University of California, Merced

The University of California, Merced has a forward-leaning spirit in their commitment to environmental sustainability. UC Merced has more LEED-certified buildings than any other university in the country, and they continue to explore more innovative ways to conserve water, reduce waste, and achieve energy efficiency. The Yosemite Leadership Program inspires students to advocate for environmental and social change. UC Merced also joined the Global Climate Leadership Council to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. The constant effort towards sustainability has placed UC Merced among the nation’s greenest universities.

Student Preparedness

The University of California, Merced campus was founded as a living laboratory in a teachable landscape that continues to inform its academic programs, co-curricular activities, and service learning.

In the school’s required Core 1 general education course, which has grown from serving five hundred students in 2006 to almost two thousand in 2014, students actively explore environmental and societal responsibility, particularly as both pertain to California’s natural resources. The university’s sustainability minor focuses on the application of concepts and methods from the physical, chemical, biological, and social sciences to the study of the natural environment and the problems it faces.

The Yosemite Leadership Program (YLP) is offered to UC Merced students through the Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI). This two-year program aims to inspire tomorrow’s leaders with a passion for environmental advocacy and social change through multiple innovative, ethical efforts. The first year of YLP includes leadership seminars; wilderness and team-building experiences; speaker series events; cohort meetings; and networking opportunities. The second year of YLP allows students to build personally and professionally with a capstone legacy project and community-based development.

The Yosemite Environmental Science Research Training (YESRT) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) is available to students, at UC Merced, colleges in the Central Valley of California, and colleges and universities nationwide. Successful applicants work with mentors from UC Merced, Yosemite National Park Service, and the United States Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center on a broad range of potential projects, from conservation, biological diversity, to engineering and social science.

Climate Innovation

The Alliance to Save Energy’s PowerSave Campus program at UC Merced is on the cutting edge of sustainability. UC Merced has four primary pillars of focus: energy efficiency, water conservation, green work force development, and academic infusion. Examples of projects implemented by this student led group include Campus Conservation Nationals (a three week energy and water conservation competition), Water Battle (a 30 day water conservation competition), and conducting energy audits of small businesses in the Merced community.

UC Merced has campus representation serving on the Global Climate Leadership Council (GCLC). The GCLC was formed in 2014 to advise the University of California (UC) on achieving the ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025 while also providing guidance for furthering its other longstanding sustainability goals. The council also provides guidance on integrating the carbon neutrality initiative and other sustainability goals into UC’s teaching, research and public service mission.

The Center for Climate Communication conducts and promotes research on communicating climate issues, including climate variability and adaptation. Efforts include: Examining the meaning and presentation of climate reports from varied sources, such as TV news, social media outlets, governmental agencies, corporations and scientific laboratories. Studying how the content and mode of presenting climate information influences how the general public reasons about uncertainty and risk. Working with varied stakeholders — from different agencies, from different social and cultural groups and from different geographical regions — to develop better ways to talk about and think about climate issues.

Creating Opportunity

All of UC Merced’s buildings have or will achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, meaning they meet or exceed standards for sustainability in design and operations. UC Merced is the only American university with every building on campus environmentally certified. Currently the university has one silver LEED certification, eight gold LEED certifications, and six platinum LEED certifications. The university also has one LEED gold Existing Building: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) certification.

UC Merced has made a Triple Net Zero Commitment in which the campus has pledged to consume zero net energy, and produce zero waste and zero net greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. This Triple Zero commitment includes enhancement of their 1 megawatt solar array, which currently supplies about 20 percent of the campus’s power. Rooftop solar systems are being installed in 2015 on 11 main campus buildings, which will further reduce the school’s environmental footprint and generate another megawatt. Additionally, UC Merced is a member of the University of California (UC) Wholesale Governing Board (WGB), which serves as an Electric Service Provider. The WGB executed a photovoltaic (PV) contract for 80MW; this renewable PV will be available the end of December of 2016. For UC Merced this amounts to approximately 10,000,000 annual kWh.

Landscaping, smart energy use, transportation systems and more all contribute to reaching the goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions – and more policies, procedures and initiatives are coming online all the time to make this campus as sustainable as it can possibly be.