly future: California’s state energy agency voted unanimously Wednesday to approve new regulations for energy efficiency.” The new rules, once implemented, will save California 2,332 gigawatt hours, potentially reducing utility bills by more than $370 million annually, enough to power 350,000 average California homes.

10.  Many Resources for Staying Mindful

Our piece in December on sustainability and spirituality highlighted the importance of staying grounded and mindful. The Greater Good Science Center is a world-class resource for compassion, empathy, mindfulness, and positive psychology. They have a robust website full of helpful articles, videos, podcasts, and quizzes. Spirit Rock Meditation Center is a Bay Area gem that offers workshops and retreats in Marin.