UC launches Cool Campus Challenge in push toward carbon neutrality

Student walking up stairs
Walking around campus is but one way to reduce your carbon footprint — and give UC Santa Cruz a boost in the Cool Campus Challenge.

When the University of California pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025, nobody said it would be easy. At the outset, everyone agreed that the Carbon Neutrality Initiative would require all hands on deck from staff, faculty and students alike to make its ambitious goal a reality.

“We’re on our way to becoming the very first university system to wipe out our carbon footprint for good,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “It’s a daring goal, and one that will take both individual and collective action to make happen. Part of that is building awareness about easy steps each of us can take to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Launching Oct. 6 and running through Dec. 10, the first Cool Campus Challenge aims to get everyone across the UC campuses on board with the carbon neutrality effort with a bit of friendly competition to get things moving.

During the 10-week contest, UC faculty, staff and students will be challenged to take steps to reduce their carbon footprints using an online tool to track their activity and earn points for their campus. The reward? Bragging rights for the winning campus and progress toward carbon neutrality for the university as a whole.

"Reaching carbon neutrality at UC within the next 10 years will definitely be a team effort comprised of a wide variety of ideas for innovative implementation, research and technological solutions," said Elida Erickson, sustainability programs manager and interim director for the UC Santa Cruz Sustainability Office. "The Cool Campus Challenge provides a fun avenue for all UCSC Slugs, whether faculty, staff or students, to join that team effort!”

Who’s the coolest?

Modeled on the Cool California Cities Challenge, which gives Californians the tools they need to take action to protect the climate and keep California cool, the Cool Campus Challenge focuses on actions that individuals can take to put their campus on track to reach carbon neutrality.

Each week, the Cool Campus Challenge will highlight an important sustainability theme, from food waste to lighting to transportation. To earn points for their campuses, participants will make pledges and take actions to directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions or increase awareness about climate disruption, and record their actions on the Cool Campus Challenge website to earn points for their school. Proud participants are encouraged to show off their efforts on social media (and egg on their competition) with the hashtag #UCool.  

Cool in action

In many cases, the activities in the challenge will be simple things that a lot of us already do: turning off lights when you leave a room, taking public transportation, composting food waste. Others may require extra thought or effort: replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs or eliminating single-use items from your life.

Participants can also earn bonus points for completing actions within a time limit or for taking new and creative actions beyond those suggested in the challenge.

While the challenge will be more fun and perhaps even more productive in teams, it also can be a great showcase for the power of individuals to make a difference.

At the end of the contest, the campus with the highest point count will be crowned the “Coolest UC Campus.” There also will be rewards and recognition for the campuses that are leading throughout the competition.

Find out more and sign up to compete on the Cool Campus Challenge website.