UCSF Sustainability Stories

Spring:  The Perfect Time to Start a Green Team.  And Take One Simple Action!

Team green hat
Spring is the perfect time of year to walk the green talk and put your green values into action at work.  Below we outline four simple actions to consider.

Action Idea #1:  Create a Formal UCSF Green Team

A green team is a group of self-organized employees who voluntarily come together to identify and promote specific solutions to help their department operate in a more environmentally sustainable fashion;  for example, promoting recycling in the office or reducing the use of plastic water bottles.  Collectively, if all staff and employees take a small action, it can make a real impact.

UCSF is tackling sustainability on many levels, and the Sustainability Action Plan details both short-term and long-term goals in six strategic areas:  Culture Shift to Sustainability, Sustainable Food, Toxics Reduction, Zero Waste, Carbon Neutral and Water Reduction. A green team can educate, inspire and empower other employees to take action in any of these areas.

Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Create a formal UCSF Green Team for your Department with representatives from multiple areas of the department, such as procurement and facilities. Meet at least quarterly and ask members to sign up for the UCSF Sustainability list-serv (sign up on the sustainability website homepage).
  • The Office of Sustainability along with the Green Campus student interns are available to help you get started.  You can contact the Green Campus team at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  The interns will soon have a Green Team toolkit and related resources available to support you.
  • Another idea for getting started is to ask members to make a personal pledge.
  • Engage your Department management and request they send a short email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) stating their support.

The ideas suggested above will help qualify your team to eventually participate in the Green Campus Green Team Certification Program, which identifies and recognizes department teams that have taken extra steps to implement green practices and reduce their environmental footprint.  This certification program is currently being piloted at three UCSF locations.

The UCSF Green Campus Program is recruiting two part-time paid positions to round out the current team. If you are interested in getting more involved, check out the job description here.  Qualified applicants must be currently enrolled at UCSF, although post-doctoral candidates will also be considered.

Action Idea #2:  Switch to 30% Recycled-Content Paper

AspenWork with procurement to ensure that your department uses 30 percent post-consumer content copy paper for at least 90 percent of purchases.  If possible, purchase 100 percent PCW.  If everyone at UCSF made the shift to 30 percent recycled paper, the campus would save more than 1,000 trees worth of paper each year, without an increase in cost, according to the Environmental Defense Fund’s paper calculator and UCSF Procurement.

The next time your office or lab needs to order paper, consider ordering ASPEN 30. Go to the OfficeMax Solutions website or order through P2P, the paperless P2P system for purchasing supplies. For 30 percent recycled paper, use the part #P1054901 ($3.04 per ream). For 100 percent, use the part #P1054922 ($3.65 per ream). 

Purchasing paper with recycled content is an easy way to help UCSF go greener. Choosing recycled paper has a multitude of environmental benefits, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and protection of biodiversity and native forests.

Action Idea #3:  Eliminate Bottled Water

No bottles

Departments can now explore installation of individual filters on selected sinks to dispense filtered drinking water for a fraction of the cost of bottled water.  UCSF has a favorable pricing contract with Arrowhead for water filters.

If you are not ready to make a full commitment to eliminating bottled water, consider banning their use for the day or week to raise awareness about alternatives.  Or, have a water taste test to discourage bottled water use or alternatively, hold a viewing of the new video The Story of Bottled Water (from the makers of the Story of Stuff!).

One of eBay’s Green Teams was determined to phase bottled water out of the office. It invited employees’ children to participate in a poster contest with the theme “what does water mean to you?”  Winning posters were displayed around the office, along with facts and statistics to educate employees on the environmental impact of bottled water production and consumption. The team credits the poster campaign with increasing awareness and support for the project.

Click here for more tips on kicking the bottled water habit.

Action Idea #4:  Reduce Waste

A prerequisite for the Green Campus Certification Program is to have well-labeled recycling bins in all offices, copy rooms, and common areas (like break and meeting rooms).  If you need more containers or signage, or want support setting up a system, send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Composting is gradually being offered in office kitchens in selected buildings.

The following can be recycled:

  • Aluminum Foil + Cans
  • Cardboard
  • CD’s and Diskettes
  • Milk Jugs
  • Paper (staples + paper clips okay)
  • Pipette Tip Boxes (clean)
  • Plastic + Glass bottles + jars
  • Reagent bottles (dry)
  • Small rigid plastics (#s 2, 4 and 5
  • Plastic Tubs + Lids (1 through 7)

A reminder that paper coffee cups go into the compost if available, not the recycling.

The other prerequisite for the Green Campus Certification Program is to set-up a system for recycling all toner and printer cartridges.  Every building has a designated drop off spot for cartridges.  One way to encourage recycling is to place a labeled bin in a designated spot in the department for dropping off cartridges and have one person responsible for emptying the bin each week.  You can also consider having a small bin for disposing of batteries, since they are dropped off at the same location as the cartridges.

Designated locations include the following (see UCSF Recycling Program web site for updates):

  • 654 Minnesota Street:  Room 208, copy room
  • CVRI:  1st floor vending machine room
  • Helen Diller Building:  2nd & 3rd floors photo-copy areas
  • Genentech Hall:  3rd floor vending machine room
  • Laurel Heights:  1st floor vending machine room
  • Medical Center, Mt Zion:  B649 and B739
  • Mission Center Building:  4th floor break room
  • Mt Zion Cancer Research Building: N423
  • Parnassus Campus:  University Store
  • Regeneration Medicine:  Outside near Main Entry
  • Rock Hall / 19B:  1st floor vending machine room

Use your existing departmental communication channels to get the word out about the location of recycling bins.  Consider holding a new employee orientation to provide a brief overview of the department’s recycling system.

Learn More

UC Office of the President:  Sustainable Purchasing at UC
ASPEN products
California Integrated Waste Management Board
EDF paper calculator
Environmental Paper Network
US Purewater

What is Post-Consumer Waste (PCW)?

According to the Environmental Paper Network, post-consumer waste (PCW) is the amount of consumer end products used in recycled paper. For example, office wastepaper, junk mail and magazines are considered post-consumer waste. PCW is distinguished from pre-consumer waste, which is the reintroduction of manufacturing scrap (such as trimmings from paper production) back into the manufacturing process. By purchasing paper with PCW content, you are supporting diversion of waste from landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions (including methane and carbon dioxide) and supporting the infrastructure for recycling programs.

Story:  Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact