Campus, community report on successes in reducing carbon footprint

Chancellor Blumenthal outlines UCSC's actions in reducing its carbon footprint as Santa Cruz City Councilmember Emily Reilly looks on. Blumenthal, Reilly, and other local officials described their institution's successes in cutting greenhouse gas emissions during a report to the community Thursday.
Approximately 100 people gathered at Greenspace in Santa Cruz to hear a community report on the year-old Climate Action Compact. (Photos by Guy Lasnier)

UC Santa Cruz has made remarkable progress in reducing its carbon footprint, Chancellor Blumenthal said in his one-year Climate Action Compact report.

Blumenthal spoke as part of a "Community Progress Report on the Climate Action Compact" Thursday evening in Santa Cruz. Joining him were Santa Cruz County supervisors Neal Coonerty and Mark Stone, Santa Cruz City Councilmember Emily Reilly, and county Treasurer Fred Keeley.

Thirteen months ago, UCSC, the city, and county pledged to reduce each institution's carbon footprint. The compact was organized and championed by Keeley, the former supervisor and state senator.

Keeley said the compact is just the beginning to move Santa Cruz away from the "carbon economy to a new green economy of the 21st century."

"Outlining our successes begins with results," Blumenthal told 100 people gathered to hear the report. "We've saved energy, saved water, cut car trips." Car trips alone are at a 10-year low, Blumenthal said, down to 1998 levels even though enrollment has grown by 50 percent.

Over the summer, UCSC replaced 1,100 light fixtures in student housing with energy-saving bulbs. That will save about 90,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

Since 2004, energy efficiency projects at UCSC have lowered campus C02 emissions by about 1,600 metric tons by cutting annual electricity consumption by 2.8 million kilowatt hours, according to the UCSC sustainability office. That's equivalent to the annual emissions of 293 passenger vehicles or 160 single-family homes.

Reilly, who was Santa Cruz mayor when the compact was signed in September 2007, commented on the increased spirit of cooperation between the community and university. "The atmosphere is different now," she said.

Echoing the theme, Coonerty said the city, county, and university "realized we had the same goals" and praised the historic agreement between the institutions last summer on campus plans if future growth is needed.

Blumenthal said, "reducing climate change and promoting sustainability are part of our core values. It's so important, I've made it one of my six campus priorities," he said.

A number of other efforts are under way on campus that will have far-reaching effects on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, he said.