Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, January 2018

UCSF’s New FY17 Sustainability Annual Report: A Year of Climate Action

Cherrie Boyer, PhD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics. Photo Credit: Noah Berger.

UCSF Campus sites (Parnassus, Mission Bay, Mission Center, Mt. Zion, and other locations) and UCSF Health (UCSF Medical Center at Mt. Zion, UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus, UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, and various clinics) continued to demonstrate leadership in health and sustainability during FY 2016-17 (FY17). Key achievements in FY17 included the engagement and activation of faculty, staff, and students in supporting climate action; the launch of Phase II of Climate Changes Health, a campaign that emphasizes the vital connection between climate change and health; and the completion of UCSF’s updated Climate Action Plan.

This article summarizes the UCSF Campus’ and UCSF Health’s key accomplishments for FY17. For those interested in more details, see the full online FY17 UCSF Sustainability Report. You can download an Executive Summary for the campus HERE and an Executive Summary for UCSF Health HERE.

Sustainability Leadership
Once again, UCSF received significant recognition as a leader in sustainability. During FY17, UCSF Health received multiple awards and accolades for its innovative efforts to reduce waste, increase energy efficiency, and promote sustainable food. A key accomplishment in FY17 was the activation of UCSF scientists to support climate action.

Photo Credit: Noah Berger

Hundreds of people eager to show their support for science turned out for UCSF’s Stand Up For Science Teach-in and Rally, which highlighted the importance of federal funding for research. In addition, on September 20, 2016, 377 members of the National Academy of Sciences, including 30 Nobel laureates and three UCSF faculty members, published an open letter to draw attention to the serious risks of climate change. The letter underscored that humans are causing climate change and that we are now experiencing its effects across the globe. While scientists often stick to their research and don’t get involved in policy, this statement was a timely shout out to take climate change threats seriously.

UCSF was honored with several awards recognizing its sustainability leadership:

Climate Change

UCSF has a reputation for rising to challenges. A new challenge on UCSF’s plate is developing a strategy to meet the University of California goal to be carbon neutral by 2025. Paul Franke, UCSF Senior Planner, Real Estate, Planning, & Capital Programs, explained, “This is an ambitious policy. They want the whole UC system to reach carbon neutrality by 2025, scope one and scope two emissions, which are direct things like the power plant, purchased electricity and the bus fleet. So that’s huge.”   

Photo credit: Derrick Tyler, UCSF Transportation Services

A key accomplishment toward meeting UCSF’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2025 was the completion of its updated Climate Action Plan (CAP) , an update of the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy. The CAP articulates the key greenhouse gas reduction strategies for reducing UCSF’s carbon footprint; the majority of UCSF’s footprint comes from energy consumption and the burning of fossil fuels for utilities and the fleet. The other major contributors are commuter travel and airline travel, which are considered scope 3 emissions.


Photo: Adobe Stock Image

UCSF Campus has already met the new UCOP water reduction goal to reduce water consumption per weighted campus user by 47% by 2025 compared to the 2007 baseline (UCOP goal is 36% by 2025). In FY17, potable water use on campus decreased by 15 M gallons.

A key accomplishment for FY17 was completing the Bulk Sterilizer Upgrade Project, which won a CHESC Best Practice Award. The project replaced two inefficient bulk sterilizers at The Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Research Building, a state-of-the-art research facility located in UCSF’s Mission Bay campus. The upgrade took place in a sensitive research area, which required extensive communication and coordination to minimize disruption during the installation process. The project, estimated to save 10-12 M gallons of water annually and $275,000 in water utilities, demonstrates the financial efficacy of strategic water-efficiency projects.

The Medical Center at Parnassus removed 11 autoclaves located in the OR anterooms, saving upwards of 11 M gallons of water each year. The unused and outdated equipment was designed to run water through it 24/7. This, along with other water reduction efforts, has resulted in an annual decrease of 27 M gallons. UCSF Health reduced its annual per capita water use from 349 gallons in FY16 to 313 gallons in FY17.

See UCSF Makes Progress on Reducing Water Use for more details on how UCSF is reducing water use.

Zero Waste

Photo Credit: Kijoo Choi, UCSF Nurse

The campus is working toward its goal of achieving zero waste by 2020. In FY17, it diverted 75% of its waste (without construction & demolition) from the landfill. UCSF Campus completed and launched a new website,, to help employees learn to sort their waste through a web-based portal.

UCSF Health diverted 49% of its waste (without construction & demolition) from the landfill. Through a partnership with MedShare, UCSF Health collected 8,552 pounds of discarded, unexpired, sealed medical supplies for repurposing at third world clinics/hospitals. UCSF Nurse Kijoo Choi has been training ICU nurses in Cambodia, and with MedShare’s help, has delivered over 1,400 pounds of medical supplies to Hebron Medical Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to support open heart surgery patients.


