Cool Campus Challenge kicks off

Light switch, light switch on the wall, which UC campus is the coolest of all?coolcampus350

With a goal of making the University of California the first-ever carbon neutral university system by 2025, a 10-week competition – the UC Cool Campus Challenge – is being launched today by the University of California as part of UC President Janet Napolitano’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative. Napolitano also has issued a video message and a letter about the challenge.

Faculty, students and staff from each of the 10 campuses, the Office of the President and Berkeley Lab can sign up starting today as individuals or teams. Points are accumulated by meeting challenges to lower one’s carbon footprint in categories that will change each week and include lighting, computing, recycling and transportation.

After the competition ends on Dec. 10, the campus with the most points for directly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing awareness about global climate disruption will be named the “Coolest UC Campus” and receive a trophy and $2,000 for a celebratory event. Other prize incentives for participants include being spotlighted on social media and the UC Cool Campus Challenge website and winning a solar-powered phone charger.

“In Berkeley’s classrooms and labs, we put an enormous amount of energy into learning about and developing solutions to some of today’s most pressing environmental challenges,” says Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “But it is also essential that we, as a community and as individuals, take responsibility for the kind of energy we use, and the impact we have on the environment in our day-to-day work and lives.

“I encourage faculty, staff and students to join me in pledging to help lower our campus’s carbon footprint. It is a challenge worthy of a university that takes its public mission so seriously to see what we can do together.”

Knocking down emissions


At Berkeley, 83 percent of the campus community commutes by walking, biking, ridesharing or public transit. Twenty percent of faculty bike to work. (UC Berkeley photo by Kira Stoll)

Berkeley’s energy use annually creates about 140,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions –  about 3 tons a year per campus person — says Kira Stoll, Berkeley’s sustainability manager.

“If each of us takes a handful of new actions – turning off lights in our offices and common areas, or holding a virtual meeting instead of jumping in a car or plane to attend – we can knock these emissions down,” she says.

“It’s conceivable that individual and team action can reduce emissions by five to 10 percent,” she adds. “This is the equivalent of taking 3,000 cars off the road or switching 11,000 California homes to solar electricity. And if everyone in the UC system does the same, the savings could be 10 times that, or more.”

Stoll helped develop the Cool Campus Challenge with colleagues at Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) and at other campuses after watching the success of RAEL’s carbon footprint calculator, which shows people how their lifestyles contribute to global warming and how to make alternative energy consumption choices.

“This campus challenge takes what previously just focused on personal actions and focuses it on what we can do on the campuses – in our work, studies and research — to reduce our carbon footprint,” she says.

The competition is designed to get everyone engaged in getting the UC system closer to achieving the goals of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative that Napolitano announced in November 2013. It commits UC to emitting net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025.

Ways to make Berkeley the coolest

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Cal Dining invites students to join its environmentally friendly “green bear” program that includes composting food waste, discounts for reusable beverage containers and environmentally-packaged products. (UC Berkeley photo by Christina Voyles)

After signing up yourself for the challenge:

  • Ask colleagues and campus friends to do the same. In the “Earn More Points” box, accumulate more points by inviting someone to take the challenge or by recognizing an unsung Berkeley climate solutions hero.
  • Create a team to accumulate points together. Then start a rivalry with other offices, departments or buildings on campus to see who can earn the most points.
  • Share your signup on your social media channels. “I just signed up for the UC Cool Campus Challenge. Want to be #UCool like me? Take 2 minutes to join now!”
  • Get free Cool Campus Challenge marketing tools — including posters, stickers and door hangers — on the website and spread the word far and wide to your networks.
  • Follow the hashtag #UCool to stay current on challenge news and to keep the momentum going.

Once you’ve pledged, you’ll receive two emails each week. One will highlight the theme of the week and suggest tips and tricks to earn points, and the other will give you real-time information from a dashboard to show how much carbon the campus, your team and you as an individual are reducing. It also will provide the latest information on how Berkeley is matching up against other campuses in the competition.

“This is all about learning, taking action and having fun, with a little bit of competition mixed in,” says Stoll. “And it’s all part of the solution to climate change.”