UCSF Sustainability Stories


Hira Safdar and Ana Toepel


10 Things You May Not Know Campus Life Services Is Doing for Sustainability

Photo credit: Robert Hood

When you do almost any activity at UCSF—from riding a shuttle to working in a clean office to enjoying a coffee and then putting your cup in the recycling bin—you are utilizing Campus Life Services (CLS). The organization consists of multiple departments including Housing, Transportation, the Office of Sustainability, Facilities, and several others. Though the work of CLS is incredibly diverse and each department is distinct in their day-to-day operations, according to UCSF’s Hira Safdar, one common goal that unites them all is sustainability. The organization’s vision statement even includes providing environmentally sustainable services and programs. 

Safdar, a Project Manager in the Office of the Senior Associate Vice Chancellor, explains, “The efforts of the Office of Sustainability stretch across CLS, with each of the departments integrating sustainability into their work as much as possible. With sustainability inherent in their missions, they continually ask themselves how they can be more sustainable.” The following ten things CLS has been doing this fiscal year (FY 2019-2020) provide a perfect illustration:

#1- Reducing Energy Use

In response to shelter in place, Facilities Services has set Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) to “unoccupied” mode to reduce energy consumption and airflow in buildings not being used. This is similar to the holiday and weekend mode they use and ultimately avoids unnecessary energy use.

#2- Phasing Out Single-Use Plastic Bottles

Retail Services will be working with UCSF Recycling in FY 20-21 to audit campus vendors and vending machines for single-use plastic bottle usage. It aims to reduce single-use plastic bottle sales on campus, with the goal of total elimination of single-use plastic bottle sales by July 2021.  Vending machines are also converting to Energy Star where possible.

#3- Supporting UCSF’s Goal of Carbon Neutrality

Transportation Services added two new electrical vans last fall, bringing the total electrical fleet to 25 (out of 80 total vehicles). This is a major first step toward the goal of an all-electric fleet and an important milestone on UCSF’s journey to becoming carbon-neutral by 2025.

#4- Discouraging Plastic Water Bottles at Events
Conference and Event Services is encouraging the use of materials such as glass, ceramic, and stainless as an alternative for single-use plastic water bottles. They are also testing compostable water boxes and bottles for quality and financial feasibility.

#5- Adding New EV Chargers
Parking installed 19 new electric vehicle (EV) chargers in the Mission Bay 3rd Street Garage, which opened for use in May. This effort was in response to increased demand for EV chargers from UCSF faculty members.

#6- Replacing Energy Hogs

The Office of Sustainability freezer rebate program is helping labs get rebates for replacing their old freezer with an ENERGY STAR one, buying a new ENERGY STAR freezer, or raising the temperature of their freezer from -80°F to -70°F. The program has saved $47,075 and 259,723 kilowatt-hours this year.

#7- Reusing Office Equipment
Through the Equipment Reuse Program, the Office of Sustainability and UCSF Recycling are recovering functional office equipment and giving it to UCSF employees at no cost, allowing them to telework without having to purchase equipment. The program has saved $16,000 in new equipment costs and diverted 1,100 lbs. of e-waste from the landfill this year. Please note: This program is on hold until further notice, contingent upon the Office of Sustainability returning to their workplace. 

#8- Reducing Energy Use via LED Lighting
The Building Renewal Program with Infrastructure & Utilities Services repaired and replaced light fixture lamps at the Mount Zion Cancer Research Center with LED lighting. This action resulted in 5% energy savings this year and last year, after achieving 9% savings the first year. 

#9- Reducing Energy Use via CM30 Window Films
Infrastructure & Utilities Services also added CM30 film to windows at the Mount Zion Cancer Research Center to help keep heat out of the building, resulting in saving $0.148 per kilowatt-hour, or an annual cooling cost savings of $6,400 to $8,200.

#10- Installing High-Efficiency Furnaces
Parnassus Housing Facilities Manager Karla Robbins has been replacing furnaces in Avenue Houses with high-efficiency furnaces (90% efficiency or higher). The old, gravity-fed furnaces replaced were in the 50% efficiency range. 

Learn more about Campus Life Services