UCSF Sustainability Stories

Ana Toepel and Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, February 2020

UCSF Celebrates Ten Years of Sustainability Leadership

UCSF recently released its 10th annual Sustainability Report, celebrating ten years of integrating sustainability into all aspects of its operations, which has lowered its carbon footprint and served as inspiration for others to live and work more sustainably. Entering a new decade, it’s exciting to look back and see the cumulative positive impact of these sustainability efforts. During the last fiscal year (FY19), UCSF continued to carry the torch for sustainability, moving closer to achieving UC’s sustainability goals and addressing the impact of climate change on health—including catalyzing UC’s divestment from fossil fuels, installing four new solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, and achieving the lowest single occupancy vehicle (SOV) rate for employees in the UC system.

Below we spotlight ten top sustainability achievements for UCSF Campus (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) over the past 10 years. If you’d like more detailed information on these accomplishments, please check out the online Annual Report. To see data on sustainability trends at UCSF, please download our two-page infographic summary: “10 years of Sustainability Accomplishments” and visit the Sustainability Dashboard.

#1: 24% Reduction in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

UCSF’s square footage has more than doubled over the past ten years, yet UCSF has been able to reduce GHG emissions by 24%, due in part to increasing energy efficiency at its central power plant and building systems, implementing seven new solar PV projects since 2008 that produce 2.3 million kWh of carbon-free electricity, and greening the fleet by purchasing 60 alternative-fuel vehicles and hybrids since 2010. 

#2: Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) Rate 24.4%

UCSF employees achieved a commuter SOV rate of 24.4%, the lowest of all UC campuses. This has been declining from a rate of 48% since 1991. The decrease is significant, since 14% of UCSF’s carbon footprint is attributed to commuter travel. 

#3: 22 LEED-certified Projects

UCSF has added 2.5 million square feet of new LEED-certified buildings, and a total of 22 projects have been LEED certified, with ten of them achieving a LEED Gold rating. In FY19 five new buildings were constructed and four buildings were renovated, including the cutting-edge Tidelands project—UCSF’first all-electric, gas-free, low-carbon housing complex—which is targeting LEED Gold certification. 

#4: 19 Awards for Sustainability Leadership

Cumulatively, over the past 10 years, UCSF has received 19 sustainability leadership awards from Practice Greenhealth, Becker’s Hospital Review, Best Workplace for Commuters, and the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC). FY19 was the second year in a row UCSF Health received Practice Greenhealth’s Greenhealth Emerald Award, their second highest award for sustainability leadership. For the fifth year in a row, UCSF Health was recognized in Becker’s Hospital Review as one of the 68 Greenest Hospitals in America. UCSF also received the Best Workplace for Commuters Award in 2013, 2017, and 2018, and UCSF Health won 1st place in the 2019 Cool Campus Challenge by demonstrating their everyday commitment to sustainability.

#5: Extensive Engagement of UCSF Community

UCSF’s commitment to engaging faculty, staff, and students includes an annual awards program, LivingGreen certifications, and digital campaigns. To date, the Office of Sustainability has presented 45 sustainability awards to faculty, staff, and students. In addition, 188 offices, labs, clinics/units, and event planners have been LivingGreen certified. Over 100,000 UCSF community members have been engaged through events, list serve sign-ups, and social media. Since 2013, 29 faculty, staff, and students have enrolled in the SunShares program and installed home solar systems. The 2018 Fall Adopt-A-Spot campaign enrolled 41 lab participants and 81 pieces of lab equipment, saving an estimated 27,000 kWh over a six-week period (potentially yielding over $42,000 in energy savings annually). In 2019 UCSF took first place among the five UC Health systems in the Cool Campus Challenge, which involved engaging the UCSF community in taking actions to lower its carbon footprint. 

#6: Campus Sustainable Food Spend 56%

UCSF Campus Life Services (CLS) Retail has made steady progress in increasing its sustainable food purchases, from 17% of its total food spend in FY14 to 56% in FY19. UCSF Health also has achieved a steady increase, from 10% in CY10 to 27% in CY18—exceeding the goal of 20%. To date, nine departments have committed to going beef and lamb free at department events.

#7: Campus Waste Diversion Rate 78%

Working toward the goal of achieving zero waste, UCSF Campus has made steady progress on recycling and composting efforts, increasing the amount of waste diverted from the landfill from 44% in FY08 to 78% in FY19 (medical center and construction and demolition (C&D) waste not included).

#8: Large-scale Waste Repurposing at UCSF Health

Over the past eight years, $12M has been saved from reprocessing single use medical devices. ($2M was saved in FY19 alone!) To date, in partnership with MedShare, UCSF Health has donated approximately 90,000 pounds of medical supplies and equipment for repurposing at third world clinics/hospitals. In addition, 1,068 pounds of supplies to date have been re-distributed from MedShare back to UCSF staff and students for use in medical-service trips around the world.

#9: 50.7% Reduction in Campus Water Use

UCSF Campus exceeded the new UCOP water reduction goal in FY19 by reducing water consumption per weighted campus user (WCU) by 50.7% compared to the baseline. (The UCOP goal is 36% by 2025.) UCSF Health’s water use per adjusted patient days (APD) has also steadily declined, reaching a reduction of 26% in FY19 compared to the baseline. 

#10: Adoption of TreeZero and ENERGY STAR

In 2018 UCSF updated its Energy Conservation Policy to require that all appliances and office equipment purchased with University funds be ENERGY STAR when available. It has encouraged labs to replace old, energy-hogging, ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers with new, energy-efficient, ENERGY STAR certified freezers by offering them rebates. As a result, approximately 86 ENERGY STAR ULT freezers were purchased from FY15-19. In addition, 100% of printers in the print management system are now using tree-free TreeZero paper

Looking Ahead

UCSF is dedicated to furthering its sustainability efforts in FY20. Reaching carbon neutrality by 2025 continues to keep Gail Lee, UCSF Sustainability Director, tossing and turning at night, but she is hopeful. “I’m hopeful that a combination of new science-based solutions, raised awareness by students of the connection between climate change and health, and UC’s overall commitment to sustainability will help University of California lead the way to a cleaner, healthier future.”

“I’m hopeful that a combination of new science-based solutions, raised awareness by students of the connection between climate change and health, and UC’s overall commitment to sustainability will help University of California lead the way to a cleaner, healthier future.” -Gail Lee, UCSF Sustainability Director