A key accomplishment for FY17 was fully implementing a new Print Management System (PMS) that will save energy, reduce color toner usage, and reduce paper consumption on campus and at UCSF Health. The new system includes Energy Star printers, 100% Post-Consumer Waste (PCW) paper, and scanning features; 100% implementation at UCSF Health saves an estimated $1 M/year.

Sustainable Food

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Image

UCSF Health achieved 26% of total spend on sustainable food and Campus Life Services (CLS) Retail achieved 47% of total spend on sustainable food—both exceeding the goal of 20%.

UCSF Health is a leader in the growing sustainable food movement amongst hospitals and promotes eating less meat as a strategy toward both a healthier body and a healthier planet. In addition to the ongoing Meatless Monday program, which highlights vegetarian meal options on Mondays, UCSF Health has recently launched a new program, Roots & Shoots, developed out of UCSF’s partnership with Menus of Change, an initiative by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the Harvard School of Public Health, that aims to create a world-class network within the foodservice sector and beyond.

UCSF has started to donate food for repurposing, thus reducing food waste. The UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus recently launched a new food-reprocessing program in partnership with Copia; the program redirects excess food to shelters such as Delancey Street Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and Teen Challenge. In 2017, from February through June, UCSF Health and Copia recovered over 17,935 pounds of healthy food and provided 14,946 meals to local nonprofits.

UCSF also launched new green leaf icons on the America-To-Go (ATG) catering system that make it easy for UCSF meeting and event planners to identify on-campus and off-campus caterers that have been certified by the Office of Sustainability as meeting UCSF’s zero waste and sustainable food requirements.

Toxics Reduction

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Image

A key achievement for FY17 was the launch of the Pediatric Environmental Health Toolkit (PEHT) web app, an app that helps clinicians and parents better understand the everyday environmental exposures of children to pollutants and steps to decrease harmful exposure.

“Clinicians tend to not think about the environmental causes of health issues because they often do not feel competent to address them,” agreed Dr. Mark Miller, UCSF Assistant Clinical Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine (Division of Occupational and Environmental Health), Co-Director of the Western States Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) at UCSF, and the director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at the California Environmental Protection Agency. The PEHT addresses this gap by providing easily accessible and credible environmental health information to clinicians so they feel comfortable using it.

The campus, incorporated the Living Building Challenge’s Red List into the Technical Performance Criteria for LEED certified projects to eliminate 10 chemicals of concern.

Culture Shift

Photo Credit: Green Impact

The Office of Sustainability continued to make progress embedding sustainability into UCSF’s DNA, by making it more visible and integrating climate change and environmental health into the UCSF curriculum.           

The UCSF Medical School offered a two-week inquiry course to first year medical students, focused on how climate change affects human health. A second faculty curriculum workshop explored how sustainability and climate change can be incorporated into UCSF’s curriculum, and the Office of Sustainability launched Phase II of Climate Changes Health, a campaign that emphasizes the vital connection between climate change and health. Held the 7th Annual Sustainability Awards, where Chancellor Hawgood presented awards to faculty, staff, and students and 15 certifications to LivingGreen offices, labs, and units.

Sustainable Green Labs

Photo Credit: Marco Sanchez, UCSF Documents & Media Photo

Significant energy and cost savings were captured from a fume hood competition and Adopt-A-Spot, a new behavioral campaign launched in two buildings. For Adopt a Spot, the total results for both buildings showed the potential for an estimated decrease in energy waste of 8% at the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building and 9% at the Smith Cardiovascular Institute Building. Cumulatively, these programs are estimated to save over $133,000 annually.
UCSF Matthew State Lab became the first laboratory to ever achieve a LivingGreen Lab Platinum level certification.

Green Building

UCSF selected international architecture firm Stantec Inc. to design the new, state-of-the-art Precision Cancer Medicine Building (PCMB), intended to integrate research and world-class patient care on the UCSF Mission Bay campus. Groundbreaking for the PCMB took place Friday, April 14, 2017, with Chancellor Sam Hawgood, School of Medicine Dean Talmadge King, and HDFCCC President Alan Ashworth donning hard-hats and shovels to mark the official start of construction.

In addition, UCSF hosted the Global Climate Leadership Council (GCLC) meeting, which brought together stakeholders from across the UC system and the public and private sector to discuss findings and progress toward UC’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. The meeting included a tour of Mission Bay LEED-Gold buildings and Parnassus HSIR 7 & 8 project (LEED CI Gold certification) and a dinner featuring all sustainable food.

Key LEED accomplishments included:

  • Received LEED CI Gold certification for Parnassus HSIR 7 & 8 in April 2017;
  • The ACC5 Heart and Vascular Center is pending LEED CI Gold certification; and
  • Enrolled five new LEED building projects into USGBC: Minnesota Street Housing; Precision Cancer Medicine Building at Mission Bay; Block 33; Block 23A; and 2130 Third Street.