University of California, San Diego

Environmental sustainability is part of UCSD’s institutional DNA. In 1957, Scripps Institution of Oceanography‘s (SIO) Director Roger Revelle warned that greenhouse gases from industrialization could endanger the planet. SIO chemist Charles Keeling precisely measured atmospheric CO2, and his Keeling Curve is “the most important geophysical measurement of the 20th century.”

UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox tapped into that tradition, making sustainability a top campus priority, transforming it into a living laboratory of sustainable solutions. From economics to mechanical engineering, 19 of 53 academic departments have incorporated sustainability concepts into their classes. Faculty research is focused on energy efficiency, alternative fuels and photovoltaics. UCSD faculty also helped launch CleanTECH San Diego, ranked seventh in the world on the Sustainable World Capital’s list of global cleantech organization leaders.

Recently, four engineering students played a critical role in helping the university and the region secure $154 million in federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) allocations for solar projects. From energy economics and sustainable building designs to water conservation and biofuels made from algae, sharply higher numbers of undergraduates are opting for majors and minors, classes, internships and research projects that emphasize environmental sustainability. In the 2009-2010 school year, students minoring in Environmental Studies doubled to 60 and Environmental Engineering majors increased 50 percent to 92. More than 250 students enrolled in Economics of Conservation when the Economics Department first offered it two years ago. Student “Econauts” created a video that urged their fellow students to recycle on “move-out” day at the end of the year. Recycling improved dramatically.

UCSD’s Climate Action Plan calls for climate neutrality by 2025, a 4 % annual reduction in water use and zero waste by 2020.